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So it’s the end of September and we’re all trying to make the most of the last little bit of summer. If you’re anything like me, you will enjoy autumn, but it will be all too short and soon winter will be here. I know, I know…we don’t want to think about that…at all! “Really, please not now, not yet”, I hear you say. BUT, a little bit of forward planning now and, I promise, you will survive winter whilst renovating your house and enjoy it!
Ok…if you’re still with me and have not legged it to light the last barbie of the year in protest, let me give you some super handy tips to help you get through it.
First of all sit down (perhaps with a glass of wine…it might lessen the pain! Worth a try!) and start a plan of action. I don’t know about you, but winter used to catch me unawares, and majorly unprepared. I hated it, and what it threw at us. Cold, rain and mud are not my friends and I would dive into a depression and not want to do anything. One mention of Christmas would just make me angry, frustrated and filled with dread. However, I turned a corner, took a grip of myself, and now with a little prioritising it’s not nearly so bad.
So, on to your Survive Winter Plan of Action…
It’s easy to get carried away with various tasks throughout the summer that then drag on a little longer. (Doesn’t everything take more time and effort than you expect??) Suddenly the weather changes and the roof is leaking; doors or windows need to go in or you have not yet tackled the insulation. Maybe you’re without heating, a kitchen, comfortable sitting room or bedrooms. Now is the time to prioritise. Decide which of these jobs is the most important for your survival and comfort and get them ticked off if you possibly can.
AVOID PROBLEMS LATER
If you are lucky enough to have heating installed, don’t forget to order oil or gas if necessary. Organise logs or wood pellets, if you use them, and have them easily accessible and undercover.
Consider putting down some gravel or hardcore if you have gateways or drives. They look fine now, but only need a quick downpour to become a swamp and make all your work doubly difficult and curseworthy. (We’re on clay, and it’s right sticky, so this is a biggie for me!).
CREATE A SANCTUARY
Depending on the size and state of your project, it is so much more appealing if you have at least one room that you can turn into a winter hideaway. A room that can be kept warm, clean, cosy and comfortable. Somewhere to relax in the evenings. Somewhere to spend time with friends. Somewhere to get away from it all. Make it inviting. Have some lap blankets or small quilts for keeping off any pesky draughts. Use some if you’re not quite there with your wiring and lighting…so atmospheric, and you can’t see the dust and chaos nearly so well! Really go to town on your little sanctuary, it will be a moral boost every single evening.
MAKE IT COSY! HERE’S MY PICK OF GORGEOUS CANDLES
click on image for details and arrow for more
It goes without saying (and I am someone who is always so cold in the winter) that you have to have the right clothing to stay happy and productive. Thermal undies are fab! There…I’ve said it, and I freely admit, my long johns have basically kept me alive. Also, I really love warm, lined trousers too. Really good footwear and thermal insoles are essential for working outside (or in, if you’re doing a mad build like us!). I absolutely love my muck boots! as they are so easy to slip on and off and I’m far too busy (lazy!) to be faffing with laces.
Finding gloves that you can work in is tricky. It depends on the jobs you are doing and everyone has their own preference, but I still find getting good working gloves for girls difficult. However, I have found arm-warmers can keep me almost as warm as an extra layer, and I have made many a pair out of ski socks with the feet cut off! Needs must!
Woolly hats can either work or be really annoying, but snoods are great for keeping your neck warm and so much more convenient than scarves.
This is important. Everyone knows Vitamin D is good for you. So many people seem to suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). My mood always lifts as the sun comes out. So, if you possibly can try to find a little corner outside where you can put a bench or a couple of deckchairs. A place in the sun and out of the wind, to sit for ten minutes on a good day and have a cup of tea (or glass of wine!!). This will give you a real boost. And, make a point of actually doing it, just for me!
It’s also handy to have a list of nice outdoor jobs you can do on sunny days. They get you out and about and can do you the world of good. Depending on where you live, these may be few and far between, so make the most of them.
TAKE YOUR VITS!
Talking of vitamins, I know it’s obvious, but if you’re working hard and maybe not eating so well, a really good vitamin supplement can help you ward off the winter lurgies. Who needs those? We have enough to deal with. On this note, I cannot recommend enough Vick’s First Defence at that first tickle of a cold. Get stocked up!
