Recently I’ve noticed a shift in our projects, or more accurately, our motivation to tackle large house projects. When we first moved into our little castle there was so much that needed to be done. Every single room needed some sort of work varying in range from a fresh coat of paint to a complete overhaul. I remember a friend asking me shortly after we moved in if we were planning to tackle our renovation projects one room at a time. I stared blankly at her, confused by her question. Did people really do that? Start a room and wait until it was finished to move on to the next one? She assured me that many people did. But that wasn’t our style. We were working simultaneously on projects all over the house, and the result was that we were living in an environment that required enormous flexibility (which is a nice way of saying our house was utter chaos.)
We based the order of our projects on three aspects: urgency, time, and money. In the beginning, we had tons of projects that needed to be addressed right away, so we jumped right in, spending every free moment working on our house. We worked late into the night and during the kiddos’ nap time to make our home safe for our family. I lost track of how many times I had to pack up the kitchen because of all the construction dust. We quickly learned to use paper plates and plastic silverware because we didn’t want to take time away from our projects to wash dishes every night. The only people we met when we first moved to our new town were our neighbors next door, the employees who worked at the local hardware store, and the pizza delivery person. I suppose I was probably lonely, but I didn’t have much time to stop and think about it. We knew that the harder we worked, the sooner we could have our normal life back, so we dug deep to find the strength and just kept going. It makes me tired just thinking about that time! But I’m so glad we worked so hard in the beginning, because now we love living in our home!
We knew that we could get more done on our house and make our construction budget stretch farther if we did most of the work ourselves along with the help of family and friends. However, occasionally a project was too complex or time consuming for us, and a contractor could do the job better and faster. In those situations it actually made more sense financially to pay someone to complete the work for us than for us to attempt to tackle the project ourselves. But those projects were few and far between. We’ve done the majority of the work on our home ourselves over the past three years, and I’m so pleased with the results!
The first few years fixing up our little castle with young kiddos (and the arrival of baby #3) were an adventure! When people talk about renovating a home while living in it with a young family, I usually caution them. It’s certainly not for everyone. But that phase in life also allowed us a tremendous amount of flexibility. Our kids would nap for 2-3 hours in the middle of the day, and they usually slept 12 hours at night. Because my husband and I are both night owls, we would work on our projects late into the night and then sleep in the next morning until our kiddos woke up. Some of my favorite memories from that time in life are of our late night projects. I was always so excited to hang our vintage crystal chandeliers. It usually took about an hour to get it hung up and then clean all the crystals so they would sparkle. Then we would stand back to admire our work, amazed at how each light fixture transformed the entire room. My husband and I would have the best conversations while we worked. We’d stay up late painting while we shared about our days and laughed, because everything seems just a little bit funnier when it’s late at night and you’re tired. That time spent doing home improvement projects were like our date nights, and we loved it!
Once our oldest started kindergarten and we had to get him ready for school early in the morning, our late night projects weren’t as easy. My husband and I took turns taking care of the kiddos each morning while the other person caught up on sleep, but it was a lot harder to find the motivation to take on big projects that disrupted our home life.
When our oldest started school and our kids became involved in different activities, I began to crave more order and organization in our daily lives. However, during our son’s school year, we had to fix several old house problems that popped up suddenly and couldn’t be delayed. The unexpected problems that occurred with our living room and our daughter’s bedroom extended projects for months longer than we had originally planned. And while we did discover some wonderful surprises through the process (like electricity for a chandelier in our living room and an adorable curved ceiling in our daughter’s room), the disruptions to our routine and the unexpected length of the projects wore us out. I wanted to be able to walk into my daughter’s room, open up her dresser drawers, and pick out her outfit for the day instead of digging in laundry baskets in the corner of my room for her clothes during the year it took to finish her room. I wanted to leave the house without having to brush the construction dust from our living room off my black yoga pants. I wanted to sit down at night and watch mindless television instead of painting a ceiling until 4:00 in the morning. I wanted to have our friends over and enjoy living in our home. Once we finished the projects in the living room and our daughter’s room we were thrilled with the results, but so far we haven’t had the urge to jump into another big home improvement project. I know we will get excited again to tackle more rooms in our house, and when we do start making more improvements to our home we’ll have the energy and motivation to complete them because of this time of rest.
So now we are entering a phase where we are dreaming and planning for future projects while collecting the perfect pieces for our home, like our vintage sink and stove. We’re having fun tackling projects that can be completed in a day, like revealing our original brick chimney and building a fence around the kiddos’ swing set. It’s nice to have the time to finally cross those smaller projects off the to-do list. Looking back, I’m really grateful that we bought our home during that phase of life with very young kiddos. We didn’t realize it at the time, but we were able to accomplish a tremendous amount of work in just a few years because our lifestyle was more flexible. The thought of trying to fit that much work into our daily routine now makes me want to curl up on the couch and stress eat some M&Ms! I’m so happy we’re past that phase of our renovation! I am really enjoying planning and preparing for some big projects in the future, like our kitchen renovation and my husband’s “man cave” hang out room in the basement. My favorite part of renovations is dreaming big beautiful dreams and then creatively figuring out how to make them work within our budget!
Living in a construction zone isn’t easy. In fact, I don’t recommend it unless you really enjoy house projects. It’s not enough to be motivated by the idea that when you are finished you will have a beautiful house. You have to actually enjoy the process of transforming your home. Otherwise the amount of work, chaos, time, and money it takes to create your dream home will be too great of a toll. But if you are like us, and your favorite way to spend a free evening is with a paint brush and hammer in hand, buying a fixer upper might just be the perfect project for you!
I’ll be sure to keep you updated on all of our fun little projects, as well as let you know when we are ready to tackle some of the bigger plans (hopefully started by choice and not because of some old house catastrophe!) We’re having so much fun turning our little castle into a wonderful home! Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest for the latest updates on our projects and plans! And sign up for our newsletter to receive an email every Sunday morning with the posts from the week. That way you never miss a post!
Have a beautiful day!