The 7 Stages of Remodeling Grief; Recovering From Your DIY

Tackling a DIY home remodeling project is both rewarding and cost-effective. Unless of course, you need marriage counseling or an artificial limb upon completion. But hey, if I can do it, so can you.

Let me give you some back story. The year I graduated college my husband and I purchased a historic Federal-style, two-story, two bath, three bedroom home that was built in 1880. The home came with several amenities such as: at least four mice, a part-time alley boarder who was fond of glue sniffing, a raccoon family, the occasional squirrel, and insects that I would come to know as camel crickets. What you should know about camel crickets is that they don’t see well in light. So, when you enter a room and turn on the lights, they jump at you. Once airborne, I am certain they can reach heights of at least five feet. More importantly, if you can catch them, they ooze and crunch when squished.

Over the course of ten years we made several adjustments to that home. We put in a new kitchen and a new master bath, among other things. We were young and didn’t have much dough or possibly much sense. (I should mention we did those projects simultaneously, with the indispensable help of our family.)

What I learned from my DIMWH (doing it myself with help) historic home experience:

  • If you are nine months pregnant and are awakened at midnight by the warm glow of a dumpster fire next door, it’s time to move.
  • If your after-dinner entertainment includes chasing prostitutes off your corner, it’s time to move.
  • If a “little person” off his meds is found burrowed under your neighbor’s porch, it is time to move.
  • You will never meet a nicer, more fun bunch of folks with a proper sense of community, and humor, than those willing to live under those circumstances.
  • I have an immense appreciation for the architecture and craftsmanship of days gone by.
  • I can neither confirm, nor deny, that I have had first-hand experiences with an apparition or two.

Obviously, we moved. We have lived in our current home for almost seven years. Two weeks ago we began remodeling our master bath. But, only because we intend to sell our house. We have happily endured the original Formica counter top, peeling linoleum floor and sliding shower door that never fails to fall off the track upon entering and exiting the shower. We know others will not appreciate those original details of our home.

During this particular episode of DIY, I have come to realize that remodeling antagonizes my emotional roller coaster. These are the seven stages of remodeling grief as I have experienced them.

  1. Shock & Disbelief - Living with sub-standard decor and/or facilities. This includes but is not limited to lighting fixtures from the 1980s, abhorrent paint colors chosen by color-blind previous owners, and indoor/outdoor carpeting, indoors. This is the pre-modeling stage. This is the “before” picture.
  2. Denial – Not just a river in Egypt. (Apologies, I had to). You are not the least bit fazed by the hole in the wall you joyfully sledgehammered, or the gaping hole in your wallet. You are brave, steadfast.
  3. Anger - You encounter a smashed finger or thumb, step on a nail, or continually argue with your spouse. Even worse, you may be forced to listen to Hüsker Dü all day. This is the point of no return, though. You’ve started, you must finish. But, do yourself a favor. Cease all HGTV viewing now. It creates unrealistic, time-lapsed expectations.
  4. Bargaining - You  feel as if you will never escape the dreadful mess you’ve created. You may stare at the destruction with confusion, with regret. You may play the lottery in hopes of hiring a hunky contractor with loose morals. It’s okay to shred your Home Depot and Lowe’s credit cards at this time.
  5. Guilt - At this stage you wish you had chosen granite over synthetic solid surface, blue paint instead of beige. Don’t beat yourself up, though. Chances are the next person that lives in your house won’t like it either.
  6. Depression – You cling to memories of the old room. You laugh reminiscently at the fact that you could see the cellar simply by peering down through the gaps in the dining room floor. You play “Our House” (either by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, or Madness) on a loop and sob openly in your room with the lights off.
  7. Acceptance & Hope – This is the point at which you have begun to put some of the pieces back together. You see a glimmer of hope of having a functioning toilet, running water, a stove, etc. Your spirits should begin to lift. Order a replacement “big box construction store” credit card now. Begin planning your next DIY. You may resume your regular viewing of HGTV again now and keep the dream alive.

Happy remodeling!

mVm out! Thanks for reading!

Follow me on Twitter @llhalsey

All content and images ©miamivalleymama
I wrote it. I drew it. Don’t steal it. Feel free to share it.

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56 thoughts on “The 7 Stages of Remodeling Grief; Recovering From Your DIY

  1. I have to add: therapy to the list. When we moved into our current home, every single wall was covered in wall paper. Ripping off the final shred – about a year later – was the single, most-satisfying moment of my adult life :-)

    • Ha! We had Victorian wallpaper in our first home. (I do like some of that paper. But this was bad.) It was ripped down minutes after signing for the house. The icing on that cake was that our puppy peed on the remnants!

