How Not to Strip Wallpaper: Part One

A picture is worth 800 words, but I’ll do the words anyway.

Trepidation. Never used a wallpaper-steamer-offer machine. Trek to truly valuable hardware store to rent one. What emerges from the back is incomprehensible and unclean. Sorry. Head to Big Box Chain home store. Rent cleaner machine. Nice guy at paint department finds little tool to “score” wallpaper first. Warns against pushing too hard, resulting in little pinpricks all over wall. Ha, these walls are plaster, no worries.

Haul machine upstairs. You should have filled machine with hose outside on porch first, but that would make machine too heavy to haul. Review instructions. Main point: don’t burn yourself.  Got it.

Attempt to fill machine using round plastic container retained from grocery store soup purchase, to fill machine. Filled floor instead. Move machine from puddle. Wipe up.

Deploy long-nosed watering can to fill machine. After six or eight fills and pours, screw top back on. Tight enough? Do not over tighten? Plug in. Wait. Fill time by “scoring” walls with pinprick thingee.

Twenty minutes. Shouldn’t steam be coming out of the rod in the middle of the plastic rectangle paddle thingee you’re supposed to put against the wallpaper? Examine plastic hose. Identify severe kink. Attempt to unkink. Ow! Hot! DON’T BURN YOURSELF. Obtain small towel from hall closet to use as hot pad. Hose reluctant to unkink and uncurl. Drape portion of hose over door handle to maintain unkink-ness. Observe that to keep reluctant hose over door handle requires hose to wrap around step ladder. Addendum to “don’t burn yourself:” “don’t trip over hose and fall off step ladder.” Got it.

Steam now schvitzing vigorously. Steam one section while scraping another.  Instructions say ten seconds.  First try, not long enough to make paper scrape off easily.  Repeat.  Hold, steam, scrape. Discover optimum time to hold paddle against wall about three-quarters of the way around the room, after realizing that holding it too long causes vinyl patterned part of paper to scrape off easily, while leaving behind a brown mush of paper backing that smears, doesn’t scrape, all over three-quarters of the room.

Hey, suddenly easier? Drywall, covering an inset for a long-removed medicine cabinet. What are those little pinpricks? Oh. Oh, right. Don’t press too hard with pinprick-roller-scoring tool thingee. Got it. Next bathroom, all drywall. Remember to be gentle. Scrape, scrape, scrape.

Hey, stop biting my ankle, bug! Wait, not an insect – hot plastic hose between your feet that you are not to trip on is burning your ankle that you were to remember not to burn. Readjust hose. Steam, scrape. Steam, scrape. Made it all around.

Observe mess.  Scoop up paper and mush. Place in garbage bag you remembered to bring upstairs for that purpose. Clever you! Step back and observe. Hmm.

Decide that remaining bits of mush on the wall will lend the textured, antique ambiance of a Tuscan villa when painted over with ivory color.  Walls need to dry before paint. Lunch break.

Paint. Hard to reach corner. Ivory paint smear, white ceiling. Charm. Mushy paper bits come off when painted.  Leave some anyway. Texture.

Paint must dry. Use time to assemble clever over-toilet standing cabinet, purchased for the express purpose of not having to drill into plaster wall.

Damn, this thing is rickety, how is it ever going to stand on its own over toilet?  Consult instructions. Discover cabinet must be anchored to wall with supplied brackets. GRRRR.  Set assembled cabinet with brackets attached over toilet. Realize that wainscotting and baseboard make it impossible to get cabinet flush to the wall to anchor. Cabinet is also so low to toilet that if repair inside tank is necessary, unit that can’t be screwed to the wall anyway would have to be UNSCREWED FROM THE WALL. WHAT IDIOT DESIGNED THIS THING? DO YOU MEAN TO TELL ME I JUST SPENT FOUR HOURS OF A GORGEOUS AFTERNOON ASSEMBLING THIS RICKETY PIECE OF SHIT AND NOW I WON’T HAVE TIME TO STEAM THE DOWNSTAIRS BATHROOM AND I’LL HAVE TO BUY A DIFFERENT CABINET TO DRILL INTO THE WALL ANYWAY AND PAY TO RENT THE MACHINE A SECOND TIME??? SHIIIIIIIIIT!

“Mom, are you ok?”

“I’m fine, sweetheart. Want to go shopping?”

Retrieve packaging, including box and mass quantities of styrofoam from recycling bins. Pile these and rickety piece of shit debris into Subaru. Proceed to bedroom-bathroom store. Pile all into cart from cart corral and march to returns desk, prepared for battle.

No battle necessary. Nice lady at bedroom bathroom store sees the problem. Refund.

Proceed to other Big Box Home store, to pick up replacement cabinet that will have to be drilled into wall. Note that store is immaculate, even in aisles with bales of hay. Resolve to apply for job here, ASAP.

