Hello! I'm Suzannah, a serious DIYer and mom of two little ones. Follow along with my DIY fixer upper house renovations, sewing and crafty projects, real food recipes, and de-stressing goals.
I believe you can love your home just the way it is, AND have the power to design and make big changes to make it better.
I'm also the author of DIY Wardrobe Makeovers!

How to remodel & stay healthy!

We bought our fixer upper 7.5 months ago now... and it's totally changed our lives in ways we didn't understand before. We've faced both physical and emotional challenges (and lack of spare time) for what feels like forever now and while there are definitely things we could have done differently, at this point I'm feeling pretty good about my ability to balance life + fixer upper goals, and wanted to share with you!

I've learned that any shift in routine is an opportunity for change in habits. Moving, starting a new job, etc... opportunity to develop habits you want to have, and chose to keep or ditch old ones. I knew buying our fixer upper would be challenging, expensive, and time-consuming, and would change our daily and weekend routines a lot! But I didn't want my health to suffer. I chose a few goals to keep during this process.

"Health" on the surface may mean body composition above other things to some people. I didn't gain weight when changing up our cooking and my fitness routines, but that isn't what I mean by "health" anyway.

I recently read a food/health blogger's book Fed & Fit: A 28 Day Food & Fitness Plan to Jump-Start Your Life with Over 175 Squeaky-Clean Paleo Recipes and in it she defines the "four pillars" of health. I really like that framework for defining "health," so I'll use it here.

Cassy's Four Pillars of Health

1. Mindset
2. Sleep & hydration
3. Food
4. Fitness

How to STAY HEALTHY while remodeling!

1. Mindset

This one's been the hardest for me. Moving from one house to another is work enough, but if you can't live in all or part of the new house for several months because it's filthy, broken, or partly deconstructed... or if every weekend you have projects to do that are almost as hard as moving again... the stress accumulates. We did pretty well for the first few months and had energy for the bigger/whole house projects, but now that we're to the room-by-room projects (which feel optional, but would be nice to get done so we're not still walking on subfloor in the laundry room, for example) and as the weather gets nicer, we're really looking forward to being done.

There've been several stressful weekends lately, which is just the opposite of what you want when you're tired from a week at work and need some time to relax! But, we've also had some really wonderful, memorable weekends that included a long hike and a trip to the coast. Those really got us feeling good for what's next.

Tips for staying in a good mindset about and during the reno?

  • Take week nights off. Our schedules are such that we can do ONE thing after work each day aside from dinner, checking in, TV or reading, and bedtime. That means I can work out OR do an errand OR go to a happy hour... and usually getting a house project done doesn't fit into that. In the beginning I did work in some door-painting and other ongoing projects (30 minutes-1 hour) in the evenings, but that got old fast. It has been so helpful to live normally 5 days/week and only be in fixer upper mode on the weekends!
  • Take breaks. Don't work every single weekend and both days of every weekend. We have to do normal Sunday things, too, like laundry and cooking for the week. And on some weekends, we take time off and it feels so good and helps us center! Next weekend we have wine tasting planned. How fabulous that will be.
  • Set timelines for specific projects. We've been able to get a lot done by making project schedules and goals to be finished by a certain time. Sounds like an obvious one, but it's really helpful emotionally to know that you'll work really hard on the bathroom this weekend, but then take the next one off. 

2. Sleep & hydration

These are hard enough for people living their regular lives, not tackling a fixer upper project. But when you're working all day on a project, it's tempting to get stuck in it and not take little breaks to drink water and have a snack, and to keep going past bedtime.

Sleep has always been important to me so I've really prioritized keeping bedtime intact. I schedule projects during the day, so we have dinner and the evening off when possible. Sometimes things run long... and I've definitely stuck tiling till 8:30 PM when I hoped to be done at 4:00... but then at least bedtime is still salvagable.

Hydration? I've found if you identify drinking more water as a goal, it's on your mind and usually pretty achievable. I'm a big water drinker usually but getting carried away with projects, sometimes not so much. I've found I have to keep a water glass both in the kitchen and near my project so I can take little breaks. I get headaches sometimes when I'm dehydrated so I know I want to avoid those when working on a project!

