As the demo date of our kitchen remodel came closer, I went into complete panic mode. I envisioned a cross of us living in chaotic-like campground meshed with having wedding day jitters. I really, really dislike camping after a night or two (it’s seriously on the verge of hate). It’s dirty. It’s cramped. There’s a lack of running water. I also wanted to call Sam, our contractor, and say “It’s all a mistake. I don’t want the remodel to happen. I can deal with the kitchen as it is. Don’t come over!” But let’s face it – that wasn’t going to happen especially after I got the call confirming the appliance delivery, which included my new fridge that kicked all of this into motion, the following week.
Then I took a step back. Took a deep breath, slightly zenned out for a moment or two, and got ready to take this thing head on. Here are my tips for surviving a remodel.
Prepare for Sanity’s Sake: take the time to organize and plan. It doesn’t have to be in one big swoop if that doesn’t work for you. Start with one cabinet or drawer and work your way around the kitchen in manageable chunks. I did it when I could (an hour here), as I could (15 minutes there), and then demanded time (cancelled all plans one Sunday). While it might have taken a little longer this way, I still got it done with time to spare and my sanity in tact.
Use the Pantry: while we usually dislike the general placement (why is the pantry door in the dining room?), we were lucky our pantry is outside the kitchen. I was able to give it a much-needed cleaning and sorting, which gave us extra room for items we knew we needed access to and allowed some room for items that were oddly bulky or heavy, like the standing mixer and slow-cooker. If your laundry room, guest room, or other area can double as an easy access temporary holding area, use it.
Pack It Up: start packing at least a month in advance. I know it sounds crazy but trust me on this; it will make all the difference in the world if you take the time as it appears. I picked up clear bins at Costco and made the best of them and some random mailing boxes. Since we just needed items temporary stored, I didn’t worry about wrapping glasses or whatnot as you would with a move. I did however use a lot of gallon and quart-sized Ziploc bags to make it easier to pack items up (and in the end, it was so much easier unpacking them too). A small spot of our garage was used to store the boxes and bins, but we had to be smart about the space. The crew needed the garage for their equipment and all the items for the remodel, like the appliances and new cabinets.
Make a Donation Drop: You’ll come across items that haven’t seen the light of day. That sandwich press you got as a gift five years ago still wrapped in the original plastic? Pass it on. The espresso machine you’ve only used once, collecting dust on the counter? Get rid of it. Keep a box or bin nearby for these items while you’re packing up. If want to consign items, have separate box to keep it easy and efficient.
Make a Mini-Kitchen: Create a mini-kitchen with only the essentials. We moved our microwave, coffee-maker and fridge into the dining room. As a bonus: to move the fridge, it’s best to empty it, which means you get to toss items over-staying their welcome. Don’t have a microwave? It could be worth it to get one like this, or this, or even like this one (Admit it, that last one would make you chuckle while reheating leftover pizza). If you don’t want to keep the microwave long-term, you can always donate it to a local non-profit or shelter once the remodel is completed (same with the plastic bins if you have no need for them afterwards).
Get Your Recycle On: no one likes to wash dishes in a cramped bathroom sink or kneeling by a bathtub. Make it easy and keep the dishwashing to a minimum. With all the recyclable and compostable plates, cups and cutlery options out there, there’s no excuse for guilty feelings or cursing under your breath while washing silverware or plates in the bathroom sink. To keep it easy for us, I kept a small picnic supply bin on a dining room chair, making it easy to set the table. Also helpful: keep a small dishwashing tub nearby to easily contain and transport items to/from washings. It was actually harder going back to our own dishware – we were so spoiled using items easily tossed in the compost or recycle bin.
Learn to Love Frozen Foods: This was tough for me since I really enjoy cooking. I stocked up on microwave-friendly meals beyond the questionable tv dinners or dreary pot pies. If you’re in an area with a grocery delivery option, plan it out a little bit and you could eat pretty well throughout the remodel. I know we’re spoiled here in Seattle with Amazon Fresh and can have actual restaurant meals and other goods delivered to our home (Skillet tonight, anyone?) and the frozen food selection is quite decent. It just takes a little planning out since the restaurants need about 24-36 hours notice within the system. Other great options allowing us to save pennies instead of eating out all the time: the “to go” food areas at stores like Whole Foods Market and the frozen section at Trader Joe’s – both incredible. When buying frozen though double-check if it can be “cooked” in the microwave. If you love the grill, go for it. We were doing this mid-winter so it wasn’t really a good day-to-day option for us.
Create a Blockade: If you have tykes or pets, pull out or borrow a baby-gate to quarantine the area. We kept ours up until it was safe for the boys to wander in kitchen on their own. So many headaches and heart-stopping moments were prevented.
Attitude Check: We’ve all heard the nightmarish home remodel experiences. “I was washing dishes in my tub for six weeks!” (to be honest, when I heard this I really wanted to ask, “what did you do to make your contractor that mad to not want to help you out?”) Before everything starts and throughout the remodel, promise yourself you’ll do your best to be realistic while optimistic, and gracious. If something rears its ugly head, be honest with your contractor and see if there is a solution for the situation. It can be hard during some moments. The dust will get to you. The noise will drive you bananas. The lack of or limited access to various areas will be disheartening. But, through all this, remember the end goal: a new space for you and your family to enjoy.
Get Away: if you have family and friends offering you shelter, pet-sitting, or a dinner at their place, take it! I took the boys to my Grandma’s for the first four days and it did wonders for all of us. It let Sam and his crew get down and gritty without worrying about tykes and our dog running around in the dust that was created from the demo, ripping out drywall or creating holes for the new lighting. We lucked out with a family friend’s birthday party one evening so we didn’t need to worry about creating a meal in our mini-kitchen. If your entire family is going away at any point for an extended period, make sure you leave your contact information just in case there is a question or situation that arises while you are gone that needs to handled ASAP.
Reward Yourself: it’s important to give yourself a break while having work done in your home. Do little things to brighten up the non-remodel area. I kept fresh flowers on the table as a simple reminder to remain positive. If the dining room table isn’t an option, put flowers on your nightstand, dresser or in your bathroom. Change them out as needed (dying flowers do nothing for positive attitudes). Treat yourself to a little pampering to reduce some stress, like a pedicure or massage. Call up your babysitter so you can get away for a few hours, enjoy a quiet lunch without listening to a hammer or trekking to your local playground for the third time in the same day. And create your own mantra. Mine was “this is worth it.”
Cherry Design+Build is a partner of Sparrow Soirées. All opinions expressed are my own.