5 Tips for Surviving Home Improvement Projects

A few weeks ago, I found myself sitting at the kitchen table attempting to sketch out a design for a playhouse themed bunk bed. To know me is to know that I love home improvement projects. I am never short on grand ideas, but I have very little actual implementation skills of my own. This reality requires me to often bring in outside help, and serve as my own general contractor.

home improvement projects

I believe that a person’s home can be a reflection of not only their taste, but can also tell their family’s story. Based on this philosophy, every room in my house tells some kind of story. Stories of adventure, romance, strategy, sanctuary, and imagination are all found in my designs.

When we built our house five years ago, we were told it was best to wait a year before painting over our builder-white walls. It had something to do with allowing a house time to settle and stretch. So for the entire first year we lived in the house, I simply dreamt about how I would paint and decorate each of my three children’s rooms.

In a wicked spin of irony, basically as I was perched high upon a ladder with a roller brush in hand, I discovered I was expecting child number four. She seems smart though…..so I think it all worked out, but the lesson here is…..fertile women might want to always consider wearing a face mask whenever they are painting….just in case.

For a planner such as myself, an unexpected pregnancy really can throw a wrench into best laid plans. The great destabilizing force was this…..based on the nature of my baby furniture only one of my three children’s rooms could serve as my nursery. This was going to require me to rethink the room configurations entirely.

After a year of thoughtful planning, color selecting, and theme-decor gathering, my children only got to enjoy their personalized bedrooms for about seven months…. before every one had to be shuffled around.

With four children so very close in age, there are many logistics to navigate. Cars to accommodate all the car seats, hotel rooms to accommodate all the bodies, airplane seats clustered in the same vicinity to optimize supervision, restaurant tables big enough to accommodate all the plates, and room-sharing combinations ideal to facilitate one’s ever-evolving family needs. Having navigated each of these scenarios, I believe room-sharing just might be one of the greatest logistical challenges parents of larger families will ever have to undertake.

I fully acknowledge that this is a first world dilemma. However, as the mother of four children, harmony…real or perceived….is one of our greatest aspirations. Room-sharing can easily destabilize our desire for harmony, and so you must choose your child-pairings wisely.

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After that very first room shuffle, we proceeded to switch around who went where every year for the next three years. This summer I was planning to make our last switch for quite some time, and suddenly had the idea that it would be fun to design a custom playhouse themed bunk bed. I figured the two who were going to be sharing for the longest might as well get something extra special out of the deal.

If you are anything like me, the planning of projects is much more enjoyable than actual implementation of projects. Despite the grandeur of my vision, I simply could not fathom it would take more than a couple of days to complete the bed. I heard myself saying phrases like, “Thats doable, don’t you think?” and “How hard could that be?” and “This shouldn’t take too long, right?” Words such as those should be immediate red flags.


1. Attempt to buy as many supplies as possible in advance. Home Depot is like Vegas to contractors. There are no clocks…..they have no sense of time. Never let them say, ”I’ll be right back.” It’s a falsehood….and you will lose half a day in productivity to those words. Do your best to minimize unsanctioned mid-day supply runs.

2. It’s critical that you let go of any preconceived notions as to how long you think your project should take. No……your expectations are still too high….it’s going to be more time than that. Nope….one more day. Yes……there you go. Now you are ready to start.

3. Lamaze breathing it’s not just for childbirth. I think you might find it strangely comforting during a period otherwise filled with unanticipated chaos. Dust off that long forgotten skill….and….he-he-woo your way through the entire week. It will help keep you sane, and I promise you will sleep better at night.

4. If you have control issues…..and personally posses no actual implementation skills yourself….you should limit how much time you spend on Pintrest and Houzz each day. These sites are just putting fanciful ideas into your head. Studies, by people who do studies, have shown that Pinterest and Houzz actually cause artificial endorphins to be released in your brain, and will alter your perception of reality.

5. Perhaps most important, under no circumstances should you watch the contractor actually doing the project. Think of it like making sausage…..you don’t need to know. The horror show of what you can’t see is simply too much for any dominant…. or dormant….Type-A gene you may possess. My advice is to plan outings that force you to leave the house so you can just enjoy the end-product.

As a woman who had done many, many home projects…..just trust me on these points. You will thank me later. Above all…..try and still have fun…..and remember why you started the project in the first place. You are breathing life into something, and giving it your unique sense of style.

It’s your story of love…so make it a good one.

I actually find home improvement projects are a beautiful parallel to the journey of motherhood. For many, many years, motherhood will demand more from you than you physically thought possible. There are not always plans to follow, and so at times you have to allow the process to unfold as it will. It will be messier than you envisioned. You will have to make hard choices. You will struggle with the truth that you cannot control every action. You will have to rely on other people.

In the end, when the dust settles and you stare into the face of your grown child, my hope is that despite the bumps…..you are satisfied with the end result. Motherhood just may be the ultimate do-it-yourself project.

It’s your story of love……so make it a good one.