Are you tired of feeling frustrated during the pandemic? Are you feeling “pandemic overwhelm?”
Are you frustrated about how your home looks and works for you now? Is your home:
- Cluttered, hard to organize and keep clean?
- Is the pantry overflowing because you’re fixing at least three meals a day?
- Are you buying and storing more snack foods?
- Are there computers on the dining table with wires everywhere?
- Is the entire family crowded around computers on the dining room table, leaving no place to eat?
- Are school supplies and hobby paraphernalia everywhere except where they’re supposed to be?
- Showing its age?
- Have you been noticing all the deferred maintenance that you need to do?
- Paint chipping and stained?
- Appliances working poorly?
- Old countertops and flooring showing years of wear?
- Broken hinges and permanent stains on your dark wood cabinets?
Here you are, wanting or needing to freshen up your home. But you don’t know what to do or how to do it. Frustration has got you stuck! Maybe you were thinking about remodeling your kitchen, but the pandemic stopped you. Now you have to wait for the pandemic to end, right? Maybe and maybe not. More about that later.
First, I want to talk about what frustration is.
Exactly What Is Frustration?
Here’s a great definition: “The feeling of being upset or annoyed, because of an inability to change or achieve something. It’s the prevention of the progress, success, or fulfillment of something we want.”
We always have options, but we don’t see them.
Fear and Frustration Are Connected
First, fear takes over. It’s like a curtain drops in our mind, hiding all our options. We play the “What if?” game in our heads. When this happens to me, I envision the worst possible outcome.
Fear prevents us from making the right decisions about the present and the future. Then frustration enters the picture because we feel stuck and uncertain. I felt uncertain about the future until a friend helped me. “Fear and frustration are like a jumbo loan, with compound interest that accrues daily. This leaves us feeling stuck.
Here and Now
We are in the middle of very uncertain times. The pandemic is controlling everything in our lives. You know how your life has changed, and you don’t like it. You’re frustrated because you can’t have what you want:
- To go back to work away from home and talk with co-workers in person.
- To have your children back in school.
- To go shopping without fear.
- To fix and renovate your home so you can invite people to be with you in a comfortable environment.
You want everything to get back to the familiar normal. You’re not alone! So do I! But there may be a new normal when the pandemic ends. Not knowing, not being in control, becomes the fuel that feeds our frustration.
Conscious Decisions To Reduce Frustration’s Hold
I decided that fear and frustration weren’t going to control my life when the pandemic became a reality in February. Instead, I decided to take classes. I’m learning how to work on my business rather than working at my company. I’ve read more books in the past nine months than I have in the past several years. All the books have one thing in common. The stories are about people rising above whatever it was that was holding them back. They made conscious decisions to move forward and try new things.
5 Tips About How To Control Frustration (And Other Negative Feelings)
There are many ways that we can control our negative feelings. Here are some helpful tips from experts that will take about five minutes:
- Breathe. Take deeper, slower breaths for one or two minutes. I’ve learned to count to four as I inhale, then hold my breath to a count of four before exhaling while counting to four. I also use the phrase “I am at peace” when inhaling and “I let go” when I exhale. Here’s another breathing technique I use. I take in a very deep breath, hold it as long as possible, and then exhale forcefully like I’m blowing out a candle several feet away. During the pandemic, I’ve been breathing a lot!
- Take a couple of minutes to stop what you’re doing and look outside. Notice the light and shadow in the trees, or birds flying from branch to branch. Listen to your breath and notice your body relaxing. This has gotten me back to the present and “out of my head,” where frustration lives.
- Before you go back to what you were doing before, think of something — anything — that fills you with gratitude. For me, it’s the sky, no matter what the weather is. Nature has a calming influence on me. So do my cats when they’re not asleep in the other room.
- Gratitude opens the door to accept or at least acknowledge that the situation (pandemic) will not last forever. Change happens every day, even if we’re not aware of it.
- The next step is to say an affirmation in the present tense. What worked for me is: “I choose to transform my [feeling name] into positive action.”
I’ve been lucky to work with clients during this time. One couple is actually planning a new home to help them simplify their lives! The other homeowners want (and need) to remodel their homes. There’s one major similarity between these homeowners. They’re all planning now, so they’ll be ready for construction when the pandemic no longer controls their lives.
Here is how they’re preparing. This is something that you can do, too!
Planning For The Future
- We met virtually, and they told me about their goals. We talked about what they don’t like and want to change and the specific details they want.
- I asked about their budget for the entire project. I also asked when they’d like to start construction and when they want the project finished.
- We talked about the options to begin the design process. I asked if they want me to take measurements of the areas they want to remodel. Or do they feel comfortable taking measurements and providing pictures? When I take measurements during the pandemic, I always follow guidelines. CDC and State regulations protect everyone’s health. Only one couple wanted to take their own measurements. They provided electronic copies of the sketch plus photos of the existing conditions.
- Then I explained how I work. I gave them an estimate of my fee for preliminary plans only. This would allow them to get rough budget estimates from contractors. I also gave them an estimate of my fee for the entire project to end any surprises.
