Thoughts on How to Organize an Extensive Home Improvement Project List

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Let’s talk about home improvement projects.

Now, If I know you, you’ve probably got some fantastic projects planned this summer that are really gonna knock our socks off. Hey, I’ve got Pinterest too, I know you’re planning something. Well, we’re planning projects too, and if I finish them before my twins move out of my house in eleven years, it will be a miracle of the highest order.

Let me tell you a little story about why we will probably never be done fixing up The Farmhouse.


Our last house was in great condition, stuff could have been upgraded or improved, but by and large, it didn’t need to be, at least not right away.  So we moved in, put up a fence to barricade the Tasmanian devils, and I painted one room. For three years that was IT. My forlorn little DIY heart couldn’t bear it.  Unfortunately, my vacant wallet and my DIY heart are not on speaking terms.

Fast forward a few years.

Our house was on a terribly busy street, my kids would never be able to go biking on it safely. Traffic before work, after school, and on weekends was getting ridiculous. There was a very real fear that one of my uninhibited children would run out into the street. Probably without pants.

Darling husband and I literally tried to find a house on a few acres, in our price range, for about 9 years. The area we were looking in was pretty much the Bermuda Triangle of western Wisconsin. Nothing existed. Until, one day, something did.  

I will have to fast forward again here, the process to buy the house got pretty murky, ended up in a surprise short sale which fell apart. A year later, I had a delightful conversation with my husband that ended up with me telling him I was never moving. Ever. Also, possibly mentioning that I wanted to shank the witch of a house that had fallen through a year earlier and that if he thought I was even going to consider for one second trying to buy it again, he was out of his freaking mind.

We bought the house.

Calm down, I can’t tell you the whole story, you’re not here for that and you just got all the high points anyway.

We got a phenomenal deal on The Farmhouse. It has four acres, it has so much possibility to be turned into a productive homestead, and we have, in my humble opinion, a pretty fantastic view.

When my boys are in trouble I can tell them to take a timeout on their own acre. Parenting win!

The problem (opportunity?) here, is that the house is over a hundred years old. It has been added on to. It has been carelessly “flipped”. I’m sure it cost a great deal of money, time, and energy to whomever the flippers were, but you can tell all throughout the house that they were flipping on a dime.

To make matters worse, the next owners did not maintain the house well or finish things that the flippers never got to. For example, I have ten solid-core six-panel doors that were never stained or painted when the flippers installed them. They could be gorgeous!

They have fifteen years of neglect and tiny dirty hands all over them, and the marks are bad enough that I will likely end up painting instead of staining them.

I have so many projects to do, I sometimes think we’d be better off starting over and building our own house. But of course, my wallet would start complaining again. Like a jerk.

Instead, we will follow the sage wisdom of my father:


“You eat an elephant one bite at a time.”


I mentally insert chocolate fudge sundae where it says elephant, but I think you get the idea.

My problem is, what part of the elephant do we start with?

This summer we have a new septic system being installed (gee, that’s only about $11000) and we are also replacing every window in the house.

Meanwhile, with the remaining very small budget, I need to do a LOT of things!

  • Set up a chicken coop
  • Resurface our driveway
  • The landscape around the house
  • Put up a big shed
  • Pull down a little shack
  • Move a medium shed
  • Put up fencing for cattle
  • Replace or finish my kitchen, living room, dining room, and bathroom floors
  • Trim everything inside
  • Paint all the interior doors
  • Plank the ceilings
  • Replace light fixtures
  • Demo and reconstruct a front porch
  • Fix up a deck
  • Fix and paint the ugly aluminum siding
  • Work on the garden
  • Start propagating plants for side income
  • Replace kitchen counters

I could keep going. On. And on. Just thinking about it makes me need wine.

We can’t do everything this summer. I’ve considered my older boys providing free hard labor, but some of the jobs are perilous and child services might frown on it and blah blah blah.

So where do we start?

Windows, septic, outdoor projects while it’s nice out?

I want to increase the value of the house so we can afford more projects in the future, but unfortunately, I am having a hard time with prioritizing.

To start, we’ve decided to create a binder of projects.

