Project House - Staying Sane Whilst Renovating

July 25, 2017

I wrote this post back in February I think. Back when we were in the deepest darkest depths of renovating, the back of our house boarded up with a tiny windowless temporary kitchen, no cooker, no washing machine and dust/chaos everywhere. It's funny actually now looking back on this post because the minute that the kitchen got completed I kind of forgot all of the pain. I guess it must be similar to child birth in some respects?! Of course, I recognise that it was such a long slog and it's painful enough for me to definitely know that we will not be moving again for years and years. But looking back, I guess it wasn't actually that bad in the end. Certainly the end result for us was well and truly worth it. If you have all of this to come then I hope the below tips may help you in some small way.

House renovating can drive you insane. All the disruption, dust, noise and decision making. I burst into tears on a number of days - like the time when I got into the shower thinking it would get hot in a second only to discover that we had no hot water so I had to go downstairs as a dripping cold mess to a room full of tradesmen and then jump in the car to go and get a shower - it was the middle of a cold winter too}. But of course renovating a house is a luxury really, you're getting to put your own stamp on a place. We're super lucky to have been in a position to be able to buy and renovate a house so I was aware that I shouldn't actually moan at all. It was a necessary step to get the house of our dreams. That being said though it's still not ideal so these are some of the ways we tried to stay sane during that time;

  • Have at least one room in the house that's dust and chaos free. A sanctuary. Ours was our bedroom and bathroom {and to an extent the lounge - although it has had the floors covered in dust over the past few weeks}. You'll want somewhere to escape to in the evenings and at weekends. I work from home so I've tried to keep half of the house tidy to keep my marbles over the past couple of months. 
  • Move out if you can. During stage 1 of our renovations, where we stripped the house back completely and didn't have a bedroom/lounge/bathroom we moved in with my parents for five months last year. Even though it's a hassle and can be a burden to family/friends or mean you'll have to rent somewhere, it takes so much stress out of the whole thing by not having to live through the dust. You'll also be able to get things done quicker as you won't have to tidy up every night like you would if you were living there. We had clear rooms as building sites rather than trying to work around all of our things. 
  • To start with we had all of our boxes and furniture put into two rooms, one up and one down. This meant that we had space for all the building mess and weren't having to worry about things getting damaged. 
  • Saying that we decided to live through this second lot of renovations and the first few weeks when our temporary kitchen wall came down was a nightmare. We had no running water in the kitchen and no surfaces/table - I was making breakfast and lunch on this plasterer's bench with a fridge covered in dust sheets in one corner, a microwave half way across the house, no sink and food that we had to brush dust off! I swear I must have eaten so much dust in those few weeks when the temporary kitchen came down.

