I'm often asked the question, "Do you and Alex ever fight when working on the house?," to which I usually respond with a snicker. "Fight" is a strong word, but "bicker" and "enthusiastically disagree" might be better words to describe our disagreements. 

Let's face it. A do it yourself renovation stretching nearly a decade and counting can be incredibly stressful and overwhelming at times. Take the stress involved with difficult work and couple it with lack of sleep and lack of time to unwind after our day jobs, and sometimes you inevitably have friction. I know many of you who have embarked on anything from a weekend room repaint to a major construction project can probably relate.

Just this last weekend we had an excellent example of one of those...ahem...enthusiastic disagreements. I happened to discover that two of our best dining room napkins had been used as rags during a recent project. Here they are in all their glory, marred by black French door oil paint and Gun Blue used for darkening screws.

I might have emphatically expressed my disapproval of said use, and grown more irritated when my partner in crime's defense was "I thought they seemed too nice to be used as rags, but since they were in the rag pile I thought it was okay to use them." 

Not cool. Especially given that he does all the laundry in our household, and he would have been the person to wash, fold, and place the napkin in our construction zone rag pile. 

You might be wondering how I'm lucky enough to have a husband who does all the laundry? Let's just say he gladly took it over following a laundry mishap that involved a busted lip and a shattered front tooth. I'm nothing if not graceful. Sorry folks, no photos of that traumatic event.

The fact is, Alex and I have been at this house project of ours for quite some time. Our DIY wedded bliss wasn't discovered overnight by any means, and like our home, it's very much a work in progress. But over the years, we've been able to figure out what works, what doesn't, and how we can cope on our own and with each other's help. Hopefully a little bit of our life might help you deal with the more difficult periods that occur during your DIY endeavors.

I think the single biggest thing you can do to help yourself cope during a difficult time is to understand what you need. This may be a need for a helping hand, an honest opinion, a friendly ear, or just a little peace and quiet. In my case, I need a good bit of frustrated voice raising and possibly a little cry. When I'm feeling particularly beat down and overwhelmed by the ridiculous project we've taken on, this is how I vent.

I don't need sympathy, and don't actually want to burn our house to the ground (no matter how much I may say it or mean it for that fleeting second), but I want Alex to understand that I've had it and don't want to put up with partially stripped paint in a doorway for eight years, a crack around our skylight that I stare at every day, or windows that I can stand by and feel cold air blowing through. I know he can't do anything about it in the moment that I'm upset, but I just need him to know how I feel. 

My dear husband's response is to typically get a little frustrated with me, but this usually kicks him into gear. He's eager for me to not be upset, and he knows that getting work done on the house is one of those ways to calming the Wendy beast. 

Alex on the other hand, he has a different approach. He tends to shut down when he gets overwhelmed. He over-thinks his projects, gets bogged down, and gets paranoid he's going to make a mistake. So instead of risking a mistake, he does nothing. If he forces the project and does end up making a mistake, woah, watch out! There is a tirade brewing that typically results in a lot of throwing of spare wood scraps as well as a waterfall of swearing. Let me tell you, Alex doesn't normally swear much, so when it happens, he makes up for lost time.

I like to get Alex back on the ball by making lists. I calm him down by talking through what's left on a project and breaking it into bite sized tasks that he can check off as he completes them. We've hung lists on the walls of almost every major project area we've completed. It's also fun to look at these lists years after they are complete to remember what we accomplished during a stressful but productive period of our lives. 

In other words, we are very much our own people, and we have our own skills as well as faults. But this doesn't disqualify the fact that we also lean and rely heavily on each other to accomplish our goals.

So what's the point of today's public shaming over our permanently soiled cloth napkins at the hands of my husband? Well, besides our love of a good public display of our dirty laundry (no pun intended), it's to show you the value of communication, knowing your partner, and knowing that your capabilities are not your own solely, but are heavily dependent on the support and accommodation of the crew you happen to be working with. 

What sorts of tricks or coping mechanisms do you partake in to get you through the more difficult periods? Are you a solemn renovator, or do you need to be part of a team to accomplish your goals? I'm always interested to learn about what makes other DIYers tick...and sometimes explode.

