I have had a wonderful vacation! I’ve played hooky from blogging and have busied myself with selling, buying a new house, and doing a whole house remodel! This is what I do for artistic pleasure, lots of creative engagement, and fulfilling one of my signature strengths – enjoyment of beauty and excellence.
I considered being an interior designer in college and took the advice of making social service my career and designing my hobby. Since I love my job as a therapist and coach I’m glad I did. And I still get to put time into my love of creating beautiful environments.
Living in a hotel for a month and managing contractors were not the enjoyable aspects of our move. Knocking down walls, redesigning the kitchen, and selecting all the finishings were exciting. Choosing exquisite onyx for the wine bar and placement of our furniture and art pieces held me captive with interest and choices. I have had great pleasure during my summer. And dear George has humored and supported me through it.
Perhaps moving and home remodeling projects are the most telling of the stress management and loving behaviors in a relationship. Most couples are challenged by these stressful activities. Home projects or building a new home are high on the reasons for divorces. Often these things are the straw that broke the camel’s back.
I’d like to share a few tips with you about things to do which could make it easier and keep your marriage intact.
- Choose not to be stressed. We always have a choice about how we respond to things. Choosing to be calm, at peace, accepting things, going with the flow, knowing what you can and cannot be in charge of are necessary skills to use throughout the project.
- Communicate, talk, discuss, and keep doing it. Lack of communication is one of the primary reasons for divorce. Talk about your dreams and expectations of your remodeling project from the beginning. Perhaps you might even set up daily meetings as you go through the project. Make as many decisions before you begin. And then stay in touch as decisions need to be made. Divide up the work load so you each have your areas of responsibility. And decide if there will be one boss, two, or more including professionals you hire.
- Be sure you have enough money to pay for the projects. Then add another 30% to handle the things you will additionally decide to add or contingencies you run into. Others may say 15%, but I find 30% is necessary! Have a contract with the contractor and perhaps even a clause about add-ons and additional time.
- Know the project will always take longer than anticipated. I usually double the time. Be smart and accept that the contractors will be in and out for months. There is no stop date until you get there. My realtor was sure we would be done in 3 months, but here we are on month number 4 and we haven’t reached the time for the punch list.
- Choose not to be stressed.
- If you are doing a kitchen make-over, plan to move out of the house or create a make-shift kitchen. Using the bathroom sink to do dishes is not easy. Walking to the master bathroom when you want to wash your hands while cooking is a painful time… And where are you cooking? Outside on the barbeque? We found it easier to move to a vacation rental where it was comfortable for our use, as well as the dogs’. We tried a nice hotel but it could not compare to the rental. And we still had no sink or stove when we moved back into our new house.
- Hire a designer to help you visualize your goals, anticipate and manage problems, and use websites and real materials to make your decisions. I hired a great designer to put my ideas into reality and within a budget. She also provided good sub-contractors. We added many of our own subs. My advice is to be sure you know who is handing the back orders, who finds the mistakes the subs make and when and how do you correct them.
- Defuse your stress and take a break. During remodeling you have dust everywhere, noise is nonstop during the day, workmen are in your house at all times of the day and into the evening. George and I went to San Antonio for the wedding of dear friends’ daughter. It also helped to have a spa day and to preserve Sundays as a time to be relaxing and having fun outside the house. We also tried a number of new restaurants.
- Choose not to be stressed.
- Get people to help you. We asked our housekeeper to come each week just to handle the dust and make the house look nicer as it was in shambles. We hired the daughter of a friend who helped us pack and then again unpack. She also took things to the storage unit and reorganized all the closets. Although I changed many specific things, they were right there for me and I didn’t have the awful job of unpacking or living with boxes! She also hung many of our pictures, put all the books back on our shelves, washed the linens, etc. We hired a professional to hang pictures on our art wall and mirrors in the bathrooms, an electrician to move the chandeliers, and strong men to move furniture here, there and everywhere.
- Be sure to appreciate your spouse and reconnect after difficult experiences. If you keep in mind the two of you are on the same team, you will preserve more love while going through the stress of remodeling. Being complimentary every day is necessary and voicing apologies and appreciations are required for restoration of marital peace. Don’t let your psychological battles disintegrate your marriage.
I wish you the best of success with your project and double patience, triple kindness and unlimited ownership of your mistakes to preserve your relationship. This is a time to strive to be the best person you can be.