Controlling Time

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I’ve finally done it; I’ve found a way to control time!

Don’t believe me? What if I told you I’ve found a way to stretch one hour into an entire year? But don’t take my word for it. Just ask The Wife. She’ll confirm that one hour could possibly be stretched into a year and half or even longer. Read on, Dear Reader, to see if you too can control time at your house, but a word of warning first.

We have found controlling time to be an extremely expensive process, costing more than either of us could have possibly imagined. If we only had known a year ago what we know now, perhaps we never would have started watching that home improvement channel. Confused? Welcome to my world.

For the last year, The Wife and me have had the same morning routine. After getting up, showering, and dressing, we enjoy breakfast on our bedroom loveseat while watching one of the many home improvement series on television. At last count, we’re currently keeping up with five, and that is where our problem lies.

The shows are good, each providing great ideas on how to improve even the dumpiest home. Now, our house is far from a dump – messy sometimes – but not a dump. Still, being sixteen years old, it could use some upgrades.

The shows we watch have two people doing all the work: one has a mother and daughter team, and another has two brothers. A third show, my personal favorite, has two guys pushing around a grocery cart full of all their tools and belongings.

The life partners live in each house during renovations, turning each into an updated home full of handcrafted art on walls, ceilings, and even backsplashes and floors.

After the first couple of episodes, The Wife and I agreed we could do the same. After all, we didn’t need to push a shopping cart from house to house because we already live in our home. I’ve learned a lot about construction over the years so I could do all the work myself and, with a basement full of every home improvement tool I can possibly imagine, there would be absolutely no reason for me to buy new ones. Was I ever wrong!

Myths of those home improvement shows – the demolition. Tearing out old kitchen cabinets and floor covering takes longer than the five minutes they dedicate to it on TV … much longer.

Unlike on the shows, after demolition you’ll be exhausted, sweaty, and filthy from head to toe and wishing you hired the entire project out. This will be the first time you’ll have this thought, but it won’t be the last.

Then you have to load up your truck (we don’t have one), drive to the nearby dump (ours is an hour away), and unload everything by yourself. Personally, I like the five-minute TV version of demolition rather than the real-life version that took three days.

Myths of the new design – the perfect computer sketch. Spend $5,000 on a CAD program and you too can have 3D computer-generated floor plans of your new kitchen design.

Don’t like the location of your new cabinets? With a click of a mouse, they can be transported to the other side of the kitchen. And you can add huge new windows where once there were none.

At least on those home improvement shows that’s how it’s done. Not having an extra $5,000 lying around, we drew our new floor plan out on a napkin.

Myths of removing load bearing walls – it’s so easy; anyone can do it. Reality: it’s not, and you better have a structural expert ready on site before trying to knock down walls.

Note to Reader: if you remove the wrong wall, your roof can fall in. This will add months to your new kitchen renovations because now you have to find a framing and roofing company. (I’ll save you a lot of time. They’ll be busy for months into the future.)

Myths about plumbers and electricians – they come out as soon as you call them. On the home improvement shows, when a water line is cut and starts flooding the entire house, the plumbers are on site after one quick call and before the commercial break is finished. In real life, call a plumber and they’ll tell you to cut the water off at the street, then they may or may not show up until three days later.

Walls are full of wires. Wires have to be moved first if you want to take down any walls. If not, the shock and the ensuing light show after cutting into the live electrical wires will have you wishing you’d contacted an electrician first.

When those folks on home improvement shows have electrical problems, one phone call and their electrician comes right out. In reality, like plumbers, electricians are booked solid, and it will take weeks before they can get to you. I’ve found it’s good to stock up on flashlight batteries before starting any home improvements.

And possibly the biggest myth of all — it’s easy to stay on budget. On all of the home improvement shows we watch, by the end of the show they’re always right on budget having spent only money they have in the bank. If they go over in one area of the house, they just use the money they had allocated for another area.

In the end, they show that it’s easy to stay on track; you’ll spend only the money you originally budgeted and your timeline for completing the entire home improvement will not take a day longer than expected.

The reality is that home improvement at our house hasn’t worked the way it does on any of the home improvement shows we’ve watched.

We’ve now thrown our budget and completion deadline out the window and spent sooo much more money than we first thought.

With current supply chain issues, the pandemic still around, and all the unforeseen problems I just described, the completion of our entire renovation in one hour (like those TV shows) didn’t happen.

After adding a trip to the hospital due to a pressure washer accident plus the two weeks off to heal, it has now been an entire year and we’re still not done.

The solution to all home improvement projects – an abundance of patience. We’ve learned all the delays really work in our favor. Waiting weeks for plumbers, electricians, and other workers to arrive affords us time to reassess what we really want to remodel.

In the end we save money because we don’t have to change things along the way. It also gives me time to go out and buy all the new tools I need to do some of the work myself.

Time travel. Want to travel back in time? Nothing makes you feel more like a kid again than using a sledgehammer to knock down walls or tear out old kitchen cabinets.

Want to slow down time? Try doing something you’ve never done before – like built-in bookcases. Trust me, if it goes like it did at our house, you’ll have to buy a lot of new tools, learn all about the exotic woods, and learn the language of woodworking. (Yes, woodworking has a special language all its own.)

If you watch any of the home improvement shows, you’ll see how easy it is to renovate an entire house. The shows are packed with such good ideas you’d want to do them all, just like us.

Unfortunately, unlike those shows, we don’t have a crew of twenty to come in and do all the work during the commercial breaks. It has taken months and months to be proficient in the techniques of gluing, sanding, and bending wood.

But when I finally finish — and that will be sometime next year — I will step back, smile, and say, “I did that.”

Controlling time: all it takes is watching an hour-long home improvement show … and then you too can stretch that hour out to an entire year, or perhaps even longer.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001.]