During deployments, military spouses like to make to-do lists and set goals to accomplish during the long months apart. Sometimes these goals help make the time go faster and distract you. But other times, you’ll see people make wildly impractical goals, like “I want to lose 50 pounds, learn another language and run a marathon.”
There’s nothing wrong with dreaming big for your personal goals. But during deployments, you’ll have limited amounts of time and energy. You want to choose meaningful projects that don’t just suck up your time, but also give you a positive burst of energy to help you face the challenges that come with this separation. That’s why I often turn to home improvement projects as the perfect goal during deployments.
First, let’s be clear about the types of home improvement projects we’re discussing here. While it may be exciting to completely demo your kitchen or renovate a bathroom yourself, that usually isn’t within the scope for a military spouse to handle alone while their service member is away. If you have a full-time job, kids, schoolwork, or any combination of those, then you probably don’t want to start knocking down walls in your home during a deployment. Setting big, unrealistic goals can just make you feel stressed and overwhelmed.
Instead, let’s focus on smaller home projects that are a little more reasonable — and financially affordable — so you can take small steps and work on them a little bit at a time. Tasks like fixing broken items, rearranging furniture, painting walls, refinishing wooden furniture, adding accent décor, hanging curtains or wall art, and organizing untidy spaces can all be fulfilling goals during a deployment.
- Feel accomplished. During deployment, days can often drag on without any positive milestones to mark their passage. When you work on an ongoing project, you can see the changes and the improvement in front of you, and you can celebrate when a project is complete. You also get the satisfying thrill of solving a problem, using power tools and making a decision on your own. It gives you a burst of confidence, knowing that if you complete this project, you can complete others too!
To feel accomplished, choose a project like painting a room or hanging shelves on the wall — those have a very visible result, and a definite moment of completion. Then clean up all the tools and enjoy your new, improved space.
- Personalize your space. If you’re in base housing or in a rented apartment, then it may be difficult to make big permanent changes. But there are many things you can do to bring joy and peace into your daily living areas — without knocking down walls and doing renovations! Focus on small things like adding your favorite colors with paint, rugs or throw pillows. Use temporary accents like removable wallpaper, decals or curtains. Add personal touches, such as items you have collected from dates and travel with your service member, or favorite pictures in frames. While you are personalizing your space, don’t forget to clean out items you no longer need or things that don’t fit your style anymore. You should check with your service member before sending any of their items to a thrift store! But getting rid of your own old clothes, unwanted books or outdated furniture can be both exhilarating and practical — especially if you have another PCS move in your future.
- Gain a sense of control. When the military is controlling so many aspects of your life, your living arrangements and your relationship, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and helpless. You can regain a sense of control by taking charge of small decisions throughout your day and making your own choices that bring you happiness or relaxation.
Start with a small space in your house — like a bathroom — and make it your Zen zone. Keep it clean and free from clutter. Add comfortable towels and a scented candle. By making these small decisions and improvements, you’ll feel more empowered to face the wild lack of control that deployment throws your way. Once you have one clean space, you’ll feel more energized to tackle the next space. One room at a time, you can gain a sense of control over your hectic military life.
If you’re facing a deployment, walk through your home and start dreaming of some of the small improvements and home projects you want to complete on your own. Whether you do a new task each week or spend a whole month fixing up one space, doing home projects during deployment can help you feel accomplished, personalize your space and help you regain a sense of control.