From the Inside of a Remodel, Part III

Michelle Mitchell from ScribbittAfter reading Part I and Part II of this series From the Inside of a Remodel, my sister volunteered her perspective. “You need to interview our family for Part III and title it: Family Has Lost Mind Over Year-Long Kitchen Remodel.”

While she exaggerates a bit, many families who build or remodel a home feel similar stress and pressure.

When Michelle Mitchell announced her remodeling project on her blog, Scribbit, and said, “They’re telling us that it will be done in two months. You can bet I’ll be posting final pictures-do you think there’s any chance on earth we’ll be finished in 60 days?” I laughed out loud and said, “No way!”

I admired her cheerful—although idealistic—outlook. No matter how long it takes, construction impacts a family. Remodeling changes the atmosphere of a home and the routines of a family, and stretches the emotional resources of everyone, putting extra pressure on relationships.

Michelle, who works at home publishing her daily blog, quickly experienced those changes, starting with the little disruptions. “I just could not focus with all those people around me, the noise, the phone calls about this or that, or someone at the door.” She counts on her time when her kids are at school to focus and write, but construction compromised her quiet time.

Although she admits she was cranky most of the time, she found her sense of humor and wrote some funny responses to the messy situation. Three weeks into the project she said:

I’ve officially reached my limit. We’re three weeks into this remodel and all of our worldly goods are piled in our kitchen/living room so you can hardly move through the space. The kids are sleeping on the few empty spaces on the floor while the bedrooms are under construction, we have no family room while they’re working down there and no heat upstairs. I’ve been feeling so messy and disorganized and dirty that I’ve caught myself throwing dirty washrags on the floor and leaving them.

When Michelle wrote her humorous State of the Union Address, she didn’t update how the project had touched her marriage union, but she may have been contemplating it. Her husband, Andrew, who normally leaves home decorating and design to Michelle, was “suddenly enamored with the process,” and regularly consulted with their architect, Bruce Williams about the details. “He thinks Bruce is a superhero. I jokingly called him, Bruce Almighty,” she said and shared this example:

It was my job to paint; I’d  painted the house before, inside and out. Most of our house has textured walls. I like textured walls because they are practical. I like the look of flat but textured are easier to clean. They wanted to take off the original texture and make them flat.

After I painted one room, Andrew, who is normally the most thoughtful, caring man, came to me and said, “I don’t think you painted this right. This doesn’t look like the flattest you could get. I’ll call Bruce and see what we’re supposed to do.”

I said, “Whose going to live here? Not Bruce—Me. It looks good, we’re going ahead.”

She jokes that their architect supplanted her, but how did she resolve it?

It got to the point where I said, I don’t want this to be a make or break situation. If it makes them happy to pick the stuff out, I can put my ego on the back burner long enough to let them do it. Our marriage is worth more than that.

Ironically, they still don’t have closet door handles. Andrew offered to let her choose, “Would you like to pick some out?” he said. Her response, “Absolutely not. I don’t want to do that.”

All those material choices, like which door knobs or which type of wood became cumbersome. “I was more concerned about material things than I wanted to be.”

Michelle is an organized mom of four school-age children, two girls and two boys. The girls share one room and the boys share another. They didn’t want to add any new bedrooms, but they did want the children to have more space. The design called for the two bedrooms to extend into a shared work zone that can be opened or closed.

That meant moving all the kids and their stuff our of their normal places. The four children slept in the living room. They stored many of their things in a storage shed in the backyard. Construction disrupted many of their  routines—bedtimes, getting ready for school, socializing and family dinners. No one was sleeping very well during those months, bedtimes became frustrating, and things were all over the house.

Michelle, who describes herself as a “neat-freak” said she wouldn’t receive “stellar marks” for how she handled the situation. She wished she could say she came up with some creative solutions, but mostly, she just wanted to get through the construction and the frustrations. Is frustration synonymous with construction? Michelle said: “I think you can avoid it if you’re organized, like most problems in life. If you really do your homework, and are willing to put in a lot of work. you can avoid a lot of pitfalls.”

Mitchell's home before the remodel/addition

BEFORE Remodel/Addition

Now that the remodel project is complete, the new addition glows brighter, with it’s wide windows, ambient light and heated floors, than the anxiety that it caused. And Michelle learned that there are times when it is appropriate to spend the money and expend the emotional energy as an investment in both home and family.

We’re really practical people  I tend to worry about how much money we are saving. I think it was really nice to say, this is something that really will benefit the kids. even though it is going to be a headache and cost money. Life isn’t about hoarding; you have to be able to enjoy it along the way. We were of the opinion, it’s not only nice to take care of and improve upon what you have, there is an appropriate time that you should invest.

The finished house with lighted addition

1 Comment

  1. Michelle at Scribbit
    Feb 2, 2009

    We’re supposed to get the final door handles in this week (which of course means it’ll be three weeks).

    You do such a nice job of writing things up, thanks for the chance to vent!

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