My husband and I are knee-deep in bathroom renovations and I’d be lying if I said it’s been smooth sailing. We’ve been plagued with scheduling delays and tile issues and our two-week reno has turned into a six-weeker. We’re finally wrapping it up now, but it’s been a stressful time in our homeowner history.
Renovations are famously stressful, thanks to the disruption to your normal routine. While we haven’t loved sharing a bathroom with our 13-year-old, undertaking this together has taught us a thing or two about managing renovation stress. Did we have our fair share of bickering? Sure. Renovations have a way of increasing tension. Still, we made it out (relatively) unscathed, thanks to these tips on staying sane.
Be clear on the budget
Renovation budget issues are probably one of the biggest complaints between couples. Your budget (and being clear on how you’ll pay for things) will color your entire experience, so make sure it’s your first discussion. How much do you have saved and how much will you use other funds (e.g., credit cards, home equity loan or other methods). Nothing is more stressful than seeing your funds dwindle faster than they should. It’s not always the most pleasant conversation, but setting a budget and creating a contingency fund will help you keep your calm when other reno issues arise.
Get choosy with your arguments
In your quest for your dream space, it can be easy to get fixated on the details. How will you love your kitchen if you don’t pick the perfect paint color? But nitpicking every detail might be one of the biggest factors in renovation stress. At the very start of our renovation, I pinpointed the one thing that I wouldn’t budge on: countertops. Identifying my one must-have has made it easy to defer and compromise on other details. When our shower contractor couldn’t get my first-choice finish in on time, changing it for something more accessible was no big deal.
Choose your top three renovation must-haves and then be flexible on the rest. You’ll get what you want without going completely crazy in the process.
Compartmentalize the process
When your renovation is eating up so much of your time and budget, it’s easy to start letting it color all of your interactions. Who can think about date night when your kitchen is in shambles? But compartmentalizing the renovation helps you leave the stress of cost, materials and contractors behind when you spend time with your family. I like to look at it as a work day: I can put in ‘x’ amount of hours but when I’m done for the day, I focus on other things. That way, when I’m spending my time with family, I’m not focusing on fixtures or paint samples. That means no browsing for home stuff online or talking about the reno after certain hours — and keeping my sanity.
Use up vacation time
If you or your spouse are lucky enough to have vacation time, now would be a great time to use it. Sure, you might need a beach and a drink after your reno, but chances are that your time will be better served at your house. Whether it’s supervising a cabinet install or getting your paintbrush wet, working on a renovation is less stressful if you can do it during daylight hours. Working a full day and trying to schedule around your hours or heading home to work on the house after a full day at the office eats up your energy and gives you zero downtime. You don’t need to use up all of your vacation time, but budgeting for a few hours or days can seriously reduce your renovation stress.
Let’s face it: sometimes, it’s easier to just work solo and get the job done. But renovations can be an awesome time to reconnect with your family if you’re willing to slow down a bit. Choose a project that is easy and fairly inconsequential — creating art for the wall or painting a small space, for example — and tackle it as a family. Not only will you create memories and connection to your home, but it serves as a great reminder as to why you’re working on improving your space. If it’s not for your family, who is it for? Slowing down and laughing a little can help relieve some of the built-up tension and see you through to the finish line.
Get away from the house
When you just want something done, it’s easy to let it consume your life. Spending every waking, free moment on your renovation is a recipe for stress central, though. Reduce your anxiety by planning some time away from your house. After all, being there is just a reminder of everything you need to get done. A staycation for a night or two at a local hotel or just getting out of the house on a Saturday afternoon recharges your batteries and gives you the energy you need to keep working. Hey, there’s no award for most consecutive hours working on your home. Take a break and get away from the project for a bit.
Stick to your routine
Part of the reason renovations are so stressful is that they can really do a number on your daily routine. Whether it’s putting your kitchen out of commission or pushing you to sleep in the guest room, the added stress of being out of your regular groove is enough to seriously raise your blood pressure. Whenever possible, stick closely to your regular routine. While you might be eating more takeout than usual or showering in your kids’ bathroom (guilty!), it can definitely help to continue getting up at the same time and eating meals at home — even if they’re the fast food variety. Renovations are hard enough as it is. Sticking with your regular routine makes them feel less disruptive.
There’s no such thing as a perfect renovation. There will be material mixups and timing issues along the way. Accepting that from day one can help you stay flexible and less stressed. A rigid timeline and unrealistic expectations will only cause anxiety. Make sure your renovation includes plenty of contingencies, from a padded timeline to backup material choices. Staying flexible and knowing that it’ll be finished — eventually — makes the process infinitely more pleasant.
For a mere six weeks’ worth of drywall dust and paint chips, we scored more functional bathrooms in a house we love even more than before. Renovations mean change, and change can mean upending your life for a few weeks — or months. But if you plan your reno well and keep a good attitude, the change is well worth it.