One step forward, two steps back. Sound familiar? Airstream renovation can be just that at times, or at least, it can feel that way. The thing is, most of us are doing this as a side project - on the side of full-time jobs and/or/maybe parenting (the constant "job"). We're squeezing in work hours on weekends when our friends are relaxing and barbecuing, trading in the days we used to have "off" to days one-thousand percent ON. We spend our days puzzling over subfloor removal. We perch precariously on curved, slippery Airstream roofs. We measure, measure again, saw once. We curse, grunt, and on occasion, go through an entire twelve-pack of craft IPA in one weekend (no? Just us?).
Airstream work, especially full-gut job renovations, as many of you folks can attest, are most certainly not for the faint of heart. I love what Evan said in his Caravan Story last week about basing your entire life around when you can get work done on your renovation, and I echo his sentiment. You spend every single second talking and thinking about your project, and get frustrated when something impedes the process, and despite being slightly obsessed...er, passionate...about your renovation and wanting nothing but to renovate every second, you've still got to keep living real life in the midst of it all.
We have been working on this Airstream for the last year now. A few weeks ago, we were getting a bit discouraged at our progress. As much as we love the Instagram community, it's easy to begin to compare yourselves and your renovation to others (guilty). We see other folks' wrapping up their renovations, but we are still building and still have a ways to go. So late one night, collapsed on the couch after a day at work and then work, we pulled out that same social media app and begin scrolling through the last year of our renovation, noting dates and realizing that for the first six months, we were only working when we had the time. We hadn't set a self-imposed deadline yet, and truthfully didn't yet have enough cash flow to do a major renovation. We noted that there were times we went weeks without working, and some days we'd put in just a few hours.
Reminiscing this way helped us put things into perspective. The first six months was a slow, easygoing demo process that we worked on when we wanted to. It wasn't until August hit - right as Ellen returned to teaching another year and our kiddo started school - that we hit the ground running. At this point, we have spent six months rebuilding. In August, we could stand between the bars of the frame and our Airstream didn't even have wheels. Several of the windows were out, and we had the world's largest tarp draped over the entire trailer to keep the chassis from getting wet after we'd repaired and painted it. Now we are painting cabinetry and furniture and running plumbing, appliances are installed, and we are rounding the corner.
Airstream work is it's own kind of beast. It helps to take a minute, every now and then, especially when frustrated or annoyed at the pace of progress, to take a deep breath and look around. Note how far you've come. In the moment, it feels like the build is going so slowly. You start your work days with a checklist of things you'd like to accomplish, and by mid-day, you've not even checked off one single bullet point. Yet what you've not done in making your list is account for all the other little things, the extra steps that you'll always need to take to accomplish just one of the larger tasks on your list. We've started to create two columns, one a task list, the other an achievement list that we fill out at days end. Seeing the two side-by-side reminds us how much work actually did take place, and it's much easier to move on to the next day's work feeling proud and successful.
Then we mentally take note of all the things we did outside of the Airstream work, like going to our full-time jobs, and the meetings before and after or during. Driving our kiddo to gymnastics and drama club. Writing a blog post here or upgrading the resources tab, doing three loads of laundry, cooking a healthy dinner and eating together as a family. Making a meal plan, list, and heading to the grocery. Getting a good night's sleep. Cuddling with our daughter and watching a movie. Going for a run or morning yoga. Writing and creating for self. These things matter too, and are just as vital to the success of the Airstream. The food and exercise and sleep fuel us and make us stronger. With our first Airstream, we didn't get much sleep and it wore on us majorly! The family time unites us and reminds us why we're even renovating an Airstream in the first place - it is for our family and for our values. We work hard at our respective jobs so we can pay for life, provide for our daughter, and make our way, slowly but surely, to our dreams.
Remembering why you are doing this renovation, why you're giving up weekends of freedom, why you're working and thinking about the Airstream 'round the clock, and when it feels never-ending, just pause. Take a moment to reflect on how far you've come. Take a moment to remind yourself why you started in the first place. Say it out loud. Progress is happening, and you're one step closer to where you want to be.