Renovation Therapy: 10 Tips to Help You Stay Sane

About a year and a half ago my husband and I bought a fixer-upper. It is our dream home, with a pool and gorgeous yard, but the inside is…dated. Like 1983, green carpet, wallpaper on every wall in every room, and a kitchen that looked like Mardi Gras puked in it. I kid you not. I actually hated the house the first time we looked at it, but my husband fell in love instantly. He saw the home has good bones and everything wrong was only cosmetic.

SO we bought it and moved in, planning to wait a year before starting any renovations.

Then one morning I was putting the hand-washed, air-dried dishes away. After I was done and I picked up the mat they had dried on, I was shocked to see mold/mildew on the grout under it (the counter tops were grouted tile). I freaked out and bleached the entire kitchen down, and then started begging my husband to renovate the kitchen.

We quickly decided the kitchen was the most obvious place to start since we spent the most time there. We did most of the work ourselves, with the exception of having the granite installed. The kitchen took about six months from demo to done. We then quickly moved onto the attached dining room, opening the doorway up and creating a brick archway. The archway is almost completed, but the dining room is still under construction. So the place we cook and eat has been under construction for a year and two months.

We could not eat all of our meals out during this time, so I had to have a plan. Most of my neighbors have also been working on renovations, so I asked them for their tips to staying sane during the renos, too. 

  1. Set a budget. 

    This may seem obvious, but it will really help you when you are making decisions. If fancy appliances are important to you, you may have to spend less on cabinets or something else. The trick is to set the budget and then stick to it.

  2. Make a plan and then put that plan on paper.

    One of the hardest things for us was our different tastes. We knew we wanted a Tuscan feel to our kitchen, but I am more classic and he is more modern. My husband is a graphic designer so he used Photoshop to put cabinets, back splash, and counter tops right into the picture of our kitchen. This really helped me see how it would look when it was done. You can use Pinterest to collect info, and there are project management tools you can use, too. You can also just use a poster board or even a notebook in which to keep all of your ideas. Whatever works for you, but you need something because it starts to get crazy and confusing quickly. 

  3. Decide ahead of time how many meals you will eat out/order out.

    We usually eat out once a week, so it was important for me to not increase that number just because we were renovating. I mostly stuck to this number, but there have been times that I gave in. I also work at Simple Bites Gourmet, so I would sometimes bring dinner home from there. The trick is to have easy things on hand to quickly get the meal done so you aren’t tempted to eat out when it isn’t in the budget.

  4. Freeze meals before you start.

    I have done this on many occasions and it works well for me. I either spend one day making a ton of meals and freezing them, or I make double at each meal for a couple weeks and freeze half. Either way, just write what they are and the date on them. I can tell you from experience, chili looks just like spaghetti when it is frozen solid! I try to use my crock-pot as much as I can, too. It’s so easy to just throw something in the crock-pot in the morning. A lot of freezer meals can go straight from freezer to crock-pot, too. 

  5. Use the grill and eat “Al Fresco.”

    Except for the really cold or rainy days, we eat outside at our big dining table. It is fun, gets us out and away from the construction, and helps us all sit down as a family for our meals. Using the grill for simple meals helps fill in the gaps when I don’t remember to thaw a freezer meal, too.

  6. Set a timeline goal. 

    This doesn’t mean you will meet it, but at least it gives you a deadline for which to shoot. We set ours for our youngest daughter’s birthday. We plan to have a big birthday party and maybe even our first pool party of the year so it will be nice to unveil the new brick then, too. 

  7. Have a plan for childcare. 

    For us, this usually means I will take care of the kids and the other daily household things while my husband is working on the renovations. But other times, we switch roles. We also try to work after the kids go to bed so we can do things together and make decisions that need to be made. We have a 10 year age gap in our kids, so our oldest will play with our youngest for a couple hours on the weekends to let us work together. Sending the kids to grandma’s house for a night or two always helps us get through a tricky piece in the project, as well. I know this isn’t an option for everyone and we are very lucky. 

  8. Get a professional when you need it.

    If you are not experienced in electrical work, it’s probably not realistic to try to rewire your house on your own. Get estimates and make an informed decision, and then let the professional take care of that part of your project. In our kitchen, we had a company install our granite and new sinks. We went to about five granite stores and got free estimates before we decided on one. Our decision was based on the granite each had available, not price. We knew this would be forever, so we wanted really pretty granite and not something everyone else has. 

  9. Leave wiggle room for a Plan B. 

    Some things will not go as planned. The room will not be plum, the materials will not be on time, the granite may get cracked. You may have to back up and punt. Don’t sweat it. Our initial pick of granite actually got cracked as they were cutting it. It was the only piece of that color they had, so we had to start the choosing process all over again. I was not happy about it, but I am so glad now because we ended up with an even prettier, more distinctive piece. 

  10. Schedule down time. 

    Whatever this looks like for you and your family, take breaks. A glass of wine and a bubble bath at the end of a long day will help restore you. Date night, dinner with the neighbors, family movie night, or just an evening walk in the neighborhood will give your mind and body a rest. We went on a ski trip one weekend. There was nothing to do except ski and rest. Perfect.

What other tips do you have to help a renovation go smoothly?

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