Home Project Motivation, What’s Your Secret?

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Heather says:

While writing the book, I had an excuse to procrastinate every household project on the list. Clean the gutters? I can’t, I have chapters due. Trust me, I felt every bit a hypocrite, doing this too. Now that excuse is long gone, the book is safely on the shelves of ย bookstores. The house has once again been restored to its usual standards of cleanliness, but that list of household projects? The one that goes above and beyond the day to day, it is still mocking me.

About a year ago, my middle child decided to play Spiderman on the towel rack in the upstairs bathroom. It did not go as he planned and left a hole about the size of a fifty cent piece in the wallpapered wall. This is not a bathroom anyone but the most understanding of guests would see.

We’ve talked about patching the hole.

“We should patch that hole. Do you know where the spare roll of wallpaper is?” and that’s about as far as that conversation ever went. Neither of us are big fans of wallpaper, the original owner did a great job decorating, but now that 7 years have gone by, it’s time we start trying to make the house look like our own.

So Tuesday evening I went into that room for one reason or another and decided, that’s it. The bathroom is getting done this week. I picked at a corner of the wall paper and pulled. It came off the wall with a satisfying rip. I grabbed another section and pulled.

I call this my scorched earth tactic. I can ignore a hole in a pattern; I cannot ignore swaths of missing wallpaper. Wednesday I grounded myself from social media and attacked the paper with dilute fabric softener and an old gift card*. Today will be the patching and painting of three walls. I will paint. Well, I’ll paint as soon as I go to the store and figure out what color. I’ll do the fourth wall after the patch has had time to cure.

I don’t have a decorating gene, so that’s never been my motivation. If a room looks clean, that’s almost always good enough for me.

I’ve found that if I have a project, I have to get it to the point of no return while I have even a glimmer of motivation. After that point I can break it into manageable mini-projects to ensure I finish.

What about you?

What is your secret for launching household projects?

Are you as bad with procrastinating?

How do you power through?

*There’s a side story in there about toilet frogs.

A few months ago, I was walking past the upstairs bathroom and something caught my eye on the inside of the toilet bowl above the water line. I don’t know why I had glanced that way. It turned out to be a tree frog. We assumed one of the boys had something to do with the frog in the toilet and we were just thankful that it hadn’t jumped on our youngest daughter while she was taking care of business. She’s exceptionally girly about bugs, so that may have traumatized her for life.

While I was scraping wall paper, I heard a tree frog calling. I had dismantled the toilet to remove the paper from behind the tank. As I followed the frog call, I realized it was coming up from the empty toilet. I assume the little bugger is up in the sewer vent pipe on the roof. I assure you, from now on, I will be checking for toilet frogs. (The frog is now calling -to mock me, I suppose- as I type and I welcome any suggestions for humanely discouraging toilet frogs)

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37 thoughts on “Home Project Motivation, What’s Your Secret?”

  1. I agree with the fact that when guests are coming over it turns into a cleaning spree! Sometimes I will let it get so messy that I wait until the day off and I find myself cleaning the fastest and best that my body is capable of! But it always somehow pulls together haha

  2. @organizingwithe @nickolina Hehe, I didn’t realize it was a competiton. ;o) I used to wonder what the people were thinking when they made some of the choices they did with this house…and then I removed a set of shelves that were mounted <i>to the ceiling!</i> and something hit me on the head…it was a pipe for “wacky tobaccy” if you know what I mean that was hidden up there. That answered every question I had about “why” something was the way it was.

    No object has a chance against the current floor. It even breaks Corelle. The slate will be a little more forgiving, I think, but stone is stone. And yes, things can break the floor, too, or at least gouge all the little stones out of it. Like some kid did by the door to the deck. Every. Stone. Gone. Just lots of little divots. Slate is more delicate, though. more like ceramic tile. If you have kids who like to hammer on the floor…not good.

  3. @KeterMagick @nickolina You’re right – you win. I can’t imagine keeping a floor like that clean! And what happens if you drop something breakable on it? Does it shatter – wither the floor or the object?

