Is a house eternally a “Fixer-Upper?” I fear this is a rhetorical question.
I can think of three principles driving the concept of DIY. One is an outlet for one’s personal creativity. Another is frugality. And the third is based on the thought that “if you want it done right, do it yourself.”
I’m not sure if when we do it ourselves, it’s fair to say it’s always done right, with “right” being a relative term. But, when you do it yourself at least it will have been done the way you wanted or intended it to be done. Maybe DIY is a reflection of hope.
Okay, I’ve succumbed to the pressure of redecorating, under quarantine. Prior to this secondment, my philosophy about fixing-up our house was directed to our daughter, and I believe it was out loud. It went something like this, “You can do anything with this house when we’re dead and gone. I, however, have done all the fixer-upper stuff I’m going to do with this place. At this age, I have zero, zip, zilch, nada interest in DIY.”
Well, sh–! There I go lyin’ again. I’m telling you, like I said in that other column I wrote about DIY being a slippery slope, redecorating couldn’t be more infuriatingly slippery.
Wheee! Here we go.
This time it started with a new living room rug. Having had the rug for more than twenty years, our newest cat has been finishing it off slowly and excruciatingly over the last three years of his furry, soft, purring, anthropomorphized personage, wrapped in killer claws.
Also, it’s classic and pretty flowered pattern of rose, peach, blue, and teal colors on a beige background, in 2020 parlance, all-of-a-sudden screams grandparent style. It has to be replaced. I’m a grandparent of sorts, a step-grandparent. And I love that kid but he has nothing to do with keeping me in the 90s as to our décor.
Then there’s the wallpaper border (what were we thinking), with subtle peach vine y-flowers on a beige background. I think we’ve already been through this, grandma. That border holds us back in some way. It has to go so that our décor can advance our bodies and souls into the 21st century.
The wallpaper border is the more slippery of the DIY slopes. It skates awfully close to remodeling. It requires a lot more commitment to the process than does a new coat of a different color of paint, which is almost a requirement of redecorating.
I’m grateful that my DIY husband doesn’t mind painting. Our daughter actually likes to paint. Painting is not my thing.
As to that border, I, like a fool, believed the home-grown advice on the Internet that a little spritz of vinegar-water (let stand for 15 minutes) and a heat gun applied to that wallpaper, and voila, it peels right off. Yeah, sure. For me, it was 45 minutes later, 3 gouges, and half of my orange vinegar squirted on that blessed wallpaper border, and, if I stretch the truth a little, I got most of an 18-inch space of paper removed.
My hands cramped up all evening, mimicking Actor, James Coburn’s famously arthritic hands. My fingers spastically tried configurations like Star Trek’s Vulcan-salute introduced by Spock’s Leonard Nimoy, which I could never accomplish before. Thanks for that useless skill, wallpaper. Then there was the hammer-toe of multiple fingers. That position was fun. Don’t you love my clinically eloquent descriptions?
I think tomorrow I will change my methods, having found some DIF left over from our daughter’s removal of her bedroom wallpaper border when she transitioned from tween to young adult. Maybe I’ll keep you posted on our progress, or not. Maybe we’d all just rather forget it. (Tee-hee, update: the DIF worked as advertised; spritz the gel, wait 15 minutes, and it pulled right off, for the most part. We used a heat gun to enhance the process.)
I’m the visionary in this DIY process and I have two visions. Neither scenario has anything to do with that border but both are born from my need to hang on to and re-purpose that old living room rug.
First, it would just fit our master bedroom. This, however would require repainting that room. Don’t ask me why, but trust me, it would.
Then, our antique bed frame, a family heirloom, needs TLC repair/maintenance for the dozenth time and our almost-as-ancient mattress/box spring needs replacing. Believe it or not, this is the simpler option. But, when did we ever vie for simple or easy around here?
Option number two for a new home for that darn rug, is to restore our once finished basement back to living space from its many years of various levels of water damage and relegation to a storage-only space. This is truly skirting the remodel word, and it sort of terrifies me.
Walls, ceiling, sump pumps, dehumidifiers, professional consultants, load-bearing walls, trenches…. These things start to scream a lot of work and a lot of money. These concepts conjure visions of backhoes and not the Bob the Builder ones from the dreams of little boys and girls but the nightmare ones that unearth skeletons happily buried years ago. Welcome to the DIY slippery slope.
However, we’ve lived long enough that part of our roadmap legacy to our child and her family is the concept that the upheaval which almost certainly comes with DIY redecorating or remodeling, often, if not usually brings beneficial change to your thinking as well as to your dwelling. When you’re in it, not so much.
When you’re in the midst of redecorating or remodeling, it’s a mass of confusion, turmoil, spats, differences of opinion, changes of plan, dirt, dust, messes, and the like. This is not a task for a troubled marriage.
Soon, thereafter (not the marriage, but the job) you notice the good stuff, the benefits, and I don’t just mean the job completion. You notice that not only has your dwelling changed, but so have you.
For example, just prior to the pandemic inspired paper “shortage,” we bought our customary 6-pack of Corona beer, just kidding, other things come in 6-packs, like paper towels. I noticed today that we still have two rolls remaining. Hm. Why is that?
I instituted a new household policy to use paper towels only when it’s too icky to clean up with a peroxide soaked rag or soaked sponge that has been sterilized in the microwave for two minutes (thank you Mary Hutchings, my Renaissance-woman, older sister). The beneficial result has been a massive reduction in our use of paper towels.
We’ve always tried to employ the three R’s of conservation (Recycle, Reduce, Reuse), but habits sometimes encroach upon our ideals, it seems. Since we burn our paper and most yard and garden debris (some argue that’s a carbon issue but in our small quantity, I doubt it’s measurable and the conservation effort is likely acceptable), we didn’t pay attention to the quantity of paper towels we used. But the hassle of restricted supply during the pandemic panic buying of paper products, redirected our attention to a place where we had grown sleepy.
Thank you again inconvenience. Once more you have, in your characteristic style of seemingly misdirection, guided us to a better place. “It’s all good.”
I’m not a big fan of that saying because to me, it smacks a little bit of denial. For example, when I see not- so-good stuff in the wind and someone says, “it’s all good,” something doesn’t sync for me.
I wonder, however, if this contemporary missive derives from the scripture, “All things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purposes” of Romans 8:28? The literal implication of this scripture implies that the good stuff atop the boatload of bad stuff – all stuff mixed up together in a stew, might just turn out to serve me in the end, as a benefit. If I hang in there.