House Rules: Lessons On Home Improvement

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset Today I made my first cup of coffee at home in nearly two months. It was a big day. For the last year and a half I've wanted to renovate my kitchen. And up until two months ago, I thought it was a good idea. Demolition started, and several mishaps, delays, and tears later...I'm finally seeing progress and feel hopeful that there's a finish in sight. Still, that cup of coffee—thanks to a new machine, working electrical outlets, and a freshly-installed countertop—offered a brighter glow at the end this tunnel than anything else so far. For the first time in two months, I actually used my kitchen in a way that resembled life before construction.

There’s nothing especially unique about my particular renovation and the effect it's had on my mental state; anyone who embarks on a major home improvement project of this sort will probably experience similar feelings. But that said, all the more reason to share some things you may experience and learn in the absence of a kitchen. These are the lessons you won't find on DIY sites or in home design magazines.

+ To start, nothing about a home renovation project makes you special. If it's a renovation (and not a repair from a neighbor's upstairs flood or some other uncontrollable circumstance), then it was probably your own choice, and therefore the bed you made. You don't deserve pity or sympathy when you're lucky enough to be able to renovate your home, let alone own a home to renovate—and most especially if the final results are going to be awesome. Don't take that for granted, most of all when you catch yourself whining to friends... 

+ There will come a point during the project when you will find yourself reminiscing about the way things looked before all the demolition and dust, and the daily routine of workmen coming in and out of your home, and think, "it wasn't so bad, the way it was." And that might be true. But you're past the point of turning back, so just try to keep visualizing the infinitely better final results, make sure you have access to a steady supply of wine, and let yourself be distracted by work during those few weeks or months.

+ There will also be a point when you hit rock bottom.There may even be tears. It will likely come after an especially buoyant period, when you think you've already sunk to an all-time low and recovered, and you're past the worst of it. And then you'll get an email that your custom-made tile from Mexico is being held at the US border because of a computer glitch, or notice something even as minor as your contractor leaving a trail of sawdust around your apartment, and you will crumble. The time that's passed, the uncertain amount of time left—it will all finally hit you in a swift, unexpected instant. And you will probably cry. A lot.

+ A good contractor is better than a husband. Given that I've never been married, one could argue that I'm making a baseless statement, but I've said this much to many married girlfriends, most of whom have responded with a silent, unblinking nod.

+ And if you're lucky enough to have a good contractor, then you may find yourself mentally constructing some delusional facsimile of a marriage. And when there's a problem, or further delays, or he simply doesn't come to work that day because he has to go to another job and there's no point while he's waiting for that tile to arrive anyways, you will feel so personally and deeply betrayed, it will take all your willpower not to send him punishing, guilt-inducing text messages, while simultaneously wondering if you should have seen it coming, what could you have done differently, if this is partially your fault too, and how should you fix it?

+ The natural-born nurturers really come out of the woodwork. Certain friends, colleagues, even acquaintances who become aware of your stove-less situation will make it their mission to ensure that you stay fed during this period, whether that means leaving containers of oatmeal and soup for you in the fridge at your workspace, or having you over for a home-cooked meal. And if you're lucky enough to know people in the restaurant industry, even better. Most of those types take innate pleasure in feeding others—it nourishes them.

+ Which is good, because if you grew up in a home with a father who cooked dinner most nights, and almost always came in to a house that smelled of warmth and something sizzling on the stove, then you will constantly be hungry. It will be a hunger that has nothing to do with lack of food or even appetite, but an insatiable yearning for those smells, and the warmth to envelope you when you walk in the door at the end of the day. And even if it's been years or decades since you lived with your parents, that feeling of comfort will hit you in an instant, and you will suddenly find yourself missing it always. That is when you'll realize that home is really where the heart is. And you'll be so grateful to be making one your own, the amount of time it's taking won't seem that long anymore.

New York Stories

Label Conscious: The Importance of Brand Identity