The Challenges of Renovation Indecision

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One of the biggest perks we get from writing about our home renovation is connecting with like-minded people – you know, you. We receive emails on anything from where we like to shop to who we’d recommend for plumbing and electrical and whole-house-gutting, from paint color favorites to suggestions on Chicago pet rescues. It’s obvious we love discussing all things home + pets, and recently, I found myself in an email thread with reader, Rachael (hi, Rachael!), who was in the midst of a whole home refresh. Every wall, piece of trim and kitchen cabinet was getting the Light and Bright treatment, and by project’s end, I was just as invested in the final product as she was! Having hired out the work, she writes:

We took a few days to get out of dodge while the heavy lifting was taking place this week, and I haven’t slept a good night since! I keep second guessing all of my choices. Will the gray be too dark? Will the white be too white? Is matte the right finish choice for the walls? […] I don’t know how you take on these projects all the time. This is a serious strain on my sanity! Can you write a blog post on how you cope with the challenges of indecision and heartache and the voodoo tactics you employ to sleep at night while in the heart of the process?

I shared our conversation with Scott, and he responded with a yup!, as in, Rachael, we get you. Whether hired or DIY, both options can be a mental drain. When hired (aka, not in total control), we find ourselves more anxious about the final results, whereas DIY (aka, all the control we could ask for) is not always the fastest or, sometimes, even the most cost effective solution. I want to start by saying that, yes, we do have heartache when things break bad, we do lie awake at night overthinking super white versus bright white, and although we’ve yet to try voodoo tactics, we do smudge.

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I’m an over-analyzer and planner by nature, and as a result, we do our best to start every project with a purpose and loose timeline. (I say loose because larger projects that need hired contract work can – and have! – gone off course in the past.) Before beginning our three-room-triple-threat at the end of last year, we gave ourselves a pep talk. We said, these are some of the last rooms in our house that require big time demolition. Let’s promise to have fun with it. Saying these things aloud help us to conquer any fears we might individually have about what’s to come, what decisions are yet to be made and what problems – if any, but likely – will arise. It lets us know we’re starting any project, large or small, on the same page. While crossing that finish line is a great feeling, we should have fun doing it, too.

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Let’s say you’ve just started your project, and you’ve stated your happy mantras aloud, and then before you know it, you’re cursing the plumbing stack you didn’t know was behind that wall and is now causing you to re-think everything. There’s no downplaying how upsetting that can be, but in the grand scheme of things, is it really that serious? In most cases, probably not. Plans change. We press ‘reset’ on our brains, and we move towards a new plan. It’s not always easy (the kitchen door debacle immediately comes to mind!), but we force ourselves into a mental shift. We remind ourselves that everything will work out, because it has to.

Remember the day we smashed champagne on the side of this house? We had no idea what was to come. We didn’t know there would be endless lath behind the walls or that there would be a lack of insulation. But we also didn’t know we’d discover a hidden arch in the entryway or a chimney in the studio! We learned quickly that it would become a requirement to begin each and every project with a come-what-may attitude. Those curveballs don’t matter much when you’re kind-of-sort-of expecting them.

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It’s frustrating (and somehow funny) how working towards a greater end goal can so easily begin to feel cumbersome when you’re in the thick of it. Do you ever question why in the world you’ve started such-and-such project and is it even worth it? We do. We do all the time! I really think that’s because anything that important to us will keep anyone awake at night. It’s a mix of excitement and the unknown, and even after almost 7(!) years of documenting our journey from our actual yellow brick home to this – our gray vinyl siding home (ha) – I still feel abuzz when I sit down to write. I want our decisions (and indecisions) to play a role before I hit ‘publish.’ Because when something is worth it, it’s rarely simple.

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So, why do we renovate? We do it because we can’t imagine not doing it. It won’t always be this way, so we remind ourselves to embrace the experience right now. Throwing sledgehammers through these walls will go down as some of our favorite memories, and we still get a crazy jolt of energy when we finally find the perfect fabric for an upholstery project or mortar the last tile onto the floor. And when we write the story of this house, we make an effort to share the bad with the good, right here.

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We’re rounding out 3 years in our current home, and we still have entire rooms – and a whole back yard! – we haven’t even touched. How cliché of me to say, but slow and steady wins the race. Same with renovation and all it entails: indecision and heartache and celebration and everything in-between. We’ll get there. You’ll get there. With time.

