In the five weeks between getting possession of the house and actually moving in, my husband and I worked at warp speed on renovations. The Big Guy in particular was busting his butt to get as much done as possible as quickly as possible, and sacrificing all of his evenings and weekends to do it. We removed walls and erected new ones; we pulled out huge areas of flooring, we installed new electrical and plumbing. We redesigned the footprint of a good portion of the upstairs. We made great progress.
Now that we’ve moved in and things have settled down, though, the renovations have slowed down substantially. People are constantly asking me how the renovations are coming along and where before I had great stories to tell, lately all I seem to have are excuses:
“Well, Christmas was a busy time so we were focused on that. But now that the holidays are over it’s full steam ahead on renos.”
“Well, the Big Guy and I both got sick in January so we didn’t really have the energy to work on the house.”
Every Monday my coworkers will ask what we worked on that weekend, what progress we’ve made, whether we’re still using our Port-O-Shower and brushing our teeth in the kitchen. Lately the answers have been “nothing, none, and yes.” But I can’t seem to leave it at that. I feel compelled to explain WHY we didn’t get anything done. WHY we went from 60 to 0 in a matter of weeks.
The fact is we slowed down because we HAD to. We realized that working at such a frenetic pace was unsustainable and dangerous in the long term. We were exhausted, we were frustrated and we were growing disillusioned. It wasn’t laziness. It wasn’t that we were incapable of completing the renos. It wasn’t really even a choice: taking a break and reassessing our strategy became a necessity.
In the five weeks before we moved in, neither of us had an evening or a weekend off. We didn’t have time to spend with friends or family. We didn’t even have time to spend with each other. We were completely focused on the house and the move. Over time, that wears on you both physically and mentally. The Big Guy and I had to decide whether finishing the house quickly was worth sacrificing our mental and physical wellbeing, not to mention our relationships. We determined it wasn’t.
Renovations are also incredibly expensive and no matter how well you budget, there are always expenses that arise that you simply weren’t expecting. To continue working at the pace we were would mean living with a smaller than average financial cushion, which neither of us was willing to do. We decided that taking some time off and replenishing our cash stores was a wise idea.
Finally, renovating a house while you’re living in it is VERY different from renovating while the house is empty. We no longer have the luxury of walking away from the mess, locking the door and sleeping in a clean and dust-free apartment. Whatever work we do now has a direct impact on our lives and needs to be planned out carefully. Where are we going to keep the tools so that no one will trip on them? Where do we move the furniture in order to work on a particular room? How will the cats react to the sound of power tools running constantly? How will we keep them safe? Construction has become far more complicated now that we’re actually living there.
Long story short: we’ve slowed down on the renovations for a variety of reasons, all of which are entirely reasonable. We made the decision to extend the renovation timeline in order to give ourselves more breathing room, physically and financially. We decided that we would work on one project each weekend and take weeknights off. This way we’d have time for ourselves, our families, our friends and each other. We’d be better able to balance the stress of work and have time to do the other “homeowner-ly” things we need to do, like paying bills, taking out the garbage, cleaning and doing laundry. It also allows us to space out our spending, so we aren’t running the cash well dry.
I even made a schedule (because that’s what I do). I took the overall goal and broke it up into manageable chunks and assigned each chunk to a weekend. We can now see what is coming up and celebrate as we check items off the list. The Big Guy and I are happier and closer as a couple since making the decision to re-prioritize our life.
I still feel twinges of guilt and embarrassment any time someone asks what we’re working on. I still feel the need to justify our very responsible decision to slow things down. Despite all of my efforts to offset it, I still, at times, worry about what other people think. I wonder if people are judging me because we aren’t making a lot of visible progress. I worry that they’ll think we weren’t actually ready to buy a house. I know most people aren’t thinking those things and that, even if they were, it really doesn’t matter. The Big Guy and I made a mature, responsible and well-informed decision that has already improved our lives immensely. And I’m proud of us for doing it, as it reaffirms that, whether walking quickly or strolling leisurely, we’re on this road together.