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How to Survive a Kitchen Remodel

September 19, 2012

by Elizabeth

This post should really be called: How to survive a remodel….without killing yourself, your husband, spending $817 on takeout, losing your sanity, firing yelling at your electrician/plumber/carpenter, or breaking into the liquor cabinet nightly.

1. Prepare. You should basically cook like you are either trying to stock a freezer for a new mom or preparing for the apocalypse (whichever sounds more stressful to you.) I spent a full day the weekend before demolition making freezer meals, stocking our pantry with easy to eat/ no cook items, and prepping our “mini kitchen”. I tried to make comfort foods that were as healthy as possible (using venison instead of beef, greek yogurt instead of cream of whatever, wheat pasta or brown rice) so we didn’t gain 5 lbs during the process. But I stuck with comfort food because I know myself, and when I am stressed all I really want is a big bowl of cheesy carbs. I also made A LOT. We went three weeks without a kitchen, and didn’t eat out more than we normally do and I still had casseroles leftover at the end. I also bought a few frozen pizzas because I knew we would have access to our oven for at least part of the time. Normally we try to stay away from prepackaged foods, but microwaveable rice pouches, steam in a bag veggies, canned beans, etc were super helpful.

I also got our first week of breakfasts/ lunches prepped because I  knew the first thing to go was the sink and existing counter. Berries for yogurt washed and bagged, salad greens chopped, chicken breasts cooked, sandwiches made, etc.

The mini kitchen was the best thing we did. We put the microwave and coffee maker in our breakfast nook where we knew it would be accessible. I also stocked up on paper plates/ bowls/ napkins and plastic-ware to minimize washing in the bathroom sink. When packing up the kitchen, I put necessities in one of our big coolers (easy to open but seals tightly to keep out demo dust) such as a few knives and serving spoons, my cheese grater, pizza cutter, coffee filters, baggies, dish soap, etc. I kept another box of secondary necessities easily accessible too – cutting boards and tupperware mostly. I also put our most needed pantry items (cereal, bread, pb, granola bars, etc) in an easily opened box in the dining room.

2. Expect problems and delays. I know this sounds like common sense, but when the contractor tells you he will be done in a week – convince yourself he means 3 so you aren’t set up for disappointment. Expect at least one of your appliances to be dented/ broken/ or the wrong one. Expect your electrician to not look at the microwave and install the outlet in the back as opposed to the top (where the plug actually is). Expect him to then go on vacation to Destin and not be able to fix it for 10 days. White grout will be out of stock. Your granite will have a scratch. The carpenter will hang your new hinges wrong and try to convince you it’s your fault because you bought the wrong hinges. These are minor issues – prepare for worse ones.

Meditate. Go to yoga. Run a few miles. Pray for patience. Whatever you need to do to remain calm – do it. Or you will blow up at someone, or something. I had a pretty exceptional screaming match with my crepe myrtle trees and the wind one afternoon while trying to paint my cabinet doors. Needless to say, they didn’t listen to me and all that was achieved was throwing a temper tantrum in front of my husband and tile man.

3. Clean. Without a doubt, I think this saved our sanity more than anything else. Just because the kitchen is completely unusable does not mean you have to feel like you are literally living in a construction zone. Every night when the workers left, I dust busted, swept, wiped down surfaces, picked up trash, and put things away. It kept us from tracking dust all over the house or getting massive sinus infections, and we also felt like it was usually clean enough to at least microwave some dinner without being grossed out. If we had just let all the dust and garbage and paint cans and wood scraps accumulate, we would have been suffocated by the end of three weeks. It also psychologically helps to see progress, and you can’t see progress if it’s covered in crap.

4. Know when to call in reinforcements. When the thought of opening one more paint can gives you an anxiety attack, spend $200 and hire a painter. When you can’t choose a paint color, take a poll via instagram. When your electrician is at the beach, hire a new one and pay him to fix someone else’s mistake. When the tile man nail guns his finger, be grateful he pulled it out himself in your garage instead of making a delay-inducing trip to the hospital. Then break open the wine.

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