The Positive Pensive

An anxious pessimist tries to find the positive
Paintbrushes and pots on newspaper

Surviving a house renovation with anxiety

Electrical work. Drilling. Plastering. Dust absolutely everywhere. If one more person says “But it’ll be so good when it’s all done!” to me I think I might implode.

Don’t get me wrong, to even be in a situation where we have the freedom to renovate is enviable – and something I’ve wanted for years. University and the rented house shares that followed made me long for a place I could put my own stamp on. No permission needed for a nail in the wall. No need to ask if you fancy changing the wall colour.

And yet, here we are, doing up the house. Industrial estates with sprawling warehouses of home good have become an all-too familiar hangout. We’re sleeping on an air bed in the middle of our empty living room (but for the TV, a shoe rack and a makeshift cardboard box dining table). Most of our possessions are in the garage. That, or crammed into the back room of the house, where only the nimblest, most dexterous of people are able to find the item they desperately need to find.

I had to fly last week unexpectedly. This brought new levels of stress to remembering where the bloody hell my passport was.

Still, this is The Positive Pensive, not The Positively Miserable, so here I am convincing myself – and hopefully any others currently persevering through the seemingly never-ending nightmare of house renovation – that it is possible to see the bright side. Even when your bedroom looks like this.

Our bedroom, empty but for a plastic bag

Introducing: the silver linings of house renovation

1. Getting your minimalism on

With all your stuff packed away/elsewhere, you suddenly become acutely aware of how much stuff you don’t need. I’m no minimalist, but it is quite nice to come home and have only the things I really need within reach. Granted I’m sleeping next to a shoe rack, but I also don’t have to wrestle with a fucking dining table when I vacuum.

2. An air bed in the living room – did I already mention that?

I did. But it’s worth mentioning again. Initially, I was really anxious that sleeping in the lounge on a bed I wasn’t used to was only going to make things more stressful.

I am thrilled to report I was very, very wrong. Right now, I only have to take five steps from unlocking my door to collapsing on a massive air bed covered in fluffy duvets. This is a joy after a long day at work – and I am 100% convinced that even when the house is in tip-top condition, I will miss this. A lot.

3. Pinterest and IKEA catalogues are legit

It’s like IKEA knew we were about to start renovating. Only two days before, their massive catalogue of new products and ideas flopped through our letterbox with a satisfying thud. This is first-class reading material when your electricity is off for the second day in a row and your brain is too baffled to compute anything that doesn’t come under ‘house stuff’.

Bless you Scandinavians.

Similarly, I now have all the excuse I need to browse Pinterest for colour palettes, inspiration, and products I can’t afford (and don’t need).

Still, if I can’t do it now, WHEN CAN I?

4. A project all of your own

In case you hadn’t noticed from previous posts, I love to plan. A good project for me to sink my teeth into gives me so much satisfaction.

I mean, this is wayyyyy bigger than actually finishing crotcheting a blanket (and that was hard enough) what with every room in the house is having something significant done to it. Still, anything that allows me to express myself creatively is a plus. And if all that means is picking out 343509743 paint chips in B&Q on a Saturday, I’ll take it.

5. Your resolve gets a solid review

I am not a patient person. I have taken virtually every opportunity to complain about the ‘state of the house’ to anyone who is kind (or brave) enough to offer an ear.

Covering everything you own in dust sheets, moving masses of items and furniture from room to room, leaving your lovely home in what you hope are the capable hands of tradesmen… it’s all rather stressful.

But I do think I’ll have a new appreciation for our house when it’s all done – mostly because of how much of a complete and utter ballache it will have been by the time we get there.

6. Remember: it’s only temporary

This is it. Let’s be real: on the really hard days, an air bed is not going to improve my mood. The little space I’ve carved out for myself to relax in will make little difference. The pressure will be real and sometimes it’s all you can do to stop yourself just booking a damn hotel and pretending the problem doesn’t exist.

It will be over soon – and it will be all the more worth it for the amount of effort it took.

Focusing on the positives

House renovations can feel unsettling and overwhelming – especially as it’s entirely up to you to keep the momentum going. Hardly an easy task when you’re knackered.

Personally, I’ve felt like I haven’t had much time to myself. Even when I have, I have few of my things to really enjoy it with. Much of my time has been dictated by when people are available to carry out the work. A client visit falling smack-dab in the middle of a week of plastering was also pretty tricky – and left Mike to do a lot of the (literal) heavy lifting alone.

As with many situations that might affect our mental well-being, it isn’t always easy to see the bright side. Still, if you’re going to make it out of a testing situation unscathed, reframing your thinking can go a really long way.

And it doesn’t have to be the best silver lining. Often it’s the little things that count. I’m telling you, ‘new carpet smell’ is getting me through a lot of weekends right now.

If you’ve got any tips for making it through a freaking huge project, let me know 😊

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