When I started writing this post, I initially titled it “How to Avoid Overwhelm When Building a New Home” – but prior to finalizing it, I decided to switch out the word “avoid” to “reduce”. I want to be honest, and the truth is: at some point when building your new home, you will feel overwhelmed. Most of us build one home in our lifetime – some of us, maybe two or even three. And guess what – when we do something for the first time [or even the 2nd or 3rd time], we usually are a little bit overwhelmed.
Think of it like this: The first time you walk, you stumble a couple [hundred] times. The first time you write your name, it looks a little wonky. The first time you bake cookies, you check the recipe 38 times and you might leave them in the oven a little bit too long. The first day at a new job, you most likely don’t make monumental moves for the company. And the first time you go camping, you might botch a meal or think of some tools, toys, or gadgets you’d like to bring along next time.
So – give yourself grace when the overwhelm hits. It’s bound to happen. Say, “Hey, overwhelm, I was expecting you. I see you and I feel you, but I’m not going to let you stay.” And then… remember these tips:
1. Work with a team you trust
Like most awesome things in life, building a new home is not a solo event. I would argue the single most important person on your team is your builder. This person, or team of people, will be communicating with you on details, timeline, budget, schedule, and more. Working with someone you trust is essential. Prior to hiring a builder, interview them. Ask questions about how often you can expect to hear from them and in what ways. Make your expectations known from the beginning. Ask for references, and follow up with them.
Next, hire an interior designer. I know,
shameless plug. Did you think I’d pass
up the opportunity? But, really – your builder is an expert in site planning, scheduling subcontractors, building code, communicating budget, letting you know how the process is going, and so much more. However, without a designer - making decisions about floor plan and layout, as well as selecting and coordinating materials is your responsibility. A great designer will not only communicate with you often, putting you at ease with floor plan and material selection decisions – they will also communicate closely with your builder to ensure everything is coming together as discussed and designed. He or she will also take your project beyond “these materials look good together” – offering ideas that you may not have thought of, or incorporating unique creative ideas.
2. Plan ahead
Planning ahead often has its advantages. When building a home, be sure to have a timeline of decisions that need to be made. The more items you can have selected ahead of time – the less stress and pressure to make a last minute decision. No one likes being rushed when making expensive decisions. No one likes being rushed to make a decision for a space that he or she plans to live in for years to come. Staying ahead of the schedule will help alleviate stress and overwhelm.
3. Visit the job site often
I have previous clients who visited the job site daily, others weekly, others slightly more sporadically. There’s no “right” answer – but I would encourage you to visit the job site regularly. Visiting the job site gives you the opportunity to notice any aspects of the project quickly – and possibly address them before any additional cost could be accrued.
For example: You may request a USB outlet on both sides of the primary bed – but something got lost in communication, and a regular outlet was installed. Recognizing the miscommunication on site allows the change to be made prior to drywall being installed. Or… You were planning on pendant lighting in the half bath to make a statement – however, the builder assumed you would use a more “standard” single, centered wall sconce. You may notice that the lighting box is centered above the sink, and again – can have it moved prior to drywall being installed. Or… The fireplace insert was slightly narrower than you were expecting. You make a note to double check the width of your TV – because you want to make sure that the fireplace is wider than the TV above it. Okay, I think we get the idea.
4. Maintain Open Communication [with your family and your team]
We’ve talked a lot about communication with your builder and your designer. Don’t be afraid to ask All. The. Questions. You don’t know what you don’t know. Also – I have been in several conversations where a builder and client think they are on the same page, and I offer one final, “Okay – let me recap that to make sure I’m understanding correctly.” – and it comes to light that we weren’t all thinking the same thing. Sometimes it really helps to create a sketch – and it is almost always helpful to look at inspiration pictures.
