My DIY Decorating Project Planner

I usually don’t post on Sundays, but thought since I was sharing something with one reader, I would share it with all of you.

I get a lot of emails from readers with questions about all sorts of things, mostly about decorating or readers wanting to know more about my personal life, but there are a few questions I get asked most frequently.

Kitchen counter decorating ideas for Spring

One of these most frequently asked questions is…  How do I get so many DIY projects done?

These readers know what they like. They want to get their homes decorated and/or projects started and completed. They tell me they lack the time and when they do have time, they lack the energy or are unfocused and weeks go by without them getting anywhere on a project or idea that they want to complete.

For these questions, I usually respond with something like, “My work is my passion; it is just what I do. It is my 9-5 job that I can do all day, every day.”  While most people have jobs that keep them away from home for 40+ hours a week, my work hours are doing projects and blogging about it.

About 3 weeks ago, I got an email from a reader who wrote:

striped pencil page divider

“OMGosh I love your home and all that you have done with it. I have an older home where every room needs updating. Every time I think I am ready to start a project, I become overwhelmed and start procrastinating to the point that I don’t get anything done. How do you stay so focused and where do you get the energy?  Any tips that you can give me would be appreciated as I want to love my house and right now, I don’t.  

striped pencil page divider

I was going to answer her in the same manner as I had with this kind of question before, but then I stopped and said to myself.  “How can I better explain how I go about getting my projects done that may help her.”

craft room ideas

I began to break down my decorating project process in my mind and knew the one thing she could do that helps me stay focused and not overwhelmed is to write things down.

I am a paper and pencil kind of gal and find I organize better using the paper and pencil method over organizing tasks using digital organizers like Asana and Google Tasks on my computer.

DIY Decorating Project Planner sheet

I write everything down and try to keep each project I am doing or planning on a separate sheet of paper. It is not an elaborate system, just a sheet for each project that I plan to do. I keep all the sheets in a simple folder. I call this folder my brain. It is an extension of my daily planner where I keep track of everything blog-related.


I also use sticky notes to write on the sheets, highlighting things that need to be done right away.  I use a paper clip to attach any photos or inspiration to the sheet.  When I go out to buy supplies, I then go digital and take a photo of the project sheet I am working on with my phone.

I thought I would make my project sheet available to anyone that wants to give it a try.

Download Free Printable: DIY Decorating Project Planner

No matter if you want to declutter your home, sew drapes for a window, redecorate an entire room or paint a wall.  Getting the scope of your project written down and then having one handy place to keep notes about the project will help you to stay focused and organized.

Sometimes I get overwhelmed with the scope of a project, like when I made over my kitchen. In that case, I kept a project sheet for every aspect of the makeover from painting the counters to ideas for cabinet knobs to how I organized the pantry.

I also followed the “only one” rule.

The “Only One” Rule of Getting DIY Decorating Projects Done

I learned this rule when I worked in retail display early in my career. I would get to work in the morning and there would often be a long list of projects I had to get done that day. On some mornings, it could be overwhelming.

My boss at the time told me to just focus on getting one thing done at a time, cross it off my list, literally with a pencil and then start the next project. If you look at the list as a whole, you will get overwhelmed and may not get nearly the same amount of work done.

He was right and I try to keep this in mind whenever I start to get overwhelmed by the scope of a project.

How to make a fake topiary that looks real for your kitchen counter

I know it seems so simple, but sometimes this is all it takes to help you to stay on task to get a project done.

Do you have any tips for readers on how you keep your DIY decorating projects completed?

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  1. mindy mammen says:

    wow ~!!!!! I have tried for years to make my own project planner but I either didn’t have the right software or couldn’t figure out what I needed! I just wanted to say a HUGE THANK YOU for making your awesome project sheet available and if I had ink in my printer I would glady print it but I have to wait to get more ink so I favored it for the time being ! God bless you and your style !

  2. I always have to laugh when people with homes built in the seventies refer to them as “older homes”. These are not what I classify as older…..older to me is something built in the fifties or earlier.

  3. I love the striped pencil and the font you’ve used. My current challenge is finding a good handy guy who does accurate work. I give it the college try but there are things I need to hire out. :)

  4. I’m in the process of completely re-doing a condo we bought that is located in a different state, I have been immersed in projects for over a year. Being there every few months for several weeks at a time, I have had to become organized on steroids! One thing that may help your reader is to tackle one room at a time. (This will work unless you have flooring that extends beyond that room. Then, you’ll have to get the floor done first) I found getting the smaller bedroom finished helped me psychologically (and she is fighting that) to know that I could go into one room and say “DONE and be comfortable and satisfied.” It made the next room easier. I’m now down to the kitchen and small bathroom. I know, not small projects, but it helps to know they’re the last rooms I have to do!

