How to nail down your priorities!

Read time 6 minutes

If you and your partner the type of people that work well together, or even don’t work well together but expect that you both will be participating in the decision making process during your construction project, then there are a few things you need to think about and be prepared for. Determining your priorities prior to starting your project is the single most important thing you can do before calling your architect. It will set you on a path to success and form the groundwork with which you will be making many decisions in the months to come.

1.       To get the conversation started, each person should write down a list of things that he or she would like to change about your home. At this point I encourage you to get it all out. Write everything down regardless of whether you think it should be part of the immediate project or is within your budget. You might surprise yourself or your partner with something that you deem important or unimportant. Even if your goal is to focus on a Kitchen remodel, your husband might include that he wants a deck which wasn’t part of the original project. That deck might fit nicely with the French doors that you are in love with that you saw online but didn’t consider feasible because you have no deck. When you eventually provide your priorities to your architect, you might frame in a rough opening (and avoid locating electrical and plumbing in that location) for future French doors that will lead out to a future deck in phase two. We will cover phasing a project later…. But include EVERYTHING to begin with, and we can weed things out later.

2.       Put that list in order of importance. This part is extremely important. This sets the framework for months and months of decision making later. The sheer quantity of decisions you will have to make is truly astounding, so why not make it easier on yourself by predetermining your order of importance early on? After you both laugh off the French doors out to the deck that you know you can’t fit in your Kitchen budget, include it in your list of priorities but note it lower on the list. The only way your architect can make educated suggestions or recommendations is if she knows all of the priorities to begin with. The benefit to clarifying to her that it is lower on the list than, say, creating an eating bar, is so she knows where to proportionally put her efforts. She doesn’t need to spend her time (or your money) designing a deck, but making an effort to design the Kitchen such that there is a gap for future doors can only benefit you.

3.       Now it gets interesting…. Come together and share your two lists with one another with the end goal of creating one list that you both agree on as the project bible.  You might have to do this in more than one sitting, or maybe get a babysitter for the day and go hang out at your local coffee shop. Whatever you do, be aware that this takes time, so you must create the space in your life to do it properly!

4.       No judging! I encourage you to hear each other out and decide ahead of time that this isn’t a time to argue. If necessary, create another list of things that you don’t agree on and move on. If you hate the fact that your wife keeps her bike in the front Living Room, don’t assume that by creating a Mud Room off the back of the house with a cool new bike rack will resolve that issue. Ask her WHY she likes it in the Living Room and not the back Garage. She might surprise you by saying that it is because she saves a few minutes on her way to work by it being located in the Living Room instead of locked in the Garage. With two kids, every second counts in the morning. Knowing this, you may collectively decide to get up 10 minutes earlier instead of building a Mud Room. See what I mean? Don’t just disagree with a Mud Room because you are already positive it isn’t necessary. Always ask WHY, and see if there are agreeable non-construction solutions to some of the issues you are trying to solve. This will help you nail down the actual challenges on which the construction project needs to focus. Weeding out these issues that you can resolve in other ways will save you thousands of dollars, so make an effort to really LISTEN to one another and talk things through. Getting to the reasoning behind the suggestions will make a huge difference in the long run.

5.       Next, you must determine a way to deal with decisions when you come to an impasse. There will inevitably be things that you just aren’t going to agree on.  It is stressful making hundreds of decisions that affect future decisions and cost a lot of money. One of my clients actually used bargaining chips as a solution for this. This is along the same lines as the ‘talking stick’ in couples counseling but less corny. They each had 5 chips (they used poker chips), and they could opt to use one of their chips to override the other to come to a conclusion on something they disagreed on. You can’t have too many or it won’t work, because you can keep one-upping each other and get nowhere. However, if you really want the range in the island, and your partner wants the range on the wall, you can use a chip to resolve the dilemma. Just be okay with the fact that you might have to succumb to the 4 burner range instead of the 6 burner that you wanted if your partner uses his chips to knock that off the table. You may have another way that works for you, but agree in advance on how to resolve these types of impasses.  

It is important to set yourself up for success. When doing anything difficult, it can be really gratifying if you are proud of the way you handled the situation and pleased with the results. Creating your home exactly how you want it, in a budget you can afford, while possibly even planning ahead for future project goals is such an amazing feeling. You can make it happen if you take this advice and plan ahead.

As usual, feel free to leave a comment! I'm always happy to hear if this is helpful or if there are other pressing questions you might love an answer to! If you need a little boost determining your priorities, try downloading my questionnaire.