Comments 14


3/9/2012 at 1:09 PM
This sounds exactly like my life, except we only have a year and a half under our belts.

I have the occassional melt down which involves crying and venting, Mike has the occassional tantrum which involves swearing and kicking things. It's all good. We've survived so far, anyway...
Personally I think having the moments to let off steam keep things from bubbling over in the long run! :-)
3/9/2012 at 1:40 PM
Love this post. I can so relate to Alex's behavior. My wife has to calm me down and break out projects into sub tasks when I feel overwhelmed. I'm glad to know there's someone else who acts like me too :) Plus I love how the house was "geeked" out. I'm going to be running surround sound throughout our main living space and thinking about laying fiber optic throughout (thinking about it, as it comes with a hefty price tag).

By far my favorite project has been your front door project. It came out great and brings back the charm of the house. You guys did a GREAT job!
Hi Dean. I'm so glad to hear I'm not the only Type A out there making a to do list for my significant other!

We're so glad you've been enjoying our blog and thanks for the compliments!
3/9/2012 at 2:19 PM
This sounds exactly like the way my husband and I react when our projects & renovations get the better of us. Sometimes you really do need to step back and assess the situation after clearing your head with a cluster-cuss that would make a sailor blush or a good cry. :)
Haha. Exactly! And sometimes it's a cluster-cuss while crying. Just depends on the mood.
Jill PP
3/9/2012 at 2:22 PM
I love this post! Though Thad and I have only been homeowners for almost a year we've definitely had our moments :)

I get so antsy to get a project started and tick it off our list that I sometimes don't plan for all the details. Then, if it doesn't go how I want I get frustrated and have what can only be described as a minifreakoutsession that usually involves crying and flailing of arms, and ends with me eating ice cream on the couch or something.

Thad thinks about the details more, which means a much, much slower start but usually a smoother process. The planning always frustrates me, but at the end I'm always thankful for it.

What's funny is that we sort-of switch roles when it comes to painting. I slowly and meticulously do the cutting in while he waits impatiently to begin rolling. And then if he goes too fast and misses spots I get upset.

I can truly say that we've learned a lot about each other in the last year - luckily our tendencies (normally) help to kind-of balance each other! It was nice meeting you guys and Lulu at the fun dog show last weekend :)
Hi Jill. It was so great to meet you as well! It sounds like our style and your style have a lot in common. And yes, I've definitely had those days on the couch with ice cream. Although last night it was actually Alex-baked chocolate chip cookies. :-)

You do learn a lot about each other, but I think that's also what makes this a worthwhile and unforgettable journey.
Alisabeth Fox
3/9/2012 at 2:54 PM
I just love your blog!
3/9/2012 at 6:09 PM
My husband and I have been DIYing together for about 28 years. Sorry if it's discouraging, but we still have issues and sore spots. We're too much alike and both tend to be better at conceptualizing and starting a lot of projects, in the house and in the garden, and have a hard time finishing them. I usually have to be the bad guy to force finishing off projects; making a list doesn't usually help much but it can break up a bottleneck. (I endorse lists, in moderation, but my husband doesn't like that much structure and admittedly it goes against my grain too.)

Also, we're both very creative and have strong opinions about design, so it can take a long time to reach a compromise on how we want things to look and function. Though frequently leading to contentious discussions, defending our design ideas to one another invariably leads to the best solution.
3/12/2012 at 9:36 AM
My wife has come up with a system that involves hiding the "good" towels, wash cloths, tablecloths, napkins, shower curtains, you name it, from me for reasons like this. She says that all of us (men) have something in our DNA that makes us grab whatever is handy to wipe dirt, grease, and stain on. So now, all I have access to are the ratty, worn out linen items. That way, we're both happy!
Hmmm. She might be onto something here, Tom. I might have to give that a try. ;-)
3/13/2012 at 9:14 PM
My spouse is a motorcycle guy, so yeah, grease on my fine linens is a thorn in my side too. But I'm lucky that when I'm upset, he's also very good at realizing his wrong doing and apologizes.

This entry is another example of why I like your blog best. Enough personal information amidst all the other great posts to allow us readers to get a sense of (how awesome) your relationship (is). :)
Awww. Thanks Whitney! :-)

So good to know I'm not alone in having ruined linens. Haha.
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