Pick a great contractor. Word of mouth is the best. My friend Michele said her kitchen renovation experience was "DELIGHTFUL!" What? Believe me, that got my attention and helped me narrow down many excellent choices and eventually pick her contractor. He works with 2-3 guys he has known for over 30 years, so I always know who is in my house at a given time. When I found out months after we first met that I was pregnant, he made sure he could devote his resources to getting the job done on a faster timeline than originally planned.
Set up an auxiliary kitchen. Ours is in my office, 3 steps down from the main level of our house. I purged duplicate items, then packed away things I didn't think we would need and moved them to the basement. I kept out basic spices, dishes, mugs, and small appliances: blender for smoothies, microwave, rice cooker, panini maker/griddle, coffee and teapot, and toaster. The only thing we needed to buy was a stand alone burner. We got this one off of Amazon because it was cheap, and it has worked great. We used an old armoire as a pantry to keep the food away from the dogs. A dresser would also work well for this. A folding table also comes in handy for prep-work, and a bookshelf is great for storage.
We are a cloth napkin family, but I decided that for these 8 weeks it would be fine to use paper towels as well as some disposable cups, bowls, plates, and utensils. This was a godsend to me because I have been sick for most of the renovation, and getting a new Solo cup every few days has made me feel a lot less germy. Tim uses the same Solo cup every day, because he is either far more virtuous than I am, or he doesn't understand the concept of disposable. Side-note: I miss having a dishwasher. My husband hasn't commented on it yet, but I have left more than a few things in the laundry room sink "to soak" hoping that he'll break down and wash them before I do. It usually works. Do you have a water source you can use during your renovation? We have a small laundry sink close by. Otherwise, you may be doing your dishes in the bathroom sink or the bathtub.
Plan some meals in advance. It's winter, and we are a soup family, so I made double batches of White Chicken Chili, Bean and Bacon soup, Turkey Chili, crock pot potato soup, and Lentil soup to freeze in advance. Tim grills year round, so he marinated pork chops, chicken breasts, and flank steak and froze them in Ziplock bags. He could have frozen the meat, thawed it, and marinated it the night before grilling, and I could have cooked most of the soups in the crock pot during the renovation, but it was SO MUCH EASIER doing all of this in advance, as opposed to having meat juices sloshing around the
Make a list of food options. In the best of circumstances, it's easy to get in a food rut, and it's even more so in the chaos of renovation. I made a list of ideas and put them on the fridge, along with an inventory of the food we froze in advance. Some ideas are: black beans and rice, breakfast for dinner, paninis, beer can chicken on the grill, pasta, cous cous, and stir-fry. One of the items is, of course, ORDER PIZZA.
Speaking of pizza, we have had great luck buying small pre-made pizza crusts, topping them, and grilling them outside. Yum!
Dogs. I was pretty worried about how the dogs would do during the renovation. Except for the one morning when they were exposed to varnish fumes and I had to get them out of here, they have done great. I'm sure it's annoying to the workers to have them nosing around everything, but it has gone well. We use baby gates to try to keep them with me at all times, and I put Charlie in his crate if I have to leave the house.
Fumes. This was my biggest concern. Okay, fumes and dust, especially since I'm pregnant and work at home! I'm trusting that everything is okay, but I also bought an air purifier that I run 24/7 which seems to help. One thing I would recommend that I have not done, is run a wet mop over the floors every few days, because we are dragging the dust around the house and into our beds, etc. Contractors will seal off part of the house with plastic, but some dust will manage to get through. Ideally, you would be able to get your family out of the house during the smelliest times such as painting and floor refinishing. Even cabinets off-gas fumes when they come out of their boxes. A week away at Grandma's is a good idea.
Let it Go. Learn to live with the chaos for a while, even if it means your table has a shoe, dirty dishes, the newspaper, a Biology book, and a random pair of ski gloves on it. I think it's kind of like decorating for Christmas. It's super messy getting out all the decorations-- all those boxes and tubs. You live that way for a while, before making everything "just so" for the season. Then, when you take it all down in January, it is a huge relief and you feel like you have more room to breathe. I see a "January" on my horizon. When you are in the chaotic stage, hang in there! I'm hoping to have a few weeks of breathing room between the renovation and filling the house full of large plastic baby items.
Prepare to lose your mind over one thing. For me it was the counter tops. For you it might be the drawer pulls or a light fixture. You will likely fixate on some aspect of the renovation as if it is the most important thing in the world. Try not to beat yourself up for totally losing your perspective over this first world problem. Just power through. I took weeks deciding on a counter top before turning the decision over to my husband! On the flip side, I chose cabinets, drawer pulls, and fixtures in under five minutes each. You will have your one thing, so don't be surprised.
No Turning Back. There will be times in your renovation, as you write the big checks and let the workmen see you in your junky bathrobe and mouth guard for the 22nd time, that you will wonder why you are doing this. You will berate yourself for being so picky and selfish that you didn't want to live with your old kitchen any longer. You will convince yourself that you will never recoup the cost of the renovation, and that this one bad decision will put you on the streets. But when you are in the middle of it, tell yourself, "There's no turning back." Your contractor has set aside time for your job. His workers are counting on this employment. Besides, your cabinets and appliances are gone and there's a gaping hole in your floor. So, suck it up, and forge ahead.
Unless, that is, you want to be eating off PB&J off of paper plates for the foreseeable future.
You've got this!
Looking forward to showing you AFTER photos very soon!