Building a house can be, or I dare say, will be stressful. If you plan for a way to handle the stress ahead of time, you will have a better chance of success. I don’t want to scare you off from building, but I do want you to have realistic expectations. I just heard from a past workshop participant who has finally built his straw bale home after many years. His quote was something like ” I finally built a straw bale home that I really like, but it was a cancer to me. Ah yes, the joy of building!!!”
I was really happy to hear that his project has completed and that he is happy with the results; however, I was sad to hear that the process was so difficult. This was not the first time I have heard this kind of feedback from people building their first home. As such, I figured I would talk to all of you about it and share some insights as to how to stay sane in the process. Below are 6 things I think are of great value on the job and off.
- Expect the stress. Like I said above, if you plan for it, you will have some idea of what to expect and how to handle it. This seems overly simple, but you would be amazed to hear just how many people go into the process of building with the unrealistic expectation that it will be nothing but inspiring and fun.
- Have patience. This is the most important thing to remember. It’s important to have patience with the process, but more importantly: have patience with yourself. You have never built a house before (or perhaps you have) and allowing yourself to be less than perfect will take away a lot of unnecessary stress. If you want perfection, realize that perfection truly lies in the imperfections of life and embrace what is perfect all around you.
- Hold to a deadline. Setting this deadline may be hard to do because it is hard to know just how long the project will take. Get some help making this decision from people who know and then add a little extra time just for the “what-ifs” that WILL occur. Hold to this deadline. Without a deadline, a self built project can go on for years, literally.
- Get help. Most of us have a hard time asking for help. We were raised to believe that we can do it by ourselves and that doing so is proof of our value. Forget that garbage! We all need help from time to time. In fact, we all need it a lot more than most of us are willing to admit and certainly more than we are willing to ask for it. Step outside of that old paradigm and embrace what’s true: we all have a better chance of success if we ask for help. After all, you are not a plumber, framer, baler, electrician, roofer, foundation contractor, painter, finish carpenter, bookkeeper, time manager, etc… You get the idea. You can’t wear every hat in the business with the same amount of aptitude so be honest about where you need help and then ask for it.
- Be open in communication. This is important with people on the job, but even more so with those not necessarily part of the job. What I mean here is your family and friends. Talk openly about what your experience is while building. Don’t be embarrassed to share your pains and frustrations. Keep an open channel of communication with those whom you love and who love you. It may be the one thing, above all the rest, that helps keep you sane.
- Celebrate! Be willing to own your triumphs, no matter how small. Maybe you are thrilled to have completed the baling portion of your build. Sure there is still a lot to do before you can move in, but don’t forget to stand back, pat yourself on the back and admire the amazing things you have done up until this very moment. It’s really easy for us as humans to focus on the things we have done wrong, all the while ignoring the amazing things we have accomplished. Perhaps you don’t want to come across as arrogant. That’s fine, but it doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate those things you are proud of. In fact, those celebrations will keep your motivation high and your sense of accomplishment alive. Do it, for yourself.
These things are important to keeping your sanity while you build, but more than that, they are true in day to day life as well. Imagine if you lived your life expecting the stresses that are likely to come along. Imagine if you lived with patience, all the time. Holding a deadline? Maybe not as direct of a comparison here, but deadlines are important all over our lives. Call them appointments, being accountable, or whatever you want. Staying on track, focused, and being reliable are certainly good things. (There is a whole new topic in this one line alone, I know). Okay, so what if you got help when you needed it and spoke openly with the ones you love each and every day? I bet your life would be much more enjoyable. And who can’t use a celebration? I mean everyday!!! Celebrate yourself, your family, your friends, your life and all the amazing things associated with it. There is a LOT more there to celebrate than you may normally allow for yourself.
About the Author
Andrew Morison is a specialist in straw bale and green construction. He has shown thousands of people how to build their own straw bale projects through his comprehensive series of instructional straw bale, concrete foundation, and plastering DVDs, as well as his hands on workshops. You can check these out at www.StrawBale.com/store.
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