You know what I have to learn and then re-learn and re-learn over and over again? The joy of a small project. That’s what.
Quick. Immediately satisfying. Simple. Cheap. Those kinds of projects. I love them! Specifically, I love to over-think them, then get quickly overwhelmed by them, and then abandon them before I’ve even begun because I haven’t mentally worked out all the kinks. See? What’s not to enjoy?
This used to be easier before I bought my house. The whole house is one enormous project, composed of many different big, expensive, time-consuming, difficult projects. This will continue to be the case for the foreseeable future, which is OK. I bought the thing. I asked for it! I even had some notion of what I was getting into, and I did it anyway. But that doesn’t mean it’s not at times exhausting and frustrating, I think in part because you end up spending so much time and money and energy on things that at least feel much more in service to the house than to yourself living in the house. Something like that?
To illustrate, let’s consider my windows. As with the rest of the house, they are very old. All of them need work, and the work is time-consuming and a pain in the ass, and when it’s all over…there’s a window. The same window that there once was, just in better condition and hopefully better prepared to stay in one piece for the next century. It still goes up and down as before, and still provides light as before. Congrats, house! You have a restored window. Boy do I feel…like I just spent a ton of effort on something that has not made a notable difference in how I live in this house. Awesome, let’s do it 36 more times, and we’ll spread it out over many years to prolong the fun!
My house has a lot of windows, literally and figuratively. It’s part of what I love about it. It’s part of what I hate about it.
SO ANYWAY, as much as I love my home, sometimes part of me might just long for the days when I lived in places owned by other people. Then, my projects were so much more about making myself more comfy and satisfied in my living space—which is, actually, fun and exciting and ultimately the goal of this whole entire endeavor, I recognize. But for me, those smaller projects will never feel like a priority when compared to the mountain of house-things I should be working on at any given time, so I have to be extra-conscious to make time for them every now and then. Turns out enjoying living in your house instead of just working on it all the time can, actually, make the work feel more worthwhile. Huh. It’s almost like…enjoyment…feels good? And…working on something you enjoy is…fun? Big revelations here today, folks.
So let’s think back to the summer, when I bought this big armoire and then we never spoke of it again.
Here’s what I did. I bought the big thing. Then I brought it home. Then I moved all my clothes out of the chest of drawers that had been occupying that wall, put them in a smaller set of drawers, and crammed that smaller set of drawers into my closet and moved the other one to another room to collect dust. Then I moved the big thing into place, wiped it off, took a couple pictures of it for my internet friends, and…
There is no “and” because that’s the whole story. It sat empty for the next six months while I occasionally thought about all these elaborate things I would do to build out the interior without compromising the integrity of the piece (it is, after all, an antique and I don’t want to fuck it up!). I wanted it to hold a TV, but also have storage for…something…which might involve drawers and cubbies and shelves and maybe some fancy twee labels. I’d have to construct a thing out of plywood to the exact dimensions of the interior so that it could nestle right inside, which obviously I’d have to plan, build, dry fit, remove, patch, paint, install, secure…it would have to be attractive and sturdy and hold all the things I needed it to, once I figured out what those things were, which really was the first project…
Enough. End the madness. The goal was not to have an enormous empty armoire in my room indefinitely, no matter how good-looking it is. The goal was to bring this thing into my life and, in turn, see my life improved by its presence. Sometimes (all the time) I need to stop and really think about how to simplify something, because my impulse is often to over-complicate it to the point that it becomes some big thing when all I really wanted was a goddamn TV in my bedroom because TV is my favorite thing and bed is my favorite place and the two in combination just feels so right.
Here is what I did. Try to keep up.
I went to Lowe’s and bought four of these little super-simple shelving verticals. Next to them, there are little packs of shelving clips, so I bought one of those. Then I went to a different aisle and picked up 3 pine stair treads, because they were long enough, a full inch thick, and had a nice bullnose edge.
You’ve seen this kind of shelving, btw. I didn’t, like, discover anything. They’re in every old person’s house in America. For a long time I’ve considered them kind of flimsy and crappy and, I don’t know, something everyone in the 1960s decided was a good idea, like cigarettes.
