5 things you need to be ready for before your renovation starts
I'd like to say that this was an easy post to write but I'd be lying. In a few days the renovation work is going to begin on the rear of our house. We are building a first floor extension on top of an already existing kitchen extension (so steelwork required to reinforce the foundations) and we're creating a larger en-suite bedroom (or walk-in wardrobe if I can convince John!) and a new bedroom for Ethan, therefore converting our four bedroom house into a five bed.
For some reason (and I think it's due to a lot of things rather than just the impending building work) the past week has been really difficult but I'm not completely sure why. I should be feeling all relaxed and zen-like. I've been on holiday in a idyllic part of Wales (which really reminded me of my native homeland across the Irish Sea), breathed in a lot of extra oxygen, have spent valuable time with friends and family laughing so hard until it hurts playing balderdash and had a mental break from home and work. But what actually happened is my youngest son wasn't very well which means I'm exhausted from both bad sleep and fraught nerves from a lot of clinginess and I've actually missed blogging and having that sense of drive and direction. Then we came home to mammoth task of rearranging the WHOLE house trying to get ready for renovations. Honestly, I'm an emotional mess. I don't often feel so out of control and I don't want to put any of you off improving your home and doing some big-scale building work but I want to speak honestly about the process. As a mum it's hard enough trying to juggle a million things at once and my hope is that my frankness will help you be more prepared for these unexpected emotional challenges and that your renovation preparation will be much more straightforward than ours. Although the spirit of the blog is to inspire you with new and creative ideas, I felt this an important post to write so you know more about me and the reality of building a home on a grander scale. I'm also hoping this will be a cathartic experience for me as I clarify and analyse what difficulties have arisen before renovations begin.
1. The Stress
No amount of preparation mentally or physically can remove the stress altogether. The packing away of your belongings is similar to moving house which if I remember rightly is the second most stressful experience in life after divorce. I've actually been through the renovation process twice before but never felt so anxious before a project. It's really taken me by surprise! The first was time nine years ago and I didn't live in the property. It was major redecoration rather than smashing out and building up so it's probably not the best comparison. I was also a lot younger, without dependants and still living on my own! Second time which was the first phase of building work on our current property was a jump up. We built out on the side of the house and created a flat roof to remove the pitched one so we could add in a bedroom and bathroom. Previous to this we had added in a landing where there had been none before and I clearly remember not have a banister on there until our son was about one and a half. He started walking at eleven months! At this phase of the building work we still had a fully functional bathroom and kitchen so that's already hands down easier than this one will be. Little one year old Jack loved all the excitement and I remember how excitedly he would chat to the builders and get his tools out and 'help' inside. Since he was born we'd been working on the house after a flood from the water tank in our spare room when he was five weeks old. We got used used to adapting around a baby and I vividly remember breastfeeding between coats of paint so his new room would be finished by the time he was ready to move into his own room at six months. As I write this I realise that our whole married life has been one huge renovation project so I should get used to this as being the status quo!
However for this construction work and now with two children is tow there is also the added stress of how will I wash the everlasting pile of clothes (enter friends and neighbours!) and how will I cook our favourite meals? Will the boys sleep okay in the same room? Shall we just eat off throwaway plates and will my baby nap through the hammering and drilling? I'm sure it'll all be fine!
2. The Mess
Things HAVE to get messy before they get better. This is true for a lot of things in life and already know this but when the whole contents of your loft and two other rooms need to be completely cleared, it soon becomes a mind-boggling task. Near on impossible! And on top of that the whole garage had to be reorganised from when it was cleared and put into storage a few months ago to have have a new roof put on by the insurance company (long story) as everything was randomly packed into boxes by the removals men and it was impossible to find anything. This was what we spent the whole of last Friday doing. Don't get me wrong, this has it benefits. We now have everything in clear boxes stacked on industrial shelves and know exactly where all the tools are. So when we to find the flexible plumbing pipe when the bathroom sink decides to start squirting water at you when you are in the bath (this actually happened last week!) we know exactly where to find it. We also found the tennis rackets that probably won't see any action for a number of years until the boys decide to be helpful and can be ball boys for us and John has managed to set up a sound system in there and re-arrange the strip lighting. Priorities, priorities!
In terms of mess when the work is actually happening, I'm feeling optimistic. The silver lining is that the rest of the house will actually be boarded up meaning that the workmen don't have to traipse through the house and hopefully dust will be kept to a minimum. So compared to previous work we've had done the brick dust will hopefully be kept to a minimum.
3. The Time
Please please learn from our mistakes. Start preparing way earlier than you think you need to. We have started just a few weeks before the main event but please be kind to yourselves and leave at least three months. In our defence we were't entirely sure of our start date until about a month ago (another long story) but trust me, trying to clear three of the most cluttered spaces in our home is just not fun. Having recently read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo helped me to be decisive with what I wanted to keep and what I could get rid of. You can read more on my latest blog post here. Try to enjoy the decluttering and give things to charity or friends and sell things online.
4. The money
This is a subject that I rarely see people talking about on Instagram or on their blogs. Maybe they're much richer than we are! We are using all our savings and energy to make this happen. We're doing it for our future but that doesn't stop it being very scary! As well as trying to set up my own new business, my husband trying to run his successful film production company and on top of this we are trying to raise two gorgeous little cheeky boys. We're also mindful of family that live far away and when we can visit them and spend time with them. But all this is draining our financial well. And as I write this the garage door has just broken (yes the place where we are storing all our things!) so that needs to be replaced pronto. This isn't a moan, its just an honest account of the pressures of holding all these things together. Send wine. Or gin!
5. The emotions
I'll be the first to admit that I'm an emotional person but I have literally been on the edge of tears all week. Not from sadness but I would say anxiety and the feeling that I can't physically achieve all I need to in one day. Not only am I trying to raise (not merely entertain) the boys but every spare second is used to clear and re-arrange each room, decided what stays and what goes and if it stays where on earth shall I put it! We both medically need to have some down time amidst the chaos of building work. I should add that my husband John is being amazingly motivated and enjoying it much more than I am which is an interesting reversal of roles! I'm also tired and not getting quite enough sleep. Another element which is something that I becoming increasingly more interested in is the whole concept of home. In five days someone who we don't really know all that well at all will rock up to our family home and literally rip it in half. This has been our home for five years and both our children were born here so it has a lot of sentimental value and I think subconsciously I'm not ready to let it be smashed to pieces. Don't get me wrong, I can't wait to get rid of the kitchen with the unfixable oven, no working plug sockets and since last week no working lights and I'd actually love to take the first swing of the lump hammer! I know that it's going to be built even bigger and better and a more comfortable home for all of us, but it's good to acknowledge how we feel even if it makes us feel a bit silly. So I'm dreaming of John's perfectly crafted Sunday roast or throwing pizza in the oven for the kids and making lasagne for the first time in years. I might actually cry the first time I bake something in the oven!
Wow! Since writing this I can now see why this has been the most stressful week of the year for me. I hope you can forgive the sentimentality and lack of creative inspiration but I feel that this needed to be written as it's an important stage in our renovation story. And I really needed to get it off my chest! All's well that ends well and I am ever the voice of positivity in the face of a challenge. I know deep down in my heart that in a few months time I'll be back on here talking about which tiles I'm considering and how the kitchen install is going. The vision of our soon-to-be home has been over five years in the making from the moment we first viewed the house and now it's finally happening. Bring it on!
I hope that this has been an insightful read and as always I'd love to hear your thoughts especially if anything resonated with you and even more so if you have some awesome tips or advice to see us through the next few months.