NYC Renovation Chronicles

Tips for not losing your mind

By Clare Donohue  | December 23, 2009 - 6:10AM
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The Situation

For the past two weeks I've had a dose of my own medicine.

In an effort to knock off some improvements before the holidays, a carpenter has taken up daytime residence in my dining room. But like the doctor who is the worst possible patient, I am the biggest baby about undergoing a renovation. The dust, the disruption, and the commotion are almost unbearable.

I hate everything about it, except the results.

It also serves to remind me what my clients are going through, and forces me to swallow some of the medicine I usually dispense…

Here's the Deal

• Keep your eye on the prize. Remember why you're doing it in the first place––because your home will be so much better when it's all over.

• But don't watch the clock. Anxiously counting down the days until the job is finished is like a kid who constantly asks, "Are we there yet?" You drive everyone, including yourself, crazy. Enjoy the ride! Notice--and compliment--the daily progress. Your contractor loves the praise and it promotes a better attitude all around.

• If at all possible, get the hell out! Don't live through a renovation if you have somewhere else to stay. Schedule a business trip or vacation to escape the worst parts. (Note: If you have young children, it's best to plan on relocating for the duration.)

• If you have to stay, limit your exposure. Stay out late––use this as an opportunity to catch up with friends or work, see a movie, take a class, work out at the gym, go dancing. Remember? You live in New York City––make sure that all you want to do when you get home is sleep!

• This town does not lack for great take-out, but when you're sick of it, beg a friend for a home-cooked meal. Promise to pay back big time once your new kitchen is done.

• Create a clean sanctuary. Dust gets everywhere, but take defensive measures: Seal off your bedroom with plastic drop cloths and be vigilant about keeping them in place for the duration. Before you enter, spritz the area around the door with a spray bottle so dust drops to the floor.  Leave a damp bath mat by the door to wipe your feet on. Keep an air purifier near your bed running around the clock. Cover your pillows and bedding with an extra sheet that you remove at night.

• Know your limits. Having been through this before, I realize that I start to lose it after a couple of weeks. This means that my projects have to be bite-size, and broken up over a longer stretch. This is really inefficient, and costs more, but that's a trade-off I need to make.

• Be a grownup. You're responsible for your own emotional state. Expect that you will be stressed, and use whatever measures work best to calm you, don't take it out on the workers or your family.

• Take a deep breath. At the moment you just can't stand it one minute more, remember: Renovation is like childbirth: Hell to go through, but when it's over, almost everyone is glad they did it.


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