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My Exact System for How To Stay Organized While Building A House

How To Stay Organized While Building A House In 5 Steps

You just made a big, exciting decision.

You decided to build a house.

First of all, congrats!

(Cue the confetti, because this is seriously exciting!)

Second… can I give you a little advice?  

I’ve been where you are, starry-eyed with the possibilities and ready to dive right in and get started, like NOW.

But first, take a deep breath. 

Are you listening?  Because this is really important.

Before you even set foot into an appliance store or drop by a design showroom just to take a peek… we need to talk about organization.

I get that this doesn’t sound nearly as exciting as sparkly light fixtures or marble mosaic tile, but, like many parts of adulting…

the magic is in the mundane.

I 100% guarantee that if you dedicate a little time to setting up some good organizational systems at the start of your build, you will have a much better experience overall.

  • You’ll worry less about budget, because you know where you stand
  • Staying on track will be easy, because you’re clear on your priorities
  • Finding important documents will never be a source of stress
  • Communication with your building team will be seamless
  • Everything you need is on hand and ready to reference

Use the following 5 strategies to help you stay organized while building a house.  

These are the actual things I did while building our home to help keep things on schedule and save my sanity.  

Hopefully they will help you too.


Organizing Must Haves

For Building A House

1. | Create a Vision Board

I’ve already written about the importance of creating a clear vision while you’re building a house, but I’m touching on it again here because I believe it’s something that’s not talked about enough.

Creating a vision gives you a reference point you can come back to over and over.

It can be your anchor throughout the home building process.  

When faced with a dilemma, you can ask yourself:

“Does this decision align with the vision I created?”  

Having a clear vision of what you want from your future home stops you from getting carried away.  Which is easy to do.

Visioning helps you:

  • Prioritize needs/wants
  • Stay focused
  • Keep going when things get hard (and there’s always a point where things feel hard)

Although I’m a big fan of journaling (check out my guided journal for building a home), a lot of people are hands-on and/or visual people.  

An old school, cut-and-paste vision board is a great way to take your ideas out of your head and bring them into reality.

5 Steps For Creating a Vision Board

  1. Take a big stack of magazines or print out your favorite inspiration pics from your Pinterest account or Houzz board.  
  2. Cut ‘em out and glue ‘em down on a piece of paper or posterboard.  
  3. Add words that describe the way you want to feel in your home. 
  4. You can write quotes or intentions on top of the photos.
  5. Hang it up in your home somewhere you can look at it regularly to keep your vision strong and clear.

2. | Organize Your Inspiration Ideas

If you’re reading this blog I suspect you might be a fellow researcher. 

Howdy!  Nice to meet you!

And if you are, I’m guessing that you also have a whole lot of pages ripped out of magazines. Or inspo pics saved on digital apps.



That means you are a.) getting clear on your vision b.) ready to tackle step 2 in my system for staying organized while building a house.

Which is to go back through all those ideas you’ve been saving for months (years?) and revisit them.

  • Set aside some time to focus on this task; it’s a slow process
  • Gather any magazines, floorplans, or physical items you have saved
  • Make sure you have your devices because you’re going to organize your digital inspiration too

These parts of the process will be the same for each medium. Repeat for all apps you use.

  1. Sort your inspiration by room
  2. As you go, remove or delete any images that no longer fit your vision as it has evolved.
  3. Finally, annotate and “store” them as follows:

Hard Copies: 

  • Use clear plastic sheet protectors to place in a binder.  I labeled each with cute washi tape on the top of each page protector.
  • You can add dividers to separate the page protectors by rooms if you have a lot of items.
  • You can write directly on the images with a Sharpie!  Circle exact details you like or make notes for yourself.
  • Cut out irrelevant portions of images if necessary.
Use a page protector to store inspiration photos.
How I use a page protector to store annotated inspiration images.
Label with Washi tape!


  • Create one new board with a name that reflects your build: New House, Our Build, Etc.  Mine was called Coastal Modern Dream House!
  • Within that folder, create subfolders for each category:
    • Bedrooms and bathrooms
    • Kitchen
    • Powder room
    • Office
    • Living spaces
    • Don’t forget detail-oriented boards to save products for lighting, hardware, paint and landscaping ideas for later!
  • You can use the notes feature to record specific things you like or want to remember
  • You can share the boards you have created with others who are collaborating on your build (designers, other family members, builder, etc.)
  • When you pin future inspiration, remember to save it to the correct subfolder!


  • Create collections within the Instagram app to easily go back to your favorite inspiration photos.
  • Name boards in a similar manner to your Pinterest subfolders.
  • When you see something you like, simply touch the small flag on the bottom right of the image and add it to the correct collection!


