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Home Improvement & Life Improvement

Changing your environment can change your state of mind

Life Improvement and Home Improvement

A couple of years ago, California passed a law permitting people to turn their garages into separate apartments (accessory dwelling unitis the official term), and since we have a rental that fit the requirements, we decided to go forward. It was not a mistake by any means, but a lot more effort and money went into this little in-law unit than I would have imagined possible.

I work to manage my anxiety with meditation, but I found myself overwhelmed by permits, construction lingo, and workers. I have never been a builder, and I looked at this as more of a remodel—and I was just wrong. I ended up building a 525-square-foot designer flat and deserve an award of some kind because it didn’t kill me.

Perhaps the desire to build something came from watching too many hours of DIY and HGTV. They make it look so fun and simple, right? First you find the place (we already had that). Then you find the team and—presto!—you hang your family portrait above the mantle. Well, I may have overlooked a couple of things, as I got a belly laugh from the person I proudly presented my hand-sketched design to.

Most importantly, I needed someone to manage the project, because my skill set in this area is pretty challenged. No, it’s not as easy as it looks like on television. I was in way over my head, and thankfully a good friend stepped up to help me out.

It took three months just to get the permits, and although we had many laughs, on the whole this was work not play. I don’t think I’ll be starting my own reality designer series anytime soon. I can’t even watch any of those shows right now. Call it input overload: when there are too many choices, it makes some decisions harder.

Our process for making decisions is to talk them out as a couple and come to a mutual agreement. I have known relationships that have broken up over a remodel, and although our creative hearts and souls are deep into this little house, nothing is worth arguing over. We made that decision going in and so far have stuck to it. We are just waiting for the city to do a final inspection, and we will camp out in there that night to celebrate!

I like making improvements and generally try to do something every day to make our lives a little nicer. Building the addition has been a lot bigger than cleaning out a junk drawer, but I do see it as an extension of that goal. I really didn’t plan on it taking over my entire life, but it also has brought unexpected rewards.

After the fires, which we were lucky to escape, a lot of rebuilding is going on, and with it, there is also a rebuilding of your psyche from all that was lost. While the entire community is still feeling the pain, it doesn’t get any better if you don’t actually do something about it. So now I am also in a bit of a rush to get this project finished, so someone who lost their home in the fires will have a place to live.

And, of course, a week after it is done, I’ll probably be looking for another project, but isn’t that called living your life?