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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.