Diary of A Fixer-Upper: Dealing with Stress

I know you’re waiting patiently for more photographic evidence that I’m actually doing this renovation I write so much about.  Unfortunately, at the moment I’m in a holding pattern, waiting for some things I’ve ordered and for my bank account to get a little padding before I begin new projects.

In the meantime, I’ve been able to have a little vacation from the stresses of home renovation.  Ha, just kidding!  There is no such thing. Sometimes I don’t even realize how much this renovation is affecting my life. Perhaps most disconcerting, I’ve gotten “Renovation Tummy.”  While attempting unsuccessfully to put on my “good” jeans this weekend—I nearly tried the lay-on-the-bed-zip-up maneuver before giving up—I realized that my typical five-to-ten winter pounds had converted themselves into “The New Cabinets Are Going to Cost What” pounds.  Also known as “Oh God My Upstairs Window is Leaking And That Was Not in the Renovation Budget” pounds.  I worry that “Your Entire Electrical System Needs Upgrading” elastic-waist pants are in my future.

Stress is a constant factor, since lighting hundred dollar bills on fire was not a hobby of mine before I bought this house. Everything always costs more than I’d planned, and for the sake of refinancing sooner rather than later, I’ve done my projects pretty close together. My coworkers have gotten used to seeing me in a panic, fanning myself with a post-it pad and trying not to hyperventilate over the two grand I just spent on kitchen counters. I do a lot of “focusing techniques” that usually involve convincing myself that peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for every meal are tasty and good for you, too! 
(Stress example #8930: I’m writing this column at home, after taking off work two hours early to meet a contractor, who is now more than an hour late and, my gut tells me, isn’t going to show—or even call.)

But this renovation has had at least one positive effect. Like every other stupid young person, I spent a few years racking up unnecessary credit card debt.  After I finished law school, I was slowly paying down my cards (they were nearly squashed by the time I closed on the house), but I could have done it much faster—I just didn’t care enough. Now that I’m faced with the responsibility of owning a house—of budgeting for tens of thousands of dollars for the renovation, all the while watching people across the country get laid off and foreclosed upon—I’ve had a major wake-up call. 

I’m seriously motivated to renovate this house with minimal debt to deal with afterwards. If it means learning to identify and cut back on all the unnecessary purchases I used to make—like not replacing the iPod I just lost (ugh), not eating out for lunch every single day—then I’ll be better off for it in the end.  Learning to manage money is something I’ll keep with me long after the kitchen counters are installed.

Now, if I could just get motivated to burn off the stress with an exhilarating run on the treadmill rather than a tasty pint of Ben & Jerry’s and my latest Netflix, I’d be all set!

To read Heather's home adventures from the beginning, click here.  

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