2011 turned out to be a year of renovation and dramatic change in so many areas. This year, I contracted my first home renovation — for my bathroom. This was not an eye candy renovation; it was a necessary one. Once the project was underway, my car decided to play dead at the same time. My lap top didn’t want to turn on. And internet access became sketchy until the lap top was repaired and Cricket mobile broadband entered the picture. Even this blog became a casualty of “my situation” (code for the renovation project) in addition to other things that began to reflect years of neglect. Multi-tasking was not an option. I was out of my element/my space for a month with my things in different places and work to do to pay the bills for everything and more. I could only focus on what was in the moment right there before me.

There are also emotional and even metaphysical adjustments that changes to one’s physical space can trigger. Can these things blow your mind? Hell yeah! Once a renovation gets started, it’s the point of no return. It’s a major investment that will require recovery and hand holding. I want to remember the material lessons from my first home renovation because the results (which are great) are making me forget the experience, or as I called it, “the middle passage.”

Here are my lessons that I’ve shared with others – especially apartment dwellers:

1. If you live in an apartment or home with only one bath or one kitchen, be prepared to live out of your apartment for at least 1 month. This mostly applies to any work requiring plumbing, major wiring, knocking out walls and major construction. Paint jobs are a breeze. Some carpentry like cabinets or shelves might not throw you out of your digs. But regardless of what your contractor tells you (like 7 – 10 days), I’d estimate 4 – 6 weeks per room. 2 – 4 months if an architect is involved.

2. Whatever budget you have, add 30 – 50% more (including item 5). People will say “yes” to your budget and “yes” to additional items for the project. I was advised years ago to purchase my own materials to avoid upticks. However, you know how time consuming shopping for materials is, especially if this is not your profession or even hobby. Basically you’re paying someone to do that for you and to use their discounts as much as possible; just be prepared to pay.

3. Pre-approve purchases all purchases. Some little items are necessary, some big items not so much. Know the difference. You need to know where your money is going and why.

4. Bring contractors down to earth re budget and time. See items 1 and 2. Once the room is gutted, there’s no turning back, so might as well keep it real from the top.

5. Budget for some pampering like a massage or even counseling. Major changes in your space are just that — major. They do affect your psyche. You may feel like your world’s turned upside down. You may find some other problems lurking in those walls or other places that needed attention years ago. It may feel like the world’s crumbling all around you. But always remember, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

6. I would suggest some kind of warranty in the contract. Stuff might not work 2 – 3 weeks later. It’s been a month for me, and so far so good. But it doesn’t hurt to be covered for the “what if.” If car mechanics offer it, why not everyone else.

7. Cover all your stuff with plastic or drop cloth. Regardless of what you’re told (remove items from surfaces), best to put everything under wraps or pack it away. The dust that gets kicked up is amazing. Unless you have Felix Unger doing the work, you’ll have to a clean up after. There will be lots of trips to the laundry and maybe the need for a professional cleaning crew.

8. Ask your contractor to bring their own damn paper towels and cloth wipes. Even when I tried to hide my dust cloths, they somehow found them and used them for their work. The paper towels were gone. I didn’t replace them. Perhaps contractors should ask for these items up front as part of prep.

Personally, I don’t know anyone who didn’t go through some kind of upheaval during a home renovation or major repair. It’s the way of that world I’ve learned. Self care is key. As I grow into my new world ordered, I see the need to make additional changes on so many levels….including this blog.