Awkward Girl Does DIY

Awkward Girl Does DIY

[Disclosure: this post contains 1st world problems, really crappy photos, and a lot of whining. There’s also an advert at the end, and reference to gifted items. It’s hard to know which of these things will be most annoying, but I’m sure you can decide for yourselves…]

As I write this, we’re just about to enter week 4 of what I’ve come to think of as DIY hell.

Four weeks, people. Four weeks of dust, mess, and a strange white polystyrene thing which turned out to be the cover for the outside tap cluttering up my kitchen. (Y THO?)

For someone with low-level OCD relating to the house (And I use that term advisedly: my OCD mostly relates to health anxiety, which I’ve been diagnosed with, but it also bleeds out into the rest of my life at times, and this is one of those times…), it’s basically been four weeks of hell, really. (Well, three weeks, technically: I’m fully anticipating that this next week will be much the same, though…) At this point, the mess is so overwhelming that I literally feel like I can’t think straight. So, what better time to write a blog post, huh?

Here’s a little insight into how our stair remodel – and all of the other side-projects it’s created – is panning out so far…

Nearly thereWeek 1, Day 1

Terry knocks down the stair walls and rips up the carpets, having first of all shrouded all of the doors in plastic sheeting, in what will be a futile attempt to keep the resulting dust out of the rest of the house. You know when E.T and Elliot are both sick, and the scientists quarantine them by basically wrapping their entire house in plastic? It’s a bit like that, only with much more dust, and much fewer walls.

“It’ll be fine,” we say. “What we’ll do is, we’ll learn from the lessons of past DIY projects, and, this time around, we’ll do our best to tidy up as we go, so the mess will never get out of hand, and there will always be an area of the house we can escape to, and revel in its cleanness and organisation!” <FORESHADOWING>

Week 1, Day 3

After three days of dramatic groaning and banging, the boiler chooses the coldest night of the year to break down. We borrow one heater from my parents for Max’s room, and bring another one down from the attic for ours: in this way, we get through the night OK, but, when morning arrives, it starts to become clear that the plumbers who moved the hall radiator for us right at the very start of the project have somehow managed to mess with the boiler, which has now gone on strike.

Max and I decamp to my parents’ place and then to Sainsbury’s cafe, while Terry stays behind to summon the plumbers. We return home to find that the house is now warm, but is now even MORE of a mess than it was when we left it. A small part of me dies inside.

Max drinking his babychino

(Max enjoyed his babychino in Sainsbury’s, though, so at least one of us is happy.)

Week 1, Day 5

Our kitchen table looks like this now:

messy kitchen tableI’m still valiantly trying to retain some kind of control over the house, by cleaning around the various tools etc that are lying around, and continuing to do things like placing dirty dishes in the dishwasher, changing my clothes every day, etc. At one point, I even try to clean the kitchen floor, even although I know perfectly well that I’m basically just pushing the dirt around. Terry, however, has now become almost completely feral. Maintaining that there’s “no point” in trying to keep the rest of the house clean, and no time to tidy things up, he is cheerfully piling clothes on chairs, and hoarding dirty dishes on his desk. I’m pretty sure this is how civilisation starts to fall apart.

Week 2

Our bathroom looks like this now:

DIY in bathroom

The rest of the house is no better. Everything that used to be in the halls and on the stairs (Artwork, mirrors, ornaments etc) is now in our bedroom, which closely resembles a junk shop. There are piles of random crap in the livingroom. It’s been 7 days since we last saw the kitchen floor. The stairs, meanwhile, look much the same to me as they did on Day 1, despite the fact that Terry has been working on them for approximately 27 hours per day.

In the middle of this, my dad arrives, and builds a fitted kitchen for Max, which is placed in our office:

toddler in toy kitchen

I will now be spending all of my spare time picking up pieces of plastic fruit and returning them to the cupboards from whence they came. Max will now be spending all of his spare time removing them and throwing them around the room. Despite the fact that I now have, not one, but TWO messy kitchens to look after, I’m grateful for the distraction this provides, because, while Terry works round the clock on the house, I’m basically solo parenting. The days are long, but the years are… also long, tbh. How does February have 28 days, but always lasts for approximately 27 years, though? HOW?

