How to Live Through a Renovation (8 Tips to Remember)

September 26, 2017

Living through a renovation… is rough to say the least.

We bought our current house almost a year and a half ago. I honestly naively thought we would be done renovating our by now. Or that we would at least have our main floor completely done, or the rainbow carpet ripped out from the upstairs. If you missed the rainbow carpet you can see it in our new house tour here.

We are substantially done with the main floor, with the major exception of our master bathroom, but the upstairs has remained mostly untouched. Since we both work full-time day jobs and are doing a majority of the work ourselves it has been much slower going than I had originally hoped. We went full force for the first few months with renovation work, working a lot of weeknights and most weekends, then we quickly realized that was not sustainable.

This past summer we took a bit of a break because we were feeling burnt out and wanted life to feel a bit more normal, but now we are ready to get back into it starting with finally finishing our kitchen and tackling our laundry room which happens to connected to the kitchen. Since we are getting back into renovation mode we had started thinking about what we need to do to prepare ourselves to make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible. We have some tried and true renovation life tips that we always try to use, so I wanted to share them with you.

Think of this as a list of tips to help keep you sane while living though a renovation, because trust me it can be so hard to keep your wits about you while living through a renovation.

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Meal planning especially applies to kitchen renovations, but honestly renovating any space in your house that will impact your daily routine can throw off the desire to cook anything that takes more than minimal effort. We eat more than our fair share of carry out while working on renovation projects, but we also try to balance that with semi-home cooked meals too. We try to buy food that is easy to prepare, especially for weeknight dinners. Some of our favorites include microwaving baked potatoes and sweet potatoes, packages of rice or quinoa that can be microwaved, pre-chopped salad kits, frozen burritos, and steamable bags of veggies. We eat mostly plant based meals, so this is a bit easier to do without having to prep and cook meat.


This goes along with #1, but make use of your outdoor space – eat/relax/drink outside away from the mess that is inside your house. In addition to the microwave meals mentioned above, we also made plenty of meals outside on the grill and the attached grill burner (if you have one they are super handy during a kitchen renovation). Veggie burgers, grilled veggies, egg scrambles, and even french press coffee were made very frequently on the grill.


If you are doing work that is any way dusty make sure you tarp off the renovation area. We use tarps similar to these and tape them up using painters tape.  This greatly reduces the dust that is transferred from room to room.


Each day after we were finished working on our renovation projects we would shop vac the floor and any surface dust or dirt may have landed on. This might be my favorite tip of them all. I can’t stress enough how much this helps! It really cuts down on how much dust you track around the house and keeps all of your other rooms much cleaner. For easier clean up and dust containment use shop vac liners. Our shop vac is similar to this one and the liners we use are similar to these.


This one took me a while to learn, but during a renovation I found it better for my mental health and overall outlook on life if I focused on making other spaces that weren’t currently being renovated pretty and livable, even if they haven’t been renovated yet. Decorate a bit so spaces around you feel more “finished” even if they aren’t.

6. HAVE A SPACE THAT IS A REFUGE (away from the mess)

This goes along with #5, but have at least one space that is a relaxing retreat in your house. When our downstairs looked like something out of a Dexter scene with everything tarped off we took refuge upstairs. We made the bedroom we stayed in feel nice and cozy. We set up the bedroom furniture almost exactly how it had been set up in our previous house, which made it feel normal and like home. While the rest of the house was in shambles, it felt really good to have at least one room we could relax in.


This mainly applies if you are doing renovation work yourself, but it can apply to contractors as well. When we first started our renovation projects we were overly ambitious in terms of how long certain projects or tasks would take us. This may seem like common sense, but really take time to plan out your work and estimate at least a little more time than you are planning for each project. I am a big list maker and I would often get discouraged when we wouldn’t finish our to-do list for the weekend, even when we had worked so hard all weekend. The root of the problem was our to-do lists were not feasible. We still have issues with this sometimes, because if you’ve never done a project before it can be pretty darn hard to estimate how long it will take, but we have really tried to get better at it so we aren’t over-booking ourselves or setting too high of expectations.


Obviously, this one only applies if you have furry loved ones in your family. Pets can be extremely sensitive during home renovations. It disrupts their normal routine and can really throw them off balance. Make sure there is a safe place your pet can go during renovations where it is quiet, or at least just quieter and comfortable. During most of our renovation projects this space was our bedroom. First, the bedroom we stayed in upstairs, then when our master bedroom was complete it became our newly finished bedroom on the main level. Our two dogs could not be more opposite. Pete is very timid and does not care for loud noises, so if we have the air compressor, paint sprayer, or drill out you can find him hiding in his safe spot. Where Susse is a bit crazier and loves to help with renovation projects, mostly because that means we have flashlights or things that make reflections (like drills, screwdrivers, and other shiny tools) which she is obsessed with, so she is always right there next to us, sometimes even when she shouldn’t be, so that can be hard in its own respect. Wherever your dog or cat is on the spectrum of craziness or timidness, make sure they are safe and have a spot where they can retreat to too!


This one can be hard for me. It’s not that I am a completely un-fun person, but I am very task oriented (both to my benefit and my detriment) and it can be hard for me to stay in the moment when something isn’t going according to plan. I have definitely learned to take renovation hiccups in stride, for the most part, but I still can get caught up in the never ending to-do list and really get down when things don’t go how we envisioned or if we mess something up. Nathan is definitely better at this than I am and he is usually reminding me that whatever it is that I am upset about is not really a big deal and makes light of not fun situations. Thankfully at least one of us does. 

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