Being well-rested and headache-free obviously make the rest of the projects go better. And, when you're tired after a long day of manual labor, going to bed at 9:30 PM is EASY and feels amazing.

We're still working on the bedroom (goals include baseboards :P and art on the walls) but I've still tried to create a peaceful space there!

3. Food

We've made some big changes in our lives over the past 5 years about food, and have gotten to a pretty stable, comfortable mostly-Paleo, mostly-homemade, "real food" diet. We have recipes we make on the regular for easy weekday breakfasts and lunches, and make dinner almost every night at home. Most of our diet revolves around having a working kitchen, so when we didn't for several months... it was hard.


  • We lived with my parents the first month and actually brought all of our kitchen staples including ingredients (like collagen protein powder) and tools (like our VitaMix blender) so we could make snacks like my all-natural protein shakes for snacks. 

  • Unpack the tools first. We cleared a clean area around the stove, and had unloaded our food into the fridge, so pretty early on we were able to at least heat things up on the stove (I made a chili at my parents' place and brought it over one work weekend) and kept pans and cutting boards available. This scramble of pre-cooked sausages, pre-chopped kale (thank you, Trader Joe's), potatoes, and onions was one of the first things I cooked at our new house and it was NOT GREAT but as you can see by the paint on my jeans and hands in this photo, was great while I was working and not really ready to go out to eat somewhere. 

  • Do take-out sparingly. We've definitely had a few Thai takeout dinners, or gone out to eat after a long day of working, but it's not the norm. Which keeps it feeling special, saves money for other things around the house, and keeps us from eating less-than-perfect foods.

4. Fitness

For a couple years before we moved, I was really prioritizing strength training and had achieved a lot of goals in the gym. For a while I worked out 3-4 days/week, then had switched to 2-3 days/week, in our garage gym, when I get home from work. First I did basic strength training workouts and tracked my reps, weights, and form, and then started mixing in CrossFit workouts, too. We had a good gym setup in our old garage, complete with pull-up bar and plenty of room.

When we moved into this place we kept ALL of our stuff in the garage for at least a month, then slowly brought things in, so I knew the gym setup would not be available for a while. And, I didn't really have time or energy like I used to.

  • I accepted that I would not be able to keep the intensity and frequency in my workouts after we moved, and would lose some strength/progress.
  • I made time when I could for whatever workouts I could do! When we lived with my parents I did a couple bodyweight CrossFit and Juli Bauer workouts in my old bedroom, with no equipment and most of my gym clothes still packed. Once we'd moved in here but almost everything was still in the garage, I brought up a 35 lb kettlebell and did some improvised workouts in our bedroom (cause the furnace was broken and it was winter and cold everywhere else). I also did a lot of yoga videos from this YouTube channel. Juli of PaleOMG has a free travel workout at the end of every one of her Weekly Workouts posts, and she is super fit so they are HARD. I felt pretty sore after some of those! In the beginning I worked out only 1-2 times/week, maybe plus yoga, but have worked back up to 2-3.
  • Build the gym you can. Want to see where I work out now? We finally got the gym set up, but it's sharing space with the lawnmower, bike, laundry room cabinet, and more. It was pretty sad looking when I took this photo.

The pull-up bar isn't installed yet so I've been doing table bodyweight rows at the dining table with the chairs pushed aside. Ha.
  • Yoga feels like a treat when I'm stressed, not a workout, so I fit those in sometimes to de-stress as well as get a workout! We now have a spare edge of the extra bedroom (which is not really used for anything but some storage right now) and that room gets the best light, so it's really enjoyable to spend 30-40 minutes doing a yoga video.

Those are my tips! Again, I think mindset has been the hardest, trying to stay low-stress and in a good mood in all this chaos... but the foundation of sleep, hydration, cooking most of our food, and keeping a fitness routine have really helped me feel like myself in all of this. If we ever do it again, I'll keep these habits in mind!

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