My Hovel, My Home: Boxed In

Home remodeling presents more challenges, inconvieniences and some surprising food for thought.

 “Hello, Mrs. McCullum, I’m calling to arrange delivery for your cabinets Friday between two and six.”  Dismayed, I respond:  “This Friday?  Is there any way we can postpone the delivery?”  “No, ma’am, I’m sorry, but that isn’t possible.  So we’ll say between two and six?”  She repeats, ignoring my pleading tone of voice.  “OK, sure.  We’ll see you Friday,” I mumble before hanging up. 

We ordered the cabinets six months earlier but held off green lighting production until six weeks ago, following our contractor’s best guess about when he’d be ready for them.  But, with the garage still under construction and the new kitchen not even started, there is no place to store them besides our living room.  Now, a disgruntled truck driver looks at us dubiously as we show him where to put the boxes. 

We have shoved our furniture to one side of the living room.  The driver takes one look and says “Lady, I don’t know how you think we’re going to unload that entire truck into this small space.”  Grimacing, I retort: “We don’t have a choice, start unloading.”

An hour later, the room is filled from floor to ceiling with boxes.  The oversized ones sit on our front porch, blocking all sunlight from coming in.   A narrow pathway leads from the front door to the kitchen and from the kitchen to the bedrooms. 

Quickly adapting, our boys make this an adventure and proceed to create an elaborate fort between our couches and the boxes.  We could learn a lot from their positive attitudes and ability to make even the worst situations fun.

The following Monday, our contractor gets his first glimpse of our box-filled living room. He is mortified and assures us that he’ll have the crew working “double time” to complete our new garage.  We try not to be cynical, but his promises
are starting to wear thin.  It would be better for us if he didn’t make them at all.

We learn to live with the boxes and without the living room.  Three weeks later, we give our nephew in college our kitchen table and couch.  We aren’t planning to keep them and they’ll be in the way when demolition starts.  He arrives to retrieve them with his two roommates.  It’s embarrassing having strangers see the house looking like a candidate for a reality show on hoarding.  With all of the boxes in our living room, the only way to take out the couch is through the back door.  Unfazed, the three college boys easily hand the couch over our back fence and carry it up our next-door neighbors’ driveway. 

Once everything is gone, the family room and kitchen feel cold and stark.    We need a temporary furniture solution and quickly get creative.  We move four cushioned patio chairs inside and put them in a row along the wall facing the TV.  It looks strikingly similar to a waiting room in a dentist’s office.  We do our best to adapt, trying to keep our focus on the mantra “It’s going to be great when it’s done.”  It’s all just part of the adventure.

Several weeks later my boys and I return home on a hot Friday afternoon cranky, tired and ready to relax.   Shocked, we find our improvised family room furniture piled in front of the sliding glass door with some plastic sheeting thrown over it.  A jackhammer pounds away at the cement slab under our family room floor, kicking up dust and making such a racket that we can’t hear ourselves think.  Neither the contractor nor his workers have given any warning about this happening today.  With the family room now unusable and our living room still filled with boxes, there is literally no place to sit in our house other than on our beds.  At this point the “adventure” starts to lose some of its shine. 

The many unanticipated events during construction are unsettling for a family used to having a plan. We like order and schedules and aren’t big on surprises.  But we’re learning how to be more flexible, to think on the fly and to come up with contingency plans.  Things that seem “big” to us really aren’t so important in the grand scheme of life.   This minor “tragedy” will be a blip in our family history.  We have plenty of food, a roof over our heads and family and friends who will help us out if the need arises.

We’ve grown up in a world that often confuses luxuries with necessities; we feel entitled to things that are actually a privilege.   Our culture emphasizes avoiding difficulties, not practicing patience.   We want to find the most efficient way to get what we want or need.  We expect everything in life to go according to plan.  When it doesn’t, our lost illusion of control causes us to see inconveniences as major tragedies.  We try to avoid difficult or uncomfortable
things at all costs, but this means we’re not adapting when faced with challenges.  I wonder if we are robbing ourselves of some significant opportunities for growth by always looking for the path of least resistance. 

I am pretty tightly wound and am slowly being unraveled.  I continue to trust that there is much to be learned through this construction process.  While the crew dismantles our house and prepares to make it over, my character and perspective are undergoing a transformation too.

If I sound conflicted, it’s because I am.  Part of me feels profound frustration at the inconveniences resulting from our contractor’s poor planning; there is no excuse for his unprofessional behavior.  Another side of me sees the
opportunity for self- examination and personal growth.  How I react to the difficult circumstances that continue to unfold shows a lot about me.  It’s painful and ugly at times, but I trust I’ll be better for it in the end…whenever that may be.




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