Are you the type of person who waits for the perfect moment to act? How many times do we hear or maybe even offer advice about doing something at “the right time”? Is it the right time to start a family? Is it the right time to buy a house? Does it make sense to go back to school now? There are so many points to consider in these scenarios. Finances, emotional readiness, social supports, health, etc. are all very valid considerations. The flip side, of course, is that waiting for a “better” time is based on an assumption that we have time to spare. As we all know, life can sometimes pull the rug out from under us and effectively scramble our circumstances.
I’m pondering these questions today from our back deck while a contractor is ripping up the ceramic flooring in our kitchen, adjoining laundry room and powder room. I’m outside, for the fourth day in a row, during a heat wave, because the worker is leery about my dog who, I’ll admit is quite protective of me and the kids. Said kids are in the basement trying to manage online learning despite the demolition going on over their heads. Tile removal was to be completed in two days.
I’d been wanting to update our kitchen for years now. Our appliances were on their last legs - which was the literal truth for our old fridge that only had two functional castors. Sadly, despite our best efforts to level it with all sorts of objects, the fridge was constantly rattling. Many of our floor tiles were cracked or had shifted, which resulted in crumbling grout and sharp edges.
The main problem with starting the renovation at this time was of course the pandemic. It really made little sense to start when we didn’t know, from one day to the next, if stores would be open or if contractors would be allowed to offer their services. In addition, the supply of materials was shaken up with the work and import restrictions, and the demand increased with so many people staying home and deciding it was time to renovate. Costs skyrocketed and my dreams of a new kitchen were once again relegated to the back burner (which reminds me to point out that one of our stove burners had died about two years ago too).
My husband though, didn’t get this memo. Whether it’s because he knows there will never be a perfect time or that he was simply tired of waiting, he decided it was a jolly good time to start poking around to see if the backsplash could easily be removed. I went out for groceries one afternoon and came home to find our countertops lying on the family room floor and most of the bottom cabinets removed. There was stuff everywhere! Once he’d started, there was no reason to stop. If you’ve renovated a kitchen before, you likely know these two important lessons I just learned: 1. It is extremely difficult to stick to only changing a few things during a kitchen renovation and 2. Backsplash rarely comes off without taking the drywall with it.
Standing before this mess, I was forced to practice releasing my desire to control everything. I decided that I would be okay with moving forward with this renovation even though we didn’t have a concrete action plan. I was going to accept that we may have to fly by the seat of our pants with this one. So far, it’s been interesting.
We currently do not have running water on the first floor of the house. The new refrigerator is wonderful though - and quiet. It’s plugged in, in the middle of our living room, next to the stove, washer and dryer, dishwasher (these are not plugged in!) and all our dismantled cupboards and cabinets. Our dishes, pots and pans and food can be found (actually, that’s incorrect, there are many things I can no longer find) interspersed here and there in the living room/dining area.
I’ve been holding it together for the most part. I snapped once so far, which I consider a win given that we’ve been without a kitchen for about 8 weeks now. I lost it on my husband and kids for leaving their stuff lying about. I’ve always had high standards of cleanliness and love when things are where they belong. This reno has given rise to waves of claustrophobia that come and go as I look around at the mountains of stuff on every surface. I break into a cold sweat whenever I consider that the timeframe for the cupboards is end of August and end of October for the window and patio door. We’ll be living in this state of somewhat organized chaos for a while yet. It’s during those moments that I start to doubt that it really was the right time to start this project. As always though, the universe responds to those doubts by sending signs. We just have to listen.
I found my sign on Instagram, of all places! See, I’m a fan of Gretchen Rubin. I read “The Happiness Project” when it was released years ago. I even mailed a copy out to my Mom. I connected with Gretchen’s style and her insights from the get-go. When she wrote about needing accountability in the form of shiny stars on a calendar, I knew she was my kind of person. This week, she posted about how she makes decisions. She asks herself which choice will lead her to live a bigger life. I found myself loving those words. I would guess that most of us would want our decisions to lead to a bigger, fuller, richer life. My filter for decisions is quite similar. It has always been largely emotional - much to my husband’s dismay. I trust my gut over research any day. I like to picture my ideal future self - the one who is living her best life - and I work backwards to determine what decision “future-Julie” made at this juncture.
Seeing Gretchen’s post this week has helped pull me through the funk over our kitchen. Deep down, I’m thrilled that the renovation has begun. We’ve been thinking and saving for it for so long. Is the timing ideal? No. Is demolition conducive to effective online learning or working from home? Also no. Is it life threatening or trauma inducing? Not even a little. So, whenever I feel anxiety rise, I take a few deep breaths and remind myself that what truly matters to me is still in this house - my husband, my kids and my scary dog. I simply have to stop and tap into my gratitude. We are so fortunate in the big scheme of things.
We chose to start the ball rolling for our kitchen renovation. It has a lot of moving parts and very few of those are within my control. I’m learning to be okay with that. I’m letting myself off the hook and lowering my standards in terms of how I keep my house. I’m inviting more spontaneity into my life. So what if online learning or meetings occur outside on some days? So what if my house is messy and will be for a while? Maybe I need to learn that life is messy at times; that it is covered in drywall dust; that problems sometimes lurk under the floorboards; that it is disorganized and unpredictable and ever-changing.
I know that our new kitchen will be the heart of our home - a happy, better-appointed and functional space in which my future self and her family will live their bigger life. Maybe today, I choose joy and gratitude and see where that goes. How do you make your decisions - or more importantly - roll with the punches of those decisions?