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my first major meltdown in the home build process…

Oh Joy Builds a House: My First Major Meltdown

Oh Joy Builds a House: My First Major Meltdown

I have something to admit. Building a house has given me a LOT of stress and anxiety lately. I have been hesitant to talk about it because I feel so very grateful to be able to even do this project and to be able to share it with all of you. But after cry sessions in front of my husband, kids, and life coach recently, I realized there are things here that I wanted to share. So, here's the deal…

Building a house is not for the faint of heart. Sometimes I think I might be emotionally too weak to handle this. I already have a very busy full-time job, a team to lead, children to raise into good humans, and a personal life which I'm trying to maintain on some level with friends and family.

Building a house requires flexibility. So many things change in this process. There are unexpected costs that pop up, and the people you work with over the course of this long project may come and go as they change jobs and someone new is assigned to your project.

Building a house requires money. Oh, just that little tiny detail called money. The financial part of this has seriously been the hardest part for me. We have a construction loan (which I will get into the details of how that works very soon). But man, as much as people say you will always go over budget and you don't think that will be you, it happens. It happens for reasons out of your control sometimes. Costs of materials go up, cost of labor goes up, dirt that needs to be exported from your site expands so much that more trucks are needed to take it away than anyone expected.

Just as I was on the brink of a major slump and a ton of anxiety about this house, my life coach asked me…

"What does this house mean to you?"

I think most people might say that having a house means they are a grown-up or that they've made it in some way. But I never really cared about the idea of owning a home. I don't think owning a house makes you officially a grown-up, and I don't care if anyone thinks I have "made it". I have been a happy renter my whole adult life and have only been mildly annoyed that when you rent, you can't change or fix things in your home the way you can when you own it.

I told her that the house we are building is a place for my kids to grow up and make memories. It's a yard for them to play in. It's a place to have our friends and family over for meals and play dates and for last-minute catch-up sessions. Some of my best memories with friends is when we're at each others' houses catching up on life, crying about tough things, giving each other advice, or simply laughing up a storm. Those are the memories that I want to create in my future home, both for my husband and I and for our kids.

She then asked, "So what's the best thing that could come out of having this house?" And I replied, "The connections that are made with the people in my life when we have this home for them to come over, hang out, have dinner, and play."

And that's when I realized what this house means to me. Sure, I can't wait to design it and have my favorite fixtures and finishes. But truly, it's about having a home to create and strengthen connections in my life. And that's when I added this to the above list…

Building a house requires you to keep your eye on the prize.

So that's not to say I won't have another panic attack or cry a few more tears every time I get a new bill that I don't expect. But the reminder that this home is a conduit for connection with people who matter to me is what keeps me going and uplifted during the stress or tough times I have and will endure.

{Photo by Lily Glass} 


  1. For someone who works in the architecture profession, I hear you, but from the other side. It’s an integrated profession requiring balance from multiple disciplines and I didn’t realize it until after I started working in the field how fluid not concrete (no pun intended) the process can get. Over the years, I’ve learned the best thing you can do is have an open mind and to tackle one problem at a time, and know you have a team behind you. Hope that helps!

  2. Thank you for sharing, Joy! <3
    I haven't been building a house, but we're redoing the entire look and feel for my site (at the same time I'm juggling a move and spearheading something at my day job), so I have a lot of the same emotions!
    With everything going on, I'm also so curious about your life coach as I've been looking for a great one! Do you know if yours is open to new clients? 🙂

  3. Thank you for sharing all the nitty gritty details and I’m so sorry the anxiety that this house has caused you! I agree with your sentiment that you just have to take it one step at a time and keep your eye on the prize because spending money when you have a family to raise must be freaking stressful!
    You embarked on this because you’re totally capable of this, and your reasons are so great and meaningful (I so don’t believe in the checkboxes of house, car, husband etc). Enjoy the journey.
    Even though you won’t, I personally would be comforted by the idea that in the grand scheme of things, I can quit at any time. And money is just money, it can always be made again (insert disclaimer here).

  4. I can completely relate to how you are feeling! We spent a year building our house and just moved in this May. I’ve always been able to handle a great deal of stress in my career but the home building process took my anxiety and stress to a level it had never reached before. Costs add up so quickly, every decision felt so consequential and was second guessed a hundred times, and issues come up that you don’t expect. I also had a hard time explaining it to people because we are lucky to have the opportunity. We are now in the house, it is everything we ever hoped for, the anxiety is gone, and we are well on our way to a lifetime of memories here! It will be worth it!! ?

  5. There will be many more meltdowns in this project, I can remember this time we had building our house. Thinks you can’t realize because it’s not in the budget. Thinks you will realize because you want them so much and then all went wrong. But in the end I always thought about this houseprojects (you know from TV) where everything went wrong and no the mold is in the walls and people have to move out of their “dreamhoues” and I always told me how lucky we are that we only have to deal with this normal problems that happened. So always think about the good things you get at least and accept the trouble you have now as a normal process.
    Many greetings from Germany

  6. We built a house on a string-shoe budget. I thought it was the best thing that could ever happen. But it wasn’t. It was so incredibly stressful. I was pregnant and we lived in our little 19 foot airstream on site. My husband, my daughter and myself pregnant. The House was not how I envisioned and due to our budget I couldn’t make it the way I hoped. What made it worse was our neighbor. We sold the house, made a decent profit and moved to my favorite city. If you asked me if I do it again with the wisdom I gained. Absolutely. I’d love to build another house! You will get past it! And it will be one of the most proudest accomplishments. Love your work.?

  7. Complete agree with Kristina!!! We recently completed gutted a house and the whole process was a rollercoaster of emotions, but couldn’t be happier with the finished product and already cherish the memories we’ve made! Thanks for sharing and good luck!!! xo

  8. I felt this same way throughout our whole home renovation. I couldn’t complain because I knew how fortunate I was to have these “champagne problems”. For me, the biggest challenge was not knowing what surprise would come up next and what the implications would be financially and emotionally. I’m a big time planner and it was very difficult to take my hands off the wheel during this time (I was also pregnant which created a whole other level of craziness). Thank you for your honesty. I think many people feel this way. It was one of the most stressful times of my life, which I was not expecting and not well prepared to handle. Take care.

  9. Yes! It is overwhelming for everyone. We built a home a couple of years ago (it took an extra year) that we are about to to grow out of. This time we decided to go with a “looks good, let’s do it” home nearby that’s move-in ready. The only other way to stay close was to renovate, and with my husband’s work being full-on, mine full-time, children, and another baby on the way, we prioritized our sanity (this time).
    I love that your coach asked you what the house meant to you. It will turn out great, more expensive than you thought, but it will all be OK. The memories have already begun. The stress is all part of it. 🙂

  10. Joy: You have an amazingly full platter, a true stress builder. Holding it all together is a major challenge, I’m sure. Having been in the same place myself, I’ve sought means for making things more tolerable.
    An approach that has helped . . . soften perfectionist tendencies and delegate. Those of us who are perfectionists, tend to do things ourselves, not trusting others to meet our standards. This is often a false assumption, with results that may turn out better than expected. When they don’t, accepting results that aren’t quite right isn’t the worst thing in the world . . . a good tradeoff for the consequences of stress. Plus, time is a big healer . . . we get used to things that weren’t initially our preference. Be “cool,” and enjoy, Joy!


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