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  • Carrie - April 21, 2016 - 8:21 AM

    SO well said!! This post was really poignant to read as someone only six short months into their reno…You nailed it—literally!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - April 21, 2016 - 9:40 AM

      You’ve been knocking it out of the park, Carrie!ReplyCancel

  • Sara - April 21, 2016 - 8:43 AM

    In my experience, almost no one else will even be able to tell the difference on all the stuff you are driving yourself crazy over. I have an eagle eye. My eye zooms right to every little discrepancy and flaw. No one else sees it. And no one else cares. It’s your home and you want to love it, but to do so, it doesn’t have to be perfect. It’ll never be perfect unless you’re going to live in it like it’s a museum.

    I’ve made some mistakes along the way and it’s cost me some money too. Sometimes that’s what it takes to learn what works for you.

    I feel like sometime we reno nerds need a gentle slap back to reality. We aren’t solving for cancer cures here. We’re decorating our houses. Such first world anxiety we create for ourselves!

    If the white is too white, paint it a different white – or don’t. :)ReplyCancel

    • Kim - April 21, 2016 - 8:57 AM

      You’re so right, Sara! Scott reminds us to take a stop back regularly. He will say, how lucky are we that we can renovate in the first place? He – and you! – couldn’t be more right.ReplyCancel

  • Ashley Larkin - April 21, 2016 - 2:14 PM

    I so enjoy reading your journey and especially love this post! Thank you, Kim. Living in a 112-year-old fixer in Portland…these are the things I need to keep reminding myself. After 9 years in our house, we’re finally getting baseboards (in keeping with the little scrap of original we have) next month. Woohoo! This little victory will most certainly command its own celebration. Keep on keeping on. It’s looking beautiful!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - April 21, 2016 - 6:50 PM

      HOORAY FOR BASEBOARDS! Game changer. You got this, Ashley!ReplyCancel

  • Alexis - April 21, 2016 - 5:16 PM

    I can’t believe it’s been 3 years! I’ve loved your blog and projects for so long, it’s been so fun watching you move from amazing DIYs in an apartment to your spectacular current home. You’ve inspired me to tackle projects outside my comfort zone and I’ve bought a lot of products based on your recommendations.
    As always, can’t wait to see what’s next!
    Thank you!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - April 21, 2016 - 6:51 PM

      So sweet, thank you, Alexis! Does time fly or what. Madness, I say.ReplyCancel

  • Casey - April 24, 2016 - 7:03 PM

    Great post! I have discovered your blog somewhat recently and have enjoyed getting to “know” you guys and your projects. This post made me laugh because I have always said in every DIY project we have done there seems to be this mid-point where everything is looking it’s absolute worst. The excitement of starting is gone, you’re tired, and it’s looking nothing like a final ta-da. And in that moment I always catch myself looking around and thinking- Oh my god what have we done?!? The terror sort of floats to the surface. But like you said it all works out because it has to. I love following your reno (those stairs!!) and wish you the best of luck!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - April 25, 2016 - 10:10 AM

      It does, it just HAS to! Thanks, Casey!ReplyCancel

  • Melissa - April 25, 2016 - 7:15 PM

    I totally needed this today. I am just beginning to renovate my 1962 brick ranch and keep going back and forth on every decisions. But at the end of the day I just need to remind myself to relax, have fun, and I will get there. Eventually.ReplyCancel

  • Kristin - May 4, 2016 - 3:03 PM

    YES! It is so hard not to look back at decisions after making them. I keep trying my darndest to keep it moving forward. The house will not be perfect, it never was. What will I do in 5 years if I get it all perfect this first go around?!ReplyCancel

  • Kara - May 4, 2016 - 11:32 PM

    Timely for me to read – my husband and I just bought a new home that needs lots of love, but has oodles of potential. A good reminder to enjoy the journey!ReplyCancel

  • VerbalGoldBlog - May 5, 2016 - 10:57 AM

    This all looks so great! I love seeing and reading about your journey, even though it does look like a lot of work, but definitely worth itReplyCancel

  • Tina - May 13, 2016 - 10:27 AM

    Wow this about sums up everything I’ve been feeling, going through, dealing with, etc etc in the last month with the new shop. Thanks for sharing, Kim. I needed this boost :)ReplyCancel

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