Composing Part Two of bathroom cabinet saga and heading off to job apply, I remain,

Your getting-sick-of-do-it-yourself-jobs-but-pleased-enough-with-results-to-carry-on,

Ridiculouswoman

How Not to Paint a Room: Jackson Pollock On the Floor Edition

Note to self: don’t clip fingernails before cleaning paint splattered floor.

Recall famous painter’s technique of splatter painting canvases placed on the floor, accessible from all angles.

Having completed front room walls and removed two inches of frog tape from ceiling and floor, regard floor.

Floor has become canvas.

Jackson Pollock you ain’t.

Sigh.

Contemplate possible cleaning techniques for wood floor.

Recall wood floor cleaning stuff gifted to you from company that refinished floors less than three years ago. AHA!

Now, tool.

Steel wool too scratchy.

Recall odd little green square scrubby thing for dishes.

Hmm.

If it is for dishes, must be reasonably gentle.

Select green scrubby thing as tool.

Starting in far corner, where precious high-boy writing desk hybrid goes, squirt floor cleaning stuff, and scrub.

Hmm. Comes off, but is smudgy.

Note plastic nature of paint splatters.

Imaginary light bulb above head.

Fingernail!

Test fingernail technique on long, skinny paint splatter.

Success!

Immediately regret having trimmed fingernails previous evening. Drat. These little stubs of fingernails combined with green dish scrubby thing will have to do.

Discover in short order that performing scrubbing task with what’s left of fingernails and green scrubby thing whilst (HA!) bending over from the waist is non-optimal. Back hurts.

Assume sitting position.

Discover that performing scrubbing task whilst (!) sitting facing splatters, one or both legs extended to the side, requires a degree of flexibility not yet attained through workouts.

Rotate to sit parallel to splatters, legs straight out in front.

Twist at waist, squirt cleaner, scrub with scrubby thing, pick remainder with stubby little fingernails.

Advance by walking forward one butt-cheek at a time.

Six hours later, gaze with admiration at exceptionally clean floor.

Recall Angelic Daughter’s astonishing patience in the face of need for food.

Arise.

Immediately determine that food will have to be obtained via fast food drive through, if you can make it to the car, that is.

Because it turns out that six solid hours of butt-cheek walking whilst (oh for God’s sake) twisting sideways, legs extended, results in never-before-experienced hip pain.

Deep, sharp hip pain. Walking difficult.

Eh, nothing Dr. Teal (Epsom salts) can’t handle.

Limp to car, sans shower. Drive through, right?

Place order at drive through squawk box thingee.

Advance.

Child at drive through window stares with (bemusement? shock? horror?) mild disgust at sweaty, paint encrusted old lady.

Hands over sandwich and smoothie.

Grip sandwich and smoothie delicately between thumbs and forefingers.

Eh, it’s wrapped up. Food remains pristine.

Drive home, present food to Angelic Daughter.

Attempt to climb stairs. Because, shower.

Discover malfunction in left leg, due to aforementioned (oh aren’t you just little Miss Multi-syllabic today!) hip pain.

Grip stair rail tightly.

Crawl toward tub, Teal, redemption and healing, expecting to walk normally next day.

Next day, limp toward furniture in need of return to appropriate placement in front room. This includes piano, high-boy writing desk hybrid, Grandma’s drop leaf table, Mother’s round bedside table, antique lamp, two other lamps, recliner, Ancestress Chair, couch, very heavy mid-century wooden telescope and tripod cases, with telescopes and tripods inside, several of Angelic daughter’s artworks and rolled up 9 by 12 fancy rug, first thing you bought together twenty years ago, all currently residing under enormous, heavy drop cloth.

Somehow figure out how five feet of you can fold and stow 9 feet by 12 feet of heavy drop cloth.

Begin dragging, pulling, swearing at and pleading with heavy 9 by 12 rug. Manage to wrestle it into position atop rug pad.

Crooked.

Swear, plead, pull, grunt, reposition rug.

No pad showing. Slight bit off by the fireplace, but who’ll notice? Good enough.

Commence shoving piano back into place.

Delicately walk step-Grandmother’s high-boy writing desk hybrid back to its corner.

Couch, recliner, Ancestress Chair, tables, lamps, artworks, telescopes.

Miraculously, nothing breaks.

Four hours later, crawl upstairs on hands and knees. Because, shower, tub, Teal, healing, tomorrow.

Four days later, work up strength to obtain and hang replacement curtains. Looks nice.

Observe again that two inches of frog tape on ceiling is apparently not enough to prevent ivory wall paint from marring white ceiling.

Decide that smudges and lines of ivory on white ceiling contribute to the rustic charm of 1948 Cape Cod. Isn’t that adorable! They did it themselves!

Real estate ladies everywhere recoil.

Mentally remind real estate ladies everywhere that you intend to stay in this house until removed feet first. Colorful smudges and charm in home decor will be exclusively their problem, then.

Smile. Expect Hope to enjoy several more decades (knock wood, don’t tempt fate) of eccentric color scheme, ceiling smudges and imperfect wall-ceiling intersections in charming home.

