— Essentials —

The Remodeling Diaries

Love the little bronze decorative liners for my shower.
pin it
pin it

I’ve discovered why people don’t live in their house while it’s being remodeled. As soon as the tarps are down and the plastic sheets cover the furniture, construction grit makes its way into places you didn’t know you had. My bedroom looks like ground zero of a war zone and contains enough tools to rebuild a small city. I fear the black velvet suit in my closet—the door to which has been taped shut—is now a ghostly grey. There is some good news to all of this: In an attempt to keep the contents grit free, I have yet to unpack the boxes marked “kitchen.”

Now for the bad news: I seem to have lost all standards of cleanliness, and while I should find that alarming, I don’t.

In my early 20’s, a friend named me “Nancy Neat” because my house looked like those picture perfect rooms in the magazines: Nothing out of place; tabletops artfully arranged; pillows fluffed. I once overheard my first husband tell someone he had to read the newspaper in the first 15 minutes after it was delivered, or I would throw it out. Boy would he be surprised! Like Snow White, I’ve drifted, but why should I clean? The grit is back the next day!

Perhaps more than losing my cleanliness standards, the novelty of sleeping upstairs on a blowup mattress has worn off. It feels like I’m camping out at someone else’s house except it’s my annoying dogs, barking at the white toilet outside, glowing in the moonlight. Don’t you know my new neighbors think I’m a class act? It’s been three weeks since I’ve gotten a good night’s sleep, and if I’m to be honest, it looks like a teenaged boy lives in my room.

Only a handful of clothes are on hangers. The rest are in piles on the floor. One pile is clean and unworn; the other pile is to be washed when the dogs aren’t in the laundry room, hiding from what must sound like Armageddon in the master bath. Besides, I just learned my new washing machine is one of the Samsung models that may explode during the next spin cycle. There’s only so much I can subject Sam and Molly to at one time.

My home remodeling goal is to have everything finished by January 1st: The master bath retiled and painted; the antique vanity and fixtures installed; the toilet removed from my yard and put back where it belongs; the bar in the living room and the buffet in the kitchen finished; three sets of French doors, thresholds and frames replaced; boxes unpacked and the house cleaned from top to bottom. There! Did you hear that? My little voice just laughed at me!

Today I posted a photo on Instagram of some things on the side of my refrigerator. One is my favorite quote from Henry David Thoreau.

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.”

While I’m going toward that life, I never imagined I would become a slob.

Love, Brenda


  • tara dillard December 10, 2016 at 7:03 am

    Decades working renovation & landscape construction for clients, finally had it done to my own home 5 years ago. How was I to know what is fun at clients is a personal nemesis in my own home. No, that’s too soft, a life nemesis.

    Understand too well what you are living with and how it makes the brain and all flowing from it, crazy.

    Undergoing renovations now. My goal is a clean house for Christmas. Passing the different teams of men, and their specialties I am trying the Queen approach. I smile, wave, look at nothing in detail, certainly not up or down or too far ahead. Doesn’t work too well, but the effort distracts from reality.

    Cannot wait for your house to be done, and you’ve shot pics and write a blog post about its beauty and how it fills you with joy.

    Garden & Be Well, XOT

    • Brenda Coffee December 11, 2016 at 12:36 pm

      You’re working on essentially the same end of year deadline as I am, Tara. Interesting that you’re now on the other end of the “let’s tear this out and redo” experience. I send my best wishes for your remodel as well, plus you must share photos, too! xoxox, Brenda

  • Barbara December 10, 2016 at 9:14 am

    I know that aggravation. When we found our ‘forever home’ here in Cape May we knew the kitchen had to be remodeled immediately after signing the papers. It involved redesigning the half bath/ laundry room, too. So imagine all that chaos and dust and add to it the fact that our new neighbors dog bit our dog in the neck and she had to have surgery. Now she was stitched up and wearing a baby’s onesie to cover her stitches and sox duct taped to her feet so she couldn’t scratch her neck! Fun times! But, the end result is so worth it! Hang in there and don’t worry about the mess.

    • Brenda Coffee December 11, 2016 at 12:40 pm

      That’s terrible! Your poor dog! Poor you! Thanks for reconfirming that it’s worth it! Except for floors, I’ve always done my own restoration–a 6,400 sq ft, three-story house. I seem to remember I didn’t make this grand scale of a mess! xoxox, Brenda

  • [email protected] December 10, 2016 at 9:32 am

    Been there done that. It’s such a mess but so worth it. I hope you love your newly refreshed home, Brenda!

    • Brenda Coffee December 11, 2016 at 12:41 pm

      I appreciate the “so worth it” reminder, Nancy! Thank you!

  • Donna O'Klock December 10, 2016 at 8:33 pm

    You’re so funny… consider it an opportunity to embrace your inner “slob,” then send on her way once all the work is complete!

    • Brenda Coffee December 11, 2016 at 12:44 pm

      Not sure I got the “inner slob” gene. This is some kind of twisted kharma for being a lifelong neat freak. xoxox, Brenda

  • Leisa Hammett December 11, 2016 at 8:41 am

    🙂 Hang in there! I’ve still got to read back, sorry, to see how you got here. Last I knew you’d sold your house, moved somewhere, moved out and…? xo

    • Brenda Coffee December 11, 2016 at 12:44 pm

      Oh, girlfriend! Yes. You’ve missed a lot. Thanks for the support. I love seeing you here. xoxox, Brenda

  • Diane December 11, 2016 at 10:24 am

    Yep. Standards have been known to slide during renovation. It’s when everything is done that tells the tale. Did you become the slob, or just act the part! 🙂

    • Brenda Coffee December 11, 2016 at 12:46 pm

      I wouldn’t have thought of it this way, Diane, but perhaps I’m giving myself permission to be a temporary slob because it’s definitely not in my nature. At least I’ve I don’t like how it feels! xoxo, B

  • Kathy December 11, 2016 at 12:08 pm

    I can relate! So beautifully written — no messiness there — I can “see” that commode literally chilling in your backyard. Can’t wait to see the finished project. May your January 1 wish come true!

    • Brenda Coffee December 11, 2016 at 12:48 pm

      The neighborhood is having a Christmas party this evening… outside… Brrrr…. I wonder if I should fill the toilet with champagne?

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