Home Remodeling Sanity, Part 1: Dastardly D’s


For those that prefer tidy lists, here are couple other quick tips I have learned for minimizing stress during a remodeling project:

  1. Make sure to set realistic expectations.  Don’t expect that your project to end up looking exactly like the photos in your favorite idea galleries of homeremodelinginspiration.com.  Your project may not.  (Note:  if you want it to, and you will accept nothing less than world class, you may end up paying much more for your project than you may actually need.)
  2. Have a safe zone. Remodeling will throw you out of your routine. Disruption, remember?  A ”sanctuary” that the entire family can access during the process can come in very handy — maybe the family room (unless of course the family room is being worked on).  Try to keep it absolutely free of any signs of remodeling, including dust.  Note:  A parallel dedicated staging area doesn’t hurt either.
  3. Have a safe word.  Having a safe place is a good idea, yes.  But if you are working with a partner, come up with a tension alleviating safe word: “Kumquat.”
  4. Enjoy the project. Take time to step back during the project (frequently) to take note of progress. That is even if the project itself has meandered far off and back onto the path that you had laid down for it.
  5. Ask for help if and when you need it. Ask anyone.  In fact, an uninvolved party actually can be better. “How does this look?”  And listen to their answer.  I won’t go so far as recommending just someone randomly walking down the street (though, I have done this).
  6. Keep a Project Book. Keep a project book in a location that simply cannot be avoided while the project is in progress.  While it keeps everyone on the same page, I always find that I myself forget just too easily decisions I’ve already made.  A project book will keep ideas and decisions in the forefront constantly.  You will use it when you go to make that next decision.
  7. Lastly – Remember:  Stress and anxiety almost always passes.


Today’s guest post is from well-travelled remodeler, consultant, and blogger JB Bartkowiak, who weighs in on an important, and not-very-well-addressed element when it comes to preparing for a major renovation: your sanity. You may know how to prepare for it as far as swatches, paint chips, flooring samples, and contractor applications. But, what about the psychological costs? Well, the good news is that there are ways and means of preparing for those, too.


When Rob, the editor at the BuildDirect Blog suggested I do a piece on “staying sane during remodeling”, I had to chuckle. While I feel I know a few things and do feel comfortable discussing this topic, it seems my thoughts on this matter are always, well . . . changing.

And Rob caught me at the exact “right” time. My wife and I are working on the larger items on our whole house renovation’s project list.  Yeah, Year Five, right now.  Needless to say, this has put some of my theories on stress management straight to the test.

Know the Dastardly D’s
With remodeling comes the Dastardly D’s.

  1. Decisions
  2. Dollars
  3. Disruption
  4. Dust

Now, some may smirk at those statements; “That’s why you hire a pro,” some may say.  But, these Ds are absolutely unavoidable. But, the goal maybe NOT to stay “sane,” ergo stress-free, but rather only to minimize the emotional Devastation (another D) attached to living through a major remodeling project.

Even in choosing to work with a professional installer and/or designer, and now with your expanded expense, one problem still ultimately remains.  You see, as good as they are – no designer, architect or handyman can wield the all-reaching skill to save you from the ultimate source of stress:


“Am I Ready?”
So, it might be wise too to ask yourself – “Am I ready?” before you even begin.

It’s one thing if you are designing, choosing and creating a space for yourself alone.  But instead and if you are like me, or the rest of a good chunk of the homeowning population, You are married, maybe, and you have kids, maybe. you share your home with someone else.

And for the sake of this article – let’s say a remodel is a little bit like entering into a marriage, or even deciding to have a child. The comparison kinda works.  And from that, you know what they say – “You are never ready (or is that “you always already ready”?).

Like children and like partners, remodeling projects need space, whether it is you or someone else who’s seeing to them.  But still, a remodel is constantly under foot, it can seem.  Scattered tools (read: toys) and materials (read: snacks), hand prints on a fridge, marks on a wall, a toilet seat or a counter top. Be prepared for the untidy, the unruly, the chaotic.


Thanks, JB!

Stay tuned for part 2 next week, when JB lists the questions you need to ask yourself to know that you’re prepared for your renovation, while keeping your sanity intact.

JB Bartkowiak is a serial remodeler and consultant living in Baltimore, Maryland. He is one part of the hosting team at the blog Building Moxie :: The Do Together Daily.  He can be found tweeting at @BuildingMoxie on Twitter.



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