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
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
- 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
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.