Avoiding house planning stress with recorded brainstorming
What do you do when you have made an offer on some property, but are still waiting for it to close? You begin a notebook to organize your ideas for building your dream house. I don’t often use the term “dream house,” but in this case I wanted to emphasize that this is a combination brainstorming and memory tool.
I needed to write down many of the ideas that had begun swirling in my mind. This included all the things I like about my current house (which I have lived in for 23 years), all the things I would like to improve on, and any potential new concepts for the new house. I don’t want to get to the planning stages of building and be trying to remember everything I had ever thought of.
Because my husband and I operate on different wavelengths when it comes to this kind of planning, I needed to make it clear to him that I am not asking for promises. I know that we will have to problem solve many things along the way. For instance, while we want certain useable spaces, we want to avoid large areas to take care of.
Choosing your organization system
You may wonder why I would use an old-fashioned spiral notebook in this day of computer based organizing tools.
- For one thing, I find browsing through pages easier.
- Practically, I can actually hold the notebook to look at more than one page at a time.
- I also know that I brainstorm better with the physical act of writing. It is probably similar to why white boards are still used in some settings, instead of computer screens.
- It is also important to know the tendencies of those you wish to share ideas with and have contribute.
I know that my husband is not likely to use a computer based system for this. He works via computer and uses the internet for research, but keeping tabs open is the extent of his computer based organization. I want to make it as likely as possible that he will be willing to look at and record ideas.
For other recent projects, I have been using trello.com. This works well for people who don’t live with me or who are fine making notes on their phones or computers. My 2 youngest girls can add to the shopping list whenever they think of something. My blog tech support can refer to lists of things we want to work on. Maybe at some point I will transfer these ideas to trello.com, but for now the notebook is best.
How to begin brainstorming your new house
Brainstorming works best for me when I start with the broader ideas and work toward the specific. I started with listing the basic rooms and areas of the new house. As I went along, I extended this to include outdoor structures and areas. We know from experience that we want some of these much closer to, if not attached to, the new house.
Since this is a brainstorming exercise, I did not worry about the order of the following pages. Some rooms were more on my mind, so I wrote them at the tops of following pages. I kept the facing page, on the left hand side open for other notes.
My basic list of rooms/areas:
- Husbands’ office
- Outdoor access bathroom
- General bathroom
- Master bathroom
- Master bedroom
- Kids guest bunks
- Adult guest room
- My office/studio
- Husband’s workshop
- Exercise/swimming pool
At this point, I am not worrying about listing the size of any ares. I am listing specifics items, furniture, and activities that I want to remember for planning. One example is that I would like the master bedroom to have a good space for the dogs to sleep next to our bed on the floor. For my office/studio, I want to have enough light to video sewing projects.
Design versus ideas
Besides the fact that we are hoping to hire an architect, I don’t think anyone can design a house until they know what features they want in it. There is little point is spending energy designing floor plans without know how the house will be lived in. And we will live in our house.
We are a very home based family. Not only do we like to have visitors, but both my husband and I work mostly from home. The fact that we have a significantly cold winter means that we need to keep in mind long periods of time indoors. How the house will look needs to accommodate all of these usage design needs.
Easy, homemade notebook tabs for reference
After I had several pages filled in, I realized that turning back and forth between them was like a treasure hunt. I needed to leave myself a treasure map to avoid wasting time. Also, I knew that my husband would be much more likely to reference the notebook if finding specifics was easier.
I have previously made similar tabs to label all the charging cords around the house. A piece of clear tape over a labeled piece of paper saves a lot of time. For this notebook, I used some decorated sticky notes that had been a gift from my mom. The sticky notes were already a good size and were cheerful.
Here is a photo sequence to show this simple process (click on any photo to enlarge). The main ideas are
- to have enough paper sticking out to write legibly one
- to fold it in half equally
- to cover it completely with tape to attach it to the page and to reinforce the paper
- to offset the dividers for visibility
One of the advantages of making your own tabs is that you can size them to fit. You can also use any kind of paper or sticky notes that you like the look of.
Adding details with ease
Now it is even faster to add ideas when I think of them. Of course, just beginning to brainstorm meant I had lots of other ideas. These also included general ideas for the house, such as things to do with plumbing or internet. For now, I made those notes on the left facing pages, opposite the rooms/areas where they would be most likely encountered.
Along the way, it seems likely we will want to add pages that have to do with overall construction, such as type of texturing, paint colors, or lighting systems. A page with contacts or places to go look for ideas might be in order.
Whatever happens next, I feel more relaxed about it and prepared to deal with information. I may even ask friends for their ideas and give them their own pages. I have some very insightful friends. We will have to wait and see what the “dream house” actually ends up looking like.