  • We were going to my parents every night to cook and I took my washing there a couple of times a week since the start of December! If you can try and outsource washing or cooking even for a few nights a week then it will definitely help.
  • Dust sheets dust sheets dust sheets. Damp them down and hang them over the doors on the really messy days too.
  • But in saying that, just learn to live with the dust too. I've taken to only getting the hoover/steam mop out once a week usually on a Thursday or Friday to try and have a clean house for the weekend but other than that I just wear shoes around the house now and try and ignore the dusty floors and thick layers of it on every surface. We're having building work done, it's part and parcel of it. 
  • Think about the time of year to have building work done. We had ours through the Winter which was a pain in some respects {a couple of weeks of freezing weather delayed us on laying blocks} and resulted in unhappy builders for a bit. But it meant our extension was finished for the summer which made me so happy. I'd have hated to have the nice building work through the nice weather with diggers in the garden etc.
  • We delegated a whole room {and shed} to storage which has saved us a fortune in having to pay for storage whilst we've had no kitchen/dining room. It's filled to the brim and I vowed to hit the next person who came through my front door and expresses shock over the state of our dining room which is just off the hall {just looook at this chaos!} but it's saved us so much money on storing everything elsewhere. We finally got this room back this weekend at long last!
  • Have good tradesmen that you trust and can have a laugh with. Working from home this has been crucial for me, I've actually had my lunch with them most days and don't mind when they see me in my dressing gown in the morning. We're lucky to have really got on well with both the builders we contracted in and Ben's regular team, it makes such a difference to the whole project. I've really loved some of our funny chats with the guys over the last few months. 
  • Set rules on tea and coffee from the start. Otherwise you'll constantly be running out of milk and washing up cups when you might be struggling for a kitchen. Ben's group of guys are very good and bring flasks with them but the contracted guys we had in liked to have a tea whenever I offered - but I did warn them from the start that I don't drink tea or coffee so wouldn't be flicking the kettle on three times a day. I did buy them donuts and cookies a couple of times a week to try and keep them happy.
  • I'd recommend finding tradesmen through recommendations {try looking around your area to see if there are any signs up for people having work done or use local Facebook groups if you don't know anyone through word of mouth}. Again we're very lucky with Ben's job as a property developer that we've picked up trusted guys along the way which makes the whole thing so much easier. 
  • Take days or evenings out to do the things you love. Ben and I have a rule that in general we don't do any renovating work at weekends so we can spend time together going out or just relaxing rather than burning out and feeling like the house has completely taken over. I appreciate that this can be hard if you're working full time and trying to do DIY in your spare time but even if you can have one evening a week where you go out for dinner it will make a big difference to your general morale.
  • Go away and leave them to it. This is a hard one as it depends if you trust your builders or not but if they've got clear instructions and are able to contact you then it can be a godsend to go away for a week or so to escape the chaos. When you come back you should notice a huge change too.
  • The amount of decisions that you'll have to make can be overwhelming. I don't know what to suggest on this one, we've tried to plan everything in advance but there has been many a time where I've burst into tears when being asked to make decisions at the last minute. You're spending a lot of money and you want everything to be right. Ask for opinions from friends and family if you're struggling but ultimately try and go with your gut. 
  • I found the decision thing especially hard when you're just desperate for it all to be finished. For example, we hadn't had a washing machine for 6 months and I was so excited to be able to have one again that I almost didn't care what kind of washing machine it was. But when you think in the long term, you're going to have that washing machine for a while so it's worth spending a bit longer on the decision making process even if you do just want to grab the first one you see.
  • Recognise that you are taking on a {potentially huge} project and accept that other things will have to give during that time. It will take up a lot of time with decisions/time spent with builders/sourcing things etc and most importantly mental head space.
  • Future planning is also difficult. We will probably want children at some point so have tried to design this house to be as family friendly as possible. We knew we wanted a big kitchen table too for Christmas etc. If you're only renovating once then you want to know it will last you for the next however many years and all that it will entail in the future. 
  • Do you stick with classics or go for something on trend? We've tried to stick mostly very classic as I don't want to look at our house and want to re-do it all in a few years time. That being said, of course you do look to current trends for inspiration. I always say to go classic on the things that cost a lot of money that are hard to replace and then update with cushions/artwork etc.
  • Plan in advance, and have an idea of the end goal but be prepared to be flexible when you have to work around unforeseen archaeological requirements {if you've got a listed building like ours} or annoying steels that eat into the ceiling. I've had some wobbly moments over the past couple of months and when you're focusing on just one thing it can seem like a nightmare. But once you look at the whole picture in the end it won't matter so much and you probably won't even notice it. Work around things and embrace the quirks.
  • Don't set a date for completion. If you've ever watched Grand Designs you'll know that no project ever ever runs within schedule. It will only make you more stressed/upset at the thought of set dates. Just accept that it will be finished when it will be finished. We originally hoped for March but it ended up being the end of May in the end.
  • Repeat that it will all be worth it in the end. Because it will. And never stop dreaming about the day you'll be able to sit back and soak up all your hard work.

You can see more of our house renovating blog posts here. More to come soon!

R <3 xx 

You Might Also Like


  1. I find your blog so helpful (having recently found it), especially posts like these which are the reality behind the images! I am about to embark on my first ever renovation, and already feeling a little overwhelmed by the decision making. Much like yourselves I will be doing a mixture of using trades and some things myself. I'm sure I'll be visiting your site a lot! Jen x


@rvk_loves on Instagram