Now – here’s the advice I haven’t mentioned yet – maintain open communication with your family. We complement our spouse when we each take on certain responsibilities, and the same will usually be true when you’re building your home. One of you may be responsible for the budget, while the other is responsible for design decisions. You may make most of the design decisions together, but one of you may take the lead on communicating those decisions to the builder. Set aside time to communicate with one another – much in the same way you might with your designer or builder: create sketches, use photos, and often use the communication tool of: “I’m going to repeat that back to make sure I’m understanding correctly.”
Consider including your children in the communication as well. Update them on the project and the timeline. Let them know about decisions being made for their bedrooms or other spaces, in some instances allowing them to give input. It may be helpful to give them options that you already pre-approved – so they feel like they are involved with the decisions, and you are happy no matter which option they select.
5. Schedule Your Time
This carries on from the topic of communication very well. I have been in countless meetings where I’ll ask a question – and after I ask the question is the first opportunity that the couple has had to discuss that question. Or, sometimes they will have assumed that they were on the same page – but when the questions comes up, we’ll realize that they weren’t and it is something we need to discuss. I am never upset or surprised when these moments happen – if anything, I’m grateful. We are all incredibly busy, and if we don’t set aside time to discuss things, it often doesn’t happen.
Here's possibly the most important part of scheduling your time to reduce overwhelm: intentionally set aside time for date nights and family fun nights. You could schedule date nights to talk through the kitchen of your dreams – OR you could schedule a date night where the topic of your new home is completely off limits. If you have children – they will likely be able to feel some of the stress from the new build; so be intentional about setting aside time for them too! Maybe even plan a special “date” with your kids as a special time when they can tell you what they would like to see in your new home, or in their new bedroom.
6. Let Go of Perfection
Clients often say, “This is my dream home” – or I hear even more often “This is our forever home”. I love the intentionality to make choices that will stand the test of time. However, we can add so much pressure on ourselves when we believe that every decision we make when building our home has to be “perfect forever”.
I’m just going to say it now: your home will not be perfect. I know it can be hard to digest… Your home will not be perfect. We live in an imperfect world full of imperfect people. Can we please stop putting so much pressure on ourselves to be perfect? Will your home be incredible, beautiful, and host to countless amazing memories? YES! …
I want your home to serve and love your family well. I want you to create amazing memories there and I want you to host amazing get-togethers. I want the material selections, textures, and colors to make you smile the day you move in and ten to twenty years after. Your home can do all of these things without perfection.
Giving ourselves permission to have fun with the process, and maybe even make a mistake or two can take away so much stress.
7. Remember Your Why
If you’ve been hanging around Rardon Design recently [thank you, by the way] – you know that I’m an advocate for thinking about your home as a tool to serve you, your family, and your community. Think about WHY you want to build a new home. And think beyond the basic answer, “I want a beautiful space, and more of it.” Think about how your home will serve you and your family.
Do you want to create a retreat where you can relax and recharge from days full of productivity? Are you looking forward to hosting your children and grandchildren for long weekends in your new guest suite? Are you planning to be the “go to” house for your kids teenage friends, so you can know what they’re up to on the weekends? Are you lit up by building extra space – that can be used however your favorite community organization or church needs as various needs arise? Are you looking forward to sharing coffee and the newspaper with your husband in retirement? Are you excited to host bible study and pitch every other week?
When you remember the reasons for building your home – you can be at ease when the overwhelm tries to set in. You can take a step back and “remember your why”. If you find yourself getting overwhelmed by choosing a grout color – you can ask yourself: “Will the difference between Dove Grey or Grey White grout on my kitchen backsplash be the deal breaker for whether or not I can host amazing and successful wine tastings in my kitchen?” Of course not, right?! Situation diffused. Now you can select Dove Grey and go on with your day. It’s kind of like Keep Calm and Carry On – Dove Grey, On with your day. Ha! Or, you can call me, and I will quickly tell you which grout would be the best and why – and then you can really Keep Calm and Wine On – I
mean, Carry On.