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Transformation: Moving Out

Surviving a Renovation

By Tobi Fairley

Once you have the perfect contractor and your budget in place for a home renovation, then comes a scary decision: to stay or to leave! If you can, it’s better to move out. The hardest renovation to survive is definitely the kitchen. But I had much more than just my kitchen gutted, so staying in the home wasn’t an option. Particularly because both my husband and I have busy jobs with quite a bit of travel, it was important to stay organized, have our clothes clean and dust-free, and get plenty of good sleep and meals to keep us going. Living out of one room upstairs and eating from a microwave for eight months didn’t fit our lifestyle.

If staying in a rental or long-term hotel doesn’t work for you, maybe you and your family could bunk with a family member or friend at least during the demolition, which is very dirty, and during a few of the especially noisy parts of the project. As hard as it can be, moving out will make a kitchen remodel in particular go faster at least during some of the messiest, most dangerous (electrical upgrades), and smelliest parts (think paint fumes). Plus, it’s just safer if you have kids and pets!

The destruction of the kitchen (and why I think you should move out during a remodel!)

If you can’t swing that, consider where you can set up a “kitchen outpost,” as I like to call it. It’s where you can at least have some dishes, a microwave, your coffeepot, a slow cooker, and any other small appliances you might need like a toaster or a can opener. Be sure the outpost is away from the dust and clutter that’s going to come out of your kitchen. You’ll want to use this station mostly in the morning as you get everyone out the door. You’ll also probably want to get the number of every takeout joint near you or plan extra money for eating out at restaurants often just to get some peace and quiet! That’s just the name of surviving this remodeling game, so figure that into your budget too.

If you’re remodeling during the right time of year, you could also set up an outdoor kitchen around your grill and have plenty of fabulous dinners alfresco. Another great idea is to have plenty of snacks like microwave popcorn, trail mix, cereal bars, and fruit. If you have kids, you know they’re going to be hungry at inopportune times, so be ready. And consider a dorm-size fridge for drinks and water. You also might want to only use disposable plates and utensils, because who wants to do dishes in the bathroom sink or the tub?

Realistically, it can take months to complete a kitchen remodel. Often, the cabinetry alone will take at least eight weeks just to be built and installed, so think carefully about how long you can live without your kitchen. Summer renovations are great because you can vacation during part of the process, especially if you trust your contractor or a family member to keep an eye on things while you are away.

The new cabinetry being installed in the kitchen

And it’s not just the kitchen you have to consider. Sleeping arrangements are important to think about, if you are going to be out of your master bedroom, bunking up with the kids or dogs, or all living out of the guest room. Living in such close quarters can cause patience to wear thin, so really think about how you will handle so much “together time.” Maybe plan long weekends away or send the kids to visit grandparents more often during this trying process.

Planning for the renovation is also a great time to consider what you can live without—like those scarred baking pans you keep meaning to throw out. Don’t let junky stuff go back into your gorgeous new kitchen! I organized when I moved out of my home and I also went through everything again before moving anything back in. It helped me be really certain that only things I truly love or use will live in our newly remodeled home.

The template on the floor for the unique tile pattern I've designed

Finally, the best thing you can do to keep your sanity is put up a pinboard somewhere in the middle of your house or your temporary living quarters where you can’t miss it. Pin up every single gorgeous kitchen inspiration photo or renovated home that you love and you’ve ever torn out of a magazine. Then you can stare longingly at it to remind you of why you started this project in the first place. It’s all worth it!

Good luck!