    • Thank you! I love those eras as well. I would love to have a craftsman cottage. That is, I would love to have a craftsman cottage that someone else has already lovingly and skillfully restored.

    • That’s awesome! I will read yours. My husband wants to buy a short sale home that needs about 30k in renovations. I’m trying to talk him out of it.
      Many thanks for reading, and enjoying!

      • Talk him out of it! We are in the midst of a short sale fiasco right now. Actually it wasn’t left as a fiasco. We just created one on our own. Chances are we’ll have running water back on the first floor in a week and a half. We’ve only been without since the end of July…

        But it will be pretty.

  2. We moved into a sizable home 4 years ago because we needed an accessible home. It was relatively new, but built by an eccentric couple in their late 80’s. Unbelievably gaudy! We have remodeled/updated almost the entire house. It’s a miracle we are still happily married! We have some crazy stories. Congratulations on being FP!

  3. This is perfect. My husband and I have been remodeling our entire marriage. It is wonder that we are still, married. Great post. I can completely relate.

  4. Our bathroom has been in a state of partial demolition for almost 12 months!! Last Christmas we were waiting in a number of tradesmen to get back to us with their quotes and my husband decided that it was time to start pulling out the tragic 70s wall paneling and the linen cupboard. Unfortunately, we only received one quote, which was well outside our budget. The months since then have been spent waiting for quotes that never arrive, and the bathroom remains unrenovated.

  5. Great post! My husband and I have been up to our eyeballs in remodeling projects for the last two years. While I have finally reached Stage 7, there were times when I just wanted to run away forever to a high-end hotel that was dust-free, beautifully decorated, and quiet. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed.

  6. I grew up on a construction site… my parents bought our home when I was just born. Short before I moved out they finished remodeling it…
    I’ll forward and translate them your very funny article – sure they’ll love it!
    Thanks for sharing!

  7. My parents started a remodel when I was in junior high. I remember getting to miss school one day because it was raining and we had to scramble to put up plastic to rainproof the house.

  8. Congrats on FP! The only structure my husband and I have built is our daughter’s wooden swing set in the back yard – and that nearly necessitated a divorce lawyer!

  9. I have never gotten involved in a remodeling project and now I know why!!
    Funny post and congrats on the FP!!

  10. i would like to thank the writer for producing a remodeling article that got to the freshly pressed section of word press. Its truly a complimentary because i failed when i gave it my best attempt. I would also like to recommend http://www.socalpb.com for any remodeling projects you need help with. They are the best contractors in the Los angeles area.

  11. “You feel as if you will never escape the dreadful mess you’ve created. You may stare at the destruction with confusion, with regret. You may play the lottery in hopes of hiring a hunky contractor with loose morals.” –I literally guffawed at this, and then realized that it’s oh so true!
    Thanks for your hilarious insight.

  12. Lol I just finished a major home remodeling project a couple of months ago and your list is dead on! Yes it’s a little disturbing now thinking back to living with a kitchen with no cabinets and a hole in the floor where the toilet used to be and not be at all phased by it. Haha thanks for the memories and laughs! :)

  13. This resonates on so many levels. A while back, I had a similar fixer upper experience in a neighborhood with some interesting characters. That is when I learned to hit the floor rather than look out the window when I heard gunshots. (oh and I’m an Ohio gal too!)

  14. So true! As a first-time homebuyer and someone who recently renovated my condo I agree with your stages. I also think there should be a stage at the beginning where it starts out fun and exciting when you are looking forward to how great everything will look at the end. Followed by the stage where you realize you are 2 weeks behind schedule and just want everything to be done! haha

    • I agree! It is fun at the beginning. We are almost done with our bathroom remodel. We now have a working toilet and almost water in the shower and sinks. The floor is sticky from the grout and needs to be wiped down. We will still need to trim and touch-up paint and then we are done! It’s been almost 4 weeks. Not bad I guess. But, not entirely enjoyable either!

  15. Great comparison! I know I’m a bit behind (hey – remodeling will do that to a girl!) but I’m just now logging in and seeing your freshly pressed post. Love it!

    I hope you don’t mind, but I swiped your 7 stages concept and changed it up to fit our remodel. I posted my own rendition of the 7 stages on my blog at the below link, but gave credit to you for the concept. Thanks for helping me smile on a day when I was hitting the “depression” stage!

    http://myownkindofparadise.wordpress.com/2012/10/19/7-stages/

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