Week 2, Day 2

This morning Max has a home visit scheduled with the health visitor, for his 14 month checkup. Because he doesn’t have enough to do, though, Terry randomly decides to knock down the number plinth in the front garden (Er, I’ve no idea what the correct term is for this, but it’s a piece of stone with our house number on it), and replace it with a giant piece of granite, which he will also attach the house number to.

The health visitor arrives to find Terry in the front garden, hitting the piece of granite with a sledgehammer. Having run the gauntlet of the hall…

wood piled in hallway

… she arrives in the dust-covered living room, where we all valiantly try to pretend that YES, this is a totally suitable living environment for a toddler, and NO, of course that’s not a set of power tools, including some very sharp objects, sitting on the kitchen table!

Max passes his assessment with flying colours. Terry and I are probably now on some kind of register of potentially negligent parents. The new number plinth looks a lot like a gravestone. Yes.

Week 2, Day 3

Higgy The Plasterer arrives to plaster the stairs. (At one time, Higgy had an actual name, but now he’s always known as Higgy-The-Plasterer.) We don’t bother with the plastic dust sheets this time, because, seriously, what’s the point?

In other news, I’ve given up on trying to keep Max’s kitchen tidy. Other things I’ve given up on:

  • Replying to emails
  • Wearing clothes that aren’t leggings
  • Blogging
  • Life

I am, however, still obsessively cleaning Max’s handprints off the mirrored doors in the office. One day I plan to rip the freaking things off their hinges with my bare hands and throw them out of the window and onto the street below, while blasting ‘Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangster’ from the Amazon Echo. I CANNOT WAIT.

This bodes well for our plans to put a glass wall on the stairwell, then, no?

Week 2, Day 4

The stairs look like this now:

Currently, the only room in the house that isn’t an absolute mess is Max’s room. Naturally, then, we take this opportunity to rip up the carpet and replace the floor in there, too. Because apparently we just couldn’t STAND the idea of having ONE CLEAN SPACE, huh?

“As the floor is up anyway,” says Terry, “I was thinking now would be a good time to hardwire the internet cabling* and re-route it through the wall in Max’s cupboard. Ima do it now!”

(*He said something like that, anyway. All I heard was, “I’m going to make even more mess,” really.)

(He did this because we live in a tiny village, with crappy cable, so the internet speed is super-slow. Terry’s been planning to do something complicated with cables for a while now, in a bid to make it faster, but was put off because of the mess it would make. LOL.)

I’d assumed that this re-routing of cables would just involve Max’s room, which was already wrecked at that point. Actually, it involves knocking a hole in the living room wall, one in Max’s cupboard, and another one in the office. So that’s AWESOME.

Week 2, Day 5

While Terry has been concentrating on the house, his “real” work (Web design, FYI) has been piling up, and he’s somehow also managed to bring in 275 new clients, all with urgent projects. He starts staying up until 1am or later in order to try to make a dent in his workload. No dent is made. Max’s room, is, however, complete, and now has a beautiful new floor to replace the stained old carpet it used to have:

nursery inspiration: baby's nursery with changing table, white floor and colourful artwork

Max responds to this news by spilling orange juice all over the carpet in the office. He then does this several more times. Neither Terry nor I can muster the energy to get out the carpet cleaner – and, even if we could, we can’t actually access the hall cupboard where it lives, on account of all of the wood piled up against it – so we add, ‘Replace office carpet,’ to our list of things to do in the house, and try to ignore the giant stains. You win some, you lose some, right? Or, in our case, you get one new floor, only to ruin another one.

I’d very much like to just buy a new house now, TBH.

Week 3

Despite having gone through two weeks worth of non-stop work, the house doesn’t look even remotely different to me.

“It’s really coming along well, isn’t it?” says Terry. I nod and smile and start looking into the cost of a lengthy hotel stay.

We are, however, almost at the point where we’ll be able to have actual flooring on the stairs and halls again, though, says Terry, so we briefly resurrect our long-running, “What type of flooring will we put on the stairs?” argument.