- After the virtual meeting, I prepared and sent the homeowners a proposal. It included what we had discussed and verified that I had listened to them to remember what they said.
No one wants to remodel their home during the pandemic unless they plan to be living somewhere else. I agree with people’s reluctance about having strangers in their home now. A general contractor and his crew should perform a kitchen or bathroom remodeling. This can take several months. Now isn’t a good time for exposure to the virus.
Everything has proceeded very well with my clients. We’re all looking forward to the end of the pandemic! I’m excited about working with my client who lives in Clark County, Washington. It’s a master bathroom project. I’ve prepared two alternative plans for him and sent links to manufacturers’ websites. He’s selected most of the plumbing already. As soon as plumbing showrooms are open, we’ll make an appointment so he can see and touch when he’s chosen. Then we’ll visit other showrooms to look at countertop options and tile for the shower and floor.
Remodeling projects can be smooth, but there can be unforeseen problems. If homeowners aren’t familiar with the remodeling process, it can cause problems.
Fears and Frustrations During A Home Remodeling Project
In the past 36 years, I’ve worked with hundreds of homeowners. They’ve had different lifestyles, needs, and budgets. But many of them share two common feelings: fear and frustration.
Here are common fears I’ve observed that were confirmed in a recent online survey:
- They won’t get their desired results or the products they want.
- They’ll hire the wrong contractor.
- They’ll hire the wrong designer.
- They’ll spend more than they want. Several respondents decided to do the work themselves, D-I-Y. I’m going to check back in several months to ask questions about their projects and the results they got.
Homeowners can feel frustrated about time and money. Frustration happens to everyone, as we discovered earlier, if there are unrealistic expectations. Here’s what I’ve observed:
- They want everything, including expensive luxury products, but their budget limits them.
- They want the project to end by a specific date, often for a special occasion. But these tasks take months until completion:
- Homeowners have to make decisions about the scope of their project and all products.
- The designer has to get the plans ready.
- Contractors have to prepare estimates.
- The plan-check process for permits can take a month or more.
- Construction from start to finish requires much longer.
- One mistake can turn a remodeling project upside-down: Homeowners hire the contractor with the lowest estimate. But they’re frustrated by the workmanship that doesn’t meet their standards.
Yes, this is a simplified overview, but the similarity is pretty remarkable!
I’ve experienced fears and frustrations myself, so it makes me sad when it happens to other people. I try to help homeowners avoid fears and frustrations with honest communication.
We create our own frustration with unrealistic expectations and how we react to reality.
When we take responsibility for our lives, it reduces the chances of frustration.
Writing about fear and frustration reminds me of a project I had several years ago.
My client, “Barbara,” had a 1600-square foot home with three bedrooms and one bathroom. During our first appointment, Barbara told me about her kitchen remodeling project. It happened five years before we met. Her voice quivered, and she often paused when she talked about her kitchen remodeling. “The original kitchen didn’t fit my needs. I hired a contractor referred to me by neighbors who were very happy with what he did for them. The contractor said that I didn’t need a designer to help me.”
Her mouth became contorted, and her eyes squinted with anger. “My contractor did an excellent job but didn’t give any advice about details. He sent me to different showrooms to find the products. I was responsible for making all the decisions by myself.”
I asked, “Did you make any changes?”
“Yes,” she said, pounding her fist in the air. “It started when he asked me if I wanted to expand the kitchen into the family room to have an island. If I didn’t do that, he suggested a peninsula. First, I had to choose between a range or a cooktop with separate double ovens.”
Her frown softened, and she looked at me, like a child who’s lost their favorite toy. “I felt so alone, making all those decisions. I was afraid of making a mistake. I didn’t know what the project would cost.”
I knew that she was talking about feeling overwhelmed. Every kitchen remodeling project involves hundreds of choices. Here’s a shortlist of kitchen products that homeowners need to select:
- Manufacturer, model, and features?
- Color (white? black? stainless steel?)
- Wood and finish?
- Deep drawers?
- Rollout shelves?
- Corner lazy susans?
- Utensil drawers?
Barbara said the work proceeded better than she expected. But two product decisions caused her to lose sleep: the countertop and backsplash. “The contractor got frustrated because it took so long for me to decide. He didn’t understand or care how overwhelmed I was. He wanted to get the job finished so he could move to his next project.”
Five years later, she was still enjoying her remodeled kitchen without any regrets. Now she was thinking about converting the smallest bedroom into a master bathroom.
“Are you ready to do this project?” I asked.
She answered with hesitation. “Yes, but I’m nervous about how much it’s going to cost. I’m fed up with my daily routine. I have to cram my skin-care products and makeup into a small drawer. I have to store my dryer, curling iron, brushes, and hairspray in a basket under the sink. I hate taking a shower in my tub. I’ve slipped several times, getting in and out, stepping over the tub.”
I reassured her that I’d be there for her during the bathroom project, beginning to end. I’d help her make all the decisions and communicate with her contractor. I’ll share the rest of Barbara’s story later. I want to lay a good foundation for your home remodeling.