To help facilitate the planning process, I’ve whipped up some printable worksheets to put in the binder and fill out. I’m hoping it takes some of the pain out of the process. Lucky for you, my lovely readers, I’ve also included downloadable versions for you to print at the end of this post!

By being able to see quotes, timelines, and other relevant, if boring, information all in one place, I’m hoping to visually see which projects are most likely to be worth our very short summer time.

If you, like me, have an overwhelming amount of fatigue and mom brain, or maybe just a lackadaisical attitude toward the whole idea of home projects – while also wrangling a horde of small children – check out the worksheets, hopefully they will help get you pointed in the right direction or spark some new ideas to drive your husband crazy with!

Your FREE Project Pack

What kinds of projects are you working on this summer? How will you prioritize what should be done If you know you can’t finish all of them?

What are you most excited to tackle?

Personally, I’m excited about the septic system. I’ve always wanted to drop a crapload of money on something I’ll never see.  

See what I did there? Crapload… Septic…Nevermind, it’s not funny if I have to explain it.

I’ve included three planning worksheets for your home project binder:

  • Master Project List: Intended to be an exhaustive list of all projects as they come up.
  • Individual Project Worksheet: A more detailed sheet dedicated to each project on the Master Project List.
  • Room Analysis: These handy room worksheets are intended to help keep detailed room information readily available. Room dimensions, furnishing dimensions, and a place to note any ideas you have to improve the room.

I’m also open to suggestions for other worksheets I can add to the set. I’m always looking for new ways to help get this monster renovation project more under control.

Can’t wait to hear what you think!


Get Your Totally FREE Project Pack

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  1. Samantha of Mother Haggard says:

    I am totally jealous of your beautiful farmhouse and all of that land! Maybe not so much the aging septic system, but definitely of your sweet place. My family and I live in a rented apartment, so that helps cut down on the amount of projects we have to do, but I find even maintaining a baseline level of clean that is just BARELY above filthy truly challenging. My current project is figuring out how to deal with my elderly cat who has suddenly decided to completely stop using her litter box and now only pees on our hardwood floor, multiple times a day, causing warping and general disgust. (It’s a fun one, eh?)

    I say you focus on getting the garden going, maybe the big shed and the front porch. Those seem like the most fun. Also…are you going to have cattle?! Wowee!

    1. dirtnoisejoys says:

      Dude, we are just barely above filthy. No, strike that, it rained today- everything is a muddy revolting mess. About project Cat pee – I’m not going to lie to you, that is one project I am not remotely envious of, poor elderly kitty. I’d say work yourself back to that laundry project, you can only wear the last dish towel so many times.

      The front porch, ugh, totally want to do that. I even decided to replace the window on the porch with a sliding door so I can take my lazy summer butt out and yell at traffic going too fast while I am relaxing and drinking adult beverages. So excited!

      As for the cattle – my husband’s family raised beef cattle, so he’s pretty set on having two steers on the acreage- one for our freezer and one to sell. I’m hoping they eat lots of grass and reduce the tick population. Apartment dwellers probably don’t worry too much about Lyme’s disease, eh? I’m a little scared about the whole cattle thing, but I guess we’ll take it one giant animal at a time around here.

  2. Hillary says:

    When I read your blog I literally bust out laughing. We have the same sense of humor. It makes me happy to know there is someone in the world that laughs at the same stuff I do. I am excited about fixing up our chicken coop. We put a window in it this past weekend and are hoping to add more. Do you already have your chicken coop? We are literally using an “old shack”. Is there any way it can be upgraded to a coop? Chickens don’t need luxury, just a place to poop your breakfast. Love hearing about your farmhouse. We live in one too. I love the smell of asbestos in the morning (kidding). I do love the old homes, but you are right they require so much work and upkeep.

    1. dirtnoisejoys says:

      Our sense of humor is rare indeed, I’m glad we found each other 😂 I’m not sure I know what asbestos smells like, but it’s probably a lot like my basement and kitchen floor 😱. I would love to upgrade what we have for the chicken coop, It’s just in such bad condition and I’m fairly sure there is lead paint. So that’s fun. I am so ready for chickens, we have ticks like crazy, plus I can’t wait to basically have pet chickens. They’re so cute. And tasty.

I love reading your comments you beautiful people

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