Simcha Fisher: Wisdom gleaned from home improvements

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She may have glued the front door shut, but that doesn’t mean Simcha can’t dispense some DIY home renovation advice. Image: Pixabay

Lately, I have discovered I have a knack for minor home renovations, and by “minor” I mean “the entire household gets turned upside down for 72 hours,” and by “knack” I mean “nobody stops me”.

It started when I painted the kitchen and put in a new floor and trim and backsplash and ceiling, and then we put in a new bathroom floor (although that was because we had to, due to Sudden Catastrophic Bathroom Collapse; not recommended), and also several new walls and new tiles; and then suddenly the living room ceiling felt intolerable as it was, and so did the dining room ceiling, and then I was like, YOU KNOW WHAT THIS DINING ROOM NEEDS? And because it was afraid of me, it quavered out, “Please give me yellow and white paint and a new black and white floor with stars on it!” and so I did.

As a chronic over-sharer, I generally document my progress on social media, and people kindly say things like. “You have so much energy!” and this is true. It’s not a virtue. I was just born that way, and I choose to channel it into home renovation instead of world domination, because I don’t know what I did with my passport. They also say ,”You are learning how to do so many things!” And this is also true. In a certain sense.

Here is what I have learned about home renovation projects:

If you’re attempting a project you’ve never done before, always start with the most visible part of the room. This way, by the time you’ve actually acquired some technical skill, you’ll have worked your way around to the part that’s behind the box of mismatched roller skates, and no one will ever see the fruits of your great proficiency; but the section that looks like it was done by a baboon with a meth problem will be front and center for you and your guests to behold every day of your life.

If it’s something you already know how to do, always start the project, when you have plenty of energy and enthusiasm, with the big, easy parts, and leave the fiddly, exhausting, trying bits for the end when you are seeing double, the back of your neck is on fire, and your confidence and self-esteem are at rock bottom.

The reasons for these two rules are unclear, but I follow them every single time, no matter what the project, so they must be vital.

Also important to remember: Many of today’s problems have solutions the seeds for which were planted in your brain many years ago. In today’s project, for instance, I accidentally glued the front door shut. I’m not especially eager to have guests anyway, but my husband was on his way home with hamburgers, so it was looking pretty tragic for a minute.

But then I remembered a little something I had learned many years ago in physics class, a little something about inclined planes, and thinking about it made me remember how stupid I used to feel in physics class, because I never knew what was going on, because I never did the homework; and feeling stupid makes me feel mad, and I got so mad that I kicked the door really hard, and it popped open! And then my husband came home with the hamburgers. So you see, physics really works.

It’s not just you: They really have started printing directions smaller and lighter. What helps me is to fetch my reading glasses, turn on my phone’s flashlight, sometimes take a photo with my phone, enlarge it, and THEN ignore it completely and do it however I feel like, and then become baffled and enraged when it turns out horrible, the glue doesn’t stick, the pieces don’t join, the screws strip, the bits fall out, the center does not hold, mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, and also some stray macaroni gets painted right into the windowsill. It’s not just you. It’s a conspiracy.

It’s very easy to lose track of time when you’re immersed in a long project, but you do want to pace yourself. If you’re not sure what time it is and you can’t see a clock, just look at the bit of work in front of you and imagine hitting it with a hammer. If the very notion makes your brain go red with hot, hot desire, the hour is probably Late, and you should probably take a little break. Stand up for a while, stretch your legs, and go lurk by the kitchen sink and eat fistfuls of stale cake and questionable deli meat. This will clear your head until you can admit to yourself that you already hit the thing with the hammer, probably more than once, and you know perfectly well that’s not what wabi sabi means.

You can probably cover the smash marks with caulk, though. But you still may want to stop for the day, because the doctor has asked you to try to avoid the redbrain thing if possible.
Finally, don’t forget your yoga. Many of the stretches and poses will come in handy to help you sustain your peace of mind throughout the project. For instance, suddenly climb down from your ladder and assume corpse pose. This not only relieves tension in your whole body, it terrifies the children, and they stop asking stupid questions and run away.

I hope these tips help you in any projects you may undertake. Remember, if you have any questions at all, do not hesitate to reach out and ask, and I’ll be happy to help if I can. My door is always open. Unless I’ve glued it shut again.