Yesterday was DIY day around my house. That’s Do It Yourself day, for those not up on the acronym. I have to say that because of how I’m losing track of what’s a British word and what’s an American word over time. When I came to Britain about 10 years ago, everyone talked about DIY. Then about five years ago, I once used DIY in a column I was writing for an American magazine, and my editor asked me what I was talking about. Today, I hear Americans saying it. So maybe it’s safe to use.
What did I do? Whatever my wife told me, and there was a plenty long list. I hate DIY, as I’ll explain further below. So I avoid it now, drag myself to it only when I can no longer avoid it. The tasks build, and it’s my job to fulfill them. I:
- Hung a mirror in the bathroom
- Hung some glass candle holder thing
- Ran an extension cord (excuse me, a “power lead”) in the living room
- Verified that loose wire hanging in the living room really isn’t live and won’t kill someone
- Reassembled our small stereo and hooked the iPod base to it, so that we can have music again in the living room. Cords even all nicely hidden, too.
- Hung Christmas lights on the porch trellis, using copious amounts of staples. Staple gunning is fun DIY
- Got the Christmas tree into the house and in its base
I would happily employ someone to do all of these things. I’ve reached that point on the time versus money scale that it makes more sense for me to hire someone. But you can’t. Really. You can’t get good people to do small tasks like these. We’ve tried occasionally, and it’s just easier for me to do them myself. Not that I want to, of course.
Any task I undertake has to be accompanied by great huffing and noise. This is to establish for my wife what a huge effort I’m undertaking. None of these tasks are that bad, but I think the theatrics add to the experience.
No task can be done with fewer than five tools. Hang a mirror? Why I will need the awl to punch a hole, the level to measure it, the drill to drill the whole, the hammer to tap in whatever you call those things that the screws go into. The screws go in with a cordless screwdriver, and I need regular screwdriver in case the charge has gone down and they don’t go in all the way. That’s just the mirror.
Honestly, there’s no task so small that I can’t concoct a need for multiple tools. After all, I’ve got them. I went through that first new house madness about eight years ago, where I actually liked the idea of doing up the house.
We ripped up carpets, and I sanded floorboards. I sledge-hammered out fireplaces that had long been plastered over. I scrubbed clean old tiles that looked great when done, even if the work required a combination of wire brush, steel wool, occasionally using a sander on my drill and other methods.
Any job started with a trip to the home supply store, HomeBase or B&Q, the two major chains here. I own two different drills (corded and cordless, for when I need lots of power versus convenience); four different hammers (light tapping, pounding nails and breaking things and really breaking things); three different sanders (belt, rotary and a little mouse thing for close work) and a bunch of other stuff. I’ve even used most of it. I needn’t buy anything further, at this point.
Perhaps that’s why I’m done with DIY. There’s nothing else to buy. And I’ve lost the desire with the second house. It’s not fun. It’s just a time suck on my already too short weekend.
Still, DIY has its moments. Yesterday I used a screw that I had inherited back when I was a teenager, that’s been sitting in a glass jar with other screws for that “just in case I need this odd type of screw” moment. That screw has followed me from my home when I was a kid, to college, to multiple apartments in the US, to an apartment in the UK, then to two different houses in the UK to finally get used. Good noble screw, you’ve finally found your use after so many years and so long a trip.
Nevertheless, I’m still happy to yield DIY if I can. Someone I met once told me a hilarious story that I won’t entirely wreck of how he used to change his oil but finally stopped after nearly wrecking his car. A coworker sat him down and explained that the oil changing guy isn’t going to do his job so don’t do be the oil changing guy.
Right now, Terry is painting our bedroom. He did our dining room last week. I will happily pay Terry to do painting as long as he wants. He’s been doing it for 25 years or more and makes my idea of painting a room seem a joke. He does it with care, huge amounts of preparation and makes rooms fantastic. If only there was a Terry for those DIY jobs I so hate now, having burned myself out on them after doing the first house! Then again, perhaps I really would miss the theatrics and the ritual of assembling the many required tools for each job. Nah!