A Grin at the End: Home improvement pointers

August 2016 Posted in Columnists & Opinion

carl-sampsonBy Carl Sampson

It’s been my long-held opinion that there is no need for capital punishment as long as there are home improvement projects to be done.

Instead of spending eternity on death row, the worst offenders should be sentenced to fixing things around the house or building a fence or painting a bedroom. Nothing is as punishing as standing there looking at a crooked wall or a newly installed light fixture that doesn’t work. In my past, such jobs represented punishment beyond words. The mere thought of a trip to the hardware store or to buy lumber and gizmos for a home project was enough to make me swear off all of my sins, at least for a little while.

Lately, though, I’ve had a change of heart. I’ve undertaken some small and medium-sized jobs around the house and found that I actually enjoyed them. And they didn’t come out nearly as badly as I feared they would.

What happened?

One of the main influences was when my wife asked an electrician for a bid on putting new lights in our kitchen. I’m not sure what the guy was thinking, but he said it would be “too hard.”

When my wife told me that, I said. “Hey, if it was easy, I’d do it.” Then I got to thinking.

Putting new lights in a kitchen isn’t inventing a cure for cancer. All I needed was a plan. I sat down and wrote my patented Seven Easy Steps for Home Improvement Success. If I followed it, I was sure to succeed.

Step One: Watch You Tube. Among all of the videos about cats and Taylor Swift is a great selection on fixing stuff. I recently fixed our 40-year-old dryer. OK, it took me three tries and four days, but it runs like a champ now, thanks to the help of a couple You Tube videos, and some advice from the lady at the dryer parts store.

Step Two. Limit the scope of the job. Have a hard finishing point. In other words, don’t start with the idea that you won’t stop until you have rebuilt the entire house. I replaced the lights in the kitchen, declared victory and stopped. We may change the sink and countertop at some point, but for now I like the “doneness” of it.

Step Three: Talk with your wife — or significant other — about what you plan to do before you start and get her input. And listen. I’m still trying to get this step down.

Step Four: Make a materials list and then buy too much stuff. You can always return items that you don’t use, but there’s nothing more frustrating than having to stop in the middle of a job and go the store for another do-dad or a whatchamacallit.

Step Five: Take a break. You’re not a slave. Every hour or two, sit down and have an ice tea and watch an episode of West Wing or read a magazine. I was surprised at how easy things went when I did that instead of trying to power through.

Step Six: Even when I take regular breaks, I need to stop for the day before I start to “spool up.” That’s a pilot term for a jet engine when it starts to build power. When I spool up, I start skipping steps and rushing. And then I get really frustrated, and believe me, everyone around me suffers.

Step Seven: When it’s finished, quit looking at it. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. I don’t know who said that first, but I’m sure he was talking about a home improvement project.

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