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The Remodeling Itch


This is probably not the most brilliant minimalist tip I have posted about.  The thing is… we run a remodeling company.  It is small, and work in this economy is slow, but it feeds the children.

… however lots of the services we provide aren’t really all that great.  Sure, my husband is very skilled, honest, and quick which makes most of our business repeat business and referrals.  …still most remodeling is unnecessary.

Harsh right?

I don’t mean to make it out to sound harsh.  I just wanted to talk a bit about the remodeling itch.  The remodeling itch is when you are always wanting to fix up your house.   Sometimes things need fixed.  Safety issues, water issues, or similar issues need to be fixed.  However, new decorating ideas and lots of HGTV ideas are not the same.

The thing is that as humans (especially in such a materialist society) we are always ‘itching’ for something better, newer, shinier, or bigger.  Is it that we have a constantly stressed out and emotionally uncomfortable state and we look for something to change, to better our situation, or to distract us?

In the past the remodeling itch has been praised as an investment.  “Don’t spend money on bigger TV’s or fancier cloths, instead invest in your house and reap the rewards later” has been preached.

Well, remodeling things that aren’t safety issues or things that aren’t broken is still a contentment thing.  Minimalism tries to fight against that by learning to be content with what you have.  There are two groups of people in life – those who are content and those who aren’t.  Those who are content don’t have everything and aren’t necessarily rich.  Those who aren’t content will not be content no matter how much they get.  Remodeling has never and will never move you from one group to the other.

Beyond the contentment issues, remodeling is not financially smart.  Back when construction and home prices were booming there was some remodeling which increased the price of the house more than the cost of the work.  This probably did make financial sense IF the owner was remodeling and then selling right away.

However, now the highest payback of any remodel is less than 80%.  It is not an investment to spend $20,000 if the best case return is to get $16,000 value back … or at worst case less than $10,000.  source 1, source 2

It has been said that a new car looses 20% of its value when it is driven off the lot… now home remodeling …at best case is like buying a new car.  Ouch right?

Now, there is one time when the remodeling itch might make financial sense.

If you are making the decision to remodel or move.  Moving is even more expensive and remodeling might be less of a financial blow.  …read, less of a financial blow … not financial sense.

Think of these costs of moving

  • Selling your house at 7% commission on a 150,000 house (less than the nation average) = 10,700
  • Closing costs on a new house = $3000 (low estimate)
  • Moving costs = Couple hundred if you rent your own truck and do all the work to thousands if you have a company move you
  • Time off work
  • Time packing and unpacking – how much is your time worth?  … this is a lot of time
  • Additional furnishings and decorations for the new change
  • Costs to start and stop services

Total anywhere from 15,000 +

So, if it is remodeling or moving than it might be worth looking at remodeling… but neither is usually an investment in this economy.

Beyond cost there is the time.  How much time is lost:

  • Dreaming of change
  • Shopping for change
  • Saving for change
  • Talking about change
  • Changing ‘change’ plans
  • Frustrated when ‘change’ doesn’t happen as planned

…especially if the next projects dreaming is starting after the last project gets completed.  This steals time from living.

Now, I have been talking about big remodeling projects.  Upkeep and regular maintenance is important on a house.  It is just part of the cost of owning a house.  Things you can do on your own for minimal cost like painting or other projects can make financial sense… just don’t get in the time trap of changing up things all the time.

I have lots of personal experience with this topic.  I would love to say that I am in the ‘contented’ group, but I have a long history of losing the battle to the remodeling itch.  The remodeling itch is one reason we live in an apartment.  Changing location to remove temptation 🙂

I totally don’t want to tell anyone what to do with their house or their money.  I just wanted to throw this post out to help if you are struggling with finding time for life.  Last weekend (in the USA) was the Memorial Day holiday.  It was probably the first Memorial Day we didn’t have a house project we were working on.  It was lovely 🙂

Do you struggle with contentment?


  1. shelly shelly

    For those who need to reduce both stuff and stress, contentment can be foreign simply due to society’s constant drive to keep up and achieve more, and more, and more… Great post. Sad how the simple solutions can be overlooked… As in “just don’t” if it’s not necessary. I wanted to also point out, though, that sometimes a bit of a remodel can open up a space or bring change that some would otherwise buy a bunch of stuff to achieve. It may give us relaxation, peace, and sometimes even a way to own our space. I too can get carried away. It truly takes a person in an honest moment with both themself and the reality of what is truly desired to be intentional rather than blind and emotional – especially with remodeling. We recently did necessary remodeling on our 130 year old house. Keeping a level head even when you need the remodel makes the bill thousands of dollars different!

    • yes, huge difference 🙂

  2. My 2 cents on remodeling is only do it if you are restoring the original look to the house, then it isn’t trendy and you hopefully will not feel the need to do it again.

  3. Kendra Carlson Kendra Carlson

    it’s a weird dilemma…i want to dig out some pavers that are topsy turvy and dig out, reset them on a bed of sand, so we can set our table on a solid surface and eat outside. pretty budget friendly – using what we have etc. but then comes the contentment part. while there’s nothing wrong with the project/goal, I am SO easily convinced that it will make me happier/more content. Clearly, I MAY like my yard better, when it’s more comfortable and usable, but if I can’t enjoy it now, will I really enjoy it then? And the anxiety about getting it done is another symptom of the chasing that can’t be healthy. Donald Miller wrote something like, “In Houston, it seems like life is all about the panic and the resolution of the panic,” (because of advertising). Panicking about not having the right style jeans etc. I’m trying to learn to enjoy projects instead of doing them out of this made-up desperation. 🙂

    • Yes 🙂 Exactly!

  4. For me, I love moving things around. I have always felt that our current house is just too big, and now that I have gotten rid of so much, it feels even bigger. I don’t think that I am that concerned about remodeling per se, mainly just trying to figure out the way our house works best for us. Sometimes I wish we could just up and leave, but it hasn’t worked out that way for us for one reason or another (i think perhaps God is trying to tell us to stay put), so now I am trying to “make my place” instead of thinking about how to get into the little house on our land that I want 🙂

  5. I agree with Heather. When I remodel, redecorate, rearrange, etc, I do it for no reason other than to make things work for us. I do love looking at pictures of other people’s houses, and yes, I sometimes think of how nice it would be to have more land (I’m pretty happy with the size of our house, if not the layout), but I’m not concerned with keeping up with anyone else. We had considered a move this summer (the land thing again) but it didn’t work out. After a lot of thought, I realized that we’re in a really great place now and I’m choosing to focus on that.

    • Jessica, thanks for sharing. Nice to meet you 🙂

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