Renovation Stress: How to stop yourself from going insane during an extensive renovation

Renovations are stressful. Even if everything is going well, your plan is flawless, your budget is sufficient and the progress you witness is stellar you will likely experience some stress.

Because your normal routine is interrupted (especially when you live in the midst of your renovation) you will find yourself restless or overwhelmed at some point.

Causes of renovation stress

I expected to be overly stressed non-stop, but it turns out I’m pretty okay with it. My issues when it comes to stress are mainly caused by:

#1 General messyness

Even when I try to keep a tidy building site it just gets messy within the blink of an eye. One day I sweep the floor and the next there is a wheelbarrow with dirt in my dining room.

I am by no means the tidiest person on the planet, but I get triggered by the mess anyway. This shows in the most perculiar ways:

  • You can find me wiping down the countertop in the kitchen routinely (which is not the most urgent task to be done, but for some reason this is the thing I do when the state of the house is horrible).
  • I keep rearranging items on the fridge.
  • In the bedroom I turn to putting my shoes in the ‘right’ order.

#2 Lack of stuff

When you do an extensive renovation chances are you don’t have all your stuff in the house. Maybe everything is in storage, a different room, your old house or you just rid of (part of) it altogether. Anyway: you don’t have all your things.

This can cause stress. Maybe you need that one special thing and you can’t find it or you just get stress from a general lack of items around you.

Personally I ended up liking having less stuff, but in some regards it feels a bit poor. Like sleeping on the floor or not having a couch to sit on in the evening.

#3 Lack of progress

This is one of my main issues I must admit.

Some days there is just nothing going on in or around the house. Coming home to find nothing new is hard. Not just because I enjoy seeing al the new things coming to life, but also because it just gives me an uneasy feeling.

The stress increases exponentially for every day passing without progress, so for instance during the summer vacations, after one week I was super frustrated.

#4 Too many decisions to make

We started on this renovation without a plan (#protip) , which means we have a lot of decisions to make on short term, way in advance and on the go.

On some days I just get overwhelmed with choices. What if I pick the wrong tile/color/floor/material? What if it will turn out ugly? What if my idea doensn’t work?

The sheer amount of choices you have to make is staggering. I never would have thought so many choices to be important. But to get a good result you have to think about everything.

Not just on the color of the wall paint, but to the level of the wall sockets and their distance in relation to the new floor, what exact fixtures you need in term of function and how this fixture should look.

Pffff I just want to turn on a light people!

#5 Stress on the relationship

Renovation can be tough on relationships. Just from the stress alone it can lead to a lot of discussions, arguing and fights. Not too mention differences on opinion on big and small renovation choices or planning.

Fortunately I am very blessed. Patrick and I are really taking this renovation well as a couple. We’ve had no real issues and when we have stress we stress together.

I drive him nuts with  my indecisiveness sometimes and he annoys me when he is working to much, but other than that we really got closer instead of drifting apart.

Lucky us!

Why you should address your renovation stress

So we got some causes of renovation stress listed, now le’s talk about why you should address the stress.

Besides the fact that stress is bad for your health (which I am not an expert on, but has been proven time and time again) there are a lot of reasons why you should strive to minimise the stress during your renovation.

  1. Big renovations take time, so if you get stress early on in the process you are likely to stress out during the whole thing.
  2. Like I said, stress in general is not good for your health.
  3. When you get to big milestones (like you suddenly having a bathroom or sleeping in a bed) nobody is looking at that one electric wire still dangling from the ceiling or the color of your floor doesn’t 100% match your eyes…
  4. It’s ‘just a house’. This may sound silly from someone writing a blog about a house, but at the end of the day it’s the place where you live. Nothing more and nothing less. Even if you experience some serious renovation drama, keep reminding yourself everything can be fixed and everything is temporary.
  5. I think renovating should be more fun than stressful. You get to make a beautiful home, so you should enjoy it while you can!

Renovations equal opportunity! Don’t let it stress you out to much.

How to prevent yourself from going insane

So here is a list of my personal tips. Not the ‘eat healthy, meditate and start running’ kind of tips. But the things that help me personally on a daily basis.

Tip #1: Laugh

Renovation can be hard, but it is so much fun! Some highlights that made me laugh:

  • All the ridiculous outfits you wear when renovating, with weird googles or working with a crowbar wearing gloves with a floral pattern.
  • Seeing my dad covered from top to bottom, including his face, hair and ears in grey dust.
  • Ripping down a piece of wallpaper and wood to find a plant growing behind it (from outside, through the floor and behind the part of the wall you could see).
  • Finding all kinds of treasures like this one and this.
  • Poking a hole in the ceiling only to find out everything was plastered on straw.
  • Answering the question ‘how we cook‘.
  • So many other moments we were working in the house and Patrick and I looked at each other and started laughing.

Tip #2: Accept the mess

Thinking you can clean your house during renovation is utopian. Thinking your things will stay in the same place where you saw them last, is too.

