Time to Share Our Previously Untold Story

It’s not often a blog posting is 18 months in the making, but the time has finally come to tell a story I alluded to in an August 2016 posting.

In that post I shared my husband and I had “been undergoing extensive unanticipated renovations at the new house” and I noted that would be “another story for another day.”  When I wrote those words I’d been treading water for a couple of months, having recently surfaced from the stormy seas of a home renovation project gone terribly wrong.  Our initial three-month (February to April 2016) renovation plan had called for remodeling the kitchen, installing a new furnace and air conditioner, and waterproofing the foundation. Instead, a seemingly never-ending series of discoveries yielded this list of repairs and renovations that kept contractors on the job through October:

  • Stabilized a foundation wall and rebuilt a cracked footer,
  • Took down two huge trees and had a branch crash through our roof and our concrete driveway crushed by the tree removal company,
  • Removed all foundation landscaping, a brick and concrete porch and a concrete patio and later installed new patios and walkways,
  • Discovered and sealed off cracked asbestos lined heating runs and replaced this abandoned part of the system with heated tile floors,
  • Installed new subfloors and wood flooring in kitchen and refinished existing wood floors,
  • Replaced a significant amount of framing including rim joists, floor joists, studs, headers and numerous walls because of insect damage
  • Rewired the entire house,
  • Replaced the original copper plumbing,
  • Replaced most of the windows,
  • Replaced the roof,
  • Gutted to the studs and remodeled a bathroom and powder room,
  • Removed all drywalling and walls in the basement,
  • Reconfigured doorways and installed new doors,
  • Removed a closet, reconfigured another closet and built a closet,
  • Installed new lighting throughout,
  • Removed, redesigned, and rebuilt all three stairways,
  • And painted the entire interior.

Our project had morphed into the worst of the nightmare episodes of Property Brothers.

I woke each morning anticipating the day’s bad news. What would the next $500, $1000 or $5000 repair be? I cringed when my phone rang and dreaded hearing the words, “I need to show you something.”  I was totally overwhelmed by this small house that was supposed to help us simplify our lives.

We originally planned to move into the partially renovated house in mid March when we moved out of our previous house. As of mid March though the new house had no flooring, no kitchen, and we were still missing drywall in a number of rooms.  We were also missing the entire flight of stairs to first floor and part of the flight of stairs leading to the second floor (Watch that last step it’s a doozy!).  If that wasn’t enough, almost every surface was coated with a thick layer of concrete dust, which you can’t see in these pictures.

Nowhere to go, we moved into a hotel and put our belongings into storage. At the end of March when it became clear there was no renovation end in sight, we moved some clothing and a few pieces of furniture into the single habitable bedroom. Each morning after my husband left for work I folded the sofa bed back into a couch, welcomed the contractors back into the house and retreated to my room to work. I didn’t get much done though because my days were a series of interruptions as problems were discovered, possible solutions were considered and decisions were made. I rarely left the house because at any given time multiple contractors would have me parked in.

I’m not sharing all of this to complain. I’m sharing it to paint the picture of what lead to the worst overwhelm I’ve ever experienced, which manifested itself in sleep disruption, exhaustion, disorganization, social withdrawal, and near crippling levels of anxiety. The house was a disaster and I was too.

Luckily something, I wish I could recall what it was – maybe catching this beautiful sunrise from the hotel window on the morning of March 23, or anticipating an upcoming visit from my son or escaping the house for lunch with my friend Maureen on March 24 – began to fuel a shift. Evidence of this shift is a single entry in my Gratitude Journal on the evening of March 24 – “I’m grateful we seem to be turning a corner with the house renovation.” This was significant because not feeling particularly grateful for anything at the time, I had given up writing regularly in this journal in mid February.

The shift in perspective to gratitude was gradual yet powerful. Even though I felt like my life was falling apart I still had much to be grateful for: understanding colleagues, a wonderful family who was always available to commiserate with me, and friends (old and new) who were open to listening to house updates. I was most grateful for the support of my husband who each day returned home from work a bastion of positivity who listened patiently as he accompanied me on evening walks.

