We bought our house with the thought that we’d be renovating it pretty much continuously for at least 20ish years, so we expected to be living in half-built rooms and with a bit of a feeling of chaos, but we also knew that we do find remodeling to be pretty exciting and rewarding, so it seemed worth it.
Of course, you can’t go through something like this without learning a few (sometimes painful) lessons. The one I’m learning lately is that, although I’m totally comfortable living in a construction zone all the time, I’m a lot more comfortable with living in certain stages of the chaotic process than others.
Which brings me to our latest project.
Here’s how things are looking right now.
This is the back hall off of our master bedroom. It’s basically just a hallway leading to the back deck and didn’t serve any real purpose other than being a dumping ground for a lot of junk.
It started out like that and later got re-organized to look like this:
…which wasn’t really much better.
So a few weeks ago we brought in some of these:
And did this with them:
We hung all the cabinets on the wall and created a little counter for me to sew at. And that was supposed to be it. But then we got an itch, and down came all the rest of the walls in the back hall. We hadn’t even finished painting the cabinets or installing the hardware and now instead of a medium-sized project, it’s kind of on the giant side.
Oh. And. The little nook next to the back door that used to be shelving like this:
Now looks like this:
We took out the shelves, cut a hole in the wall, and installed a second door leading into the master bathroom so we can access it quickly from the deck.
Tearing the back hall “storage area” apart has led there to be what some might see as mess and chaos in other parts of the house now. And by “some” I mean me. 🙂 I’ve found I’m really enjoying this phase of the project though, which seems kind of unlikely given the state of my bedroom right now. Over the past 7 years or so we’ve renovated most of one house, which we sold, and we’ve been through lots of different phases of renovation on this house as well. The state of unfinishedness has been constant so I’ve picked up a few tricks for keeping my head on straight throughout the process along the way. Here are my thoughts!
1) Lower your expectations for how much you’re going to get done in a given amount of time. And then lower them again.
They say that when you’re remodeling, things will always take twice as long as you think and cost twice as much. As a DIYer, I’d say this is completely false. While things aren’t always as expensive as I think they will be, because we do the labor ourselves, projects can easily take us, like, 10 times as long as I think they should. I’m not joking. But that’s what happens when you’re living a life at the same time. The more I learn that this is true (and I’m still working on this), the easier the whole process gets on my mental state.
2)Learn your own preferences for which “state of unfinishedness” you’re most comfortable living with for a long time if you have to. You probably will.
I won’t lie. I’ve been living in distress over the state of my house pretty much constantly for the last 2.5 years. And before that, in the old house, I was like that for a long time too. I always find a lot to love about my home, but the bad kind of outweighs the good a lot of the time. There’s just a whole lot of ugly going on in terms of old finishes, damaged walls and floors, half started projects and things that just need love. The fact is though, when you’re renovating, you’re going to have to live with all kinds of ugly when you run out of time to get something done right away. See above. If you learn which state of ugly you’re most comfortable with, you can plan a little bit for where you can stop and take a brake without losing your mind and feeling like you need to give up sleeping to get a project done. I’ve discovered that I’m really comfortable with walls ripped back to the bare studs, or even just plain drywall and plywood floors. Some might find that they can live with the old ugly finishes for a long time as long as a space feels “done”. Others might be happy to paint over old finishes, which I’ve done, as a happy medium for a little while. Or some other point in the renovating process. For me, I could happily live with bare stud walls forever if I had to. At least that’s how I’m feeling right now. And knowing that helps the process a ton.
3) Set tiny little baby goals that you can accomplish in tiny little baby steps in a very short amount of time to keep hope alive!
I’m a big fan of doing projects in 15 or even 5 minute increments. As long as I can see a little bit of progress everyday, I feel great. A lot of our big projects (like cutting holes in walls or electrical) are mostly done by Chris, but there are still plenty of things that need to be done that aren’t huge perfectionist jobs, like painting, installing hardware, or keeping the work area organized, that I can get done a little at a time and keep myself feeling like we’re moving in the right direction.
4) Learn to get rid of stuff.
I cannot believe that amount of stuff we own. I feel like the amount of junk that I’ve accumulated should be what someone twice my age would have in their house. When we were emptying out the room for this project, I got rid of about 70% of what was in the room. I either put things in the trash or donated them. Then when I moved the stuff back into the cupboards and onto the shelves that used to be there, I got rid of even more. Now that I’ve had to move stuff back into our bedroom again because we’ve decided to get all intense about this project, the amount of stuff is really very manageable. If I hadn’t done a major decluttering, we probably wouldn’t be able to walk in here. The more stuff I get rid of, the more I feel like I can accomplish and the more I feel like our renovations are doing what they should do to make our home more functional for us. Which makes me feel significantly less crazy during this whole process. Not uncrazy completely, but overall less looney for sure.
More tips to help you through your next major project:
If you’re about to embark on some home renovations, or if you find yourselves up to your elbows in it like we are, I hope I’ve given you some things to think about that might make the process like stressful for you. After all, this is an exciting time and it should be fun! No one can enjoy their new rooms if they’re stuck in a mental institution by the time the remodeling is over, right?
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Courtenay Hartford is the author of creeklinehouse.com, a blog based on her adventures renovating a 120-year-old farmhouse in rural Ontario, Canada. On her blog, Courtenay shares interior design tips based on her own farmhouse and her work as founder and stylist of the interior photography firm Art & Spaces. She also writes about her farmhouse garden, plant-based recipes, family travel, and homekeeping best practices. Courtenay is the author of the book The Cleaning Ninja and has been featured in numerous magazines including Country Sampler Farmhouse Style, Better Homes and Gardens, Parents Magazine, Real Simple, and Our Homes.