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How to Survive Major Remodeling

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major remodeling

Surviving through a remodel whether its a kitchen, a bathroom, or the whole house is tough. I’m sure many of you can attest to this fact and we will be the first to join you in raising both hands. With that in mind we are starting a series that will hopefully help you handle your experience with a little more grace and knowledge than we had coming into ours.

We started this whole house remodel by putting in an entire new ceiling throughout the whole house. Let me emphasize that doing this is not for the faint of heart. It was brutal and took forever because we only had one able bodied person (I was pregnant and sick most of the time) available at the time and he worked full time outside of the house.

Any kind of drywall work is extremely dusty and ceilings are the absolute worst. Add that to a crammed full of boxes house and a pregnant nesting first time momma and we had quite the experience.

While we are not finished with the whole house we have finished large chunks and more importantly have finally gotten control of the chaos….on most days. This is saying a lot because functioning in spaces that are completely ripped up is exhausting.

We hope that some of our experiences can give you some tips and ideas to help you gracefully make your way through a remodel while keeping your peace, your sanity and your marriage (if you have one….if you don’t, well….I guess its one thing  you can misplace without recourse haha).


1. Recognize that its going to take a lot longer than you expected

It took us over 3 months to get the ceiling finished. We have lived here for a year and a half and we just got to laying the flooring down 3 months ago….in one room! When we first started this project I was so stressed out wanting to get everything ready for Noah to be born and had multiple melt downs about how I couldn’t setup his crib and paint his room. Sure that’s what every momma wants to do, but we just weren’t there. Heck we still aren’t there!

But a $50 used Pack N’Play with an attached changing table has served us just fine and its totally portable. Extra perk: he goes to sleep at friends house just as well because we bring his bed with us!

The point is, things that should take a week take three weeks. Everything takes longer than you think it will if this is a side project and not your full time job. Remember you also have to keep up with your family, cook, clean, grocery shop and so on. That takes up the majority of your time. So be patient, take your peace about the time frame and recognize that it’s gonna get done at the pace that it gets done at.

Note to wives: It’s our husband’s job to lead and that means setting the pace. If you drive him to complete things at your timeline it will not sit well with him and you will often end up with an angry husband, a tense home, and a poorly completed project. Let him set the pace.

2. Realize that you HAVE to take time off

Remodeling is tough business. It’s dirty and dusty and taxing on your body and your emotions. Coming home after work to more work, especially after a nice big meal is not always top on the list. Recognize that when you zone out in front of the computer watching MasterChef for an entire week of evenings, while skipping scraping mastic off the floor, that its healthy and not the end of the world. Taking mini vacations and declaring entire weekends work free are also important to your health and your relationships.

It’s very common for us to stall out for a week or two before tackling a big project. Try to keep things moving forward a little each day (especially if you have one person home during the day). Something as simple as reorganizing tools and cleaning up the work space can do wonders for your motivation level.

3. Systematize, systematize, systematize

There’s really only a handful of systems that are crucial to your day to day livelihood and sense of sanity. Create, manage and protect these systems with a vengeance. The big ones that come to mind are:

  • Dishes
  • Laundry
  • Clothing Storage
  • Bills/Paper Clutter
  • Tools
  • Cleaning Supplies
We’ll dig into each one of these systems a little more over the next few weeks but the big thing to remember is that IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE PRETTY. Take that sentence and smash it into your brain over and over and over again until you get it. You are remodeling, this isn’t the time to stall out on creating the system because you don’t have the pretty bins from IKEA, or the label maker, or the bookshelves, etc etc.
If you can afford those things then great, buy them right away and get organized. But if you are on a limited budget like we are waiting until those perfect things show up is going to make your life insane. Trust me 😉
Now this isn’t to say that investments in this area aren’t necessary but they don’t have to break the bank and they don’t have to be your long term solution. These are systems to bridge the gap and keep you functioning while you make other areas amazingly beautiful. Cardboard boxes written on with a Sharpie and a roll of painter’s tape is a pretty solid start to getting things under control.
Some of the best sanity keeping organization we have done was taking four old cabinet doors and hanging them on the open studs in our utility room with $10 worth of brackets. Is it gonna win any design awards? Heck no, but didn’t you hear me….they are on OPEN STUDS, this room doesn’t even have insulation and drywall! Yet I stalled out on organizing it for months because I was convinced that I couldn’t hang things up until all the first steps were done. Please….learn from my mistakes.

4. Purge. Agressively.

There is one life changing thought that I had a month or so ago that has totally changed our house and it was this:

When I pick up something and I don’t know where it goes I get frustrated and put it back down or in a pile. If I do this enough times in a day I have a melt down and my brain shuts down.

Good, but not necessarily helpful right? I got to thinking more and realized suddenly the best thing ever!

If I pick something up and I don’t know where it goes I either need to make it a space, or I need to throw it away.

Aha! Bingo!

Now for those of us who tend to get distracted easily let me clarify. I’m NOT saying drop everything and spend the next 4 hours making the perfect space for the item. Remember point #3.