You know what? IT WAS A GOOD IDEA. Not cigarettes, the other thing. I submit that this shelving is actually rather beautifully designed in its simplicity of use and install, and clearly stands the test of time given how many I have un-installed from closets and stuff over the years. Ain’t a damn thing wrong with it.
(I could have probably scrounged up the wood for the shelves from the basement or the garage, but then again maybe I couldn’t have, and I’d have to break out the router for the bullnose edge, and there is something nice about the shelves all matching and not being some weird cobbled-together solution to save myself $30, and omg why am I even still thinking about this IT DOES NOT MATTER.)
Then I went home and I did something else. I installed all that shit. It took maybe an hour. I wiped down the inside of the armoire. I took out the existing clothing rod. I screwed in the verticals, like three screws per strip because the side panels are thin and flimsy so you can only screw into the thicker stiles and rails. I snapped in the clips. I cut my shelves to size (which, FYI, they would have done at the store for me if I asked/had the patience to find an employee). I drilled a hole in the back for cords to come through because we can only be so precious about stuff and nobody will ever see it.
Want to know something kind of funny? When I went to install the shelving tracks, there were already little holes on the inside of the cabinet that lined up perfectly with my screw holes! Because somebody ALREADY FIGURED THIS OUT. And screwed into the armoire, and not only did I buy it despite its compromised-by-modern-conveniences condition, it took me 6 months to notice and I don’t care even a little bit about it and anyone who’s worth a damn in the future won’t either, because it so doesn’t matter.
I’m getting worked up.
I put the shelves in. They fit.
Then I put the TV in. It’s a 40″ Insignia. It came from Best Buy. It was $200. It’s not the most amazing TV but it’s 100% sufficient and fuck if I’m gonna repack it and take it back to the store because it’s not amazing. It’s FINE and that is the attitude I’m trying to insert more into my life. IT’S. FINE. A great many things are fine being just fine. My mediocre TV is one of those things.
After the TV went in, I put in linens. I love linens. I do. I love sheets and blankets and duvet covers and seeing them neatly stacked in here makes me feel all kinds of domestic and adult about my shit. It’s that subtle difference between hoarding and collecting. Collectors store their shit well. Put it on a t-shirt.
The next day, high on my victory, I felt motivated to make the few little repairs that this piece needed. There were a few little pieces of trim that had broken off but been thoughtfully stored away in that bottom drawer, so I broke out the wood glue and the brad nailer and put them back.
I replaced the knobs on the drawer—one had snapped off in transit, and I was holding out until I found the perfect set of replacements (the original style of knob isn’t especially hard to find, except of course when you’re looking for them), but decided on this day to just replace them with the next best thing I had around. Amazingly, now I can use the drawer AND the gorgeous-even-though-they-aren’t-really-correct knobs look cute and who cares if I never replace them.
Then I wiped down the whole thing with the dregs of a can of Restore-a-Finish, which ran out before I got to the least-visible side and this, too, does not matter.
Someday I’ll have a little more Restore-a-Finish, and a couple of hours to stain and poly the shelves, and maybe the right set of knobs or even a better TV. But I’m kind of not worried about it.
Otherwise, I guess some other things have changed since last time I took photos of the bedroom? Nothing major. I move stuff around a lot. But I finally got a queen mattress for my queen bed! After spending a ton of time researching and comparing all the newfangled mattress companies, I had a nice night’s sleep at an Airbnb and found the mattress they were using for $200 on Amazon. It’s cheap and it’s firm. You can fill in that joke.
The big black and white art used to hang in the house I grew up in! It’s actually 1/2 of a diptych, but I only have a couple of walls big enough to accommodate the whole thing so in the meantime I just hung up one side here. Some people love it and some people hate it and that makes me sort of happy. It’s signed “Reizner 1975.” This is the wall I’d like to eventually add a mantel back to, since it appears one was removed at some point.
I dunno, I moved my lounge chair to another room and moved in my cutie little rocker. Nobody sits in bedroom chairs; they exist exclusively to collect laundry and fill awkward corners.
Mekko is still the cutest. Naked man is still naked.