- Spend more time learning about the neighbors. I thought I did a good job of this - coming by at different times and walking through the neighborhood, etc. but we are constantly reminded that we didn't do enough by our noisy and expletive-weilding neighbors across the street.
- Don't get personal. I took the whole offer process a bit too personally, basically trying to be empathetic to a family who lost their mother in the house. In the end, it's a business deal and I think you're better off keeping within that mind frame.
- Whenever you think something will be easy you're wrong. I think that's a good premise for life, really. Basically, if you think a project will be easy and you begin a statement with, "It will only..." you're just wrong. I'd assume it will be ridiculously difficult and then you can always be happily surprised if it's easier.
- Good friends are as valuable as good tools. As readers have seen, we have spent the last year praising Paul and other friends who have come around to help us, give us advice, or just be supportive through the process. We are too thankful for their guidance and help.
- Find your niche in your marriage and in your home improvement project. Thom and I spent a bit of last year arguing about different projects in the house. It comes down to realizing what you're each good at and allowing time and space for the person to do that. We've realized that we can work together in small spurts of time but that long projects generally end up in an argument. Not good for the project and certainly not good for the relationship.
- Doing your research really makes a difference. Being an academic, I tend to devote a good portion of my time prior to any major undertaking conducting an extensive literature review. I like to get a good idea of what I'm getting into and what I'm possibly up against. I think this has really helped in the long run: I am able to better understand the scope of the project and what are possible challenges and issues I might run into. Using books like the Home Depot tips book, the This Old House magazine and website, and especially houseblogs.net - I cannot begin to tell you how much I have learned and it really makes a tremendous difference in the end.
- Take time to smell the roses. After all the hard work you do, it's important to take time to enjoy the fruits of your labor too. I have found immeasurable satisfaction in the positive feedback I've gotten through this blog, through having little parties at the house, and through just being able to sit back and see how far it's come. You always realize how much more you have to do but stopping to see the progress now and then really helps keep you motivated.
Those are my pearls of wisdom. I'd love to hear your "lessons learned" in your home improvement process as well!