13 Relationship Tips to Survive a DIY Remodel


Mike and I woke up the morning we decided to tear apart our house and looked at each other and said, “Well, where should we start?” We didn’t really go into it with any specific plan – since we had to demo so much. Lack of planning definitely lead to disagreements and some heated arguments – but by following these tips our marriage not only survived an entire house over haul – it became stronger and richer.

Be Flexible
This tip is number one for a reason. There will be days when your real life will take precedence. There will be many set backs – you won’t pass inspection, your special order items are on back order (and then when you get it, it’s too freaking big), your friends aren’t available to help, you get really sick, or worse you get pregnant (j/k best thing ever). In all of it choose to be flexible. Rome was not built in a day – and neither will your house – especially when you are doing everything yourself. Don’t tell yourself, “Well I can’t relax, that’s just not how I’m built”…no one is born an anal retentive weirdo. Just imagine yourself on a beach somewhere, with a mojito in one hand, your sun glasses on and your favorite music playing in the background while someone is rubbing sunscreen on your shoulders. See what I did there? That brings me to point number 2.

Lie to yourself.
I mean it. Go ahead. This is the one time in my life I think it’s okay to lie (well to be honest, I also lie about Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and where babies come from…but I digress…) Tell yourself you are awesome (even if you probably aren’t). You’ve heard it called positive affirmations. I call it what it is – flat out, bold faced lying. Believe you are stronger than you are, that you aren’t afraid of heights, that you can nail in one more truss clip, and that you have just one more day until you’re all done (even if it’s the first day of demo – or the 1,000th). It took us almost a year just to draw up the plans and get the city to approve them and it took us almost twice that to tear down and rebuild our house. But each day I told myself just one more day – even when we were living in the world’s tiniest trailer I’d say, “Just one more day”. The human mind is a powerful thing.

Communicate better with your partner
With the final stamp of approval that our planner gave us she simply stated, “Don’t let this project break you. Make sure you communicate with each other.” So, I will also pass on her advice. Communicate – without playing mind games, without trying to be the victim, the martyr, the “insert stereotype here”. Be honest, straight-forward and always kind. At times your partner will be doing an awesome job – make sure you tell them…at others they will be failing – be honest, but kind. Do not belittle, call names or cast blame.

Repeat: Do not blame
It may just be your fault when something goes horribly wrong because A) maybe you didn’t do it right or B) maybe you didn’t do it at all. When you both are doing everything yourself, chances are, at some point everyone is going to be at fault for something. So, when you open the black hole of resentment and blame – close it up, because tomorrow it could be your turn to take the blame and if you give your partner a break – maybe he’ll give you one too. And when did assigning blame ever get anything done? Remember the immortalizing words of the great orator Kimberly “Sweet Brown” Wilkins, “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”

Accept that sometimes you don’t have all the answers and neither does Google
Mike likes to remind me – often – about an ongoing fight we would have (more like bickering or a squabble but I hate how those words make me sound like I’ve pulled out the thesaurus). The basis of the fight was that I believed our addition could be done a certain way and Mike, knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that 1) it could not possibly be done the way that I said it would and 2) that he was right and I was wrong. Gawd. I hate being wrong. Anyone else out there hate being wrong? Doesn’t it just feel so good when you prove yourself right? But boy…was I ever wrong on this one. He didn’t gloat too much (but he does bring it up an awful lot. I hope he’s reading this so he can see where he needs to be a better partner. j/k he’s awesome). The counterpoint here – and I think it’s what saved us, I am okay with being teased, corrected and taught – so it kinda cancels out how much I can’t stand to be wrong. Be okay with not being right all the time – it’s how we learn. And if you love being right, chances are you probably also love to learn and crave knowledge. Let people teach you.

Take time out for eachother
The remodel will still be there tomorrow. We took a week-long break to go to the Dominican for a friend’s wedding sans kids. It ended up being smack dab in the middle of our remodel and it was probably the best thing we did for eachother and our relationship and our remodel.

Spend time with friends
Remember, if you shun your friends they aren’t going to help you on your project. And you need their help. Plus you need a break from your reality.

