Keeping Notes

As you go through your DIY projects, it is important to keep good notes as you go. You never know when you may need to make reference to a project detail in the future; when you sell your home and the building inspector wants to know what is behind a wall, when you want to duplicate the project again in a future home, or when you take a break mid project and need to remember where you left off. I will go through some tips that have helped me keep all my notes in order throughout our projects.

Tip #1: Keep a project Notebook

I use Composition Quad Ruled note books (like what you probably used for High School Chemistry Lab) for all designs, shopping lists, cut lists, and daily to-do lists. You can buy them at the end of the “Back to School” rush for about a buck a piece, but even at the normal $3 each, they are well worth it. These notebooks give you 100 sheets (200 if you use both sides) of graph paper to work with, they are compact and easy to carry around, and they have hard covers so you can make notes anywhere. There are many different variations of notebooks out there, so use whatever works best for you; the key is to keep all your notes in one spot so you can reference them during the project and afterwards.

Tip #2: Keep your plant tags

When planting, don’t forget to keep the plant tags. I have a separate binder for all plant tags, so I can keep track of what plants I have, how they need to be taken care of, and where they are planted. This is very helpful if you want to plant more of something in the future, or if you notice a certain type of plant just doesn’t do well where you live. If you have multiple plant tags, keep 2 so you can show both sides, or if you only have one tag, make a copy of the back side and tape the actual tag next to it.

Plant journal showing plant tag and location of plant

Tip #3: Take lots of pictures

Of course you want to take the typical before and after pictures, but don’t neglect to take pictures along the way too. You can create a Home Improvement scrap book, which can be fun to show off to friends and family (or bore your kids with). Also, if you are closing something in, take lots of pictures before doing so (ie – how you routed the electrical through a wall). This helps in case you have to explain what you did to a building inspector or need to make repairs in the future. You may want to add some of these pictures to your project notebook for easy reference, or just keep them in a project folder on your computer.

This is one of the gas springs we used on the murphy bed. Before closing them in, we took several pictures with the tape measure, so we knew exactly where the springs were fasted in case we ever have to replace them in the future.


Tip #4: Log your Home Improvement Receipts

I keep a basic Excel spreadsheet with a tab for each project. If you keep the spreadsheet up to date as you go, you can ensure that you stay on budget (plus you won’t get overwhelmed by a large stack of receipts). You also might be able to write off some EnergyStar Improvements and certain others come tax time, so don’t forget to check with your tax adviser or the IRS website for current laws.

Tip #5: Use MyLowe’s

If you shop at Lowe’s, check out their new program called MyLowe’s. They track all of your purchases, including the specific paint color or type of tile you bought last year (if you don’t use them, don’t forget to store this type of information in your project journal).



Do you have other creative ways to keep your project notes? Feel free to share them by leaving me a comment.


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