  5. Becky in Bama is so right on! It was like someone reading my mind!!

  6. Printing if off now! Thank you Diane!

  7. Becky in 'Bama says:

    I like how your mind works, and wish mine worked that way. LOL I have found my biggest hurdle to home projects is being married to a man who has a separate list of projects and trying to find a common one can be a challenge. I am NOT handy and depend on his handiness to achieve my dreams. We usually dicker back and forth (notice I did not say argue) – until we agree on one project. Many times I grow weary with waiting for what I wanted to do – not worth the breath – so I back down – BUT when we do accomplish a goal – makes me sing! Maybe one day when I retire I can be organized like you. You and your husband have done an amazing job! Congratulations. Oh… and we live in an older home (built in the 1970’s) – so the list of redos is a bit daunting. Happy Monday.

  8. Patricia A. Stevenson says:

    As always, you are so inspirational. I love this idea to get it on paper. It goes along with a great & timeless management system book — Getting Things Done by David Allen. It works in every area from big business to home & is based on the premise that getting things on paper or digital reminders gets them out of your brain & allows the brain to be creative without constantly rehearsing to do lists. Yours is excellent & follows the “next action step” principle allowing you to focus & put energy where needed.

  9. Hey good day,
    I think this is pretty amazing, I like the work you put into this. Now I’d like to ask you a question, have you heard about this huge collection of woodworking plans, here’s the link ( )? Basically you have more than enough of DIY plans with this. Do you think it’s worth to buy it and get more into building on your own?


  10. Vritika| Villas in OMR says:

    The worksheet template is simple and worth trying. I’m on my way printing it :)

  11. Thanks for very helpful advice to get my projects and tasks on track, and also useful comments from many of the respondents about their experiences.

  12. Michelle McClure says:

    Hi…I too have downloaded the worksheet, it seems like it will help us ‘older folks’ without all the 30’s energy to accomplish something! I also have a question about the labels you have in your pantry that slide over the edge of the shelf – I have been searching everywhere for some that will go over a shelf that is at least 1/2″ thick. Can you please tell me where you purchased yours…thanks so much. Love your blog and your style!

  13. Hi Diane! It’s been months since I’ve chatted you up! I hope this finds you and Ed finishing up a great summer and looking forward to a cool, colorful fall. You’ve been inspiring me and amazing me for years, but today, you gave me what I didn’t know I ABSOLUTLELY needed! My biggest downfall, the thing that causes me fits of exasperation with any project I take on is poor planning. I make a dozen little lists on whatever piece of paper I find lying close to me (when inspiration or another item I need for the project strikes) and every single time I’m a little way or part way or 3/4 of the way into the project, I realize I don’t Have what I need for the next step! Twice I’ve had the misfortune of deciding to re-do a room and only thinking the thing half way through, then I hit the “what now?” wall. I’ve bared my disorganized soul here, I do hope I’m not the only one who approaches projects in such a scattered way. I drive my poor husband crazy! This gift of your brilliant, project planner page is going to make him so HAPPY! And me?? This might turn my entire life around! Certainly, my projects will come along much more smoothly and headache-free; but I just might start making my grocery list on a single piece of paper, eliminating my dash backs to the store that happen for “that very important thing” I needed, and didn’t remember untilI start unloading my groceries from the car. The hubs and I take a few 2-3 day long trips a month, he’s come to expect a run to a local drugstore after we reach our destination; what if I actually used a list jusr like this for packing?!?! Diane, once again, for the 152nd time, thanks for your creative salvation!

  14. Diane, you are amazing! Thank you so much for sharing your process and the lists. I read other blogs also and think good grief, I’m not 25 anymore, I’m not even 55 anymore! I’m so overwhelmed in my home, like another reader stated, I look at it and then do nothing. But, I can do pieces at a time and love to Mark them off the list! Thank you.

  15. Love the worksheet Diane! I’m printing this one!

  16. Diane, I love this sheet!! I too am a list, paper and pencil girl. I love crossing things off my list when those tasks are complete ! I’m definitely going to print your sheets! Thanks! Enjoy the Lakehouse!

