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Diary of a Fixer-Upper: It’s Worth the Money

Many of us consider ourselves closet do-it-yourselfers. There is a whole industry out there telling us that, given a little time and the right tools, we can paint a room, upholster a chair, build an armoire, and redesign a whole room for less than $1,000.

If you hire someone, it’s like you are wasting money. And isn’t that supposed to be the fun of owning a place anyway? That you can do crazy stuff to it (a mural of 1960s rock greats, a stage in the living room, a wall of mirrors) and then, presumably, fix it? In movies, they build whole montages around home improvement antics, where the leading lady wears overalls and has paint in her hair and seems to be having the time of her life.

Let this blog post mark the beginning of my campaign against this insidious idea. I will call the campaign, “It’s worth the money.” Here’s why:

After I got comfortable in my condo, I started to notice some imprecise details—wall patches weren’t sanded flat, and old paint drips had become part of the texture of the wall. All of the old mistakes were minor, and could be fixed with a little time and effort.

Now that my renovation has hit a lull, I thought it was time for me to channel my inner Ty Pennington. For weeks, I have been painting all of the molding, doors, and trim in the apartment. It is amazing what a difference that can make. You can improve a multitude of old paint mistakes this way, and, since I am replacing an antique cream color with bright white, every room is beginning to look fresher and crisper.

I was a little judgmental of my 80 years of predecessors—people who failed to scratch paint off of glass panes or drill new holes so that a doorknob will fit just right. But now I see how corners get cut. This project is taking forever, and I want it to be done. So, when I stumble upon hardware on a door that I know should be removed and painted under, the inner struggle begins. Or, when my tape ends two inches before I’m finished painting, a little devil on my shoulder whispers,  “Come on, you can freehand it for two inches!”

I rearranged the living room last week and decided the cable wire should be rerouted. I should have thrown myself at the nearest phone and found a professional to deal with it. I was feeling impatient, though, and I thought I could have a handyman come later to fix the parts I couldn’t do.

The former owners had drilled through walls and tacked the wire up through the guest room. For regular people, they did a great job, but it stopped short of the polish you’d expect from a professional. Plus, the position of my television no longer worked with that set up.

All I wanted to do was pull the cable line back through the wall and out of its current route, so that a handyman could simply drill a hole, and put up some tacks. Of course, what happened instead is that I couldn’t get the cable to go back through the wall—I managed to make the hole uglier and waste about half an hour. When I admitted defeat and went to plug the wire back in so I could watch some TV, I realized I had also broken something in the wire.

So, here I am, a crazy football fan and television addict at the beginning of the fall season, with no television. Yes, I know, dry your tears.

At least we can learn a valuable lesson here. I can paint. That is the extent of my renovation talent. From here on, I will solemnly vow that my home-improvement tools will consist of the following: a paintbrush, a roller, some tape, and a telephone. It’s worth the money.


 To read Daphne's renovation adventures from the beginning, click here.

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