Because it’s a shitty paint job, but it’s my paint job.

With dining room and two bathrooms yet to come, I remain,

Your not-Jackson-Pollock sloppy do-it-yourself painter, suffering the consequences of her determination to do it herself (because, no money to pay someone),

Ridiculouswoman

How Not to Paint A Room: Front Room Walls

Weigh Jackson-Pollock style painting already on floor as a result of painting ceiling against “no two coats this time dammit” determination to soak and roll.

Select soak and roll. Horse, barn, ship, sailed, water, dam.

Proceed.

Tape perimeter of newly painted ceiling. This may be a soak and roll job, but you WILL NOT mar newly painted ceiling.

Decide you don’t need to remove curtains. You can be careful painting that 8 inch space between the ceiling and the curtain rod, no worries.

Next, tape dividing line between breakfast area and front room. What a designer you are! Defining subspaces within the same space by using different colored paint! SO clever. Thus avoid paying for framing a wall.

Next, start on the easiest wall, no furniture to move.

Soak, roll, slather.

Quick work! You’re getting even better at this!

Turn to dividing line. Breathe. Enter the unknown. Will this work?

Soak, roll, slather.

Now paint eight inch space above very large picture window and curtains.

Up on the stepstool.

Immediately drip paint on curtains you failed to remove.

Eh, they were cheap, they’re ten years old, and they don’t go as well with this new paint color as you thought. Determine to spend a delightful evening shopping on line for those perfect sheers you saw in some big box store. Which store? Eh, you’ll remember.

Proceed.

Paint trim around huge window, previously taped. So smart.

Immediately drip paint on glass.

Eh, it’ll scrape off when dry.

Proceed.

Two out of four walls, done.

Now, the wall behind most of the furniture, including the piano.

Determine that piano can be rolled from one end of room to other, according to which part you are painting. Table, lamp, CD cabinet all inch away fairly easily. Nothing breaks.

Move beloved writing desk-highboy combo that had belonged to step-grandmother an inch at a time away from wall. This one gets covered with plastic. Must not drip on that. Or break anything.

Miraculously, nothing inside highboy display cabinet breaks. My, you have the touch!

Proceed with soak and roll.

Wait, is that dust? I thought I got all that!

Oh well. Decide that cobweb-dust-encased-in-paint-now-affixed-to-wall provides the textured, antique appearance of a Tuscan villa to a 1948 Cape Cod.

Proceed.

Oops, forgot to spackle over chipped places.

Spackle.

Forget that spackle needs some time to dry.

Paint over wet spackle, creating smudgieness.

Sigh.  “Textured, antique appearance of a Tuscan villa.”

Time to move the piano.

Manage to shove piano from one end of wall to the other without gouging fresh paint.

Wonderwoman, that’s who you are!

Complete corner behind beloved writing desk/highboy combo. Finish front wall.

Next, paint trim of three remaining windows. Cool! Monotone! Trendy!

Forgot baseboard trim.

Slather baseboard trim with soaked brush. Tape’s still there, and so is Jackson-Pollack painting.

Return piano to center of wall.

Notice paint drops on piano.

Eh, never should have paid for a rebuilt one. So stupid. So many people willing to get rid of theirs for free.

Adopt Scarlett O’Hara outlook: “I’ll think about that tomorrow.”

Done! The biggest room in the house, done!

Wait, wha?

Easiest wall looks, um, not done enough.

Approach.

Realize that despite soak and roll technique, subtle texture of old plaster wall still shows dappled white spots, un-soaked with new ivory color.

Curses.

Two coats.

Soak, PRESS HARD, roll.

Sweating. Yay, workout.

Repeat exhausting HIGH PRESSURE soak and roll around room.

Notice that when pressed hard, soaked paint roller emits tiny spray of paint droplets, which coat your glasses, face and hair.

But at least you kept your mouth closed this time! HA!

Now, DONE, dammit.

Yes, but you still have to remove tape on ceiling and floor, clean floor, and replace furniture.

Think about that tomorrow.

Angelic daughter has waited all day for your attention.

Eh, who needs a shower just to go get some take out?

Use app to order. Drive over to pick up.

See diners recoil.

Eh, I didn’t get anywhere near your food, don’t sweat it.

Deliver Angelic Daughter’s food, pristine in its styrofoam within its paper bag.

Realize you forgot to eat.

Smile. The Paint-A-Room-And-Forget-To-Eat diet!

Genius!

Shower time. Find paint in impossible places.

Scrub, rub, lather, rinse, repeat.

Sit back and contemplate methods for scrubbing Jackson Pollock painting off wood floor.

Which you will do.

Tomorrow.

Actually getting ready to start the next room, just behind on the storytelling, I remain,

Your “I really thought I got all the paint out of my hair, and what’s that on the side of my ankle?”

Ridiculouswoman

PS I figured out how to add a little more realistic heft to my bitmoji, who is flinging a can of paint up there; if my 5 a week barbell workouts start to have any appreciable effect, you may see her begin to slim.