Surviving a Kitchen Reno with a Toddler

I thought living in a one bedroom, 350 square foot sublet with a toddler was bad.  Then we moved into our new house and I was SO EXCITED to get back to a normal life with normal living space.  And then I spent a day or two looking at this kitchen….

….and I wasn’t so excited anymore.  Originally the plan was to do some quick updates in the bathrooms and then focus our attention on converting our detached garage into a music room/man cave for the hubs.  But after just a couple of days with this kitchen, we decided that it needed to be our first priority in the remodel game.  One, because it was ugly, and two because it wasn’t functional.  The layout was weird and the cabinets were installed incorrectly, rendering the uppers mostly useless.  So we went for it.  Not going to lie, I went into this project thinking it would take 7-10 days.  Are you laughing at me?  You should be.  We’re currently on day 22 (including weekends, which are not work days, but are still days I have to live with an unfinished kitchen).  The end is in sight, but we still have at least five more days of work before the kitchen is complete.  And it has been rough.  Here’s what I have learned so far:

1.  Set up one of your bathrooms as a makeshift kitchen.  You will not have a sink for most, if not all, of your reno time.  We marked off our biggest bathroom as the new kitchen sink, which means no one gets to use the toilet in there.  It is now where we wash dishes, complete with a drying station comprised of stacked boxes and a dish towel.

2.  Stock up on disposable plates, cups, and silverware.  I know this is not the best for the environment, but when you don’t have a dishwasher and your “kitchen sink” is actually a bathroom sink, the less dishes to wash, the better.  We have to wash bottles, but we don’t have to use real plates.

3.  Set up your work hours according to baby’s schedule.  Squirt is pretty good about sleeping until nine in the morning, so that is when the workers arrive for the day.  Also, try to time naps with lunch time.  Our guy usually eats during the meat of Squirt’s nap, which limits the noise.  He hasn’t been woken up by them once during this whole process.

4.  Have a baby safe area set up and ready.  Squirt is still okay in the play pen so I have it set up in the living room.  I can put him in there anytime I need to look at something in the kitchen or deal with anything I don’t want him around (since he grabs for everything under the sun, if I’m checking out anything in the work zone, I leave him in the play pen).

5.  Make sure baby’s food is readily accessible.  There are times when we physically can’t get into the kitchen so we set up a folding TV tray in the living room with all of Squirt’s food.  That way when he needs it, we can get to it no matter what is happening in the kitchen.  Additionally, we made sure our contractor knew we needed to have access to the fridge (mostly for milk).  If the fridge area is going to be blocked during the day’s work, they move it for us so we can still get into it when we need to.

6.  Socks and shoes are a must.  Squirt is not a fan of wearing either, but anytime he is walking around the house these days, he’s got them on.  In general, the rest of the house is pretty clean, but you never know what’s lurking on the floors during a reno and it’s better to be safe than sorry.

7.  Have a place you can go to escape.  There were a couple of days during the process when we took Squirt to our parents’ houses.  The water was turned off for two days while plumbing was being relocated, and there were an additional one or two days when it was too noisy for him to be in the house and have a normal day.  If you don’t have friends or family nearby to crash their pads, you might want to look into a hotel for those days (for us, they were early on in the process).

8.  Remind yourself, daily, that it is going to be worth it in the end.  There have been many times over the past 22 days that I have questioned why we are going through this.  When I have those thoughts, I look back at the before pictures and think about how much that kitchen sucked.  And then I think about how awesome the new kitchen is going to be.  And I tell myself that four weeks in the grand scheme of life is nothing.  And I pray that it really is going to be only four weeks.

If you’re interested, here’s what our kitchen currently looks like…

Needless to say, we are still undergoing renovations, but the end is near.  It has been really tough and sometimes very frustrating.  But our new kitchen is going to make it all worthwhile.  If you are considering a renovation and have a toddler, well, I would honestly put it off as long as possible!  But it can be done and if you must do it, try to keep these tips in mind, and most importantly, keep a positive attitude!


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