Having been involved in several construction projects over the last 20 years, I am deeply familiar with the physical and emotional process that happens when building. I liken it to the process of being in labor, something I have experienced twice being a mother of two. As it is with labor, just because I have been through it before doesn’t mean that I have figured it out and that I won’t go through many of the same challenges and frustrations that I have experienced before. When a process is intense, it is easy to forget and draw upon the learnings previously received which is why it is so helpful to have a variety of emotional tools to deal with challenges as they arise. Below are 8 survival tips for your tiny house build.
1. The “Just Do It’ principle: I would say this one is at the top of my list. I just had an experience the other day in which I was installing what seemed to be an endless amount of rigid insulation in the walls. This project was tedious to say the least as we had to install the rigid material around electrical wires and plumbing, requiring a lot of custom cuts in each bay. On day three of this, at one point I felt so tired, overwhelmed and gripped by the monotony of the task that I wanted to throw my hands up in despair in a massive temper tantrum. I felt I couldn’t do another sheet that day, or the next day, or the one after that. I was done. Taking a deep breath and reminding myself of the transition period of a house build I pulled up the Just Do It principle. It allowed me to see that there was a job before me to be done. The sooner I finished it, the sooner I could be done with the whole insulation project (which sounded extremely appealing). One way or another I was going to keep on installing insulation. So my choices were to a) do it kicking and screaming and whining all the way or b) do it with purpose and grace and enjoy it as much as possible. When we commit to getting something done, it becomes clear that we have two choices, to suffer through it or to enjoy it. I personally prefer, always, to enjoy it.
2. To-Do List: Break up your project into a step by step list. This will not only help you stay on task making sure you aren’t forgetting anything but will also give you a sense of accomplishment as you scratch off each step along the way. It’s easy to lose sight of how much has already been done when stuck in that uncomfortable stage where it feels like something is never going to end. Looking back at what’s already been done is a reality check of how far I’ve already come. If you are really stuck in transition, you can break down your to do list into even smaller tasks. Ideally, these are tasks that can be accomplished in an hour or two. Small, nibble sized jobs.
3. Visualize the completed build: Generally, right around the time I am feeling most frustrated and bored with a build is when I go online and create a folder on my computer for inspiring images that resemble the image I have of my completed project. I can then take these mental images to the build and imagine the house complete in as much detail as possible while working. I become inspired and motivated to bring these images to life. This visualization puts a huge amount of fuel into my energy tanks and often keeps me going for days.
4. Taking the day off: Let’s face it, there are days that just really need to be taken off. Playing hooky and doing something totally just for fun is sometimes the best remedy for getting over a tough hump. The trick is to really give yourself permission to go and totally let go of the project. If you take the day off and in the back of your mind you are worrying about next steps or trying to figure out what to do with some technical aspect of your build, your mind is still at the job site and you are not actually getting a day off. The key is to give yourself permission to go play and to recognize that you will increase your ability to focus and be productive if you take the time to recharge your inner battery by having fun.
5. Inviting friends over: One very effective tool we use is to have close friends over at various stages of the build. Seeing the project through new eyes and hearing their perspective can give new life to a build. Plus, if you are really lucky you may even have friends who are willing and able to come over and help, and that typically makes a long day go by very quickly.
6. Music: I almost always forget this one because it’s not my inclination to put music on in general, but man, good music can make even the most torturous tasks fun. Take the time one evening to create a playlist of your favorite music and play it while working.
7. Self care: Building a house is physically and emotionally a big stretch for most people. Commit to taking excellent care of yourself. Get those 8 hours of sleep in. Stay hydrated. Support your body with healthy food so it can fuel you through the day. Take some time out each day for quiet introspection. If you aren’t well rested and taking good care of yourself, you will suffer needlessly and things will feel a whole lot harder than they need to.
8. Grin and bear it: Sometimes the truth is that a build just sucks. And there is nothing that can be done to make it feel better. Exhaustion, both physical and emotional, just takes its toll and none of the things above seem to help. And you know what? That’s OK. No one ever said that building a house was going to be easy (not even a tiny one). It will try your patience, endurance, and mindset in many many ways. But at the end you will be a stronger and more resilient person and you will know that you have a deeper tenacity than you ever could have imagined. The sense of appreciation you will feel when sleeping in your own hand built home for the first time will literally be indescribable. This house you have built will have become your baby. Where there was nothing, a void in space, there will suddenly be a home…what a trip! So have compassion for yourself on those really hard days and recognize that you are going through a major life event.For me, the process of building a house is like riding through a series of emotional peaks and lows. In the beginning, there is a sense of sheer excitement and possibility. Out of thin air, a home begins to emerge and form before my very eyes and at the end of a long day, I’m excited about waking up the next morning to start again. Stage two comes after that and I recognize it when my body starts to feel tired and drained at the end of the day and all I want to do is to put my feet up and rest for hours. Most of my creative energy is zapped and I don’t have much interest in socializing, writing, or coming up with new ideas. Though it’s pretty easy to get to work emotionally and physically the next day, I don’t have a ton of natural enthusiasm for the work I am doing and it feels more like a job.
The third emotional stage can sometimes feel as intense as transition in labor. The whole build suddenly feels overwhelming. I may feel defeated and utterly convinced that the house will never be completed. At the end of the day, all I want to do is sleep for weeks on end, or better yet, hire someone to finish up the build. Fortunately this stage doesn’t last very long in relation to the other stages and just as suddenly as it has started, it can change. And then something miraculous happens. A significant shift takes place and major parts of the project come to completion. Big tasks get scratched off the to-do list and the end is in sight. At the end, looking back, I can hardly remember that there was a time when things felt overwhelming.
What about you? What strategies do you have for dealing with those days where everything just feels like too much?