Remodeling and Marriage

Fixer Upper and Happily Ever After can Co-exist

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Truth be told, marriage is pretty hard core  . . . and so is remodeling. Put the two together and it can be the makings for the perfect storm. I get a lot of private emails and messages from readers and one of the most common questions I get is about how to survive remodeling when it puts such a very real stress on a marriage.

I thought I would put my answers together in one post and hopefully spare you some of the pain of learning these things that hard way, as I have.

Note- this is not a post on how to get your husband to do what you want because if you have been married more than two seconds you know that you can’t control what someone else does, not really.

This picture pretty much sums up how we got into our current house.

Fixer Upper and Happily Ever After can Co-exist

Yup, no words needed here.

With my interior design background and his amazing construction skills it was going to be our playground. And it has been, for sure! But, remodeling is a double edged sword. There have been many disagreements on what to prioritize, how much to spend, how fast to go . . .

and then there is the stress of a house torn apart and piles of tools to step over every day.

This path is not for the faint of heart.

We have spent approximately two hours on every square inch of this house and as it becomes more and more beautiful, so does our marriage. The house has become a tangible picture of our marriage. There are still hard days, but I am here to say that you can renovate an entire house and love each other because of it, not in spite of it.

By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.

-Proverbs 24:3-4

Remodeling and Marriage

Here are some tips for avoiding marital strife as you work on your house. . .

Fixer Upper and Happily Ever After can Co-exist

Timing is everything with conversations and requests, don’t try to talk when either one of you is exhausted, stressed or hungry.

Choose your battles and know which hill you are going to die on. Does it really matter to you which sheen of paint to use on the baseboards?

Do what you can or hire out if that is an option, don’t exhaust him with the little things. If you can fix something or hang something, just do it. Save him for the things you can’t physically do and have no clue about. Incidentally, don’t ask his advice when you don’t really want it. Ha! Do you know how many times I have asked him about something that I have spent countless hours on and he puts two seconds into it and gets me all frazzled because his idea is now clashing with mine? If you ask him his opinion, he will try to make one and he may not even care about the topic!

Fixer Upper and Happily Ever After can Co-exist

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Have a set dollar amount each month that goes towards to the remodel and let that set your pace, it will inevitably feel like a snail’s pace, but I promise you good design takes time. The rooms I have rushed on, I am ready to change in a few years. And the ones that took months and years to finish are total works of art.

Take lots of pictures so you remember how far you have come. You will be amazed!

Factor in each other’s love languages if you can. If you don’t know what those are you can check out The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman.  I need “acts of service” and he needs “quality time”. But, I would rather he build custom cabinets and rewire a room for a chandelier than do the dishes for me. He works on the house to communicate love to me, but he feels loved when I work beside him on the house. See how that works? Knowing our combination has helped us to move forward and strategically care for each other.

Fixer Upper and Happily Ever After can Co-exist

Let the expert be the expert. I am 100% aesthetics and he is 100% function, it feels that way anyway. This was how a typical conversation went for years:

Me: “Honey, I know what I want to do, I want to do (fill in the blank)!!!

Him: blank stare, “No, that is a terrible idea. I am not doing that, NOBODY does that.”

Me: my eyes lighting up, “So, you are saying its totally unique and custom? Basically, you are saying I’m a trend setter.”

Him: “No, I am saying there is a reason I have never seen that, because its crazy.”

Now sometimes, he is right, the house would fall down if I did that. Or he would be hitting his head on something every time he walked into the room. But, other times he needs to give the new idea a chance.

This is an area where we have come a long way, he says he has grown to trust my design instincts and just let me work and I have learned that when he blows the whistle it is usually about functionality and I need to listen.

 A couple of years ago he said to me, “I don’t know what it is you do to a room, I just know that when you are finished, I love being in that room.”

That meant the world to me.

We are learning to trust each other’s strengths.

Celebrate AAAALLLL the steps forward!! For every curtain rod hung and every paint color decided upon, celebrate! This is a journey, you are writing a story together. Not everyone has this story, remodeling a house together is something to be proud of.

Fixer Upper and Happily Ever After can Co-exist

Last week we celebrated 19 years of marriage and our house adventures have been some of our sweetest memories to date.

So, here’s to Remodeling and Marriage and date nights at home improvement stores!!


Black and white photos taken by the lovely and talented Jon+Moch Photography.

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  1. October 5, 2016 / 11:05 AM

    We just celebrated 24 years on Monday & this our 1886 farmhouse in progress is our 7th remodel – our biggest ever. (just revealed our kitchen)
    My thoughts: try to laugh a lot and remember you are on the same team. (Also try to pick a mate with not so definite design opinions!)
    Wonderful post Sarah!!

