With our garage nearly finished, my husband and I borrow a dolly from a neighbor and spend a Saturday carting cabinets out of the living room. It feels good to have some space reclaimed after a month of living among the boxes.
As we prepare for the next phase before heading out of town, I ask the contractor: "Should we pack up the kitchen before we leave?" I'm hoping to avoid arriving home to find my dishes, pots and pans stacked on the front porch. It sounds crazy, but stranger things have happened already.
I spend the days before our trip packing the contents of our kitchen and stacking the boxes around the edges of our living room. A bookcase in front of our fireplace holds a few bowls, plates and utensils. Cereal boxes line our mantle. With our furniture still stacked in the corner, we have just enough room to set up our TV and living room couches to have a "Great Room" where every aspect of life will be lived in our house for the foreseeable future.
We arrive home from our trip two weeks later to find our kitchen and family room torn out down to the studs. It's exciting to see so much progress. Our refrigerator has been moved into the living room, where it sits sandwiched between the TV and front door. Besides having a refrigerator, I learn to live without modern conveniences like a garbage disposal, a microwave, an oven and a stove. The crock-pot and barbeque are my most used appliances.
We wash dishes in a plastic bin in the bathtub. A drying rack borrowed from a friend finds a new home in the bathtub, but must be removed when our boys take showers. I use a Sharpie to label dish gloves and kitchen sponges so we won't confuse them with bathroom sponges and gloves used to clean the toilet.
Our new covered porch serves as the eating area. We enjoy seeing our neighbors while they are out pushing kids in strollers or walking dogs as we eat dinner outside every evening. They smile, wave and comment on the progress being made on the house. A few have even brought us meals or invited us over out of empathy. We know it's temporary, but have found a rhythm that makes the situation livable and are enjoying the connections with different people.
One afternoon I walk into the backyard to change a load of laundry and discover the washer still full of the rinse water that won't drain. It has officially quit on me due to the excessive dust bombarding it during construction. I stalk inside and ask my 10 year old to come help me with a "really cool" project. Intrigued, he follows me out to the backyard where I am fishing sodden beach towels out of our washer. "Take and end and start twisting," I say to him. He is impressed watching the water drain out of the towel as we wind it into tighter and tighter knots until it can wind no more.
Mercifully, the dryer still works and I throw in the towels. My next job is to bail the water out of the washer. My son is too short to reach in and help. But does find me a plastic bucket in his old sandbox. I spend about 20 minutes scooping out as much water as I can from the disabled washer. Reassuring myself that it will only be a little while longer, I decide that I can cart laundry back and forth to my mom's house 3 miles across town until our laundry room is finished. She is thrilled at the prospect of my regular "laundry visits" and even offers for me to leave multiple loads which she happily changes form the washer to the drier. She even folds it if I don't come back right away.
Around this same time, the furniture store calls telling us that the time limit for storing our new couch has expired. We must schedule delivery. I avoid the messages as long as possible, but after the third one, I finally call back: "Is there any way to postpone delivery? The room where it's going is still studs and subfloor." The delivery scheduler responds: "Sure, no problem, let me have a look..." (long pause) "Whoa, we've been holding this couch for 5 months! I can give you a few extra days, but we have to get this out of our warehouse." We agree on a date and I call my mom to ask for yet another favor.
By the following week, my mom is storing all of our appliances in her garage and our multi-piece sectional couch in her living room. She is also doing our laundry several times a week. We are thankful for her support, but mortified to be in this position.
Our society values self-sufficiency. Most people would rather hire help than ask for it, but sometimes this isn't possible. We are willing to help people in need, but never want to be the ones on the receiving end. Living in a construction zone is showing us that self-sufficiency is really just an illusion to some degree. As long as life is going the way we expect, we feel in control. But, when things go wrong, they remind us just how much we truly need other people. Struggles build character and when they're shared, they also build relationships. We've been blessed to have others come alongside us in this journey, no matter how humbling it has been to receive their help.