How to renovate without breaking up

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Tudors Down · the design column ·

We've all been there: fighting with our partner over nothing. Throw a renovation in the mix, and you'll have a recipe for disaster. Somehow, we are supposed to manage fixing our home while not letting our relationship break apart. So how is one supposed to renovate successfully with her partner? After numerous renovations under my belt and a marriage still intact, I've learned a few things along the way.

Have a plan.
It helps to know what you're doing, what's expected of you and your spouse, and what the end result will be. Formulate a plan for whatever project you are doing, create a list of supplies (and have them on hand in advance if possible), set a budget, and make sure you are both on the same page.

Listen to each other.
While my husband is by far the handier of the two, I've come up with some pretty creative ways to fix or repair something. Sometimes, the more knowledgeable of the pair takes the lead and doesn't respect what the less handy partner has to say. But listen up: our lack of knowledge and rules causes us to be creative and may help solve a problem.

Work separately.
We all need space. So when renovations take hour after hour, sometimes we forget to take a minute to ourselves. Divide and conquer. Two people don't always need to work on the same project; we all need a breathier now and then.

Do things together.
A contradiction to the previous advice, I know, but there is a time and place where you'll not only need two sets of hands, but it will be good for you. Building things together, accomplishing a task, or painting a room bonds a couple like no other. A sense of ‘we did it' is a great confidence booster. It's nice to sit after a long day and reminisce about all the projects we've conquered together. Go us!

Go into a project with knowledge.
Most of the time, frustration comes when something goes wrong, and we don't know how to make it right. It's our own falling short that makes us mad, but we take it out on our partner. Use resources: other handymen, books and YouTube are fantastic databases for a project gone awry. Use those instead of getting made at your spouse-they will thank you.

Have a realistic time frame.
This was the hardest step for me. I wanted things done and wanted them done now. But doing things properly takes time. I had no idea how long most projects take and sometimes they took four times longer than the goal I had in mind. Leave yourself time for everything (even breaks) so you don't feel rushed which leads to mistakes and frustration.

Most importantly, realize you both have the same goals in mind.
You may be dreaming of the perfect bedroom, but so is your partner. He or she may not do all the steps in the order you would, but I promise, they are working towards the same goal. Keep your eye on the prize and have patience. More than likely it's a learning experience for the both of you. Learning to work strongly together not only helps future renovations, but also it will help other dilemmas as well.

In October 2011, Sarah Meeks and her husband purchased their first house, a fixer-upper, which is located two doors down (hence, Tudors Down) from Sarah's childhood home. Besides blogging about home renovations and design, Meeks sells vintage home goods. For more design ideas, to purchase items from her Etsy shop and to watch her home transform from drab to fab, visit