BREAK UP THE WINTER
If you are in the position of being able to take a short break during the winter, it is one of the things that we have found makes the season seem the shortest. Our lovely daughter works in the Alps in the winter and the last two seasons we have been able to go and visit for a week. I can’t tell you how good that is for the moral and how it seems to shorten the winter. Whether you like to ski or you prefer the sun, maybe this is the time to book a little break during February or March. This will give you something to look forward to and a little rest and relaxation. Even a weekend or a day out can work wonders. A change is as good as a rest, as they say, and usually if you’re somewhere different you find you don’t even think about home. Rest for the mind too.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Meal planning when perhaps you only have half a kitchen can be a challenge. But, if you think ahead, it can be super easy, stress-free and delicious. I really recommend investing in a crockpot (or slow cooker). You throw in a few ingredients in the morning and have a lovely hot, satisfying meal ready, as and when you want it in the evening. Very little effort involved…win win. If you have a hard-working DIY husband like me, they need feeding pronto at the end of the day, and to have something nutritious and yummy up your sleeve, ready to serve with no work to do when you’re exhausted is a godsend.
If you already have such a wonder as a crockpot, then a few pre-prepared and frozen meals, ready to throw in first thing in the morning, will make you feel even more like Superwoman. So easy and so satisfying! Recipes and meal plans coming soon…watch this space.
Have a free day? I know, chance would be a fine thing! But, if you can, whizz up some vegetable soups to freeze for cheap, healthy lunches. Make a huge batch of chili con carne or curry for the nights when you are just too tired to cook from scratch, or the kitchen is out of action.
A bread maker is another appliance we could not live without. Toast or sandwiches, without all the preservatives, or even a lovely, filling, old-fashioned ploughmans’s lunch, will keep the wolf from the door on the dreariest of days.
CATCH UP WITH FRIENDS
On the subject of food (and drink of course!), there is absolutely no reason why you can’t do a bit of entertaining, even though you may be in chaos. Have a plan, do a little work beforehand, and hey presto, simple party on the cards. Socialising need not be a big deal. If you plan ahead, you can buy a few essentials the next time you shop, keep them on one side and when you have everything in order…and only then… invite your friends. Chances are they will be dying to see your progress, and you will have the satisfaction of meeting up and providing a lovely evening or afternoon, with not too much effort or stress involved.
If even this seems all too much, organise a little soirée at your local pizzeria, get together with your friends and let off steam. So good for the moral (and your friends stop thinking of you as mad hermits!).
Or even get in some beers and a couple of wine boxes and ask your friends to come with a dish to share. They could even bring a deckchair and knife and fork if needs be. People really don’t mind and are often happy to help, if you’re brave enough to ask.
We all groan when the first Christmas advert comes on in October and I would normally be the first person to want to slap anyone who even uttered the word so early, but bear with me on this one.
You either love Christmas and embrace it or you find it rather draining. My only suggestion is…get it sorted NOW! Yes, in October! I’ve always found Christmas a nightmare, to be honest. So much expectation. So much organising. So much shopping. Wrapping presents on my own at midnight when everyone has gone to bed , accompanied only by a large glass of Baileys and the dog. How I wished I had been more organised. Well, the year I Christmas-shopped in October and stuffed and froze our turkey at the beginning of December…well it was a breeze, and I LOVED IT! What a revelation!
I know, probably most “normal” people do that anyway, but when you are living in the midst of dust, rubble and unfinished rooms, Christmas dinner tends to be the last thing on your mind. I have visions now of the year our turkey was crammed in the tiny Baby Belling cooker that my husband had rescued off some dump several months earlier. It literally touched all sides of the thing and we had to have boiled potatoes as there was no room for any in the oven. How we even acquired said turkey is another story. I will share that with you some other time!
POSITIVITY, POSITIVITY, POSITIVITY!
Winter is tough on a build. You really have to try hard to make the best of it and a positive attitude can get you through the toughest times. Seeing some good in every situation is a must. Even little things like trudging back and forth with the wheelbarrow can be more satisfying if you have invested in a Fitbit, for example, and you feel the work is actually doing you a service. Two benefits in one!
Taking photographs, logging your progress, making the most of beautiful days, taking time out, will all help.
LOOK AFTER YOURSELF
Above all, take care of you. Us girls may not be the strongest, most productive contributors to the project, but don’t forget, your input is always invaluable. We keep our husbands and partners going, and we often do jobs that others wouldn’t want to do, like ongoing monotonous tasks and clearing up (well in my case anyway!). It’s easy to get wrapped up in the whole renovation world and let yourself go. BUT DON’T!! We are special, so never forget to put on your glad rags from time to time and have fun. Winter is hard, but if you’re busy, motivated, productive and happy, Spring arrives that much faster.
IN THE MEANTIME
Enjoy the beauty of Autumn and all that the season has to offer. Relax in the knowledge that you now have your Survive Winter Plan. Start to implement these tips and have everything in hand to finish the year relatively stress-free and organised. Soon you will be better able to deal with the building chaos around you and will enjoy the process in to the bargain.
If you have any of your own winter hacks, ideas or tips, do please leave a comment below. I would love to hear from you. We need all the help we can get!! And please share if you know anyone else in our situation that could do with a boost x