  4. @nickolina @organizingwithe I will trade you the texture on your kitchen floor for the exposed aggregate flooring throughout my entire house. Exposed aggregate is what they put around swimming pools. It hurts to walk on and some of those little rocks are sharp. It cannot be mopped, and is very difficult to vacuum. A doggie or kitty “accident” is a real disaster. As I can afford to, I’m covering it up with slate tile. Slate, once sealed, is very durable, and it is slip resistant. Just sand down the sharp bits and round over the edges of the layers (I use a Dremel tool) and it’s very easily mopped, too.

  5. @nickolina @organizingwithe Textured flooring is actually a safety feature. Since water and grease are frequently spilled in kitchens it increases friction and reduces slips and falls. It’s a pain, but better than breaking a hip.

  6. Seems like the big projects only get done when an event is looming. Kitchen floor needs hand scrubbing? Time to invite people over. (And can anyone tell me why kitchen flooring is always textured – the bumps just grab dirt!) Backyard needs major weeding and the deck needs a few boards replaced? Time to have a outdoor party.

    I have no idea why this is, but it is. One would think we could get motivated without shame being the driving factor!

  7. Throw all the piles in a box & hide it! Promising, I s’pose, to actually deal with it when she leaves….or go thru the now-in-one-place paper bin a little every few hours until Friday, then hide it & when she finds it say, “That is my to-be-filed box and you should have seen it on Monday! I have done so much since then.”

    When helping my sister after a move & surgery, she had amazing amounts of to-be-sorted boxes. We stacked them all up against one wall and put a pretty blanket over it for sanity. It worked for a short-term solution while she was recovering but they might still be there since we tend to not see things if they are hidden. Maybe you should not listen to me!

    @bookchick @KeterMagick

  8. @KeterMagick There are toilet frogs in Houston. Or actually here we call them ‘dogs water bowl frogs’. They like to jump at me at 5 AM when I’m letting the dog out and still half asleep.

  9. @nickolina @KeterMagick I do the piles into piles route. I’m in big trouble right now becasue my mom will be here on Friday and if she finds papers scattered around she goes crazy. Somehow she always manages to zero in on an unpaid credit card bill from 6 months ago.

  10. @HeatherSolos @LaurenDraus I am painting the outside and yes, so far the Adirondack weather has been in my favor! Let’s hope it lasts!

    Fear not, we have a small cottage, so the painting challenge is not so unrealistic ๐Ÿ˜‰ Day four and so glad I finally got the right roller! Just in time to go back to work! No paint till Thursday ๐Ÿ™

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  12. @LaurenDraus We plan a lot. What we lack is follow through and initiative. ๐Ÿ™‚ Are you painting inside or out? Is the weather cooperating?

  13. Project motivation comes through planning. Sad and cheese Louise but true! When I know that I have a couple days off, I walk around the week of and plan out my attack. Then, with my list of the day in hand, I begin the project. Like you I compartmentalize any project into smaller tasks/goals and set off checking them off my list!

    And yes, this leads to utter exhaustion, as I often only have two to four days to complete a project at any one time.

    Currently, I am working 3 days a week for the summer and have dedicated the other four to painting my house. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Just finished day three. Wishing I had decided to paint my toes instead!

  14. @nickolina LOL! I store bags of shreddings along with paper towel and toilet paper rolls, various small cardboard boxes, and candle scraps in wooden crates beside my 2 wood stoves, and when the weather starts getting cool, I spend an afternoon making fire starters.

    I know your routine – you get something half organized and then have to set it aside because you run out of time or attention to deal with it. Try this: http://www.pomodorotechnique.com/ All it takes is a timer. You can use the one on your oven or microwave if you can hear it where you work, or if your cell phone has a timer feature, you can use that, too. There are free Pomodoro apps for Android (and probably for iPhone, too).

  15. @KeterMagick What a cool dog. Our dog is mostly a throw rug that sheds. His active days (comparatively, he is a basset) are behind him. He still has a scar from that bite and it was 5 years ago.

    I love dog stories like yours.

    re Herpetology prof: Where we were camping there aren’t any venomous snakes, so it was safe. I’m sure when he was in other places he exercised a little more caution.

