Lessons from a DIY Renovation: Self Care, Priorities and Balance

Over the past 12 months, I’ve learned some valuable lessons. But the past three months working virtually nonstop on my fifties fixer upper have taught me one of the most important: when the way you spend your time doesn’t match your values, everything goes downhill pretty quickly. After three months of neglecting the things I love the most in order to tear out carpet and tear down walls and tear out tile, I had a house that was coming together as far as appearances were concerned. But I was completely spent: physically, mentally and emotionally. In neglecting my writing, my health, travel and my relationships in order to focus every ounce of my being on getting my house livable, I’d honestly started to forget who I was. 

What is self care, exactly?

While I’ll admit that the previous sentence sounds a bit dramatic, I’m not going to sugarcoat this particular topic.

In my opinion, self care is a trendy term that tends to be grossly misunderstood. While it is certainly nice to buy yourself flowers and a bottle of champagne and a manicure every once in awhile, in my experience, those things will never make up for misalignment between the way you spend your time and your values. The core of taking care of yourself, in my opinion, is simple: spend as much of your time as possible working towards achieving goals you care about.

I’ll be the first to admit that laser-like focus on any goal, the kind of focus that consumes every second of your free time and keeps up you all night, isn’t healthy in the long-term. However, that kind of focus is sometimes necessary (my friends taking the LSAT and GMAT within the next month come to mind as examples). The difference between removing distractions to work wholeheartedly towards one thing you love for a short amount of time and neglecting everything you care about to do something you feel needs to be done is simple: in one case, you care about the goal, and in the other case, you don’t.

While I obviously need a working bathroom in the place where I live, I don’t love remodeling bathrooms.

I love to write and travel and spend time with people I care about, and a whole host of other things that do not involve laying tile for 12 hours straight.

I know what you are thinking: if working on a house isn’t something I’m passionate about, then why did I buy a house?

Fair question.

Actually, I’ve been thinking about my answers to this question quite a bit recently, so I’d like to share them here in case they help anyone else finding themselves in my particular conundrum… or an unrelated conundrum of their own.

For one thing, I didn’t know how I felt about remodeling a house until I tried it.

In my opinion, the only real way to figure out what you want to do with your life is to try things. And while I’ve always loved interior design/decorating (and still do), I have now discovered that I don’t want to be a general contractor, tile-layer or plumber. And I don’t want to crawl in crawlspaces, because crawlspaces are just not fun places to hang out, in my experience. So those are a few career options I can cross off my list.

Second, I may not dislike working on this house as much as I feel like I do in this exact moment.

Ever heard the saying, “too much of a good thing”? There isn’t much in the world that I wouldn’t get tired of after three months straight with no breaks. And by no breaks I don’t just mean spending every second of free time physically working on the house, I mean thinking about house problems and how to solve them late into the night, being woken up at 3:00 am by house problems that my brain hasn’t figured out how to solve yet, never-ending conversations about the house with so many people voicing opinions on how to fix certain things and when those fixes should occur and why the things I’ve already fixed weren’t right.

Whew. That’s just too much of a good house.

Finally, despite the fact that I want to live elsewhere at some point in my life, I’ve always wanted to own a house in Nashville... and this was the right time for me to buy one.

On an everyday basis in my full-time job, I analyze numbers and use logic to make decisions. However, if there is a conflict between what the numbers say and what my gut says, I tend to be a person that trusts my gut. In the case of buying this house in the fall of 2017, both the numbers and my gut said that it was a good decision… and at the end of the day, I still believe it was.

Resolving to Better Balance Priorities

After reviewing my accomplishments and failures from 2017, I’m still finalizing my 2018 New Years’ Resolutions. However, I have made one decision on my resolutions for the coming year: as opposed to writing out five specific goals I want to accomplish, I’m instead listing five priorities I want to focus on.

And perhaps most importantly, I’m giving the five priorities equal weight.

Going forward, one of my priorities will definitely be the house (since at this point my fixer upper is far from completely fixed). However, I intend to learn from my mistakes in 2017 and balance it better with my other priorities. We all have to do some things we enjoy less than others, but in pursuit of those things, we can’t neglect ourselves and the things we enjoy to such an extent that we forget who we are.

So I intend to take plenty of breaks from work on the house in 2018 to write, travel, spend time with friends and hopefully, regain some much needed balance.

What priorities are you focused on in 2018? Do you have thoughts on keeping priorities balanced? Feel free to share in the comments!