If you have kids
Give them tasks to do. Make them help you – so long as it’s safe. The girls helped paint, carry wood, E even chipped off mortar from some blocks so that we could re-use them. They were our gophers and helpers and because of that they actually have a lot of pride in the house we built together. Also, remember, they are kids, and they are only young once. Take time as a family to let the kids be kids.

Just Do It. I know it sucks. I know it’s up there with not being right. But guess what, it feels good (eventually) and it’s going to come back – in a good way. It’s like karma.

Give your spouse the benefit of the doubt
I can’t count how many times Mike would collapse into the trailer after endlessly hot days of working on the house when I’d been at work in an air conditioned room the whole time and it would seem like we weren’t getting framing done as fast as I’d thought we could. Don’t be a jerk. Remember, they want it done just as fast and just as right as you do. Give them that. They are working really hard and a lot of times it really does look like nothing is getting done – especially when you are framing everything because there are so many little freaking metal plates and straps and crap that have to be hand nailed in. And that takes time. Too much freaking time.

Don’t let this project consume your happiness, your love and your relationship
Nothing, no project, no event, no person, no thing should ever have the power to mess up the good thing you’ve got. Use this project as a way to grow closer not pull you apart. Laugh about your failures and short comings, celebrate your accomplishments, compliment eachother – on your new tans, sexy bods, great work, whatever. Be a team. Remember why you are doing this project – to benefit your family. Period. So don’t let it destroy it. Your partner is your greatest ally – treat them like it.

Bond over other people’s mistakes
Instead of fighting or pointing the finger (that’s your friend or your dad etc) we joined forces and laughed about the short comings of our friends. When my dad got in a fight with our roofer and he almost walked off our job, we laughed about it. When Will built our stairs with a slope and we had to shim/sand/square up every.single.step, we laughed about it. We still laugh about it because our stairs are squeaky as hell. When our professional tile setters nailed holes into our shower pan we laughed fought about it…see we fail. But, we totally joined forces and got a free steam room/shower for it.

Accept help from others or pay someone to do it
We did our addition for $70/s.f. That’s about $130-$150/s.f less than if we had paid a General Contractor to come in and do it for us. We did a lot of it ourselves. However, there were things we paid someone else to do either because we needed a break (DR and our annual Yosemite trip), needed to go to work (two weeks on a fire for Mike), or we just could not do it ourselves (hot mop shower pan, concrete finishing, finishing drywall). You will still save money and your relationship will be better for it that you didn’t fail on a big ticket item that has to then be fixed by a pro (our fail – Red’s balcony deck).

Remember, you will get through this project – one way or another. You want to be able to look back on it and laugh with a happy heart – filled with great memories of over coming challenges while building your home and your relationship. You don’t want it to be the thorn that ripped your family a part.

What I’ve been up to

The last four months I’ve spent more time in my pj’s than any other time in my life. I’m totally okay with that. Having twins isn’t exactly any more difficult than having one baby at a time. It does have a few issues like: how do I feed two babies at one time? How do I hold two crying babies (still haven’t mastered this one)? How do I survive when Mike is at work for a few days in a row (see note above about staying in my pj’s).
We use a Baby Brezza and let me tell you, it’s worth every nickel we spent on it. Game Changer. We also keep them on the same schedule and that works really well for us. At 3 months they were sleeping through the night – and since they were born a month early their adjusted age was 2 months old…winning.

Here’s a few pics from the last few days. I just can’t help myself, they’re so cute!

Mini E likes to sleep with her lamby pacifier on her head. So cute!
Mr. Photogenic. He’s got me wrapped around his little pinky.
E turned 9. I can’t believe she is halfway to adulthood. She is turning into such a responsible and helpful little person. I get all choked up when I start to think about how much she has changed and grown in just the last year.

And Red. Everyday she says the funniest things. For example the other day we were taking the escalator to the Ikea showroom when Red grabs my hand on the escalator and pulls me back to stop me from walking up it, “mom, aren’t these made for those who aren’t walking?” She sees the world through a rainbow filter and makes every moment colorful.