My initial thoughts here had been that I wanted to go for an all-white look on the stairs, because, you know me – if there’s a difficult way to do something and an easy way to do it, I’ll choose the difficult way every time. Thankfully, though, just before this project started, I saw sense, and realised that white floors in bedrooms are one thing (Bedrooms being low-traffic, and therefore much lower maintenance), but white flooring on the stairs would be a one-way ticket to OCD Central, so we’re compromising by going for the same Quickstep flooring we have on the ground floor of the house on the stair treads, and the same white flooring we have in the bedroom on the risers. We’re fortunate to be working with Quickstep on this project, so they’ll also be supplying us with their Incizo system, which allows you to put laminate on stairs (Video here for those of you wondering what on earth I’m talking about…). Because the wood on our stairs is pretty poor quality, this is going to be the best way to get the look we want, apparently …. BUUUT because it’s more complex than doing a regular floor, we won’t have all of the various bits and pieces we need for it until next week. In the meantime, then, Terry started painting:

stair remodel

And painting. And painting. And also? PAINTING.

(I’d help here, but I can’t, as someone has to look after Max while all of this is going on, obviously. And also because, after The Great Hallway Debacle of 2017, I’m not allowed to use paint any more.)

Week 3, Day 2

Because there isn’t enough wood cluttering up our house and garden, Terry announces that he will need to order MOAR WOOD. “Seeing as we’re buying wood anyway,” he says, “We might as well get extra wood and use it to floor the attic.”

(Our attic is only partly floored at the moment, which makes it hard for us to cram all of the random crap we have no other home for up there.)

Terry assures me that flooring the attic will only involve making a minimal amount of mess, which will be confined to the attic itself.

Actually, it involves making the maximum amount of mess, which affects the entire bedroom. Later that night, I’m reading Max his bedtime story when I hear an almighty crash from somewhere above my head, followed by the tinkling sound of many small things breaking. It is as if millions of voices cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. Ascending to the room above, I find that Terry has attempted to re-open the hatch in the ceiling, only to be ambushed by an entire box of Christmas decorations, which fell on his head, before finding their way to every conceivable corner of the room.

Thankfully, the loss of life baubles is minimal, and Terry manages to sweep up the broken glass. Two days later, though, I’m to find Max wandering around with a Christmas bow stuck to his butt, so I suspect we haven’t seen the last of this saga quite yet.

Week 3, Day 3

“Since we have all this wood now,” says Terry, “I might as well use some of it to make a replacement wine shelf!”

(What? You don’t know what a wine shelf is? Well, in our case, its essentially a very large radiator cover. Its main purpose is, of course, to cover the ugly radiator in the living room. Its secondary – and much more important – function, however, is to serve as a handy shelf to place your wine glass on when you’re sitting on the couch. Hence: “Wine shelf.”)

The words, “replacement wine shelf” made this project sound like a five minute job, much like putting up a regular shelf. Actually, it took three days, and my last shred of sanity, and, at one point, involved the breaking-up of our corner sofa, which spent a few hours standing on its side in the corner of the room. Even the giraffes were horrified.

making a wine shelf

Week 3, Day 4

Terry continues doing more things to the stairs that don’t seem to make much difference, and yet take up a huge amount of time. I continue with the solo-parenting of Max. Max continues to spill things on the office carpet, which now resembles a world map. At one point, I need to do some work of my own, so Terry takes Max down to the kitchen, where Max immediately empties a box of washing powder over the floor. While Terry’s cleaning it up, Max grabs Terry’s discarded coffee mug, and empties IT all over the floor. The resulting cacophony brings me down to the kitchen, where I find Terry removing the kickboards from the units so he can mop up the liquid that’s seeped under them. (Because, yeah, we really, REALLY don’t want to have to take up the kitchen floor AGAIN, do we?) while Max runs around like this:

happy Max

As we clean up after this latest event, Terry reminds me that, before this project started, we invited a bunch of friends and their kids round this weekend for lunch and a playdate.

