redo dilemma
Illustration: Ryan Heshka
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Avoid Burnout

Just like a thermometer reflects the temperature outside, paintbrushes can act as an indicator of the energy level inside. After painting our very first room, those brushes were well cleaned and hung neatly in rows on the pegboard in the shop. By the fifth room, they'd often lie dried and crusty in an empty paint can. Our stairwell has waited six months with only a coat of primer. Thankfully the lighting there is dim.

He says: "We started out highly motivated. Then we kept moving based on guilt. Eventually we relied on denial to keep from being depressed."

She says: "I don't know what he's talking about. I always clean my brushes."

Survival tip: Taking regular breaks every few months is important for your mental health—we try to go away for a week twice a year. Keeping a scrapbook of our progress (and our renovation blog) helps us keep going, too.

But perhaps most important is to keep a sense of humor. Because the work will seem endless. Because every day something will go wrong. The front door will fall off or you'll uncover an ant infestation or the cat's head will get stuck in that hole in the wall. When it happens, you can either collapse in a heap or you can laugh about it, grab your camera, and record it for posterity. The faster you can laugh about it, the faster you can get past it and keep moving on the renovation. In 20 years you'll wonder what all the fuss was about. At least we're hoping so.

Aaron and Jeannie Olson are amateur renovators in Chicago who blog about their experiences weekly at
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