As St Albans’ own lifestyle management guru, Tracy Ross makes a living out of helping other people organise their homes.

Herts Advertiser: Tracy RossTracy Ross (Image: © Claire Lane Photography 2015)

As St Albans’ own lifestyle management guru, Tracy Ross makes a living out of helping other people organise their homes.

This means she’s ideally placed to manage five months of living amid a home renovation project – which is handy, as that’s what she had to do earlier this year.

The single story extension on her family’s home in Bernards Heath was completed in July, and being well prepared before the build began helped her enormously – as she explains.

Tracy says:

If you are reading this the chances are that you have already made the decision to stay in your home whilst your building works are being completed. I have helped many of my clients prepare their homes for building works to commence and I am currently living at home during building works with my family.

I thought it would be really useful to share a few of my tips to help you stay sane and create a bit of order through the temporary chaos.

Herts Advertiser: Careful planning can reduce stress on the home frontCareful planning can reduce stress on the home front (Image: Highwaystarz-Photography)

How can I prepare?

We had to wait 4 months for our builders to start work which gave us plenty of time to get organised before the start date. If this is your first time living in during building work it’s hard to imagine what it will be like and how you can best prepare before work commences.

You will need to reorganise your home to enable you to live as comfortably as possible whilst allowing the builders to keep working around you and not holding up the schedule of works. Accept that things will feel out of order and you will be living in a much smaller space than normal. It’s only for a short space of time and the end result will be worth it.

Decluttering and home organisation

As you will be living in a much smaller space during the build it’s a good idea to review the current storage space in your whole house and allocate space to store things temporarily. You may need to create additional space in your loft, garage or bedrooms to store boxes during the build. Be realistic about how many boxes that you will need and make sure you think ahead about things that you might need access to during the build that you don’t need every day (sports equipment, suitcases or camping gear). If you start this process early you will have plenty of time to sell unwanted items on EBay or local Facebook pages. I have found the St Albans Mums and the Items for free and for sale in St Albans and local areas Facebook pages great for selling unwanted white goods. I am a big fan of sustainable living and recycling what we no longer need.

Herts Advertiser: Tracy lived among the chaos of an extension project for five monthsTracy lived among the chaos of an extension project for five months (Image: Antonio_Diaz)

Setting Up a Temporary Kitchen

Before work commences you need to talk to your builder about where they will set up a temporary kitchen and living space and what will be possible. This is important so that you can plan for how you will cook, wash up and store the essentials you need each day.

Washing Up

I didn’t realise how much I loved my dishwasher until we had to start washing everything by hand. Some of my clients set up a temporary dish washing space in their bathroom. Our builders built a wall to separate us from the building work and used our old sink, draining board and old cupboards to build a temporary washing up area. We even had small shelves to store essential cleaning products (rubber gloves, anti-bacterial wipes and spray, room spray, floor cleaner and my essential item mop & bucket).


There are a number of options that you can consider here. We used an electric hot place, slow cooker and microwave. If you don’t already I would recommend having your shopping delivered during the period of the build and planning your meals for each week. It’s more difficult to be spontaneous with a limited kitchen.

Storing the essentials

Herts Advertiser: Communication is the key to a successful buildCommunication is the key to a successful build (Image: ?David Sacks)

Think about what you absolutely need to use each day and how you will access these. We had a shelving unit from IKEA that we moved into the kitchen. Everything is on display and it’s very easy to see what you need.


Living without a washing machine for several weeks has been my biggest challenge. As a family of 4 our washing machine rarely gets a day off. Neighbours and friends have been fantastic letting me do washing at their homes and using their clothes lines. For bigger items like towels and sheets it’s better to go to the launderette as you can get everything washed and dried in one go. You do need to plan your washing ahead as it’s not always easy to wash what you need at a time that’s convenient to you i.e. school uniform or sports kit.

Neighbourhood Harmony

When you are having building work done at your home it can also be disruptive for your neighbours too. There will be deliveries (not always at the most convenient times), more vehicles parked in your road, a skip (changed several times) and in our case a portaloo (organised by our builders but essential if you don’t have a downstairs toilet). If you live in a busy road it’s respectful to let your neighbours know when your work will start and also when you are expecting any big deliveries. You may need to ask them to move a car.

Make sure you have your party wall agreement in place before building work commences. I can recommend Sarah Garside from McNeill Lowe & Palmer.

Herts Advertiser: Tracy's temporary kitchenTracy's temporary kitchen (Image: Archant)

Our builders have been very tidy, particularly making sure to sweep up curb side and ensuring items in the skip are secure.

Sourcing Fixtures and Fittings

Once the work commences you won’t have as much time to look for the items that you need to source. The builders will expect you to have thought about lighting, windows, sockets/switches and plumbing so when they need to install items you already have these in place. We had a very detailed schedule of works prepared which made it clear which items we needed to source and those that the builders would provide.

Start looking through magazines and Pinterest to get an idea of the style that you like and create a simple mood board for each room. It’s also good to talk to people that have completed similar building work to ask if they have any good recommendations and if they are happy with the decisions that they made. The Facebook page St Albans house renovations is a great source of local advice.

We found it took a long time to make a decision on the kitchen tiles. We visited several local showrooms and brought samples back. When we eventually settled on the tile we wanted I ordered them straight away as there was a 4 week lead time. They are now sitting in a local warehouse until we need them.

Paperwork Management

Herts Advertiser: All the essentials...All the essentials... (Image: Archant)

Day to day life can be more time consuming during the build and in addition to that you will need to schedule meetings with your builders, source new items and manage your budget. It’s a good idea to create 2 simple spreadsheets for the things that you need to buy and to track suppliers contact details and spend.

Pre Build: Items to source – refer to your schedule of works

Payment Record: Suppliers contact details, items purchased, value and delivery dates

Discuss with your builder how and when you will be billed for works completed.

The Builders

It’s really important to have an open working relationship with your builders. You will be living with them for your entire build. We are using Eagle Design and Build for our extension. I would highly recommend them. Jimmy who owns the company is a great project manager. He is very easy to speak to keeps you fully informed on daily progress. When the unexpected happens he has come up with some practical solutions.

We had several meetings with the builders before work started so had the opportunity to ask all the questions that we needed to.

Herts Advertiser: The stress will all be worth it!The stress will all be worth it! (Image: lolostock)

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