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Diary of a Fixer-Upper: Prepping for Thanksgiving Dinner

A confession: It has not been that long since I received a gift “from Santa.” And, depending on attendance levels at family holiday dinners, I am still occasionally seated at the kids’ table. I’m 30 years old.

I make this confession to illustrate the incongruity in my mind with the fact that I am hosting Thanksgiving this year. My condo will be filled to the max with one branch of my family tree, and there will be a turkey in my new oven and a buffet on my new bar. I am thrilled to have one major event to cap off all the work I have done over the last several months, but wow, the pressure is on to make this apartment shine!

The kitchen is perfect. I wrote the final check last week, and it is done, done, done. It is so done, in fact, that the rest of the apartment looks conspicuously not done by comparison.

Phase one of the bathroom began last week, when I started layering a coat of white paint on the pink ceiling every day. It’s almost finished. In the next day or two, my neighbor/handyman/lifesaver will install the medicine cabinet and light, which will make a huge difference. When he is done, I will paint the room, and it will be “done enough” for Familyfest 2008.

I’m going to have the floor guy come and make a few repairs, and I’m finally going to have the building manager fix the gross stains on the ceiling in the guest room where the ceiling once leaked.

There is also a lot of painting. When I was a renter, I thought painting was fun. It’s wonderful to see your handiwork have such an immediate effect on a room. Mistakes can be fixed and it’s relatively inexpensive—what’s not to love?

Oh, how naïve I was! Painting takes forever, it’s messy, and, to be done right, it should be preceded by a bunch of prep work. It’s not fun. Having someone else do it, though, is wildly pricey, and I can’t justify the expense.

To renew my interest in painting, I have been considering a purchase that is still in the “fun” column: A power sander. Power tools make me envy homeowners in the suburbs. There, people have room for things like tool sheds, where they can build things and tinker. Obviously, I have no tool shed, but I do have enough room in my basement storage unit for a power sander, which would then help me prepare my old, pockmarked walls for paint lickety-split. Also, I would be wielding a power tool, which is all I really want.

One of the final steps will be hanging art in the living room. It’s funny how often that slips through the cracks—all of my friends lived with naked walls for at least a year after they bought their homes. I am lucky enough to have a few wonderful artists in my family, or I would have had to wait a while before original art made its way into my budget.

And then, soon before the family comes marching in, I’ll have the worth-every-penny cleaning people come in to handle various unpleasantries that I would rather avoid.

Hosting holidays must be the final frontier of home ownership. I am really proud of my place, and eager to have people see it at its best. Chances are, I won’t check off every single item on this list in quite the way I am hoping, and that will be fine, too. The fact is, I just don’t get things done unless I have a deadline, so events like this are the only way to get my place finished.

I doubt it will permanently excuse me from the kids’ table (truth is, I like the kids’ table), but it will show a lot of people I care about what I have been up to for the last year and a half. And that is so much more fun than boring a room of people with the ups and downs of my professional life.