The Top 3 Tips for Building Your Kit Home, Part 2: Get (and Stay) Organized

disorganized photoorganized photo

As we rapidly approach the end of the 2020 building season, we wanted to give a jump-start to those who are looking to start the process in order to build in 2021. This is the second of three posts addressing the issues of Setting a Realistic Budget, Getting (and Staying) Organized, and Planning for the Future.

This post will focus on the sometimes-daunting task of Getting (and Staying) Organized. Even the simplest building project can quickly deteriorate if things are not kept clearly organized. This is one of the behind-the-scenes jobs of a General Contractor and part of the reason for their 20%-30% markup of their subcontractor bids. If you have decided to save money when you build your home by hiring subcontractors yourself, take the time upfront to get organized and make the effort to stay organized. This can help you manage the inevitable stresses that come with building a house. Here are four tips to keep in mind to help you get (and stay) organized.

Start a system with the end in mind.

If you have not invested the time and thought to develop your organization system, that first flood of information may tempt you to find the quickest way to process and organize the information right now. While this may be necessary in the moment, the organizational process should neither start nor stop here. Ask yourself a few questions: “What have I already done?” “What is the end goal?” “How do I get from where I am to where I want to be?” Given that you are reading this blog, it is likely that you have already done some work, whether gathering design ideas, reviewing contractors, or researching financing. Start there and make a file. The end goal is likely to be obvious: build a house. It does, however, give you an end point. Now you can fill in all the space in the middle with the different aspects of the process: design, finance, permits, trades and contractors, inspections, and others.

When you set up your organizational system it can be tempting to try to find the “right way”. There is no such thing. Some people thrive with electronic organization, while some simply cannot function without a physical piece of paper in front of them. At PMHI we use both, depending on what is being organized; redundancy can also be useful in case one system is inaccessible. The same concept is true for the categories in your organizational system. There is no “correct” number of files, folders, or categories that you should always use. Generally, there should be enough to keep things separated and easily accessed, but not so many that each and every piece of information gets its own binder!

Nothing is not worth saving.

“I’m pretty sure we won’t need this.” Those are the famous last words of the un-prepared owner-builder. You can guarantee that any information you discard will be needed later at the most critical point of your building process. If it has information on it, save it. If it cannot be categorized, use a Miscellaneous file. It is never a problem to have five different notes that tell you what kind of entry door you want; it is always a problem to need the model number of that door and not have it because you threw it away.

One quick note about Miscellaneous folders and electronic information: make sure it is easily searchable. One of the most powerful tools on your computer and email is the search tool. Remember, however, that a search tool is just that – a tool. It cannot read minds, nor can it determine how relevant a piece of information is to your project. In order to optimize your search tools, make sure that you include important information in the file name. For example, “Quote #12345” may be what you got from your contractor, but it doesn’t tell you a lot about what is in the file. A better name might be “ABC Roofing Quote #12345 Oct. 2020”. That way, if you are looking for a quote from a specific contractor or a quote for roofing, you can see the file right away as well as the date of the quote. Again, there is no one right way to do this. There are, however, plenty of wrong ways.

“A stitch in time saves nine.”

This well-known proverb is just as applicable to organizing contractor information as it was to repairing sails, if not more so. We all have a “To Be Filed” file, and sometimes that’s all the organization you have time for. But if you can take the time now to process the information, you will keep yourself from doing twice as much work later just to catch up. Most organizational systems fail because they are a) too rigid or b) people fall behind. So take the time to stay organized now…you’ll thank yourself later (and so will your subcontractors).

Be willing to adapt.

Your building project is sure to evolve along the way. The same should be true of your organizational system. Whether you find that you need a new category, a different way of naming things, or a different system entirely, don’t be afraid to adjust. Remember: a contractor has had years of experience doing this job, so they are bound to have a system that works for them. No system is worth keeping if it is not working for you. Don’t be afraid to change before things get out of hand.

We hope you can see the importance of getting (and staying) organized. If you have decided to build your house yourself, or if you are hiring the subcontractors, you will have to keep track of a lot of information. Investment of time early on, determination to save everything, effort to stay on top of things, and the ability to adapt will help to minimize the inevitable stresses of building your own home. If you have any questions or would like to know what to expect in this process, please give us a call or fill out the form below.

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