Houzz is very similar to Pinterest, maybe even simpler. Follow the same process

3. | Plan to Organize Documents 

There are two types of documents you’ll need to stay on track of to stay organized while building a house:

Digital docs and hard copies.

Here are my suggestions for organizing both:


My top suggestion is to create a Home Building Binder.

You will need:

  • A 1-1.5″ binder
  • 1 Set of Dividers
  • Clear Plastic Page Protectors
  • A 3-hole puncher

Create sections for each of the following:

  • Permits + Plans
  • Budget
  • Contact Info
  • Design (add a page protector to hold brochures, magazine clippings, paint chips, etc)
  • Selections
  • Grid Paper

As often as possible, 3-hole punch and file paperwork behind the correct tab so everything is easy to find when you need it!

Another alternative would be to use an accordion style organizer. It will keep everything organized in exactly the same manner as a binder, but is easy to keep in the car to quickly “file” things on the go. Your choice!


Master Email Folder

At the very beginning of your build, set up a dedicated folder for project docs in your email system.

Send all build-related emails to this folder for on the go access.

This reduces the need to have your paper copies with you at all times.

Driving to a selections appointment? You can quickly pull up all budgets and specifications in your emails by typing the store name into the search bar.

Try to build a habit of adding files to this folder immediately upon receipt. It takes maybe 5 seconds to do and will save you a lot more time in the long run!

Folders On Computer

You will definitely need a dedicated place to save digital copies of bids, builds, plans, etc. on your computer.

  1. Create 1 folder on desktop
  2. Create subfolders inside:
    • Financial
      • Invoices, Draws, Budgets, Bids
    • Legal
      • Contracts, Permits, Water Tap, Certificate of Occupancy, etc.
    • Structural
      • House Plans, Engineering, etc.
    • Design
      • Inspiration, Furnishings, Paint, etc.
    • Selections
      • Cabinets, Plumbing, Tile, Flooring, Paint, Hard Surfaces, Electrical/Lighting, etc.
    • Landscaping
      • Plans + Renderings, Inspiration, Plant Lists, etc.

Although it’s not necessary, it is very helpful to keep your building folder somewhere you can access it on the cloud.

If you are a Mac user, you can place it on your desktop and access it via your phone on the go in iCloud Drive.

Google Drive is another great solution for on-the-go access. PLUS you can share access with your builder, site supervisor, designer, etc. to make communication a breeze!

Phone Photos

One last thing that is helpful to organize from the start is your phone photos!

You will take a LOT of photos throughout the process from ground braking to move in day and beyond. Make sure to give them a folder on your phone’s photo program … and remember to move build related photos to it regularly!

I did not do this at first and I regretted it.

Do it from the start and save yourself the headache down the road.

4. | Carry a Notebook

During the building process, you will be writing things down… a lot.

  • Notes from meetings
  • Sketches of your ideas on site
  • Ideas + concerns that pop into your head in the middle of the night
  • Contact info
  • To-do lists

If you don’t have a dedicated place to store it all, you’ll soon be swimming in a sea of loose post-its.

Here are a few tips for using a notebook to stay organized when building a house:

  • I love a dot grid style notebook for it’s flexibility. Because the pages aren’t lined, you have a lot more flexibility in how you use it.
  • Amazon sells these stick on tabs, which help you quickly reference important pages.
  • Carry in your bag or glovebox so you always have it on the go.
  • It makes a great keepsake! It’s fun to look back at your ideas and thoughts when you’re done building and reflect on all the hard work that went into the process.

5. | Contain Physical Stuff

You have NO idea how much stuff will soon be cluttering up your desk, the kitchen counters, and the trunk of your car.

You’ll have house plans, brochures, tile samples, paint swatches… so many little things to keep track of.

Dedicate a place to store them early on to save your sanity!

These are my favorite solutions:

Plastic Tub

See through and easy to transport, a plain old plastic tub is a great solution. You can keep it in the back of your car, on the floor of a closet, or on a shelf in your garage.

Large Tote Bag

I found this giant tote bag on wheels and am obsessed with it for transporting everything from ski gear to groceries. It would be perfect for storing building materials and samples as well. The wheels make it easy to drag the whole collection to a design meeting, but it also has handles for when the ground is muddy. If I could do it all again, I would keep it in the back of my car at all times for my samples and floor plans!

Empty Drawer or Cabinet

If you have an empty drawer in a cabinet or dresser, why not dedicate it to storing everything in an out of the way place during your build? I cleared out a drawer in our entry cabinet for this purpose and it worked well for me. Everything had a home and it was easy to access but completely hidden from view.

To recap, these are the 5 methods I love for how to stay organized while building a house.

If you found this helpful, here are some additional articles I wrote to help you navigate the home building process:

Happy building!



my home

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