What home remodeling taught me about dealing with conflict

The house oozed curbside appeal. Your real estate agent made it sound like the idyllic place for a family. So you buy the house. No sooner is the “For Sale” sign taken down than you realize your mistake: the place is a wreck.

Or maybe not a complete wreck. It might be just the general clutter and dirt that enters every house, every relationship, every family. You’ve got to do something about it, but what?

Here’s a few typical ways of dealing with messes, both in a house and in a relationship. (I’ve borrowed a few ideas and the term “broom method” from Pastor Will Spink at my church.)

1. The broom method. Have you ever swept all the dust bunnies under the bedskirt? They’re nice and safe and out of sight. The problem is that bunnies reproduce awfully quickly; if I have one dust bunny, I’m sure that there are a dozen more that have been born since the last time I saw them. I can ignore those pesky bunnies . . . until they decide to hop out from under the bedskirt.

2.  Slap on paint method. When we first moved into our home, the kitchen was a decorating disaster. The cabinets were dark brown, the trim was the same color, and the doorway had swinging saloon style doors. When we stripped off the wallpaper, I realized that there were actually two different prints. They were in similar colors and patterns, but didn’t coordinate, and I wondered if someone had mistakenly believed that they were the same pattern.

So we:

  • Took down the saloon doors.
  • Replaced the wallpaper.
  • Sanded, primed and painted the cabinets—on the outside.

It was quicker to slap on a coat of paint rather paint the inside of the cabinet doors and inside the actual cabinets. It looked good . . . until you opened the door to get a plate or box of cereal. Then you were overwhelmed by a mudslide that threatened to bury our Cheerios. The coat of glossy white paint was a quick fix that didn’t fix the ugliness lurking inside.

3.  Gutting it method. Imagine hating your bathroom. It has avocado green tile and orange walls, the toilet seat is cracked, the lighting fixtures are circa 1977. Ugh.

So you decide to gut it, and you do. But that’s as far as you get. The bathroom stays ripped up for years on end because you lost momentum. Let’s face it, it’s hard work to keep going on a bathroom remodeling project. (Unless you have a one bathroom house! Then you put up an outhouse in the back yard.)

Besides, everything’s fine as long as you keep the bathroom closed off. Occasionally, you’ll get aggravated enough with the one-less-bathroom situation, walk in and tear up yet another fixture, become exhausted and shut the door. It feels good to get the remodeling frenzy out of your system but the problem is still there.

4.  The demolition crew. The house is a wreck structurally, the toilets won’t flush, the doors are all hung crooked, several walls need to be removed—wouldn’t it be easier to take a wrecking ball to it? Just blow it up: fight, bicker, think the nastiest things and then say them, and possibly end the relationship altogether.

5.  The take out the garbage method. 

  • Instead of sweeping the problems under the rug, you actually move the rug and sweep up the dust bunnies and deposit them in the trash.
  • You take the time to remove the doors and painstakingly deal with the muddy brown wood.
  • You finish remodeling the bathroom.
  • You strengthen the load-bearing walls.
  • You hold off on calling the wrecking company.

There’s a ton of junk left over: broken toilet, paint cans, dust and debris everywhere. But the junk doesn’t stay inside. You take the time to gather it all up and take it to the curb. It’s hard work, backbreaking, heartbreaking, painful work, and requires a sacrifice of time and energy.

But the house is stronger.

Which method sounds like the best one for dealing with the problems in your house or in your relationships? Which one do you use most often?

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12 thoughts on “What home remodeling taught me about dealing with conflict

  1. Great post, Laura! I have always likened myself to an old house and God has sent His master Carpenter, Jesus to do a complete remodel. It is a whole lot of work but He is fully capable. Every day that passes, I let Him in to do a little more work. At the end of His job, I will be brand new and beautiful.

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    1. Your comment reminded me of a couple of lyrics from Shaun Groves, talking about letting Jesus in his heart to clean out all the junk, and how he couldn’t make the place all that Jesus can. He was likening his heart to a home: the cluttered closets, the dust, etc. Thanks for reading!

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  2. I loved Will’s sermon too. Not sure what type I am but I have lived throught every one of your examples. We finished the glamour master bath after just not using it for 3 years only b/c we had to in order to sell. It turned out gorgeous. Too bad we never used it like we planned!

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    1. LOL about the glamour bath!
      I’ve lived all of my examples, too, though usually I’m the avoid conflict type. Thanks for reading! Laura

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  3. I just had to unlurk long enough to say how much I relate to this post… both the physical and the spiritual application. It’s a great analogy, Laura. There’s always lots the Great Carpenter can find to repair in my home and heart!

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    1. I know there’s always a lot in my heart that needs to be remodeled by the Great Carpenter, too! THanks for stopping by.

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  4. Wow! Great analogy! I think I can relate to just about all the methods! By nature I’m definitely a “broom method” person but recent friendships and conflicts have brought me experience with other methods. I think I’m currently in the “gutting” method in a particular conflict…I’ve been trying to fix it in certian ways but it’s been dragging on for way too long and isn’t getting finished. Sometimes my frustration about this makes me feel like going straight for the “demolition crew” method. “Taking the trash out” sounds like the best and healthiest and perfectly describes the place I’ve been desiring to get to and hope to soon by the strength and grace of God. Thanks for sharing!! 🙂

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    1. Katrina-
      Glad you enjoyed the analogy. I tend to use my broom far too often (just not on my actual floors!) and don’t take out the trash often enough! I wish I was better about it. Thanks for commenting. 🙂

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