Your Proposed Project and Overcoming Fears
Here you are, during the pandemic, anxious to embark on your home remodeling project. But you’re fearful. Are you ready, or are you still stuck in some ways? I understand and care how you feel. There are several essential questions that I want to ask you to think about:
- How has the pandemic affected you and your lifestyle?
- What makes you feel afraid?
- Is your fear one about making an expensive mistake, or something else that has you stuck, unable to move forward?
Your project is unique. Your needs, lifestyle, and budget are individual, unlike any other homeowner I’ve known. But like I said earlier, there are similarities. I discovered that the best way to end negative feelings like fear is to be proactive.
Break your project into logical steps. Here are five significant steps that will help you. Each step has many phases that will help you achieve remodeling success.
“What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?”
Step 1: Do Some Homework About Your Goals
- Figure out your goals and what you want to achieve.
- Family members’ input is essential.
- Buy two or three magazines containing articles and pictures relating to what you want to do. Attach a “post-it” note to pictures and write what appeals to you about the image.
- Visit the Houzz website (https://www.houzz.com), set up one or more portfolios, and start adding pictures. Contact the designer to ask questions about products, etc.
Step 2: Set A Budget
Figuring out how much to invest in your project is challenging! 87% of homeowners wanting to remodel don’t know what their investment will be. They don’t know how to establish a budget. They don’t have a clue!
- I recommend the Cost vs. Value Report (https://www.remodeling.hw.net/cost-vs-value/2020/). Remodeling professionals create the report for specific cities all over America. It’s easy to navigate. Don’t be upset because they ask you to register. No one has ever complained about sponsors contacting them.
Step 3: Interview Design Professionals and Hire The Best Candidate
- Get referrals from neighbors, friends, and business associates. If no one can help you, you can contact the following organizations for referrals:
National Association of Home Builders (https://www.nahb.org)
National Association of the Remodeling Industry (https://www.nari.org)
National Kitchen & Bath Association (https://nkba.org)
- Interview design professionals.
- Talk about your expectations and listen to their advice. Communication is the only way to get what you want. Or the way to discover different (or better) results.
- Ask for and call all references given by the candidates.
- Hire a design professional who listens to you and understands what you want. S/he should be someone who:
- Has experience with similar projects to yours.
- Understands building codes for your area.
- Offers virtual meetings.
- Uses Computer-Aided Drafting and creates virtual-reality “pictures” of your project.
- Will prepare many preliminary plans for labor and materials estimates.
- Will help you make adjustments to stay within your budget.
- Will help you define your project’s scope.
- Will refer you to qualified contractors.
- Will prepare final plans and specifications for permits and construction.
- Will communicate and work with everyone.
Step 4: Interview Contractors and Hire The Best Candidate
- Ask your designer for referrals to contractors. Or get referrals from neighbors, friends, and business associates. You can also contact the professional organizations above.
- Contractors may be busy, unavailable to help you. You may disqualify them if you sense a disconnect in communication.
- Interview contractors and communicate about your project and your expectations. Verify that the contractors respect your designer’s role in your project’s success. (Unfortunately, many contractors don’t understand how to work with a designer).
- Ask about the candidates’ ability and willingness to communicate daily, as needed, and their preferred tool (phone, email, text, or a combination).
- Ask for and call all references given to verify the candidates’ qualifications.
- Verify that the candidate is licensed and bonded for the work they’ll be performing.
- Hire a contractor who listens to you and understands what you want. Trust your “gut” and avoid hiring someone who guarantees to do your job for less than everyone else.
Step 5: The Design Process
During the design process, you’ll be making important decisions. Your project’s scope and your products need thought and consideration. Here are tips to help you:
- Stay in touch with how you’re feeling. Be honest and share your feelings with your designer. Your designer should understand and help you.
- Make timely decisions. Delaying decisions might create artificial anxiety. Products you want may have a long lead-time or have unexpected freight costs.
- Order your products immediately. Arrange to store them until your contractor is ready for them. Access to installation manuals included with products is essential. The crew needs to read manuals so they can prepare the job site for the products.
The next step is construction. I’ve prepared a separate whitepaper that covers this.
There are many more steps until you achieve a finished remodeling project. With the designer and contractor working as a team, your project should be successful. I’m not going to deny that there may be challenges. Almost every remodeling project has unexpected challenges. To reassure you, I’ve never seen a problem that didn’t have many solutions. But the result has to be right for your circumstances. The goal is to make informed decisions during your remodeling journey.
Now, The Rest Of The Story — A Synopsis
Barbara’s bedroom-to-bathroom conversion project finished on time, within 2% of her target budget. It was a significant undertaking! I helped her select every product for her new bathroom and closet. Then I prepared several preliminary plans showing her the options. Her contractor provided estimates, and she made the right decisions for her budget. Yes, there were challenges, but we resolved them to Barbara’s satisfaction. I’ve attached a copy of the preliminary plans, elevations, and perspectives. You can see that this was a large project.
Now you know a little about how I work. You’ve learned about my philosophy. You’ll learn more when you read my newsletters. When you are ready to remodel, I want to be the design professional for your project. Call me so that we can talk about your goals, your concerns, your anxiety, and fears.