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Diary of A Fixer-Upper: Out With the Old

Daphne preps her condo for construction.

Demolition begins tomorrow. I have come to hate the wall between the kitchen and the living room. I thought that having it torn down would be the exciting part—maybe I would cover it with graffiti or swing a sledge hammer at it. But now that the day has arrived, I am stressed.

This renovation is already far more expensive than I imagined, and who knows what surprises this old building could hold. If there is a steel beam in the wall, everything changes. What if a pipe breaks? What if the electrician takes one look at the wires and says it all has to be redone? Lately I find myself wondering whether I am qualified to be a homeowner.

It’s also terrifying to lose your kitchen without knowing when you will get it back. These are the thoughts that run through your mind when you find yourself paralyzed in the paper-plate aisle at the grocery store because you have no idea how many plates, cups, bowls, and utensils you need.

Fears aside, I have come too far to back out. This weekend, it was time to bid the old kitchen adieu and empty her out. First, my boyfriend set the kitchen on fire. The idea was to say farewell with a home-cooked meal, but a couple of tablespoons of walnut oil in a wok can apparently burst into flames. The damage was minimal: a singed hood that is set for replacement in a week and a blackened pan. The stir-fry was delicious.

With the last meal (and ritual fire) out of the way, the excavation of the kitchen commenced. I thought it wouldn’t be too bad—I have long lamented my lack of cabinet space, and I don’t even have a pantry. How much stuff could there be?

There were packets of yeast, from my bread-making faze. There were untold numbers of cookie cutters—used once each—and more tea options than any person could consume. There were remnants of my Thai-cooking dalliance, my Indian-food obsession, and the time I decided to bring canned fruit to work for snacks.

It took forever, but I learned a couple of important things from my kitchen purge. For example: Next time you pause to ask yourself, “Do I have any cooking oil spray left at home?” the answer is yes. On the off-chance the answer is no, give me a call, because I have five cans of the stuff.

Now, the contents of my kitchen and breakfast nook are in the living room, my rug is rolled up and hidden away, everything is covered in clear plastic, and my apartment feels incredibly small. The worst part is supposed to be day one. It’s when most of the worst-case-scenario possibilities would occur, and my contractors have told me a hundred times how dusty and miserable the apartment will be after they destroy the solid plaster wall. When I come home from work tomorrow, I am anticipating something like mid-1980’s Beirut.

After that, though, the process should pick up considerably. The electrician takes over for the rest of the week, and then the contractors come back to rip out the cabinets and start building a pretty kitchen. Until then, it will be take-out food on paper plates, lots of mopping and dusting and, I have been told, a bit of coughing and wheezing from all the dust.

It’s all worth it, right?