This is the first of a multi-part blog about communication and conflict management during a remodel of my kitchen, during COVID, with a cat and a dog, in a small house with 2 adults.
Ask anyone about their experience with remodeling and you will get a variety of responses. None of which will be “best experience ever!”.
We bought our 1923 home 3 ½ years ago. Super charming. Super cute. Super impractical for our lifestyle. The location was what really sold us as well as the bright yellow shingles and steep bungalow roof line. It was not about the kitchen. We love to cook and the kitchen was woefully inadequate. It had the original 1923’s cabinets including the ventilation holes in the cupboards for root storage. I knew a remodel was in the future. I created designs and had mental fantasies about the possibilities. I even had 3 contractors come out and give me estimates. Those estimates quickly put a damper on my fantasies.
2020 was the year of all years, at least for this generation. For us, it was finally time to remodel and apparently everyone else isolated at home thought the same thing. Planning for the remodel began in late summer of 2020 and the first hammer was swung the second week of 2021.
A remodel is stressful. Period. Yet, you can manage the stress by being proactive and putting into place conflict management strategies. The most important is to recognize that there are key relationships that a remodel entails. Communication is absolutely key with your contractor(s), family members, neighbors, and workplace. We aren't always at our best when there is disruption at home. Planning upfront as much as possible is the first step. Second is addressing issues when they arise and not ignoring them.
Family and Household Members
First, check-in with your family members. Reality check if this is really a good time to embark on having your home disrupted for 4, 8, 12 weeks or more. During COVID, we are home working, schooling, entertaining, and eating. If everyone is in the midst of work and school with no alternatives to relocate, this may not be the best time.
Next, come up with agreements for your household on how you will all communicate. Ground rules are a good tool to keep everyone on the same page. "Be kind to each other" and "assume positive intent" are 2 agreements that have helped us weather the process. We also agreed that I would solely communicate with the general contractor to avoid micromanaging and misinformation. And recognizing that our home was a worksite between 8:00 am and 4:00 pm during the week, also helped us mentally prepare for and accept the disruption.
Create and Post Family Agreements
Write down your family agreements and post where everyone can see them. This is a living document that can be added to and amended as your needs change. Get everyone involved in the agreement creation and be creative!
Link here to see our Family Agreements
Next blog: making the commitment to move forward and working with vendors.
“…the more unexpected something is, the more there is to learn from it.” Michael J Fox.
2020 was unexpected. March 15th was not circled on anyone’s calendar as the day that life as we knew it would cease to exist. As the year progressed, employees were furloughed and businesses shut down completely. 2020 also forced to look at our systems that discriminate and create inequities for others based on the color of one’s skin. And as the pandemic continued with no end in sight, our communities struggled, people gathered together to protest violence and inequities, families stayed physically distant for safety, first responders worked relentlessly, and still we got sick and lost loved ones. No one was immune from the key events of 2020.
The workplace and business community were forced to either pivot to a new normal or weather the challenges. Were any of us prepared? Despite the fact that my years with FEMA have taught me that organizations should have a Business Continuity Plan (see below) just in case of disasters or interruptions to operations, connecting that type of thinking to a pandemic most likely never entered the realm of planning and thought. However, if we can glean anything from Michael J Fox, 2020 has been a year to learn from. 2020 provided the opportunity to question why we do what we do and the way we do it.
I have seen several friends, family and colleagues use 2020 as an opportunity to take a risk by changing careers, going back to school, or moving to a new state. If 2020 had been a “normal” year, the risk of change might have been too great. 2020 was the year where it felt less risky since there wasn’t really an alternative.
Others have thrived in their present careers/jobs. Mortgage lenders are working with clients to refinance or purchase homes due to the low rates. Those in delivery and online businesses are working non-stop -- 60, 80 hours or more a week. And our tireless grocery workers keeping us fed (well maybe too well fed!) by showing up every day, cleaning and stocking shelves, and bagging our groceries.
Tech, entertainment, and office based businesses have had to rise to the challenges of this year. Yet, the larger the organization, sometimes the harder it is to change. 2020 provided the opportunity for companies of all sizes to push the “pause” button and take the time to internally make those changes due to necessity and vision. As one CEO of a PBJ top 100 Fastest Growing Companies shared, 2020 allowed for the “restructuring of the organization in a much shorter amount of time” because of the interruption that 2020 offered. Her team had the time and motivation during 2020 to “do differently” and beginning January 2021, that is exactly what they will be doing. Other CEO’s and community leaders have generously shared their strategies for keeping employees motivated and their doors open. Another PBJ top 100 CEO shared that “finding ways to celebrate good things…making each other better” as ongoing cultural values that sustained them during 2020 and into 2021.
If 2020 has shown us anything, it is that we are resilient and can rise to the challenge. This doesn’t mean that there are quick fixes. Words are important but actions are what demonstrate true change. From Majora Carter, once listed as one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business by Fast Company magazine, “If we are going to be part of the solution, we have to engage the problems.”
The calendar has flipped to 2021. There is now hope that didn’t exist 8 months ago in regards to the pandemic. But engaging in the real problems is where the hard work continues. What we learned from the unexpected of 2020 can help us better navigate and do better in 2021 and beyond.
With gratitude and a wish to you for a prosperous, healthy and Happy New Year. Most of all, take time for self-care and to just breathe. There will always be time to explore the unexpected...
Sunny E. Sassaman Conflict Management and Dispute Resolution Consultant