This is our last week of summer vacation and I’m going to miss our impromptu get togethers and unplanned activities. I’m savoring these last few days because if there’s one thing I’ve learned about E turning 9 – it’s that time doesn’t give anyone a break and it just keeps on flying by.  ducklow
E at 5 months old.

Trailer Trash

It’s been about sixty-seven days, sixteen hours, twelve minutes and fifty-seven seconds that we’ve been living in the trailer. But who’s counting? And for as many people who ask me how the build is going, just as many people ask me about living in the trailer.

I didn’t realize people would care so much.

I usually just shrug and say, “It’s fine.” I’m not really sure what I should tell them.

‘Cuz that’s just how it is, it’s fine.

It isn’t mind blowing, life changing, or fantastic. I’m not fulfilling some life long desire to live in a camper and explore the world. I’m sharing 220 s.f. of living space with my two Labradors, two daughters, my husband and our beta fish Pepper parked in our side yard.

It’s just fine.

I’m not dying. I’m sure others have had it worse. And please don’t make the mistake of thinking this post is a complaint. Because living in the trailer is just “fine”. (Who am I trying to convince anyways?)


“It’s fine” is comprised of many “just deal with it” sort of living conditions. We share a community laundry basket. I don’t really have anywhere to put our clothes. The clothes we dirty go in an old hamper liner until it’s overflowing and I have to make a trip to the laundromat, while at the same time we deplete the laundry basket of the clean, folded clothes from the last trip to the laundromat. It’s a fine line between chaos and utter chaos.

Next I store fruit in a bucket on top of some other stuff that’s in there just for camping trips. I’m not sure what’s in the bucket under the fruit, but I try not to think about it, because I’m over caring.

We are currently having issues with ants. I’m not sure where they are coming from, where they are going, or what they are after. Every day it changes, sometimes it’s the sugar, sometimes it’s the bread, and sometimes they are just after the water in our toilet (yes, we have a toilet). But the one constant: every single day they are there. As if sharing the trailer with three other people, two dogs and a fish isn’t enough, I have to share it with three million ants, eighty flies and a couple of lizards too. The beauty is I can kill most of those things.

Another question people ask is if we are still able to shower/bathe/cook/poop whatever in the house. In a one word answer, “No”. We haven’t had water or gas in the house for sixty-seven days, sixteen hours, twenty-four minutes and forty-eight seconds. I make due cooking in my “highly efficiently designed” trailer kitchen – mostly crockpot and microwave dinners. I haven’t used the oven since I set the trailer on fire. As for the shower – well, I sit in the half bath (the bath is literally half the size of a regular bath tub) and clean up that way. The water heater is a 6-gallon tank. By the time I get the water temp just right (somewhere between scalding hot and freezing cold) the hot water runs out. The girls take a bath. And Mike…I’m not convinced he showers at all.

In the very early days of living in the trailer we had not diverted the house water into the trailer line. We had just filled the water tank on the trailer with a hose and shut the water off to our house. Mike went away to work and I was left with the girls and a quickly depleted water supply. Suffice it to say, by the time Mike came home (two days later) the girls and I had all enjoyed showers with pure, filtered bottle water from the “mountains and springs” of Arrowhead. My hair never looked so good.

Most days I feel like I live in a luxury portable toilet. So, I spend a lot of time working on the house. Living in the trailer pushes us every day to get the house closer to completion because, just “fine” sucks.

Just in case you’re curious, here’s some pics (maybe this will get you over to my house in sympathy)

I title this next picture: Lost All Shame

Our “Media Center”:


The rest of the kitchen (‘cuz you know…it’s so big it wouldn’t fit in one pic…):

Tons of storage:

P.s. If you’re wondering what’s going on in the house, don’t worry, it looks amazing. We are just re-running all of the old plumbing, gas and electrical we had to remove from the first floor when we were demoing everything. It’s like slow rewinding our demo days. 🙂 Next time you ask me about living in a trailer, relate it to something you saw on my blog, such as, “How’s taking a shower sitting down these days?” Or, “Ever figure out what’s in that bucket under the fruit?”

P.p.s. That orange bucket under the ice maker in the last pic, that’s my “fruit bucket”.