BY NANCY HARDER MY HUSBAND AND I just bought our first house. Before we even closed, we had dreamt of all the imaginative, colorful ways to decorate and renovate our house. We felt prepared, excited, and optimistic. Then we started the renovations. Like so many other newbie home renovators, we experienced a very steep learning curve under the tutelage of trial by fire. So things didn’t go as planned; at least we’re still having fun. Here are 10 ways we’ve learned to retain some of our sanity during home renovations. Drink. Or Meditate Either way, get in a state of mind where you don’t care and/or find humor in the mistakes. Repeat this mantra: “Shit is going to happen.” Set Goals Set realistic, small goals and a modest budget. Now half those goals and double the budget. Do that again. Now you won’t give your husband the stink-eye when he comes in with another Lowes receipt and you’re two weeks behind your carefully planned schedule. Determine Priorities To help keep a budget, ask yourself the obvious. What do you absolutely not want to live without? New low-flow toilet to replace the fugly blue monster or new closet door? Keep the carpet and buy furniture or get hardwoods and live empty for a while? Digging deep will be worth the effort when fatigue and dwindling funds set in. Approach big box stores with caution Ever walk into Target to buy laundry detergent and come out with a $136 tab of god knows what? Approach Home Depot, Lowes, and other home stores with similar caution. Know what you’re coming in for and try not to get sucked into cool displays. You’ll regret buying that cool-sounding stainless steel paint and XXL bucket of spackle when the diy-high comes down and all you needed was a pack of nails. Count to 10 Try not to scream at store employees when you’re back for your third trip in a day. It’s not their fault. Ok-maybe it is their fault when they mix the wrong paint color again or sell you the wrong apoxy. Either way, count to 10 and take a deep breath. Picture being on a beach, mai tai in hand, as you head to the returns desk again and scowl at the chipper greeter who acts like they haven’t seen you already today. Sleuth out cheap stuff Check out websites like free cycle and craigslist; wander your local consignment stores, lumber yards, Goodwill and Salvation Army. It will not only distract your from manual labor, but help you find cheap, even free (!), furniture, supplies, and other home wares. Magazines like ReadyMade also offer diy project ideas for the younger, eclectic set. Open the Windows Or don’t. (See #1). Even low-VOC paints may have you trippin from the fumes, so open all the windows and take fresh air breaks. If you can’t smell the paint any-more, it’s time to go outside. “It’s all fun and games till someone spills the paint.” Blast Music The louder the better. Rock and roll fits well, so dig out Led Zepplin “How the West was Won”, CCR “Bayou Country”, and Jimi Hendrix “Electric Ladyland”. Air guitar is highly encouraged. Life or death? Ask yourself this question as your try to decide whether you need to hire someone on your tiny budget. Need some electrical stuff done? Possible cause of death. Hire an electrician. Want to lay down some tile? A huge task, but doable and safe. Silly and Social The most important tip of all, make your house a non-stop open door party. Invite people over, keep food and libations around, and create wacky games involving sandpaper. Force yourself to laugh when the paint bleeds through the drop cloth, you burn through three drills in a night, and your rip your pants at the crotch.