At dinner the other night, my friend Melissa commented about how her family growing up never changed things in their houses once they occupied them. If there was wood panelling on the walls when the family moved into a house, there was wood panelling on the walls when they moved out of it. If her mother hung a picture in the hallway, that same picture was hanging in the same spot the entire time they lived in that house. Couches, chairs, and dressers were never rearranged.
As Melissa explained this frozen-in-time behavior, I realized my grandmother was that way, too. Not a single picture or wall color or piece of carpet changed in her house during my childhood. She added a library onto the house when I was in elementary school, but once that room was decorated, it wasn’t altered in any way.
Since moving into our current house a year ago, we have done the same thing. We unpacked boxes, set up furniture, and hung artwork on the walls, and then let things stay. There are numerous ares of the house that aren’t working for us, but we haven’t attended to them.
It’s time we did. We need nightstands in the master bedroom (a year of putting things on the floor is too long), the pantry needs a makeover, the laundry room has become a storage room (and it needs to be turned back into a laundry room), our living room needs a better arrangement, and the cable panel must be installed on my desk because I’m tired of looking at cables.
The one year mark is a good time to evaluate how you’re living in your space and make changes if you’re dissatisfied with it or if it isn’t supporting your needs. We’re getting ready to embark on this evaluation and improvement process, and I’ll share with you the daily tasks we plan to tackle in March:
- Room Purpose. Start simply by taking 15 minutes or so to walk through every room and write down all the things you do (and hope to do) in the space. Your kitchen might be a place to prepare food, serve snacks and small meals, and store food and cooking equipment. Your kitchen might also be where your children do homework or you have your home office or where you keep the family calendar.
- Uncluttering. For most readers, myself included, this part of the process will take more than one evening. We’re dedicating one room per night to uncluttering. We did a good amount of uncluttering in 2011, so we’re not expecting a room to take more than one evening. If you need more time for each room, schedule that on your calendar.
- Repairs. Walk through each room again, and this time note any structural repairs that need to take place. Is a window cracked? Has the garbage disposal stopped working? Make note of all the repairs that need to take place (not improvements, those will come later).
- Appointment Setting. Make appointments for all of the must-do repair work that has to be completed to keep your home safe and in good condition. The only exception to this might be if you plan to do major renovation work and want to have a contractor take care of all the odds and ends at the same time as the big work. I’m assuming, however, that most readers aren’t looking to renovate their homes right now and just need to get the broken items fixed.
- Planning Improvements. Time to take another walk through the rooms of your home and decide all of the changes you wish to make. Consult the list you created on the first day of what exactly takes place in each room. Make sure all of these purposes are addressed in your improvements, if you have any. You may simply want to rearrange furniture to better suit the needs of the room. Or, you may want to organize some shelves or get storage containers or paint the walls. What improvements do you want to make?
- Budget. Many home improvements, even the small ones, come with a price tag. Sit down and review your budget and see how much money you have to devote to the improvements you’ve listed.
- Making Improvements. Again, set aside one or more evenings to work on a specific room making the improvements you desire. Change out the artwork or carpet, organize a cabinet, move the furniture or hang new shelves.
Mark on your calendar for a year from now when you will go through this process again. Keep your home from becoming a museum, based on whatever random design you determined on the day you moved into your house (or apartment or office or wherever it is you spend a good chunk of your time). It’s very likely your needs and tastes must have changed a little since you moved into your place, and will continue to change as you are in your home.