As Project New Kitchen is now drawing to a conclusion, I thought I would share with you some pointers I've discovered along the way to help maintain some semblance of order and normality with family life.
It's often remarked that a kitchen is the 'heart of the home' and when that heart is scattered around all over the house (and garage, garden and driveway in our case!) it can be quite unsettling for the whole household.
I was (unusually) calm amidst the chaos, seeing it more as an inconvenience rather than a hardship. The KITCHEN OF DREAMS 😍 was firmly in my sights after four years of making do with what we inherited from the previous owners!
James, however, found it very difficult to relax at home when he was sat next to the dining table on the sofa of an evening, or going to bed in a room that had doubled up as a laundromat, sandwiched between the (clean) odd socks and an ironing board. I'm pleased to report that normal service has resumed and he is back to his typically cheery self. All our kitchenalia has been lovingly placed into the new cupboards and drawers; the iron is back in the utility room.
I think the odd socks are *still* next to his side of the bed, but we'll keep quiet about that until he notices, yeah? 😉
As for the children, as much as they thrive on structure and routine, I think they saw a break from the norm as quite the adventure. They fully embraced visiting McDonald's, the fish 'n' chip shop and Domino's all in the space of a fortnight - a very rare treat indeed.
So, in no particular order of importance, here are my top survival tips:
- Be prepared for the evil dust. It sneaks everywhere.
- Accept that once you've chosen your new kitchen it could be months before work starts. When the time does come around to start it could be at very short notice. Flexibility is key here.
- Run down your fridge and cupboards in the weeks before the work starts. This makes it so much easier to pack up in the first instance and then unpack again afterwards. While you're at it, sort your kitchen items into three piles: keep, put aside for the makeshift kitchen, and dispose. Because everybody has herbs that are 294 years out of date, don't they? Or tins that haven't seen the light of day since the mid-noughties and have somehow escaped the annual donate-to-school-Harvest purge? Oh, maybe that's just me... ;)
- Make food ahead and freeze. I made a week's worth of grated cheese sandwiches for the family and froze them; they are absolutely fine if you take them out the night beforeto thaw. Boring? Yes. But needs must and it saved us a small fortune. I also batch cooked some meals that could simply be reheated and served with easy sides. Pulled pork to put in rolls or baguettes, chicken curry to serve with microwave packet rice etc. Just ensure that you freeze everything in plastic or glass containers to reheat in the microwave and not in foil trays like I did with the lasagne I prepared. Genius, Carly! 🙄
- Set up a makeshift kitchen elsewhere in the house with all the basic essentials and appliances you might need. We set up the toaster, microwave, slow cooker (which we didn't use) and kettle on the old dining table that had been moved into the living room.
- If your children are of school age, consider ordering them hot school meals for lunchtime. At least then you can rest assured that they've had a decent meal andsmugly serve them beans on toast for their dinner.
- Consider boarding your dogs and sending your felines to a cattery for the duration of the work. The contractors will appreciate not having an cat disdainfully overseeing their work (speaking from experience here!) and in general, pets can be very disturbed by the change in their homes and routines.
- Stick to the original plan or costs could snowball. Agree on what the job entails and hammer out a fixed cost before any work is undertaken. Ensure you have a contingency fund just in case you decide to go ahead andorder the pendants that dreams are made of from Denmark. It's so easy to get carried away in the excitement of choosing all these shiny new things.
- Be prepared for dust. Everywhere. Have I mentioned that yet?!
- Drink instant coffee. Ain't nobody got time (or space) to make flat whites and French presses for the multitude of tradesmen working on site. I drank instant Nescafe Azera for a couple of weeks and I've lived to tell the tale. It wasn't all that bad, if I'm being totally honest...
- Take advantage of offers to cook for you, or go away for a short while. We decamped to James' parents for a weekend for home cooked meals, comfort and respite. It was just what we needed by that point; we'd exhausted the ready meal selection at Waitrose and the novelty of a 'ping meal' had long worn off. Plus, getting a lie-in when the grandparents are prepared to wake up with the children is always a bonus, in my book!
- Figure out your dishwashing strategy beforehand. Do you have access to a sink in a utility room? Or could you use a washing up bowl in the bath? Alternatively, you could just buy a metric sh*t-tonne of disposable paper plates and cutlery. Ensure you then repent and turn to God for atonement of this environmental sin by diligently recycling everything that crosses your threshold thereafter.
- See if you can move your fridge and plug it in a different room for the duration of the work (be prepared to have to dispose of this yourselves afterwards, though). Us Brits need fresh, cold milk for our morning brews, don't we? It would be a step too far to deprive me of that life essential: a steaming cup of tea first thing.
- Be prepared for dust. It gets everywhere. And anywhere. Now is not the time to be house proud.
- Acknowledge that your garage will become a de facto dumping ground (*cough* graveyard). Out of sight, out of mind, as the saying goes. To avoid this, devote a morning to sorting this out as soon as you've unpacked everything else into your new kitchen. If my husband can't get to the lawnmower when spring comes, then all hell will break loose (nothing comes between that man and his lawnmower!). I'd better prioritise that particular action on my to do list!
- Get used to people coming and going throughout the day. There will be noise. There will be chaos. There will be early starts and there will be DUST. But remember, it is only temporary. This too shall pass.
- Accept that nutrition goes out the window, and that is absolutely okay in the short term. It won't harm you to eat a diet of beige for a couple of weeks. Don't feel guilty for having a takeaway; see the bigger picture. I can never decide if it is fortuitous or not (for both my bank balance and waistline!) that we cannot have any food delivered to where we live. If we could, then Just Eat would have been the Belisha beacon of my iPhone homescreen and I'd probably be on first name terms with the deliveroo guys by now!
- Lower your standards (temporarily). It won't turn your children into juvenile delinquents to eat their food on the sofa in front of the TV. My three actually saw carpet picnics as exciting! (Sidenote: I usually run a pretty tight ship when it comes to etiquette and manners chez Sharples. They always eat at the table.)
Oh, and did I mention the dust?! It gets everywhere. 😋
We are coming out the other side of our project now and I'm so excited to share the finished room with you. All that's left to do now is snagging, sockets and painting (oh, and declutter that garage graveyard I'd forgotten about...!). I couldn't recommend our kitchen designer highly enough for guiding us through this process - he really did minimise as much disruption as he possibly could. Extra kudos for being very good natured when being brought play tea by Sophia, or being greeted by a decaffeinated, dressing gowned, bedraggled me in the mornings. You can check out his services here if you happen to be local to Lincolnshire and are thinking of making home improvements yourself.
Don't sweat the small stuff. It will be worth it in the end.
If I've missed anything, or you have some tips to share, please do feel free to leave a comment or drop me a message and I will be sure to update this post with the gleaned wisdom received.