Musings and Tips for Living in a Home You’re Updating

For the past 17 weeks (not like we’re counting), we’ve been updating the house that we recently purchased for ourselves. We knew when we viewed it that we had a real winner, the structure was amazing, the size was perfect for our needs, the location was just what we were looking for, and we loved the lot. The only thing was that we wanted it to be updated and to reflect our personal style and esthetic. So in the first hour after possession we welcomed our painter team in to paint out the garage in a fresh white, and the updates began, and we’ve had the door open ever since for tradespeople and workers.

First Lesson – It Will Take a Long Time
We decided to store about 90% of our belongings and ‘move in’ with bare essentials, thinking the updates would take about 8 weeks, lol. So our calculations were a bit off, taking out Poly B water lines, updating a boiler system, renovating a kitchen, updating paint trim and doors throughout, removing slate floors and replacing with vinyl groutable tiles, replacing windows that had failed seals, updating window coverings, etc. Well, it turns out that all those things take a bit longer than 8 weeks, so we’re still living with the bare essentials and it’s wearing on us. We find that we’re craving some pretty simple items that we’d taken for granted. ‘I’d like a clock hung’, ‘would love some artwork on the walls’, ‘living with 4 bowls is not cool’. Plan for much longer than you think, and understand that unless you want your ‘good stuff’ getting dusted up weekly, it will be in storage until the project is done.

Second Lesson – Boundaries
We’ve done a pretty good job of creating some boundaries for our home and the workers, we said early on that the home is open from 8:00-5:00 Monday to Friday and unless it’s absolutely necessary to meet a timeline, that we won’t deviate from that. We have had several weekends where workers have been in the house – August Long being the most recent, and we have had some longer days with trades staying past 5, but generally these boundaries have been respected. We know that without them, living amongst the updates would have been much more difficult. Every day we welcome our new worker friends into our living space, we have given up a great deal of privacy, and thankfully we like each and every one of them, which again makes it easier. So, our lesson to you is set boundaries, stick to them, and pick tradespeople that you like.

Third Lesson – Cleaning, Cleaning, Cleaning
During updates your property will become messy every day, and when you come home you’ll need to attend to it for at least an hour before you begin your evening. One of the best tools we have for that is a Spin Mop, we swear by it. We can’t tell you how many times we’ve washed the main floor of this home, countless, we’ve gone through several mop heads, and this new spin mop thingy has really come through for us. Also get lots of microfibre cloths, cleaning off surfaces is also a daily task that you’ll need to do. Have your trades tell you when it’s going to be a really dusty day, turn off your heating/cooling system for that day, be sure lots of poly is taped up to prevent the dust coming up or down the stairs, and if needed poly over the light fixtures to decrease your work after they’re done. You’ll never feel like the area is fully clean, but it makes it bearable. Honestly there were, and still are, days when we stand in the middle of the room at 5:15 and have to take a big breath to shore up our energy before we start the end of day cleaning routine.

Fourth Lesson – Bathrooms are Essential
When you update bathrooms privacy gets really tricky. There have been several days when we have had to shower at the Golf Course, honestly, because the water was off, or there were no doors on the bathrooms, you name it we’ve lived it! We look back and laugh now, this is one of the most difficult phases of updates and it puts your pride in your back pocket that’s for sure! Plan out your bathroom updates so that there’s always one fully functioning bathroom if possible (toilet, sink and shower) and on days when there is no water or no doors, then plan to clean up at the gym, a friend’s house, or as we did – the Golf Course. PS: don’t forget to bring your towel, that actually happened, good thing it was summer and drying off outside in semi damp clothes was not too difficult.

Fifth and Final Lesson – Friends
Updating a home to fit you comfortably is a real privilege, and in the end will be worth it, but it doesn’t come without hard work on your part, the angst of writing cheque after cheque, and putting part of your life on hold. We found that what we’ve missed most is seeing our friends. Since we didn’t have a kitchen to entertain from, and even now that the kitchen is done we still don’t have many chairs to sit on, plates and glasses to use, few pots and pans, and only minimal cutlery, we haven’t invite our friends over. It’s been embarrassing in a way to think of asking them to join us in what we see as our mess. Well, we think that was a miss-step, we’ve missed the spiritual uplift that we get when we have our friends with us sharing stories and laughs. We would recommend that you stay connected to your friends and to put your pride away and ask them for a home made meal (many of our friends didn’t even know we were cooking on one counter top portable burner for weeks because we were too proud to tell them). Ask your friends if you can stop by for a visit – getting out of your mess can really lift your spirits. When you’re all done you can pay them back with a great meal and wonderful visits in your home.

We hope our experience may help you plan if you want to do the same thing, some day soon we’ll finally be able to move in, set up our space, and exhale!

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