When my then-boyfriend and I purchased a 400 square foot apartment almost ten years ago, I cried the night we moved in. It wasn't in great shape and even though we had a renovation slated, I feared we had made a huge mistake. Jump ahead two years and we had survived the live-in renovation, tied the knot, and were loving life in the "new" apartment. Here's what we did to keep our relationships strong throughout the renovation:
- Solicit the involvement of a neutral third party. A mutual friend of ours was an amazing sounding board throughout the project. He would stop in late on weeknights just as our momentum was waning (we did the reno ourselves after work and into the wee hours). He would always notice our progress when we felt we were at a standstill. If we hit a rough patch, he always brought in a fresh perspective.
- Work playfully. Through the intense work we did together, we grew closer instead of apart. We had fun staying up late painting, listening to music while we worked, sketching ideas as we problem-solved. The work rarely became drudgery. We became known to our neighbors as the "Dynamic Duo" because of how much we were tackling together, and I think that gave us a sense of pride. That, in turn, fueled our fire to keep pushing ahead.
- Create a ritual. Around the time we really got in deep (i.e. no kitchen), the postman we had always cursed for routinely tossing the entire building's mail in a heap on the vestibule floor brought a treat: Chipotle flyers for a new location in the 'hood. Each flyer (enough for everyone in the building and addressed generically to "Our New Neighbors") included a coupon for a free burrito. We stumbled on the flyers one afternoon and snatched them all from the mail pile (sorry, neighbors!). This was the beginning of breaking away many nights for dinner at Chipotle. It was there that we talked shop or simply ate and got away from the project completely when we needed it. Which leads to...
- Walks. Even though we were exhausted from the long hours, one true saving grace was going for walks. Our walks got us out into the fresh air (which is desperately needed during a renovation). We explored the new neighborhood, touched base with each other apart from the project, and came back feeling human again and ready for more work. There wasn't always time for this, but most weekends we would fit in at least one walk. I remember the best part about the walks was returning to the apartment and glimpsing through the window with fresh eyes all we had thus far accomplished. The perspective of seeing the work from the outside in was always encouraging.
How have you survived a renovation with a mate? Any secrets you'd like to share with the rest of us?