  16. That is a good idea…we burn instead of shred, because of a woodstove, but the habit of sorting has not yet been accomplished to its end. I sort the pile into piles and then end up putting the piles together to get them out of the way. Just looked at my sentence…I must be crazy. This is motivation to get off the computer & deal with some paper. Thanks! @KeterMagick

  17. @nickolina Ugh, papers are the bane of my existence. I make a habit of going around once a week with a box in my hand and pick up every stray paper I see. Junk mail, bills, post-its, receipts, owner’s manuals, whatever goes in that box until not one shred of paper can be found. I then take it all into my office and process it there:

    <ul><li>Junk mail – toss or shred</li><li>Bills – go into a slotted monthly bill sorter (Target has ’em)</li><li>Receipts – go into a monthly wallet organizer and are scanned into OneNote quarterly</li><li>Owner’s manuals and other archive stuff – goes into a box beside the scanner and gets scanned in on the same day as the receipts</li></ul>

    I had a backlog of about 3 years when I was working a job from hell and no personal work was ever done, and I threw all of that into file boxes and stacked them under my desk so my feet hit them….it took nearly a year to get through all of it, but I did. Now all I have left to deal with is two boxes of paper archives that need to be scanned in, and I’ll get them done before the end of the year. Scheduling a day to do this stuff and having it become a habit is my secret – Sunday is the day I schedule because my shredder is noisy and no one else is in the building on Sundays. I also have to vacuum after shredding because my shredder makes a mess.

  18. meh, in the big picture having walls is more important than lots of things one could list. And these things do come in time: I finally have a new bathroom, for instance, instead of replacing the duct tape around the edge of the tub! With plastered walls; very beautiful.@HeatherSolos

  19. @HeatherSolos Aw, your poor puppy. ๐Ÿ™ Diamond didn’t have a swelling, but she was essentially comatose for a couple of days after the snake was in the house, and the emergency vet couldn’t find anything either, but her liver enzymes were up, so she said that it was likely a snakebite. Diamond, on a better day: http://www.flickr.com/photos/keter_magick/3465130996/in/set-72157606913659076

    I wasn’t there when this happened, but my husband told me the snake was curled up in a shadow under the lower step, virtually invisible, and if she hadn’t alerted him to it, he would have been bitten the next time he went up the steps. She apparently has a specific bark that means “snake” – she alerted me to a snake the same way a few years ago. DH freaked out and shot it, and thank God, the bullet didn’t ricochet off the concrete floor. I told him next time to go around the house and get the hoe!

    BTW, your herpetology teacher is not going to be an old herpetology teacher if he’s grabbing without looking. <i>shakes head</i>

  20. We did it all…the problem is that wallpaper was put directly on cheap wallboard, so the wallpaper bonded to the paper surface of the thin plasterboard. Everything I could google, we did. It was sad. The easiest has been to take the wall off completely & start over! @HeatherSolos

  21. @nickolina Have you tried using dilute fabric softener. Granted our house isn’t that old (built in 2001). Typically I spray, peel off the top layer, spray the bottom glue paper layer, and then use a plastic scraper -old gift card or plastic putty knife to start peeling it off.

    I’ve been told that steamers work well, but I have not tried it.

  22. Yep, I have all little girls at home and I can promise they would not walk into that bathroom again!! I have a hard enough time to sleep in their rooms after they find a spider!! Much screaming, crying and drama later, they usually cave. Love your idea for getting your husband motivated. Mine is the same way. If it is not his idea, he usually won’t budge. I did find one sneaky way that works (if you don’t over use it!) When I REALLY want something done (like the carpet taken out and new tile put in) I look at him and tell him how sexy I think a man looks who does such an amazing job for his family and especially his wife. I let him know how appreciative I am and how it makes such a difference. It really does work! but don’t be cheesy, you really do have to mean it. I have been amazed at the number of projects that get done with praise and thanksgiving used as motivation.

    • @pattypitterle My husband is a Mr. Bouncy…that means we just aren’t home when hen is. He always has something to go do to keep us busy! However, when we are home, I find that if I start on a project then my husband will usually join me or finish it when I run out of umph or my back hurts too much. So, if I want something done I either do it when he isn’t home or do when he is! Hahaha!

  23. @farant That would wake one up!!! Dynamite: whatever the project is, invite a bunch of people over to use the area you’re supposed to work on. That will get you behind in gear! ;o)

  24. Your ‘scorched earth’ tactic reminds me of the time my mother-in-law got tired of waiting for her husband & sons to start on the new kitchen and took a sledgehammer to the wall.

