I did not expect this…

I did not expect this house renovation to be so stressful. I mean, I know that it's supposed to be one of the most stressful things you can take on. (I deliberately did not watch Money Pit before starting this project. Maybe I should have.) I thought we were avoiding some of the main reasons people found it stressful:

  1. we made a reasonable budget that we could actually afford.

  2. we didn't try to live in the house while under construction, though it would have saved money (THANK YOU to everyone who told me I was insane for even considering it, with an infant and a toddler and a gut renovation)

  3. we hired a general contractor to oversee all the other tradesmen (TOTALLY worth it)

  4. Kevin and I really like each other and are generally very happy together and almost never fight (literally -- in a normal year, we have maybe one fight, and it doesn't involve any yelling or throwing things)

I mean, I watched the HGTV shows with the couples screaming at each other, bursting into tears, etc. But I figured their main problem was one or more of the items above. We wouldn't have to deal with any of that. But it turns out that even if you have all of the above going for you, it's still horribly stressful and an insane amount of work.

Some of the work is self-inflicted, clearly. Maybe most of it. Early on in the project, it became obvious that I could just let Pam give me a few options for tile or color or whatever, and then pick from those. Easy. But it turns out that I care way too much to do that. And so I cannot count the hours that have been consumed in research, travel to stores, testing things, etc. and so on.

It's just my nature. (Actually, I blame the U Chicago. It taught me to research, and now I can't stop.) At this point, I've read a dozen books on color alone. Three or four dozen on different aspects of interior design. A dozen on renovating old houses in particular. A dozen on garden plans. Several on exterior painting. Countless shelter magazines (mostly browsed at Borders). So many hours on GardenWeb and Apartment Therapy online. I mean, I read fast, but that is still an awful lot of hours. And thank GOD for the library, or we would have spent our decorating budget on design books alone.

It's weird how you can be obsessive about things that you had no idea you would be obsessive about. It makes me wonder what I would be like if you pointed me at another field. Boat-building. Drain-cleaning. Window-washing. I suspect I would just as exhaustively research. Is that borderline pathologic? I was really starting to wonder that this week.

Kevin asked me what I would do when we actually moved in. He was afraid that I would just keep it up, and start hunting flea markets and stores for the perfect furniture. God, I hope not. My plan is to move in and collapse into a shuddering heap. And when I recover, to pour my energy into writing. Plus the SLF and DesiLit. And maybe the children. But mostly writing.

I hope.

Is it just me? Does anybody else obsessively research tiny house details, or cry over paint colors? That sounds really bad when I type it out.

5 thoughts on “I did not expect this…”

  1. Sounds as though you will soon be ready to take on the construction of a home-built kit airplane! Or, if that is not sufficient challenge, design and build one from scratch with all the features you like. The advantage is that you can do your own repairs and don’t have to use a licensed mechanic.

  2. I’ve lived here 5 years. I just started interior painting this summer. I would bring home samples, look, fret, obsess…

    I have been putting off a needed renovation because I know I would want it to be perfect….

  3. I think you are right to research so you don’t get “taken”. But in terms of aesthetic choices I have to be honest I would do a bit of research and then look for a low-key, honest, interior designer. I know what I like but I don’t know how to achieve it and I also know it doesn’t make me happy to do this kind of work. That’s just how I am…and I think good interior designers help people achieve what their clients want. Just my 2cents.

  4. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    Jen, I think that makes a lot of sense if you aren’t me. 🙂 I tried talking to an interior designer who seemed really nice and competent — two of them, now that I think about it. And I think I’m just too controlling about it all. I had a hard enough time working with the kitchen designers, even knowing that they really had both knowledge and access to graphics tools that I didn’t have.

  5. Mary Anne,
    My heart goes out to you. Having the renovation done to your personal taste IS one of the worst ordeals. Just going through a kitchen remodel as we have can stress a relationship GREATLY, especially when one of the persons is not familiar with construction and the time extent that it requires.
    As to your attention to details, I understand that 1) you are putting your hard earned money into the house, 2) You will have to look at the results of your choices for years to come, sometimes ready to hit the wall because of a certain decision. The second reason is the worst.
    Now you know why few architects (except those with large egos) rarely build their own house. They doodle away for years and fill folders full of ideas, but can’t take the next step… it’s too final. Of course it’s also a matter of funding the edgy concepts with the exotic materials.
    But one has to draw the line on decision making and forge ahead. After all where would Lowe’s and Home Depot be if people weren’t updating their homes every few years.
    As the saying goes…. “Git ‘er done; just do it”.

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