Big challenges and small wins

We’re in the midst of a challenging time. It’s the kind of time, I’ve realized, that can make the whole prospect of working on home feel irrelevant. When we’re grappling with hard things, matters of decor just don’t matter much.

This (sorta) Old Life:  Fireplace mantel

We dismantled our gallery wall early last summer and stuck these on the mantel temporarily to store them. They stayed like this for a good 3 months.

There are really only two questions about home that matter to us when we’re struggling with the lives we’re living in it:

  • Do things work?
  • Are they comfortable?

Because (thankfully!) the answer to most of those questions is “yes,” we don’t have any kind of big progress to report on the home renovation front.

The master bedroom “project” that we began in January has been stalled since early spring. We’re still living with a couple of junky nightstands, a white-washed particleboard floor, and an ugly Ikea bed frame. Doesn’t matter. Everything in the room works well enough and is comfortable enough.

This (sorta) Old Life:  vintage rug

We did pick up this groovy vintage wool rug over the summer. Doesn’t the beater nightstand and the white particleboard set it off nicely? ;-)

We started repainting our living room over the summer. We’re using the one-wall-at-a-time approach we employed the last time we did this. This weekend I was sitting on the couch and noted to Cane, “From right here, I can see walls that are 3 different colors.” (Not to mention, windows with two different window trim treatments.) Doesn’t matter. The walls are holding up the ceiling just fine.

This (sorta) Old Life:  Living room with tripod lamps

This used to be our gallery wall. We found the large painting you can see a bit of at an estate sale last summer.

Our entry stairs are still a work in progress–2.5 years after Cane began tearing up the carpet. We don’t like the reclaimed wood thing we did with the top half of them. We can’t figure out what we want to do with the stairs. And until we do, we aren’t feeling like tacking the door, the looks of which we don’t like at all. Doesn’t matter. We have no problem getting up and down the stairs or in and out the door.

This (sorta) Old Life:  Reclaimed wood stairs

When we are in a better time, these kinds of projects bring joy. It’s fun to ponder possibilities and tackle new challenges. We’ve got a bank of good feeling and energy we can draw upon to bounce back from the inevitable missteps and mishaps that come with any DIY undertaking.

This (sorta) Old Life:  cane looking at hole in bathroom wall

Didn’t see this one coming before we took the vanity out!

But that’s not where we are right now. We don’t particularly like that–who would?–but we know that’s how life is. We have times when the living is easier, and times when it is not. We’re in the thick of the latter right now, which means that how we’re doing home isn’t quite the same as it was this time last year.That’s why we’re not going for the home renovation gold right now. We’re chasing small wins.

For weeks a light has been burnt out in our downstairs hallway. Two weeks ago, I finally bought a replacement bulb. This past weekend, Cane put it in.

You know how sometimes you can’t feel how uncomfortable a pair of shoes is until you slip them off at the end of the day? And then you do, and you can’t believe how sweetly relieved your feet feel? That’s how I felt when I pushed on that light switch (which I’ve continued to do, from habit, all the weeks it was burned out) and it turned on again.

Who knew something so small could feel so good?


Cane didn’t stop there. He also unclogged our bathroom sink. It wasn’t unusable the way it was. It was just draining really, really, r-e-a-l-l-y slowly. But it was annoying and gross and draining more slowly every day. Both of us had periodically pulled out the hair gunking it up near the surface of the drain, but we really needed to get into the pipes and clear them out.

Cane did that while I was out with a friend on Saturday, and I can’t tell you what a lift it gave my spirits when I came home and saw that the drain was clear. When I ran water and it didn’t back up at all, I felt that whole shoe thing again.

This (sorta) Old LIfe: Dark master bath renovation sink

Both of which inspired me to finally do something about a chair we’ve been using in the kitchen.

thissortaoldlife retro metal chair

This is a thrift store chair I bought years ago and meant to do something really awesome with. (You know, my chair addiction.) I was sure I’d paint the frame and do something great with the seat, but I haven’t.

I noticed last week, though, that the fabric is actually tearing. Which made me feel crappy, because it felt like a metaphor for things in general.

This (sorta) Old Life:  Old chair

Thinking about the light bulb and drain, though, I realized I don’t have to do a big project to make this better. This chair, it doesn’t need some dramatic before and after involving spray paint and new fabric. Not right now, anyway.

So, inspired by my (still on-going) grocery bag sewing project and my blogging friend Katherine’s use-what-you’ve-got approach to projects, I decided to find some fabric I already own and just fix the dang cover.

This (sorta) Old Life:  Recovered chair for the small win

Half an hour on Sunday morning and the job was done. All I had to do was unscrew the seat from the frame, try not to get too grossed out at the evidence that some kind of critter once lived under said seat, staple some new fabric over it, and screw the seat back on.

This (sorta) Old Life:  Recovered chair for the small win

Or was it yet to be hatched…?

Do I love this fabric? No. But it’s better than ripped fabric.

Are we still struggling with our challenge? Yes. Are we now on fire to tackle those bigger projects we’re stalled on? No.

This (sorta) Old Life:  Recovered chair for the small win

But it’s all good. In the midst of a big hard time, it’s good to have some small wins. It’s good to be reminded that little fixes can make a big difference in how we feel. It’s good to feel competent. It’s good to remember that no time is all good or all bad, and that the important thing is to keep moving forward, doing what we can. Sometimes that’s the only way we can do home, and life.

This (sorta) Old Life:  Recovered chair for the small win

A different kind of small win? Getting out on an early fall afternoon this weekend to appreciate the sun on our faces and the beautiful part of the world we live in.

This (sorta) Old Life: Cane shooting Columbia River

We hope you’ve had a good week/end and we’d love to hear all about your recent wins, big or small. :-)