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Home Renovation Shopping with an Absentee Husband

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Home Renovation Shopping with an Absentee Husband

August 7, 2013

During her recent home renovation, Remodelista Editor Christine Chang Hanway was offered access to the Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium subscription.

Even though shopping is arguably the most enjoyable part of home renovation, I find the expensive decisions stressful; especially when making them alone. When I was offered access to the Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium subscription, I decided to test the idea of shopping with my husband no matter where he was.

Family life with a husband who is always traveling has its own peculiar rhythms. Just when we get used to his not being around, he inserts himself back into family life; jet-lagged, grumpy, and with a suitcase full of dirty laundry. Maintaining the archetypal architect stereotype, my husband’s coping mechanism for life revolves around the 6 P’s (Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance), and needless to say, he is a little obsessed with order. Feeding his passion to fix cities around the world, his permanent address has wings, burns jet fuel, and when the need arises, it morphs into a business hotel where consistently perfect coffee and crisp shirts get delivered in rectangular packages every morning.

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Above: While the coffee at home may be perfect as well, someone at home has to do the washing up. Photo by Brian W. Ferry.

While business hotels in Shanghai have toilets with LED lights around the rim, heated pads, and multi-directional sprays all controlled from a keypad on the wall, the transition to home life with its never-ending teenage spoor trail and overworked, unsympathetic spouse can be challenging.

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Above: My husband’s ideal home is a well-appointed hotel suite. Photo of Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn by Brian W. Ferry.

Without fail, the first thing he does when he arrives home after a trip is to move around the house “putting things in order” while I seethe quietly.

“What are you doing?”

“Tidying up.”

“Why? The house is perfectly clean.”

“Oh, I know it’s clean; it’s just slightly–messy.”

“Why can’t you for once just come home and relax?”

“But I can’t relax until the house is in order, and by the way, why did you move that chair over there?”

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Above: One chair out of place can cause a minor domestic crisis in our house. Photo of Neutra VDL Research House by Brian W. Ferry.

If moving chairs induce anxiety, how was he ever going to cope with our upcoming home renovation? Every trip home would mean an initial confrontation with a piece of new furniture, or lights, or bookshelves, or carpets, or wall colors; not to mention its profound effect on our dwindling savings. For a man who depends on order to breathe, there was a risk that the unsettling chaotic world of home renovation might just asphyxiate him or better yet, I might strangle him first out of pure frustration.

I realized that the only sane way forward was to proceed slowly and to get his ‘buy in’ every step of the way. He needed to feel like he was part of the process, but what was I to do? With his travel schedule, it’s not exactly like I could take him shopping with me. Or then again, maybe I could.

With Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium subscription on all my devices, I quickly realized that my husband could come shopping with me wherever I went. Whenever I saw something I liked, I snapped some quick photos with my phone and uploaded them onto our Renovation Notebook in OneNote. Whatever time zone he was in, he could then review the images on any of his devices at his convenience and leave me his comments; and if I required an immediate decision, it was a quick Skype call to ask him to have a look in the Notebook.

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Above: Shopping and communicating with my husband was straightforward because I could upload an image onto the SkyDrive immediately. In this case, we were trying to establish whether or not the dimension of this pendant fixture would work in our kitchen, hence his annotations over the image which he produced on his Surface Tablet. Photo by Christine Chang Hanway.

Quick and efficient, collaborating this way was actually less stressful than having him at my side, especially when it came to costings and budgets. I continually updated our Excel Furnishings Spreadsheet in our Renovation Notebook, enabling us both to simultaneously track the purchases against our budget. As a result, there were no nasty surprises at the end.

Collaborating this way also addressed our different shopping styles to my advantage. While my husband would rather compromise to achieve closure, I am more than happy to keep things open in search of the perfect item. With this renovation, I vowed to do without for as long as it took (even if it meant having no sofa or beds) than have a house full of things I didn’t love. While he could shop remotely and have his say, I was the one actually driving the car.

Above: Interested in coming shopping with us? Come and explore our favorite home shops in London in this video.

N.B.: See Collaborating on a Home Renovation with My Husband the Time Traveler to see how we used Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium Suite to plan our renovation.

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