    I have so much wallpaper I’d like to remove; it doesn’t come off easily, more like pulling the top layer off the cereal box with damage underneath. We tried to remove wallpaper & revealed holes that had been papered over. Not pretty! My daughter went with the ‘shabby chic’ look on her painted walls, they have the texture left from the battle with wallpaper removal.

    What kind of drastic policy works with piles of papers? Bonfire?

  25. @KeterMagick Thankfully our house has a crawlspace and that’s where the snakes tend to lurk. In our part of South Carolina cottonmouths and copperheads are abundant. I love herpetology, but living here I know to be cautious. Few snakes bother me, but there is a big exception for cottonmouths, I hate those things. I know a few people with horrible stories about those snakes.

    Here’s our poor dog after a run-in with a copperhead http://blog.heathersolos.com/update-on-poor-pitiful-puppy/

    There’s a snake living in my front *ahem* garden (It has 3 shrubs and some monkey grass) I keep finding shed skin, but it’s too shredded for me to identify.

    Where in TX are you? I’ll be in San Antonio later this week.

  26. Im a schoolbus driver and I get the summers off. Sounds great, right? “Can you water my plants? Let my puppy out? Watch my kids?” So this year, instead of travelling or laying at the pool, I decided it would be the Summer I Finish All those N.U.T.s (Nagging Unfinished Tasks). Sealed the deck, organized my recipes, enjoyed some creative time, cleaned garage as if we would eat off the floor….I really am happy and proud that I can say these things. Didnt get to see Stonehenge or lounge in the Caribbean, but very happy that I finally put numbers on my house!

  27. imagine findng a toilet quirrel at 2 n the morning when you have to do business. it happened to my mother an tthere’s a story about a son-in-law and midnight heroics i that one.

    I need a good kick in the a** for projects like this. Anyone got project dynamite?

  28. Toilet frogs. <i>giggle</i> Come to Texas and you won’t have toilet frogs, but you might have shower scorpions and stairway cottonmouths. True stories, heroic dog (she survived). It won’t solve the problem with the frog already in the vent pipe, but you can go up on the roof and take a bit of metal screen or mesh and a hose clamp and cap off the vent stack so nothing else can get in there.

    I’m 10 years into a 5-year renovation plan; my problem isn’t my motivation, it’s lack of money and motivating a husband who doesn’t want to work on any project that isn’t 100% his idea. I am currently tackling the section of the house we never used for anything but storage because the layout is an indescribable mess. It is intended to be the permanent master suite, and to make that work, <b>six</b> rooms – in only 667 square feet! – have to be combined. Before I could do that, I had to clear out the various mess that had accumulated there.

    A few months ago, I instituted a regular “work on the house” morning with my husband to get (guilt) him into working while I’m working. To get this job done, I am using a variation of the same tactic. Every morning that we don’t have to be somewhere first thing, we work on prepping these rooms right after breakfast. In one week, we got all of the mess out of three adjacent rooms, some of which went into the other three, and some went to Salvation Army. This weekend, we’ll tear out the walls separating these rooms and open them to the hallway so that about 2/3 of the area will be opened up, about the footprint intended for the bedroom portion. The part that is still storage will become a proper closet and home office, but that’s another project. Fortunately, the way this house is built, only the exterior walls are load-bearing, so gutting is easy. He will complain about having to haul off the scrap, but he has learned that when he doesn’t haul trash and it is in my way, it ends up places he doesn’t like, like blocking his computer, so that motivation is already in place. }:-D>

    The next step will be trickier to manage because we have to do separate tasks. He has to repair the roof and put in a skylight, and I have to lay stone on the floor. I can’t help him and he can’t help me because I’m too short to reach the roof access grab bar (two-story flat roof, currently only one way onto it), so I can’t get on the roof, and he doesn’t know a thing about tiling. So I’m hoping that because the skylight was his idea and he built it himself (and did a fine job), that he will finish the installation without additional motivation. The finish-out will be easier, I hope, because I’m moving the bed upstairs after the tile is down and the roof is fixed. The excuse I’m giving is that the air conditioning for this part of the house is newer and cheaper to run, but in truth, I figure if he has to go to sleep and wake up with the work that needs doing right in his face, he’ll have more motivation to get up and do it until the room is finished. Right now he is too comfortable.


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