Project Pause: How I spend my time in between home projects

Since finishing up the laundry room renovation about a month ago, I’ve been in a home project lull . . . and I’m kind of loving it. There have been stretches this past year where I basically just jumped from one project right into the next, and while that often felt energizing and exciting, it also got to be exhausting and overwhelming at times.

I really and truly making our home feel special. It’s something I’ve been doing for years and years in the various places I have lived- loooong before I ever dreamed of sharing about it online. But I have noticed something since I started really sharing my projects on this blog and social media a couple years ago- the pressure to constantly create and produce content is real. I see other accounts constantly pumping out renovations and projects and it can start to feel like I need to be doing that too. The truth is though, for me that is not at all realistic or sustainable. I have time constraints and budget constraints, not to mention – I have a life to live! I want to be a present mom and prioritize my marriage and spend time with friends and family and travel and spend time on other activities outside of home projects.

All the algorithms may want consistent posting and more more more, but I feel happier, healthier, and more satisfied with my overall life when I have a balance of projects and time in between. I really value taking some space in between projects. I regularly pause from sharing things on social media. I need that bit of margin to keep from burning myself out! Since I’m currently in the middle of one, today I thought I’d share some of what I do and how I spend my time when I’m in the lull between home projects.

Read a book (or three or four)

It’s no secret around here that I love to read, and while I am sometimes able to read while in the midst of a project, I often just don’t have the time to juggle both. My “free” time comes in three major chunks: when the kids are in preschool two mornings a week, after they’ve gone to bed, and on the weekends when Justin is home or we have grandparent help. When I’m in the middle of a project, I might be able to squeeze in a chapter or two here and there, but there just isn’t much time leftover for reading. When there’s no project going on, it feels like such a treat to just cozy up with a book and get swept up in the story.

Dream up possibilities

When a project is going on, I try my best to keep my mind focused on the tasks at hand. There are decisions to make and work to be done and it keeps my brain fully occupied. When I’m in between projects, my mind has some room to just breathe and dream. For me, the dreaming stage is just as important as the focused “doing” stage! With the exception of the $0 bathroom update I did last year with virtually no prior thought or planning, I need to live in a space and devote time to really thinking about it before jumping in to a renovation. Without a project taking my focus, I can allow my mind to meander and just have time to dream about possibilities. I walk through spaces and sit in rooms and let myself dream big, even if I know it’s likely not feasible to actually implement a certain idea. I try not to rush decisions or force my brain to think about a certain space; some of my favorite ideas have come unexpectedly with a room or project that wasn’t even on my radar until my brain wandered there one day. I know I’m getting ready to work on a space when my thoughts about it are consistently the same – it’s like my dreams have been honed in on a specific vision and I’m ready to proceed!

Plan a future project

From the Pinterest board for one of my future projects…

Planning is different than dreaming. With dreaming, no ideas are off limits and I just allow my mind to think of possibilities and ideas. Once my dreams have gathered into a clearer vision, I start using some brain power for planning. This doesn’t even mean I’m ready to jump into a project, but I might be ready to start gathering actual inspiration to hone my vision even further. I’ll start a Pinterest board or a saved folder on Instagram. It often starts with just one element that I love; for example, with our bedroom renovation, I knew I wanted a navy upholstered bed so my planning began around that. I’ll save anything that inspires me! If it’s an item way out of my price range I still save it because if I really love the look, I can usually find (or even make!) a dupe for less. I enjoy starting the planning stage way before I’m actually ready to start a renovation because having no time constraint takes the pressure off and allows me to cultivate ideas and items. I enjoy when a space feels carefully curated with unique items that feel like me and my family rather than just buying everything at once.

Budget

This is kind of like the Part Two of the planning stage. It takes time to save up for projects, but both Justin and I really value paying for them as we go and not accumulating debt just because we want to update something. While I’m planning for a future project, I’m also saving money, thinking about an appropriate budget, and coming up with ways to maximize whatever amount we have.

Clean/Purge/Maintain

It might not be glamorous, but time off from projects gives me the space to really maintain the home. I spend time deep cleaning rooms, purging closets, and tidying drawers and cabinets. I take things we no longer want or use to my local thrift store, textile recycler, or ReStore. I do things like swap out seasonal clothes for my kids or sort and store the items that no longer fit them. I go around with a magic eraser and clean marker spots and dog hair off the walls (gross, I know, but that’s the reality of our house!) I re-caulk around the bathroom sinks. I give my plants some TLC, which can be anything from transplanting into bigger planters, dividing them into two, propagating new ones, trimming off dead leaves, etc. I touch up paint and freshen up bedding. Basically, when I don’t have a project going on, I have the bandwidth to deal with a lot of the little things that go into keeping our home feeling cozy, comfortable, and (mostly) clean.

REST

Admittedly, I have a hard time slowing down and truly resting. Whenever I have a break, like if Justin takes the kids to swimming lessons or my parents take the kids for the weekend, I feel like I need to maximize the time and take advantage by being productive. But I’m coming to really appreciate how rest IS productive. Taking time to shut my brain off and just exist is a treat. I enjoy taking an evening to just do a puzzle with Justin or spend a lazy Saturday morning lounging in bed with a good book. I like snuggling on the couch with my kids and watching a movie or just talking about whatever they want. I revel in strolling the aisles of a thrift store looking for nothing in particular, ready to snatch up an unexpected gem. There is something so refreshing and rejuvenating about just slowing down and spending my days more intentionally – it’s something I’m continuing to make an effort to prioritize!

When we first moved in, Justin and I both knew that this house would become a labor of love. We saw so much potential in making it our dream home, but we also knew that it was going to be a marathon, not a sprint. It’s been important (and fun!) for me to enjoy the full process, both the projects themselves and the time in between. Taking time to pause is essential for me to have space to dream, plan, budget, enjoy other hobbies, maintain our home, and just rest. I’m enjoying this little break and it will likely last through December. That being said, I’m definitely also dreaming and planning for 2022 and I’m getting very excited for the projects I want to tackle next. Next year is going to be a great one, but first I’m going to finish this one strong with relaxation and quality family time.

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