Spaces for Life

The ReTouch Home Improvement blog



Spaces for Life: How hidden agendas can hijack remodeling projects

By Lance McCarthy

I heard a story recently about a young woman who was making dinner for her friends. They asked her why she cut both ends off the ham as she was preparing it. She said, “I don’t know, that’s the way my mom always prepared it.” The next day she called her mom and asked her why she cut the ends off the ham before she put it in the oven. Her mom said, “I don’t know, that’s the way grandma always did it.” So, the young woman called grandma and asked her. Grandma replied, “I had to because my pan was too small to fit the whole ham!”

So this article is going to be ovens!

No, not really. It’s going to be about your ham ends. Let me explain.

A few days ago Joel and I were meeting with some clients.  We had really struggled together to work out a floor plan that met their needs, but were bumping up pretty hard against a budget.  The husband really wanted a certain feature to stay even though it was costing too much, and the wife was getting frustrated because she couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t let it go.  After a lot of gentle questions and listening back and forth, we found out that it all went back to their childhood.  The part of the project that he was fighting for was something that had been in his childhood home that he had a lot of great memories with.  It was something she didn’t have in her house, so she had no emotional connection to it.  


Once we all knew that, we were able to figure out how to capture that same feeling in another part of the project, and immediately saved almost $30,000!  Now, they will get everything they wanted, for a budget that they are comfortable with.  That is a success.  


This got me thinking, though.  Many times we hit these roadblocks with clients and aren’t actually able to figure out what is causing it.  This is like the ends of the ham– something that causes a person to act or feel a certain way, but may originate so far back that we aren’t even aware of why.


I think anyone who is married has had this happen, where something is really important to one person, and the other one just can’t figure it out.  There’s no wonder people sell millions of books about mars and venus.  It really feels like other people are from different planets sometimes.  Remember the scene from Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn in The Breakup?  “Why would anyone want to do dishes?”  


I wonder how many feuds (and breakups), and fences and fistfights have been caused by the ends of the ham?  


So here’s my advice: question your own feelings as deeply as you can.  If you start feeling strongly about something, step back and ask yourself why there is so much  emotion connected to this?   As you are beginning to plan a big remodeling or construction project, know that you are cutting into sensitive tissue.  It is the space of memories, and the most basic of emotions, and can even be connected to our very concept of ourself.


Here is my assignment for you.  Find some time without distractions, open a bottle of wine, and ask each other some of these questions, then just listen.  They may be helpful  to try to get at those basic emotions and memories that you have connected to “Home”:

  • What do you see when you think of “Home”?
  • What was your favorite room in your house growing up?  Why?
  • What memories do you have from your childhood ____________________ (insert a room in the house, ie: “kitchen”)?
  • What is the earliest memory you have of a home?
  • What home besides your own did you feel most loved in?
  • Where do you feel __________________ (insert different emotion words, ie: “safest” or “most focused”) in this home?
  • Using feeling words, how would you describe your favorite home?


I would actually love to hear your answers to some of these questions.  Just drop them in the comments below if you can.  I can’t wait to see what you say.

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