How to get a new kitchen and keep the old spouse

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Written By Tracey Markos

Kitchens were once the room women went to cook the meat and three veg for the family dinner. Times have changed, and the kitchen has become the hub of family life. With smart fridges telling you when milk is running out, and men often wielding the wok over the induction cooktop, a modern kitchen is a necessity. How do you achieve a kitchen renovation without destroying your marriage?

Your dream kitchen or nightmare divorce?

Kitchen showrooms are full of dreams and ideas, and every feature encourages overspending. Ooh and aah together, then bring each other back down to earth where your budget resides. Your budget will govern everything when choosing your kitchen. Decide on it together. Alter it together. Then make sure you have some spare dollars when things go wrong.

My 10 tips for marital bliss and a stress-less new kitchen

  • Work together on all aspects of the decision-making process.
    Remain a united front when dealing with the contractors. Contractors are experts at ‘divide and conquer’. Flashpoints such as budget, contracting, design and timing should be discussed together. As the renovation commences, so do the variation orders, budget blowouts, and surprises. All this angst before a designer tile, or a carcass (the bones of the cupboards – not of a dead animal) has arrived on site. Start a group message, so everyone is sharing news in real time and you have documented input to solutions, ‘He said, she said’ moments never end well. Discussing is always better than explaining.
  • Start packing up your kitchen at least a month before the start date.
    Avoid the last-minute rush. Keep the bare necessities in circulation and start setting up a kitchenette somewhere else in the house or laundry. Stress in stages is the goal. The last-minute pack-up before work starts is a recipe for disaster.
  • Be prepared for mess and dust. Lots of it.
    Takes steps to protect any precious belongings and try to minimize how far the dust travels by using drop sheets and closing doors. There will still be dust and mess so relax and enjoy less housework for a while.
  • Things will go wrong.
    Many different trades work on a kitchen renovation. Keeping them on your side and happy will make a huge difference when a problem arises. Have coffee and muffins handy so they ‘like’ you. Time and money will fix most problems but sometimes playing nice works miracles. Yelling and screaming gets you heard, but never ahead. 
  • Remember pets.
    Your cat will hate you and your dog might escape due to a careless tradie. As good pet parents you are both responsible. Update your microchip information, lock the cat in a familiar zone and confine the dog to a safe place with shade and water. A lost pet and the blame game will damage a marriage faster than a kitchen renovation.
  • You will worry about every aspect.
    Will it look good? Will the timber floor be rotting and need replacing? Everybody worries about whether the new tiles will look as good in the home as they did in the showroom. This is to be embraced because denying it will only make it harder. If you make the decisions together, you can laugh about mistakes together.
  • Celebrate the wins together.
    A tradesman turned up. The timber floor is NOT rotting. The tiles look amazing. Share the joys and the heartaches.
  • Lower your meal expectations.
    During the renovation keep food simple and stay sane.
  • Be patient and then be more patient.
    It will take longer, and cost more than you expect. Accept that fact and nothing will be a shock.
  • Don’t blame each other for anything.
    You will both suffer through the turmoil, you will both pay the bills, and you will both enjoy the beautiful kitchen when it’s finished. Together you have created, and together you will celebrate.

When the last tradesman has left, turn down the lights (so you can’t see how old the rest of the house looks), crack the champagne and celebrate the strength of your marriage. You have earned it.