As regular readers will know, the husband and I have been redecorating our four-room flat. Out of necessity – no cash – we’ve done a huge amount of the work ourselves (especially the magnificent husband), which means getting home from work at eight, pulling on the work clothes, stiff with paint, and slogging away.
But by far the worst part of doing DIY in a small apartment is that there is nowhere to escape. To paint a room, you need to empty it, and that means piling everything into another room. Paint two rooms and the majority of the flat is out of commission and there’s a constant danger of being buried by your own possessions if you make a false move. If I ever needed an incentive to declutter…
Of course, during the works, our budget continues to apply, so we can’t just go out to escape the chaos. We have to live around it. So, for fellow gung-ho DIY-ers, I thought I would share my thoughts preserving both your sanity and your marriage…
1) Don’t fight fire with fire (aka take turns to be ‘the strong one’)
Neither the husband nor I are renowned for our patience. We both have quick tempers, we love a good rant and above all, we both love getting our own way. However, through trial and error and one very explosive kitchen refurbishment, we’ve learnt that if one of us is at the end of their tether, the other one has to stay calm, lend a sympathetic ear and talk them down from the ledge.
2) When the going gets tough… Beat a hasty retreat
We’re lucky enough to have a courtyard garden out back, and I have turned it into my very own DIY-denial space. Here we can sit and have a cup of tea in peace, eat at a table like civilised people and just relax without being constantly confronted by all the work that still needs to be done.
3) Don’t let it all hang out
As a general rule, squalor breeds squalor. When the whole house is a tip, suddenly, it doesn’t seem worth wiping the kitchen surfaces. Why find a bin when there’s rubbish everywhere anyway? And I might as well just leave my dirty socks balled up on the floor since the laundry basket is in another room…
Don’t let yourself be dragged be down, reader. Trust me, it’s a vicious cycle. I aim for organised chaos, that way it’s not such a gargantuan effort to restore order once the work is done.
4) But sometimes you have to let go
Admittedly I am one of life’s control freaks but I’m learning to embrace the chaos. No, you can’t access your sock drawer, just wear flip flops. Yes, someone will daub paint on the sofa or use your best towel to wipe up a leak. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that they didn’t do it on purpose. And then hide all remaining clean towels…
5) Beware of the dust
Gah, the dust! Sometimes, it seems that you just have to look at a toolbox and the whole flat is suddenly covered in a fine, yet inexplicably clingy layer of plaster dust. Close all doors on rooms where work is not taking place. Then put a ‘no entry’ sign on said door. If you can, tape it closed. If you can’t, illustrate said sign with graphic depictions of just what will happen to anyone who dares cross the threshold.
6) Keep calm and carry on
In my experience, there is a point during every DIY project when you start to wonder why you started. Those chipped seventies kitchen cupboards weren’t that bad, were they? Surely we could just put a rug over the carpet stain, plus no one ever looks at the hallway ceiling anyway, so who cares if there’s a crack stretching half way across and a gross brown water mark up there?
Reader, you did. If your resolve fails, you just can’t bear it for another second and you begin to consider cutting corners to bring the DIY hell to a premature end, then go to your special DIY denial space, close your eyes and give yourself a stern talking too. And if your partner is having a wobble, remember the first rule of DIY. Yup, it’s your turn to be the bright cheery one – whether you feel like it or not.
For when it’s all done, you will wonder around your little abode sighing with pleasure at the gleaming paint work and pristine floors. And as the smell of new paint fades, so will the memories of the few weeks you spent weeping with frustration at the dirt and mess and grit that is part and parcel of any DIY project. And at that point, you’ll probably start looking at houses on Rightmove that ‘have potential’… Good luck!