Yeah, looks like we’re meeting up at soft play instead…

Week 3, Day 5

The local glazier we contacted about providing and installing the glass for the stairwell turns up to inspect the progress and measure up for his final quote. “Are you just knocking down the entire house, then?” he asks in amazement, as he walks through the front door. “I WISH,” I mutter darkly to myself, as I retreat into the living room with Max, to pass the time by drawing pictures in the dust on the floor.

Good news, though: the glazier thinks the project is complicated, but do-able. We’ll receive his quote sometime within the next few days. We plan to pass the time by trying to guess what it will be, and what we’ll have to sell in order to afford it.

“We’re nearly there!” says Terry, optimistically.

Here’s a photo, taken this morning, of what “nearly there” looks like:

hallway remodel in progress

Please keep us in your thoughts as we enter week 4. We need all the help we can get…

P.S. I write a weekly diary which goes out every Friday to my subscribers. Sign up below to get on the list...

books by Amber Eve
  • Really fabulous! Cannot wait to see final results x

    March 2, 2019
  • You have my deepest sympathy. I bet it will be all worth it in the end, even though it surely doesn’t feel like that right now. And I can totally see a lot of progress being made here!

    Anne – Linda, Libra, Loca

    March 2, 2019
  • Ha ha ha, oh Amber!! This is simultaneously hilarious, and also completely depressing to me, since this has essentially been my life since we started renovating our house…in 2015!!! We are doing every room and space, one by one (or sometimes three at once because you knock down a wall you need to sort both sides, yadda yadda) and my husband seems to have a similar approach to Terry of ‘in for a penny…’ and isn’t very good at focusing on getting one room finished at a time! I keep telling myself it will be worth it, in the end we will have a beautiful house. It’s just hard to believe when it has taken 2.5 years to empty sufficient spare wood, building materials, tools and paint out of my home office to actually get a carpet down in here. Meanwhile I was working hemmed in by piles of teetering crap. Not very conducive for focus. In fact the only reason the office got sorted (with only £70 of expenditure on carpet and underlay, so it wasn’t £££ holding us back, as it is with some projects, e.g. moving the front door and building a porch!) is because I just got two huge freelance jobs and I basically insisted on it if I was going to be spending every spare hour in here! We will get there though – you will get there. Whether we will both be sane by the end remains to be seen! xx

    March 2, 2019
  • It’s amazing how your husband can keep finding MORE projects to do while he is still completing other projects! I love that you guys do so much DIY, I am absolutely terrible on that front.

    March 2, 2019
  • Myra


    Remind me never to remodel our house, even though it’s what I want to do more than anything else in the world. This post is by equal measure hilarious and scary.

    March 2, 2019
  • Brenda


    Renovations totally suck. I am about to embark on one here in my house and as I was meeting with the contractor, plumber, flooring person, etc yesterday, I had a minor panic attack, wondering what the hell/why the hell/how the hell are we doing this? I didn’t sleep that great either, mulling it over in my mind. I will give credit to Terry though, in that he finishes projects he starts. There are some people who don’t do that, and they end up living in a construction zone for the rest of their lives! Plus, it looks like he does a really good job — you are saving a TON in labour costs — which is where more than half of my renovation budget is going. My heart goes out to you for doing it with a Toddler (a very cute one by the way!!). For that you deserve another trip to Tenerife!

    March 2, 2019
  • Mary Katherine


    As usual, a wonderful job of turning your pain into our entertainment – muchos gracias…. My husband is renovating a house to sell, and is totally in over his head. Obsesses over drywall patching while the kitchen and baths are gutted and require total re-design and installation. Nero fiddles while Rome burns…but at least that’s not MY house. Living IN a house that’s being renovated is my idea of the innermost circle of hell. You have my deepest sympathy, and at least it sounds like “it won’t be as long as it has been” – best I can come up with for you!

    March 4, 2019
  • I am ready for a remodel of our house, but am maybe having second thoughts after reading this. Nah, bring on the new floor! Ha ha.
    You’re house is going to be amazing once it’s all done. Hang in there! ?

    March 12, 2019
  • Tracey


    I’m so sorry for laughing so loudly at this Amber but honestly it is one of the funniest things I’ve read in ages. I hope the pain is over soon for you!

    March 14, 2019