Renovations have a reputation of bringing some serious stress to relationships. There are a lot of opportunities to disagree and with something as personal as creating your home, it’s understandable that disagreements can blow quickly into heated arguments. So this blog isn’t about how to renovate a room in your house, but how to renovate well as a couple from our experiences – good and bad.
1. Stick to your Strengths
The whole concept of having a team is that responsibility is shared and that each person can bring their strengths or expertise to the project. Within any sport team, each person has a role - which is identified by their strengths as a player, simply put they do what they do best. Renovating requires the same practice, be prepared to focus and work hard in the areas where you excel and stay away from the areas you are hopeless in. You will never ever see me taking on the role of managing the budget in any renovation we do, because it bores me to death and I have no experience that area, besides ignoring it! In the same way, Caleb is banished from cutting in when we paint, as I have learnt the hard way he doesn’t care if the paint line is straight or splattered in every which way. There is no point getting frustrated at one another, when you can avoid it all together. We have made a decision when we do renovations to allow each other to stick to our individual strengths. Caleb trusts me to make the design decisions, while I leave the project management and budget to him. Our strengths have given us areas of ownership and focus within our renovation, making us a stronger and well-rounded team. If you are new to renovating or there are aspects of the project that neither of you have experience in, allocate those areas to the person who is most suited to them and allow each other to develop new strengths.
2. Find the Fun
Renovating can be tiring and repetitive. Everything takes longer than you hope and can be more expensive than you expected. It is easy in those moments to forget the fact you are creating a house together because you enjoy one another’s company and still plan to live together after you are done! It may sound childish, but when it gets tough, find ways to enjoy yourselves in the midst of it. It may be that you just call it quits for the night and go to the movies, it may be that you put on some ridiculous music and sing way too loud and out of tune, it may be that you take a break and talk about something you are looking forward to doing within the home. You need to be intentional in finding the fun and not let the stress of a renovation get to you.
3. Pick your Battles
When we renovated our first bathroom, we made all the decisions together and found out quickly we had different tastes. Caleb was very vocal about wanting a dark brown vanity, while I really wanted white. With the optimism that I could make Caleb’s preference work – we installed a dark brown vanity. And from that point on, every time I walked in the bathroom I wished I had gone with white. Caleb wouldn’t have minded either way, though he preferred brown the white wouldn’t have bothered him. While Caleb certainly has colours he prefers, colour is really significant for me, it makes or breaks a room. Therefore we have learnt when it comes to colour, Caleb has a say, but I have the final say. Similarly, we also made a mistake when we built a deck in our first renovation. Caleb considered the options for the type of wood and design and my preference was the cheapest option. Caleb comprised on what he wanted to go for what would cost us the least. The cheap option meant compromises to the deck and within a year we had a warped deck that Caleb couldn’t stand. Now Caleb decides on how we build our decks without any input from me, because as long as I have a deck – I don’t mind what it’s made out of. You need to work out what is important to you, and then let everything else go. Getting a house that is exactly what each of you want isn’t realistic, therefore work out and prioritise the things you don’t want to compromise on (there should only be a few) and everything else isn’t worth battling over.
Whenever we go into a work day with a renovation we make a plan of what each of us wants to achieve, to make sure that we are working together effectively and that we are using our time wisely. If you don’t make a plan together you can find you quickly working towards different agenda - for us its often that one of you wants to sand (Alice = more prep), while the other wants to paint (Caleb = get on with it). We like to make a plan of each week and work out what we need to achieve, then work out what each of us needs to do in order to get there. There is nothing wrong with having expectations of one another and what needs to be done, but those expectations need to be communicated.