The mess gets bad, really BAD, first. And if you think it can’t get more messy: it can.

So best to ride it out and not fuss over it.

I try to make fun of the situation by taking photos of all the mess. Seeing a neatly positioned table and chairs next to mountains of wires, debris and tiles just makes me laugh (see tip #1).

Tip #3: Take time to evaluate things that matter

During a big renovation like ours you may find yourself lacking things/people/activities.

Which makes for the perfect time to evaluate your priorities!

For me it was finding out what belongings matter to me (either because I actually use then or they mean a lot to me) and finding out what I miss most when I don’t have it.

I found out I don’t need a lot of things, some things are nice to have and some things I just kept because… well they were there. For the past year(s) I’ve had a lot of different hobbies. But seeing everything put away in storage was an eye-opener.

The first things I missed were books and paint. So I took them out of storage because they matter to me. In this process I also found some hobbies that no longer serve me. So I will part with them once we clear the storage.

Moral of the story is that with a renovation you quickly learn what matters to you, so take the time to actively reevaluate.

Tip #4: Make a to do list

You have to make so many decisions during renovationthat it’s easy for anyone to lose sight of the whole picture. So when I felt overwhelmed I made to do lists.

It got me ‘out of my head’ and helped me to get things done instead of feeling drained all the time.

Tip #5: Don’t make everything a list

But in the light of #4, please don’t make everything a list.

A lot of people pointed out we should plan our renovation more. Making lists per room what needed to be done. Making lists of who did what. Making lists of costs. Making lists of ‘projects’. Making lists of shopping supplies. Lists, lists and more lists.

Man, that sometimes really takes the fun out of things!

Sure we had a budget and some basics in place.

But even trying to make a list of Everything That Needed To Be Done would be way to overwhelming. For instance I will do all the painting of door frames, doors and windows myself. Thinking I have to do all this… I would never start on it.

So I decide on a part I want to paint (like the bedroom windows)  and do that. Then move on to a next project. I still haven’t painted the bedroom door frame, but I have done many other projects.

It may be more efficient to do similar tasks in a row, but a) I find this boring and b) I have so many tasks I prefer to do the one I feel like doing in a particular moment.

Tip #6: Take it one step at a time

Do one thing. Then do another. Working on 20 projects at a time is not going to work.

I skip between rooms and projects. So I don’t do all my projects in one room, just because some things need to be done first.

Accepting not everything is going to be done simultaneously is also a big help in staying sane.

Right now only one room is done (not styled, but done in terms of renovation). Every other room is in a different state of ‘finishedness’. Some we haven’t even started on and some are in the final stages.

That’s how it is, and that’s fine.

Tip #7: Have fun

I talked about seeing the fun in renovating and everything surrounding this. But this is not about that kind of fun.

Do fun things! Go out, get a hobby, see a movie, go on holiday.

Get out of the house and enjoy the rest of your life. Sometimes it may seem like every aspect of your life revolves around the renovation, but this is just one part of it.

So what if that one wall gets painted a day later? Visit that friend or enjoy a nice glass of wine!

Relax and have fun in a non-house kind of way and you’ll see you will be way more capable of handling the renovation.

Tip #8: It doesn’t have to be hard

This is a tip that I feel very strongly about. When you tell people (especially ones that don’t know you very well) you are renovation in a huge way and show them pictures of demolitions and sleeping in a caravan people soon feel sorry for you.

Sorry that you don’t have luxury. Sorry that you are in such a mess. Sorry you have no proper ‘home’.

They also have opinions on what you can and can’t do. Why relax and watch a movie when there is so much work to be done? Going on a holiday, who does that while in a massive renovation?! Who eats out almost daily?!

And…how do you rectify the costs of all that?!

Well, I’m here to tell you that you shouldn’t let people talk you into feeling like everything should be hard and you can have no fun!

Seeing my friends, enjoying an evening with Patrick and buying an expensive paintbrush keeps me happy and healthy. Just because I slept on the floor or had no dining room table for a long time doesn’t make my life poor in any way.

I haven’t been as happy as I am living here and that’s all that matters.

Tip #9: Claim space

Final tip is to claim a bit of space, no matter how tiny. During renovation you need at least one square meter of dust free, mess free space. Where you can drink your tea in the morning or read a book.

Get a chair and a (small) table and claim this as your space. No DIY on this table!

During this renovation I have a table and a chair that move through the rooms. But they are always in one spot or another. When I sit at it I take a damp cloth to remove the dust and sit.

It’s the one place I can gather my thoughts in a somewhat clean environment.

I suggest you do the same. You’ll soon experience this to be your haven. Just this slither of normalcy can get you a long way in staying sane.


When you’ve read all this I hope you can read between the lines and see I just love this whole process. A big renovation is filled with opportunity! Time to figure out what matters to you, time to laugh and time to change your life in a big way.

Sure it can be hard at moments, but I hope you can find the joy in it. And hopefully you’ve found some tips that stop you from becoming insane during renovation.

Do you have any good tips? Leave them in the comments!