Keep Calm: Renovation in Progress

We have been living in renovation for more than two years now. When we bought the house, we were full of energy to renovate everything: break the walls, scrape the ceilings, build a new deck, repaint the house, redo the floors, repurpose the rooms, change the layout – change everything! Two years later, that energy has been slowly dissipating. Every new project is a test for our nerves, relationships, and overall health – mental and physical.

After taking a break from home makeover during winter, we have finally decided to start our biggest project this spring – kitchen renovation: arguably, the most significant place in the house. This week we have dismantled the old kitchen cabinets, removed the flooring, moved all the utensils and gadgets to other rooms, cleaned all the appliances, got rid of the old backsplash, and turned our kitchen into a war zone. This familiar feeling of chaos and the constant smell of dust are in the air and in our hearts. Too late to change our mind.

Yesterday after a long day of our “office” jobs, we spent the evening tearing out the rest of the tile and floor in the kitchen. It was 11 pm, and we were dead tired. Each of us was silent, both thinking: what did we get ourselves into again? Another summer without rest. Another stressful period of living in the wild. While picking up the pieces of the tile from the floor, I kept thinking if there was some part of renovation that I actually enjoyed the most (excluding the process of coming up with design ideas or shopping for new furniture). I’ve realized that the activity that always calms my nerves and brings some sort of weird satisfaction is vacuuming the floors. Usually, in our non-renovation periods of life, I am not overly excited over the prospect of vacuuming the house. But it is completely different when it comes to renovation.

We use the special construction vacuum cleaner – it’s large, heavy, and very powerful. It sucks everything – dust, small pieces of tile, wood, nails, screws, etc. I always volunteer to clean up at the end of our work. I cannot quite explain it, but it just gives me an immense pleasure seeing how a pile of dust and construction garbage disappears in seconds before my eyes. Square by square, I meticulously direct the wand at a dirty spot and make it impeccably clean. It is like magic. It gives me a false sense of order and clarity amidst the renovation madness. The floor is clean. We are back on track. Everything is going smoothly. Vacuuming gives me the much needed zen feeling.

Living through renovation is not easy. It is a test to yourself, your relationships, and your sanity. If you want to make it to the end, you need to find an outlet in small things. For me, it is vacuuming the dirt and getting instant gratification and a temporary sense of control. For my partner, it is applying a coat of paint on wood – it is almost a meditative process of creating a piece of art. For you, it might be something else. When you start renovating a place, there is no way back. You have to keep calm and embrace the chaos. After all, all great changes are preceded by chaos.

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