How to Survive a Remodel and Maybe Even Make It Fun

8 tips for making it through a remodel with your family

Seattle is growing like crazy. We all know that, right? Well, that makes moving tricky. My husband’s job is based upon grants that last four to five years at a time. When he got a new one last year, we decided it was time to buy a bigger house. That didn’t last. By the time the bidding process started, we realized that we would not be able to afford a house that was nicer than the one we were already in. So we decided to stay where we are and finish the basement and change the kitchen instead.

Yes, we decided to remodel.

My family members are all still alive and we still love each other. I consider this a massive success. Today I offer you all a list of things that might help you if you are considering a similar decision. Here are some of my pearls of wisdom: 

1. If you choose to move out during the remodel, get a place that’s flexible on an end date

While remodeling, we decided to rent a furnished apartment; we found one through Airbnb. Initially, we rented it for three months but we ended up needing it for nearly six. Our owner has been great about letting us stay. Remodels frequently take longer than expected. Give yourself the ability to push your end date back if possible.

2. Try to rent a place near a park (or a school with an open playground)

It has been a godsend for my two boys who love to run and wrestle and also for our dog. When we go to the park after school or at night on a family walk, my boys stop every 10 feet to wrestle, chase ducks and throw the football around. I think we all might have gone a little insane in our small temporary digs without this nearby open space.

3. Ask for friends to have your kids over

I am telling you to straight up ask people if you can ship your kid to their house for a few hours or a night. Just do it even if it feels weird or needy. Send an email and remind people that you’re doing a remodel and don’t have enough space to host playdates or sleepovers for a while but that you would be really grateful if they could have your kid over. You will be surprised by how many friends are happy to help but just needed a reminder. Your kids will benefit and so will their friendships. 

4. Allow yourself and your kids treats

I mean this food-wise and in other ways. My kids have now eaten both Ho Hos and Ding Dongs. They had never had them before and probably won’t enjoy them again for a long time but we’ve had them here. Also, I am allowing more TV and more electronics than normal. I don’t love it but they understand that just like the Ding Dongs, this is a temporary change. These are apartment foods and apartment rules. We call them that. It’s an easy shorthand that we have come to share, and we all understand that apartment food and apartment rules won’t last when we’re back in the house. 

5. Give yourself and your spouse some space

My husband was annoyed with me this morning. I think I repeated a whole story to him that he had already heard. Or it was a story that didn’t interest him or bothered him. Any of those criticisms are possible and, in all honesty, probably fair.

Either way, you want to know what he did? Nothing! He didn’t say anything sharp or tell me he was annoyed. He just nodded and stayed quiet. You want to know what I did in response? Nothing! I knew what he was telling me without words so I just let him be. He was quietly asking me to just stop talking for a while and I did.

Give each other that kind of space because you’re all up in each other’s grills because you WILL bother each other more than normal. Know that ahead of time and try to remind yourself of it in the heat of the moment.

Photo from Stephanie Olson

6. You and your spouse can specialize

This is also known as pick your battles, people. We have had a lot of decisions to make. Some are decisions he excels at and/or cares more about and some are decisions that I excel at and/or care more about. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but he and I have made a pretty good remodel team! There are decisions that he has allowed me to make and decisions that I have allowed him to make. We can both point to things that we have “given” the other in the decision process and it has been really helpful. It makes the process easier and faster since the final call rests with one person and we both know we’re being flexible.

7. Involve your kids in any way you can

I’m going to be straight with you here. From the start, my boys have not been thrilled about the whole remodel. I have tried to involve them in the process in a couple of ways in order to get them more excited. We not only wrote their names in our new concrete, we stuck a flat Lego base in the wet concrete so that my youngest son can actually build Lego people right into the sidewalk. He was so excited about that! My older son wanted to just put in his name and the date; he had fun just doing that.

We also made a boring storage space under the stairs into a little room for the kids. It will be a Lego room now but can be used as a secret reading spot in the future. It has helped them to have a couple of little things that they have planned and can look forward to enjoying once we move home.

Our builder also had some amazing ideas. Chad Wheeler from RW Anderson Homes said that some of his previous clients have allowed their kids to choose their own paint colors for their bedrooms. “One room was such a bright pink that you could see it from the street!” he said. But the daughter who chose it was thrilled. Let your kids try to re-imagine their room with you. Would they be able to have a lofted area? Could you find a place in their room for a small reading nook or window seat? This is a chance to let them help define their space and could make the remodel process more fun for them. 

8. Take this opportunity to create something fun for the kids

Chad also told me about several other amazingly inventive ways families have made their houses special. One family created a cool slide out of a boulder that was already on-site. He has also worked on a few homes where they built secret hallways between kids’ closets and secret doors in bookcases. The most incredible examples he mentioned were building a zip line in the yard and even an amazing “hobbit hole” in the crawl space of a home!

Take a minute and think about it before you begin your plans. It might be possible to make something exciting for your kids without adding a lot to your budget. It might also pull them outside to play or into their secret reading or Lego nook instead of plopping down with a gadget to play video games or watch a movie.

Our family is now nearly finished with our remodel. I actually think we’ve done fairly well so far. In fact,  the worst part of the entire process has been the release of Fuller House. My kids love it and since we are all trapped together I am forced to listen to that terrible show. Then I have to listen to my kids say their favorite lines over and over again afterward. Holy chalupas! It is the worst.

So there you go! I hope this list is helpful. Oh, and one more quick thing: Netflix has renewed Fuller House for a second season. Plan accordingly, people, and good luck!

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