Even though we were still discovering house issues almost daily and were still months away from completion, I was beginning to bring together three important tools that supported me in overcoming my overwhelm:

  • Strengths – My character strength of gratitude helped me turn the corner. My character strength of curiosity kept me fully engaged in the renovation project as I asked questions non-stop and learned about my home’s construction. Because of this I was able to make educated decisions and to this day, nobody knows more about what’s inside the walls of my house than I do. Strengths also took the form of resources available like my awesome support network or my ADHD brain, which is under-stimulated by nature and craved the constant stimulation that dealing with chaos provided.
  • Values –  My husband did a wonderful job throughout this ordeal of reminding us that our move and all the work we were doing on the house would eventually help us honor our values of minimizing and having a smaller carbon footprint. Being reminded of these values helped us get through some especially tough weeks in May when the recently finished tile floors on the ground level had to be broken apart and the slab on which they had been installed jack-hammered out in order to repair a broken drain under the house.
  • Self Care – Though my ADHD brain loves chaos, I was reminded my body and mind react negatively to the stress that can accompany that chaos.   When I’m under stress it’s especially important to exercise and eat well and to double down on my efforts to live a more intentional life focused on what’s truly meaningful.  It was also key to remind myself of the importance of breathing, not the shallow hyperventilating type I’d been doing, but deep, mindful, restorative breathing that brought me and my ADHD brain back to the present.

By November 2016 phase one of the project was complete and the overwhelm had lessened significantly. In April 2017 we began phase two.  Not surprisingly the overwhelm began to rear its ugly head again as I anticipated issues and spending thousands of dollars beyond what was budgeted.  In actuality, we still encountered issues, but nothing as significant as in phase one and I did a better job during phase two of using my tools to help me through the rough spots.  I’m happy to report that as of December 2017 I finally considered us moved in and the house overwhelm overcome.

I appreciate you letting me close the loop on that blog posting from August of 2016 and turn the page on that period of overwhelm. This posting actually feels like a turning point for me both personally and professionally.

Personally I’m loving continuing our transition to a life of minimalism because I know nothing makes me feel less overwhelmed than the pursuit of less. To give me a place to process experiences and learning related to that process I recently launched a new blog, SlowMinimalism.com  which in turn will allow me to refocus this blog on ADHD and organizing topics. Professionally I continue to do organizer coaching, though I’ve recently decided to narrow my practice to two areas: ADHD coaching for women and coaching women who want to overcome their overwhelm through minimizing their lives.

Thank you for reading this rather lengthy piece.  It has been cathartic to finally write this post and I hope reading it has allowed you to reconnect with similar success stories in your life.  If you’re open to sharing your story of overcoming your own overwhelm, you’re welcome you to share it in the comments section below.  It never ceases to amaze me how much we can learn from each other and who knows who else reading this today might benefit from your experience.

With gratitude ~ Andrea

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4 Responses to “Time to Share Our Previously Untold Story”

  1. Janet Greene February 9, 2018 10:38 pm #

    Thank you, Andrea, for helping us in our future move to a smaller home. We will be downsizing, but in a truly organized way. If you could manage all that you did in the past two years – and maintain your amazing positive attitudes – I know that we can it, too.

  2. Linda Samuels February 10, 2018 3:54 pm #

    What a story, Andrea! There are two words that come to mind: Phew and perseverance. Seriously, though, what a wonderful silver lining that you were able to find with the gratitude focus and finding a new path forward for your business focus. Wishing you all the best as you follow your path and enjoy your new home. I took a quick look at your new website. It looks lovely and I know you’ll inspire many as you follow your minimalism path.

    • Andrea Sharb February 10, 2018 8:00 pm #

      Those are two very appropriate words Linda, especially Phew! Thank you for reading and for stopping in to comment. We are so grateful that things are coming back together again and we’re able to get on with our lives. Hugs to you!

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