Renegades of Home Renovation: You Put Up a WHAT While I Was Working?
Living through home renovations is like living through lice: If you've never had to endure it, you really don't know what the rest of us are talking about. You won't heed warnings, you won't take precautions, you will think, "It really couldn't be that bad -- you're just being dramatic."
And, as Joyce Walder's New York Times essay, Oh Porcelain, How I Miss It!, illustrates so beautifully, just as you're starting to deal with the commitment to putting asunder that which you pray will come back together in a more perfect union, even then -- in the face of Walden's stripped-out bathrooms or, in my case, an extremely cramped version of The Honeymooner's kitchen (a kind of all-purpose room), you cannot imagine how you will survive.
Now, more than a year after we broke ground, I don't know how I survived. But there is one story that sums up how I numbed myself to the teams of tradesmen that flooded my house day in and day out for five months, accompanied by their generators, saws, hydraulic pumps and not-so-delicate language while I tried to run a campaign (the redo overlapped precisely with my run for city council) and a household pretty much literally under attack.
Our days would start at 6:15 to get up the kids for school, then the Amish would pile into the house by 6:45. My kids would be gone by 8 a.m. and I would head downstairs to my office in our walk-out basement, one of only three rooms that would remain untouched except for new paint. During one lengthy stretch, I didn't move out of my chair once. I was on the phone, I was doing absentee ballot "chaser" mailings, I was exchanging emails, uploading video of me walking the neighborhood for signatures and so on. Noise was all around -- banging, drilling, sanding, men talking. Not once did I turn around. I had perfected the art of working at home while renovating at home.
Then, a friend called whom I hadn't talked to in a long time. As we chatted and laughed on the phone, filling each in on our lives, and I was staring out the window in front of me, I leaned back in my desk chair, tipping it far enough so that I could let my head rest on the top of the back and peer at what was behind me.
I shouted, "Oh my GOD!!!!!" into the phone and swung around. I still laugh when I think about this.
During the three or four hours I'd been working at my desk, never turning around, I swear to you -- the men in my house had nailed in a double-door doorway and put up the double doors. I had sat through an entire morning of nail gunning and who knows what else and never knew that a room had just been created around me.
I've often talked about how well I can compartmentalize my brain so that I can get many things done at once. This time, they literally compartmentalized me!
If you have lived the renegade life of renovation, how did you make it through and what humiliations, like Joyce Walden and the lack of bathroom, did you suffer?
Here's a photo album on Facebook of before and after images from our renovation. What do you think?
BONUS PHOTOS: I'm told that the photos of me living out of our former dining room don't convey chaos -- so I guess that goes to show just how disciplined I was during our 1,000 square foot re-do.
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