Leah and Joe: Home DIY Projects & Crafts

leahandjoe.com · Nov 16, 2018

What they don’t tell you about home renovations

Or maybe they did tell you. If you were young and naive like us, you just didn’t listen. I’m here to tell you, for the record — they were right. Renovations are hard.

Here’s the deal. Our house appears to be coming back together. We are now four months into this massive renovation, and I’m writing from the trenches. I’m sure when it’s all said and done, I’ll have learned a bunch of lessons and we’ll be sharing a post titled, “11 Ways to Avoid Home Renovation Burnout” or “11 Ways to Improve Your Home Value”, but not today. Today I rant.

Quick Recap

Joe hasn’t had time to send me any cool videos, and I haven’t had time to write a post. We spend nights and weekends working on the house. The priority is getting it closed up and insulated (almost done) before winter. Every room of the house besides the kitchen is under some form of construction. Renovating a house is an awesome problem to have, but it’s not without sacrifices and challenges. Simply put, it’s hard living in a work zone, even if you love house projects like we do.

Have I handled it the most gracefully? Definitely not. People who have DIY’ed a large-scale project seem to get it and I think they block out the hard parts like childbirth. So I want to capture the moment while it’s fresh. I tried pulling together some universal truths for anyone considering a similar project; something I wish I read beforehand. (Although we’d definitely do this again knowing what we know now.) Would we do it again again, like in the future? Hopefully we never have to!

11 things they don’t tell you about home renovations

1. There is no routine

You no longer have a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen or fill in the blank. No big deal, you think. Oh I’m here to tell you there’s no better way to learn to appreciate the small things in life. Your reading light on your nightstand, a hot bath at the end of the day, a cup of hot coffee. These little routine things may go out the window in a home renovation. I personally miss having a closet instead of rummaging through bins of clothes just to find the one sweater I need. Depending on construction schedules, your morning jog, class at the gym or weekly dinner date might have to be postponed indefinitely in order to get the work done. And it’s a slippery slope with eating healthy and excercise.

2. The guilt

And then you think, “some people live without these luxuries every day” and remember to be grateful. And you feel guilty for complaining. And at least we have a roof over our heads. I think about how we needed a new roof anyway from the storm damage, so it was the best time and most economical to do this addition. And how our house was listed as a teardown so we probably saved it. But still feel bad about the trees we used while California is burning to the ground. Just my personal environmental neurosis really kicking in hard.

3. Life goes on

You still have a job and bills to pay. Like it or not, the laundry still needs to get done and dishes washed — with or without a laundry room or dishwasher. I actually find these routine chores comforting and they sort of anchor me. Refer back to #1 — when your checklist gets knocked around, you might feel off balance too. We had a pet rabbit on hospice sleeping beside us every night for a month. Joe got cellulitis and was on bed rest for a week. And we had one of the rainiest Octobers on record that hindered our plans. Life happens, and it could give a crap about your house.

4. Goodbye social life

Get used to date nights growing few and far between. Your friends will get tired of you bailing on plans to work on your house. Weddings and holidays might be your only social event outside of work for a while. Refer back to #3 — these events do not halt because you’re knee deep in insulation or irrigation. They really do break up the progress you’ll be making. But they’re also a saving grace because it’s like having a mandatory work break.

5. Free time? What’s that

If you’re hellbent on finishing as quickly as possible, you’re going to sacrifice a lot of your previous “free time”. Whether it’s mornings, nights or weekends, something’s gotta give. You’ll feel bad taking time and spending money on extra fun things when you could be working on the house. It sometimes feels like the movie Groundhog Day (which I just watched for the first time) — get up, go to work, come home, work on house, sleep, wake up, repeat. You get tunnel vision and feel like you can’t/aren’t moving forward. It’s hard to see the fruits of your labor when you’re in the thick of things.

6. Relationships are strained

Yup, even if you think you two can rule the world together, renovations test your relationships. Between making large financial decisions together and living in an all-out construction zone, tempers are going to be a little short and romance thin. You might feel more like co-workers at times, just getting through and managing life together. A wise friend in the middle of her own adventure moving cross-country had some good advice: At the end of the day, you just have to remember that you love each other.

7. It’s a 3-ring circus

I hope you’ve been stretching because you’re going to need the flexibility of a trapeze artist. Depending on the scope of your renovation, various people will be in and out of your home at the same time. You may have to run home to meet with a building inspector, sign for a lumber delivery or have a quick conference call with a supplier. Surprises will happen. You have to roll with the punches and deal with problems as they arise without losing your head. There is a lot outside your control.

8. Your environment affects your mood

I’ve always believed this in theory, but nothing confirms this more than living through a home renovation. When your surroundings are cramped, cluttered and dusty, guess what? Your mind will reflect that too. There is energy in our surroundings that we subconsciously carry into our days. Pretending you’re camping only works for so long. Looking forward to when our house is organized, clean and beautiful again!

9. You’ll feel isolated

Refer back to #4 and #5. On top of being physically distant from people, you’re also mentally in a different state right now. You’ll want your life to feel normal again so badly. But then remember the quickest way to get there is to work faster and harder. You’ll want to vent, but feel like people will think you’re either whining or humble-bragging. Refer back to #2. It’s all a catch 22.

10. Everything takes longer and costs more

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Plan for 2x everything. You’ll need to take days off work and have an emergency fund for something not in the budget. It’s a law of nature.

11. It’ll be worth it

It will all be worth it in the end. So they keep saying to us. We’ll let you know if they were right after all

We will keep you posted on progress as we’re able.

Hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Disclaimer: All views expressed are Leah’s. Joe does not share my sentiment. He seems unphased by chaos. Just goes to show everyone has a different threshold… I don’t think I’m extra high-maintenance, but likely more sensitive to my surroundings than others. And I think we can all agree, Joe is an exception to most rules in life.

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