never again (but so glad we did)

Ok so I may have unsettled a few people with the last renovating post – especially my lovely tweep @lgcollard who really doesn’t need the stress right now 🙂 – so I thought I’d post this one up, one of my old Web Child ones. It’s kind of a silver lining tale… I guess. And there is a silver lining – cross my heart…

The House That Luke Built

Renovating the family home is sort of like giving birth – people can tell you it hurts but you never really know how much until you do it yourself. It’s been six months and two days ago since I last wrote about our renovations – but who’s counting? Well, me, actually – especially considering the fact that it has also been six months and two days since we last had running water in our house.

Regular readers might recall that myself, my husband Luke and our two kids decamped to the in-laws’ for a brief respite at the start of the renovation. However, as the project stretched on beyond the realms of any of our collective imaginations, this arrangement became impractical because my husband had a huge fight with his dad for a variety of reasons. It became necessary for the four of us to move back into our shell of a home and confront the renovating beast head-on.

This experience has led me to understand two things. Firstly, this is, indeed, the lucky country. And secondly (and most importantly), plumbers are, quite simply, gods.

Living without a bathroom, kitchen and laundry for six months has led to a whole bunch of creative arrangements regarding what most Australians have come to consider the basic necessities of life. My husband’s affiliation with a variety of sporting clubs has been invaluable. He has never trained so hard in all his life, knowing that at the end of his session the kids and I would be waiting – toiletry bags in hand – ready for our shower. The lack of water has also meant, unfortunately, that the laundromat has become my favoured after-work haunt. And I cannot even begin to tell you about the benefits to a renovating family of the humble plastic bucket. But to the kids it was all a bit of a culture-shock. Indy said to me once, as I plucked a stack of buckets from the shelf of the local supermarket, “Mum, are we poor, like in the olden days?”

The one saving grace for us was the fact that we had a working outside tap where I could go several times with my little plastic friend. How very Little House on the Prairie I would muse in the beginning when it all seemed a bit romantic. Now, as we approach the finish line I must say that the sight of said bucket fills me with a sort of primal rage.

But all of this perceived hardship has made me stop and think about the blessings we have living in this country. Even with water such a scarce resource, most of us need only turn on a tap to have the precious life-giving liquid at our very fingertips. Living without this luxury has given me a new sense of empathy with the homeless, the displaced and those living in the developing world. Sadly I feel disingenuous even saying this because my waterless existence has been temporary and at the end of it is the shiny vista of our beautiful new renovation.

But, as difficult as it has been, I think it has given our kids a sense of their own privilege and a certain gratitude for their comfortable lifestyle. I don’t know whether this will last after the painters have packed up and gone home – but I can almost guarantee that I will be there to remind them at convenient moments.

As to the renovating procedure in toto, let me just say that everything the battle-worn renovators before me have said is completely true – tradesmen who don’t turn up, messes of apocalyptic proportions, delays and more delays, legal loopholes, blood, sweat and tears. Of course when I was told this prior to our own project all I heard was “Blah, blah, blah, Egyptian crystal chandelier, blah, blah, blah, open living area, blah, blah, blah, walk-in wardrobe with extra shoe storage.” I wish I had paid attention.

But hindsight, as the saying goes, is a wonderful thing. And people did try to warn me. After I wrote my original Renovation Rescue post I was contacted by a writer who had been through her own nightmarish version of the Jamie Durie dream. So bad in fact that she wrote a book about it. Amanda Falconer even rushed me an early copy of The Renovator’s Survival Guide which is being released next month. While it was just a tad late to save us from the hell of our own making, it has some great advice for anyone else who is feeling seduced by a granite benchtop or six-person spa bath.

But I guess the last word has to go to my husband. He of the perma-stained hands from the lacquer used in our timber features. He of the grout covered dress shorts I bought him for Christmas. He who spent all day hanging our French doors until I came home and told him they were upside down. He who learned to tile, lay bricks, wire a house and install a kitchen. He who trumped the architect with his own original ceiling design. He who tiled our bathroom until midnight on New Year’s Eve while I sulked (feeling neglected) in front of the fireworks on TV. Luke is not the most romantic or demonstrative guy on the block, but he built me a house and that’s all I need.

PS – I have just one question to other experienced renovators: When does the dust stop?

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