  17. 1960s girl says:

    Hello. Thank you for the project sheet. I will add it to my general to-do list! I’m also glad to see that some people are “paper and pencil” people like me!
    We first renovated our home 22 years ago when we moved in. It is a 1910 house that needed major work at the time. Over the years we did more work but without thinking about the house as a “whole”.

    Last year, we started thinking about selling the house someday because it had become big with the kids gone.

    Since my husband does all the work himself and knowing that he needed some kind of an “itinerary”, I made a list, room by room (unfortunately I did not have a great project planner like yours at the time!).

    Here’s what I did: since the house needed mostly paint jobs and minor repairs, I first took a stroll in my mind (from my desk) and I went into every nook and cranny of the house asking myself about what we could do to “improve” it. The goal was to make every corner of that old house nice, clean and fresh-looking.
    I broke the work into every aspect (cleaning windows, changing the drapes, moving artwork around, thinking about artwork that I can do myself, repairing that small crack in the plaster, etc.). Some rooms just needed some “staging” since they are not used very much (like the girls’ rooms).

    I did all this thinking about solutions that are not too expensive (no big spending!) and the work involved (that had to be minimal too, since my husband works full-time and has only week-ends to dedicate to reno work). When I had an idea, I would look it up on the Internet to get inspiration. And keep all Internet links in a computer file.

    At first, my husband was overwhelmed when he saw that some rooms have many bullet points. But then he realized how pleasant it is to cross one off from a real sheet of paper! LOL

    However, I never lose sight that the work we do is mostly for our own enjoyment, not for “show”, because I have learned that new owners will redo everything anyway.

    Now I can say that all the rooms make me smile, like Diane said last week. Except for that dining room about what I still don’t know what I will do!

    Sorry about the long email; it’s raining “cats and dogs” today! LOL

  18. It is too easy to get overwhelmed and then everything seems daunting. Now that I am older I have realized many of the things I worried about and obsessed about when I was raising my family were silly things or at least not important enough to get myself in a tizzy. Now if I make a list it is only meant to remind me. No pressure is my motto now and I think I actually get more done that way. Relax and enjoy life is my motto also because everything important gets done sooner or later.

  19. I am a big believer in breaking down a large project into smaller pieces. Even when cleaning!
    Many small accomplishments add up to one BIG one. I dont think “I will deep clean the Living Room today” instead I think “I will clean and rearrange that corner” then take a small break. Then move on to the next corner, etc. Takes a bit longer but who cares? I feel happier and unstressed and get more done in the long run.
    Same mindset when doing projects. Small goals will get you there a lot faster than throwing up your hands in despair and never even starting because it is so overwhelming.
    Of course, some days my only goals are to sit on the porch and enjoy the wildlife and my pup- and that is fine too!!
    It also helps if you have a very understanding husband who doesnt expect perfection in your household and overlooks the disarray when you first start changing the seasonal decor- LOL

  20. Thank you so much for sharing your worksheet. It is exactly what I needed. I was making my to do list way to general then becoming overwhelmed. Love your emails.Thank you for sharing all your wisdom. I have recently retired and was excited about having the time to do DIY’s on our fixer upper retirement home. Then feel frustrated when I just can’t focus and jump in and get started. You have helped me. ??

  21. Annelene Rossouw says:

    Thank you love your blog

  22. What a great sheet! I’m going to start using this right away!

    What helped me was understanding the difference between tasks and projects… I bullet journal for planning and organization and also needed to paint my hallway. So I wrote “paint hallway” on the same daily task list as “buy milk” and “pay the water bill.” Epic fail, because at the end of the day, bullet journaling has you move unfinished tasks to the next day. So i did, and it didn’t get done. I repeated this process for like two months, growing more and more frustrated and defeated… until I realized I was putting a giant project on a daily task list. Once I broke the project down” into mini tasks, such as “buy paint” or “find paint trays” was I able to make any progress. Even things like “find flat screwdriver,” and “”remove switch plates” made it on to my list, long before rolling paint on the walls became a thing. This was huge for me and my hallway was painted soon after…and I could finally cross that *project* off my list. :-)

    This planning sheet fits perfectly into my method! Thank you so much for sharing!

    1. Janet G, what a reflective response of tasks and projects.

  23. Thank You so much for the work flow sheet!! I get so overwhelm and then just sit in a daze…. Loved the one thing idea. I’m on my way now….

  24. Helen Moss says:

    With a few tweeks, that sheet would work for my dance projects, too!

    Thanks, Diane!