Friday, November 5, 2010

One Year Past Inertia

A few months ago, I was regaling some friends with a few of our perpetually undone house projects, such as the kitchen light that fell down several years ago. "And that was when I was talking to so-n-so on the phone, and you know, he's been dead for how many years?"

My friend Brian (who makes a living fixing up and renting houses) said, "Whoa, that is a long time. And you haven't gotten it fixed yet? No, no, no, Missy. If you haven't gotten to a project within one year, then you hire someone else to do it for you!"

Ah. I'll have to tell my dear husband that. He'll be so happy to hear it.

We like house projects. We plan, we plot, we train, we buy samples and supplies. Sometimes we are even reasonably good at doing them.

However, even when we are NOT much good at them, or are having a hard time bringing them to completion (see: new boxes of ceiling fans stacked under the dining room table since this Summer, see: unfinished tile job from eons ago), we have a hard time letting them go. We say to ourselves, well, I should be able to whip that right up. No problem. We can save money by doing it ourselves! Ha. Haha. Oh, hahahahahaHAHAHa! *ahem*

The truth is that house projects often fall under the heading of Idealism + Perfectionism = Inertia. Although to be fair, the ceiling fans will require some rewiring in a crazily-accessed attic. It's not like we are dealing with a new house here.

Anyway, we rarely allow ourselves to let someone else do these jobs, because we have a mythical belief in our ability to do it, and do it alone. We come from do-it-yourselfer ancestors! we say. They put up ceiling fans in the roof of their cave in less than an hour! And we'd rather leave it undone for years and years rather than admit that no, it would be better if someone else did it.

So we are changing that.

Rather than putting the new kitchen cabinets in all by ourselves, we were thrilled to have my mom gift us with a couple days of expert carpenter work. Rather than putting up the new ceiling fans - oh, sometime before the little girl goes to kindergarten, we are hiring a handyman contractor to knock out that task. And a few more. Many, many more, oh yes!

You can imagine the glee and trepidation this inspires.

I love working up the specs and the process. I love the completed project. I get skittish around the mess that it will entail. A little noise, I can deal with. The outgassing/fumes/dust/disrupted space puts me on edge.

So yes, it will be hellaciously dusty in here for the rest of the day/week/year (mmm, plaster!); at least the dreaded plaster work will be fixed! And anyhow, the new ceiling fans should help air out the kitchen after the grouting fumes take over. That's what I keep telling myself, anyway.

Now I am casting my mind over the whole property, wondering who else I might get to come tackle this mess that we'll never get to. Hmm, yard workers. Hmm, carpenters. Hmm, painters and finishers. Hmm, arborists! And let's fill in that hole, excuse me, holes that the electricians left while we are at it. Oh, and stain the window sills. Can I get a bathroom fan, too?

So. Equal parts glee and trepidation. And a banishing of perfectionism, as this old house demands.

Our new handyman is keen on "mudding" the whole living room to even out the plaster. And fixing that corner where a previous renovation never got detailed. And perhaps ripping out the bedroom ceiling. Wait, what??! He has a keen eye for finishing details, and I like that. It's an adjustment for him, too, though.

"What the hell is wrong with this?" Our handyman glares at the space above the kitchen sink. The countertops (mostly level) tilt a different way than the window sill (also mostly level, but the other way). The floors tilt, throwing off the neat line of cabinets. Cracks shyly snake down our plaster walls. The wiring patterns are whacked out (we've known this for years).

"Well, it's an old house," I explain. "Nothing is really square or level, so every time you "fix" something, you notice how nothing matches up."

"And no," I tell my husband," we are not ripping out the bedroom ceiling. NOT a priority." If we started trying to make everything perfect, we'd never finish. But if we get someone else to do it with a generous modicum of competency, it will at least get finished.

Yes, this house is crazy and neglected. Yes, we are slow-moving perfectionists. It's maddening. It's saddening. It's depressing. It's an exercise in letting go of perfection. It's now someone else's job!


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