What I am saying is if it doesn’t belong in the space get it the heck out of there!

Group like things together. Don’t spread out your stuff all over the place because “it fits here”. If you find yourself saying, “I’ll remember I put it here” run quickly in the opposite direction! Believe me, 5 months down the road…. you won’t!

But most importantly…..get rid of ANYTHING that is not needed. Old clothes that you don’t like, things you got and feel obligated to keep but hate, papers, receipts, anything you won’t die without! Throw it away.

It’s painful sometimes but it really has to be done, and you’ll feel like you lost 20 lbs in the time it takes to snap your fingers. And who doesn’t love that feeling?

Once this clicked it was a matter of a few days from our closet looking like this:


To this:


I realized that the biggest problem was that we had all our winter clothes mixed in with our summer clothes and everything spread all over the house. My clothes were in Noah’s closet, the dresser was in the living room and Kevin’s clothes were in our closet. Insanity!

And yes….that is our microwave in our bedroom. Need I say more?

A purged closet, a sharpie and some painters tape is all you need to get some sanity.


And maybe a cardboard box to separate the sock drawer into his and hers:



5. Clean, even if its doesn’t make sense

I know that for some of you, you will feel like me. Why clean up the dust, the shavings, the tile pieces, etc when we are in the middle of a project? I’m wasting time, why not wait until we are finished?

Oh I fought Kevin on this one, but as usual he was right. Cleaning up at the end of the time you have to work on your project is absolutely necessary to keep your sanity in this process. It only takes 2-5 minutes tops to clean up your area and put away your supplies. But when you get into the tub the next morning to take a bath, you’ll be greeted with a clean space to bathe instead of a wet sawdust disaster. Not that I know from experience or anything….

Even if you happen to have the ability to use a different bathroom or area and can leave the project area alone until you resume your work its still wonderfully freeing to walk into another days worth of work in a clean workspace. It makes for clearer thinking and better work.

One last point…..clean the area’s that you think “don’t matter because we are going to replace them”. Ripping out that old linoleum? Looking forward to pulling those old plastic wall tiles off the walls in the not so distant future?

It doesn’t matter….you still have to live in it and it should still be a clean fresh surface for you to live on until you get to do those tasks. Remember point #1? It might be a good 2 years before you get to rip that old linoleum out, it would be great not to spend that time living on a gross floor.

6. Focus, focus, focus

It’s easy to get distracted when everything is screaming for your attention. It’s easy to ping pong around the house doing “little” projects here and there. An occasional project like this can be good, as can actually totally shifting gears for a couple weeks but it’s important to do it in a logical way. If you can’t complete the project in under an hour or its something you have never done before, be sure to carefully consider if it could be a distraction.

Writing out everything that a room needs in a step by step process can be extremely helpful. For an example check out our kitchen planning post here.

This gives you a place to start and stop logically so that you can focus and complete the task at hand, even if it spreads over multiple days and weeks.

For example…. We worked tirelessly on the kitchen to get it finished for numerous weeks, but we still have not put in the backsplash. We have been taking a break (MasterChef anyone?) and in the last few days starting work in our living room to get the flooring down so Noah can crawl around more freely. But we didn’t stop in the middle of putting the countertop in to go work on the living room floor….see the difference?

7. Take Home Points

If you are preparing to start a remodel project be sure to establish your systems FIRST. It’s easy to move a system once it is in place.

If you are in the middle of a remodel and are feeling totally overwhelmed stop everything and call a time out. Then do the following:

  • If you are burned out consider taking a break for a while…..even a week off can completely re-energize you.
  • Let go of your preconceived “timeframes”
  • Establish your systems and declutter aggressively.
  • When you feel like you have the basics back under control write out everything in your head in a logical order.
    It is often helpful to lump things together that are preventing major things from moving forward. For example in our kitchen planning post we lumped all the things together that were preventing the flooring from going in.
  • Start in on the first logical project and move forward to each subsequent one.
  • Don’t start new “distraction” projects that you can’t complete within one hour without thorough consideration.
  • Clean up each time you work on a project and the areas you think will be fixed “soon”.
  • Remember to take time off from your projects and enjoy your family




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About Dani Meyer

Hi, I’m Dani! I’m most importantly mama to 3 wild little dudes. I spend my days cooking, photographing and exploring the Pacific Northwest. I'm a full time food blogger and online business coach.

I’m the author of Stress Free Camping, a 120+ page guide on making epic food in the woods. I’m also the founder of Food Blogger Entrepreneurs, the leading online academy and private community for food bloggers. → More About Dani

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4 thoughts on “How to Survive Major Remodeling”

  1. i want to see more recent kitchen photos, looks like it is mostly done! im so excited to see what the rest of the house looks like when you start on the other rooms! 🙂

  2. Love the post Dani! Where we’re you about 20 remodeling projects ago? I also love the updates on your site. It’s looking beautiful. Congratulations on a great site. I’ve loved reading all of your posts!


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