    • Sarah | She Holds Dearly
      October 6, 2016 / 10:02 PM

      Yes! Your kitchen is drop dead gorgeous, as I knew it would be. Oh congrats on 24 years! I didn’t know we were both autumn brides! One more reason we are friends. And it sounds like you have maybe have spent your entire 24 years living in remodels, maybe you should have written this post. Haha!

  2. Dana
    October 5, 2016 / 11:13 AM

    This is a great post! One thing I try to remember when I’m discouraged, is this is not my true home — its in Heaven. Also the children are watching as you “negotiate.” 🙂 You have a beautiful blog! Thank you!

    • Sarah | She Holds Dearly
      October 6, 2016 / 10:02 PM

      Both excellent points! I couldn’t agree with you more, Dana!

  3. Vanessa
    October 5, 2016 / 11:16 AM

    You two are adorable! Congratulations!!!!!!!! Love the scripture!

    • Sarah | She Holds Dearly
      October 6, 2016 / 10:03 PM

      Oh, thank you, dear! What a sweet thing to say. And, yes, that scripture should be framed in our house. I should get that done.

  4. pamela
    October 5, 2016 / 3:38 PM

    Great post. Congrats!!

    • Sarah | She Holds Dearly
      October 6, 2016 / 10:04 PM

      Thank you, Pamela, I really appreciate that!

  5. October 5, 2016 / 4:37 PM

    Love this, Sarah! Such truth and wisdom – ands Happy Anniversary!

    • Sarah | She Holds Dearly
      October 6, 2016 / 10:04 PM

      Beth, you are so good to me. Thank you very much!

  6. Tanya Hulbert
    October 8, 2016 / 9:25 PM

    Such a timely post, as you know, we are experiencing some major projects at the Hulbert Home. I really love the Proverbs verse and I just may have it framed in my home one of these days. Thank you for all the sweet tips for us to show love along this exciting but sometimes challenging course we’re on! Love you!

    • Sarah | She Holds Dearly
      October 18, 2016 / 6:03 PM

      Oh, I love the idea of framing that verse! I know you are dealing with a lot of the stress of remodeling, too. You are passing with flying colors, though, my friend.

  7. October 9, 2016 / 11:41 AM

    What a cute house and cute couple! Inspiring tips for working together and being unified.

    • Sarah | She Holds Dearly
      October 18, 2016 / 6:03 PM

      You are so sweet, thank you, Heidi!

  8. October 11, 2016 / 7:48 PM

    Having only done some basic DIY remodels in our new home, this still rings crazy true for me! Excellent tips! Thank you for sharing at Merry Monday!

    • Sarah | She Holds Dearly
      October 18, 2016 / 6:04 PM

      Yes, it is a challenge, isn’t it? I hope these tips help to make the path smoother.

  9. October 16, 2016 / 1:58 PM

    Such a great post! Thank you so much for joining the party at Dishing It & Digging It! Hope to see you share with us this week!

    • Sarah | She Holds Dearly
      October 18, 2016 / 6:07 PM

      Thank you for your kind words and for hosting such a great party, Angie!

  10. Jayne
    March 27, 2017 / 12:00 PM

    YOU have such a lovely blog…thank you for sharing your wonderful HOME with us…such fun !!
    …lovely to see YOU & your HUSBAND loving and caring for each other, it shows…CONGRATULATIONS, your photo is great !
    Enjoy the SONshine, Jayne

    • Sarah | She Holds Dearly
      March 29, 2017 / 6:16 PM


      Your words mean so much, thank you. You just made my day!

  11. Amy
    September 30, 2018 / 8:59 AM

    Thank you for sharing this! My husband and I celebrated 27 years recently & as I ponder the passing years, some of my favorite memories include us working together on our home and our garden, landscaping. Somehow, it brings us together even when there’s friction between us. Ive come to think theres a reason God put the first man and woman together in a garden to make a home! I love following you on IG and all your stories as well as your blog. Your beauty and thriftiness are a true gift!

  12. July 23, 2020 / 11:17 PM

    For years, I didn’t know what my style truly was, so I just followed the fashions that came and went. However, I can say for certain that Farmhouse is where I shall be for a long time. I also like Shabby Chic, but the hubs doesn’t like pink, green, and white and roses together, so Farmhouse is our compromise. However, as I’m reorienting our house to the farmhouse style, I’m bumping up against my hoarding husband and his collections of books and DVD’s. We have three bookcases full in the living room, plus piles on the floor and a bookcase in the bedroom plus piles on the floor and I’ve taken 3 trash bags of stuff from our house back to the thrift store so far because it’s NOT farmhouse. My mother built a she-shed out in the back for my art and craft studio for Valentine’s Day a couple of years ago, but he is filling with boxes of his stuff and I don’t know how to help him be more treasure selective. That verse in Proverbs says it all and is one of my favorite verses along with it’s corresponding verse Matthew 13:52. I’m at my wit’s end – Psalm 107:27-30. We’ve been married 38 years.

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