Getting Organized During a Renovation

kitchen reno 002We’ve been in our 1970s home since the summer of 2010. It was in dire need of a kitchen renovation and we purchased it with the intention of doing the renos within the year. But the idea of all that upheaval in the most actively used room caused me to put it off. In case you haven’t noticed, I don’t do well living in chaos.

But this past summer, our beloved dog Bo had to be put down, and frankly, I was an emotional wreck. I knew I needed a challenging project to distract me so I could get through the day without sobbing. So we decided to begin the project we’ve put off for 3 years – the kitchen reno. (It actually grew to include the entire main floor). It may not have been the best reason to undertake a reno, but it made sense for me, and it did help me through the first few months after Bo’s passing.

Renos are as exciting as they are stressful, and staying organized before, during and after the reno was the best thing I did to keep the stress level down. If you’re planning a reno, here are my top tips to help you get through it as easily as possible.


  • Pick the date you want the construction to begin. Keep in mind that good tradespeople are booked far in advance and some materials, like kitchen cabinets, need to be ordered 6-8 weeks ahead of time.
  • Get referrals, check credentials, meet the people you will be hiring and make sure you feel comfortable communicating with them. Hiring the right contractor for us was the single most important thing we did. He always stayed in communication with us, remained calm when things went wrong, and was honest and trustworthy.
  • Start a file to keep all relevant paperwork organized – quotes, invoices, receipts, contact information, etc. I used an accordion file and labelled each slot with categories like: cabinets, appliances, fireplace, and flooring. I also created a file in my email program and put all emails related to the reno there, for easy reference. Use a filing system that will work for you, but keep it simple because you’ll be busy.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to pack up the items in the areas to be renovated – especially kitchens. If you pack everything up well, the unpacking is much faster and things won’t get damaged. We used liquor boxes with the dividers inside for things like mugs and glasses. We removed the dividers for dishes and other flat items. These boxes are strong, a nice size so they’re not too heavy to lift when full, and best of all, they’re free from the liquor store. Label each and every box clearly, in case you need to find something before you unpack – especially if the reno takes longer than you anticipated. Stack the boxes so the ones you’ll unpack first are at the front. Also, it’s helpful to put boxes with similar contents together (i.e. dishware in one area, decorative items in another). While you are packing, take advantage of the perfect opportunity to get rid of things that you don’t use or are worn out or damaged.


Set up a temporary area to replace the room that is getting renovated. For us, it was the entire main floor, so we set up the basement with the same areas we use on the main floor. Thankfully, we already had a bathroom and family room downstairs, so we just had to set up a kitchen. We used a folding table, a small fridge, and our microwave on a stand. We purchased paper plates, glasses and cutlery and napkins, because washing dishes was very difficult. Thankfully, our reno took place in the late summer and fall, so we were able to eat most meals on the deck. The barbeque also came in handy. If you can put off your kitchen reno until the nicer weather, I would recommend it.


If you’ve followed my packing suggestions, this will be the easiest part of the whole reno. Once everything is cleaned (our ‘shop vac’ came in handy here), just unpack and put everything away. If you are not sure how to store items in a functional way, you may want to consider consulting a professional organizer – so that your kitchen not only looks great but also works effectively for your and your family.

kitchen afterAlthough there were some things that didn’t go according to plan, everything worked out in the end and all we can say now, as we enjoy our newly renovated home is, “why didn’t we do this sooner?”

kitchen 003






Feel free to share your experiences – good or bad – with renovating your home. I love reading your comments.


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This post has 5 comments

  • Hilda :) says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss. 🙁

    Your new kitchen looks beautiful! So gorgeous! My family and I don’t need to remodel really because we moved into a brand-new home about 6 or 7 years ago. I’m loving the space we have, especially most of the bedrooms.

    The only problem I have is clutter, LOL!

  • Evelyn says:

    Dear Hellen –

    I’m sorry about your precious Bo. We lost our cat Ito a month ago – she had been with us for 18 years and one day she told us it was time to go.

    Many yrs ago, my husband’s favourite uncle (and mine too) returned to live in Toronto from Chicago. We decided we would make a point of seeing my husband’s uncle and aunt regularly and planned on picking them up and taking them to the movies, to dinner, everything. My husband and I had recently moved into our home and we were in the midst of painting all the walls when my husband got a phone call and was told his uncle was sitting in his favourite chair and had died suddenly of a heart attack. My husband came back and told me what had happened. I stopped, then slowly continued painting and my husband quietly picked up his brush and we both continued painting in silence. Painting helped to soothe the emptiness that suddenly struck us.

  • Brenda says:

    Dear Hellen,

    Very sorry for the loss of your beloved Bo. The bond with our furry family members is so very precious. It was about 16 years ago when we lost our loving dog, Rose. Our son was seven and I just remember how hard it was for him to go to school that next day. We all had swollen eyes from the tears, even my big, strong husband. Rose was with us for 14 yrs. and although we grew up having dogs a part of our lives, we haven’t gotten another since. I hope that your heart will continue to mend, and am glad that you found some solace in re-creating your home. It looks really good!!

  • Teri says:

    we are planning a main floor reno too and most of your suggestions have already been created in my brain. but i love the file idea, so i can carry w/ me to home stores and have info in hand, like the decorators do! we are trying to re-use all the cabinets, so we have to locate a storage place for them as well! luckily we will have a spare bedroom that will be the storage room, with all the boxes toward the back and cabinets in front . . . so they can go back up!

  • susan says:

    Hi Hellen, we recently completed a main floor renovation and, like you, lived in our basement for 8 weeks. I have found that the process of moving back into our living space has helped me declutter, and I am much less likely to hang onto things I don’t want or need-I have a beautiful kitchen and no longer want mismatched or chipped dishes, table linens that no longer suit the décor or appliances that are rarely used. The end result is that my space is functional and much less jammed up with useless ‘stuff’. The purging has continued through the rest of my house as I can see the advantage of having a more simple organized space. I knew I would love the completed reno but am pleased with the new outlook I have in terms of clutter and how it makes me feel. If only I could afford to keep renovating!!!