Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Extreme Home Makeover Chez Lydia

I have reached the breaking point with my house. It is awful. I'm so stressed from the level of chaos and disorganization that it's hard to focus. You would think being at home for two weeks without a break under an avalanche of snow would've been a great opportunity to get organized. But you would be WRONG. It's even worse now and this further deterioration has not gone unnoticed. You know how I know my house is an even bigger train wreck than my wardrobe? The following conversation:

Me: Hey, if I were to decide to sort of, fix up my house, and maybe make it look like grown-ups lived here, would you be willing to hel--
Friend: YES. Absolutely. When? Now? No time like the present! Let's get started.
Me: Ok. Ummmm... That bad, huh?
Friend: Yes. Yes, it is.

So in this update, Lydia's Commitment to Vanity has taken a new direction. I spent a week focusing on improving my house, rather than the size of my ass. First, let's a get a sense of what I'm working with. I am renting a 35-year old split-level. It is not charming. It has no upgrades. I feel icy drafts through every one of the original doors and windows. The drawers in the kitchen fall out if you pull them too hard. It has shiny, regency-striped wall paper that is curling off at every seam (offering a relentless temptation to certain small fingers). The deck could fall off the side of the house at any time. Almost every faucet drips. How can dripping be so loud?

Drip drip drip... The soundtrack to my insanity.

But on the other hand, the house is HUGE and cheap and walking distance to a great elementary school and Target (!) And while the neighborhood is OK - the neighbors (with one or two glaring exceptions) are amazing. Also, there are hardwood floors. And lots of natural light. So for someone with nice stuff or who was good at housework (not me), it could be really cute. We have nice stuff - it's just (a) covered in crap or (b) in storage.

The only "art" on the walls are my children's paintings and other kid-related stuff and it is all held up by scotch tape. Oh! And there's also the Valentine that Kate sent me. It was a Twilight greeting card that unfolded into a poster. That's the first thing you see when you walk in the house. Classy.

The other thing you notice when you walk in is that there is kid stuff everywhere. In spite of the fact that we have a playroom, their stuff all over the place. Not just toys - socks, shoes, gloves, books, Legos, sometimes even underpants (which I will NEVER understand).

In making over my house, I decided to start with my couch. It is old and nasty. After twelve years, four cross-country moves, three kids and an enormous dog who sneaks naps on it whenever I turn my back - it's pretty gross. There are fraternities who wouldn't want this couch. For their lawn.

It's green and white plaid and holds a 296 lb. queen sized-pull out. I have bought three or four slip-covers and they have all ended up shredded. I have begged the Cap'n for a new couch, pleaded and even made the frat analogy, all to no avail. He points to the tattered slip-cover and says: "Why bother 'til the kids are older? Until then, let's just get another slipcover."

Stupid male logic.

But I did what he said. I bought another slip cover. And... I bought another couch. The "new" slip-cover I bought six months ago, but it clashed so horribly with the shiny wallpaper that I stored it in the basement. It cost about $20 less than the new Craig's List couch. But I needed help. So I called my friend and neighbor Ellen, who was like: "Fix up the house? Move heavy furniture? Strap things to your van? Bring. It. On."

So we got started on a multi-step process that took two days.

Step One: Clean out and re-arrange the playroom so that 1/3 is now playroom and 2/3 is now adult-type seating area (also appropriate for Wii playing). Includes moving several old, broke-ass bits of furniture out to the curb with signs that said: "Broken but FREE!" that were snatched away within hours.

Step Two: Move 296 lb frat couch down narrow hall and bizarre, twisty split-foyer stairway to the playroom. Try to avoid serious injury. Put new slipcover on old couch and in the hopes that it will look less vile.

Step Three: Survey and then clean horrifying disaster-area complete with mutant dust bunnies in the empty space where the fart frat couch used to be.


Step Four: Pick up $100 Craig's List couch. Affix to the exterior of the BWT with 4,000 ancient, borrowed bungee cords. Drive BWT home without wrecking the van, the couch, or causing a fatal motor vehicle accident. Do so while driving 11 miles per hour with flashers flashing, windows open and Ellen peering out to make sure it's not falling. Also, with three kids in car seats in the van alternately screeching "FALLING OFF! FALLING OFF!" and singing along to "We Are the Champions".

Step Five: Carry new couch up one-half of bizarre, twisty split-foyer stairway. Arrange all other furniture around it. Additional cleaning, de-cluttering, and ineffectual attempts to "decorate".

Partway through Step Two, I had to leave my house to pick up Hawk at preschool. When I got back, Ellen had totally finished steps 2 and 3 and taken the charming the picture you see of the mutant dust bunnies. She had also re-rearranged the playroom to make it look bigger and somehow - cleaner.

Let me tell you some things about Ellen. She is not quite five foot two and maybe 100 pounds soaking wet. But that woman is like MIGHTY MOUSE. As Hawk says: "She's wittle but she's stwong". She can lift anything. Like a 296 lb frat couch - all by herself. And by lift, I mean ONTO A VAN. She claims it's because she goes to a class called Body Combat, where essentially (as it was described to me) you pretend to beat the crap out of someone to "Fire Burning On the Dance Floor". So really, she's like a bad ass, hot girl version of Mighty Mouse. And she's never says no when someone needs help, and her three kids are awesome, she's a second mom to every kid on our street and she loves mojitos. And she once fought off a gang of banditos in order to save a baby turtle - she's that good. Oh - and she's an army wife. Enough said.

But I digress. We must hurry along to THE BIG REVEAL. The Cap'n gets home, exhausted and bleary-eyed at 8:30pm. The kids and I are hiding in Hawk's room and then jump out and yell: "SURPRISE!!!" at which point the Cap'n had to pretend that he didn't almost have a coronary. He surveyed the changes and looked surprised. Then happy. Then grave. Then suspicious. Guess what he said first? That's right! "How much did it cost?" When I told him it was $100 TOTAL, he looked pleased.

But here's how I know he actually LOVED it. For Valentine's Day, he came home with an area rug to match the new couch. This is what he said: "It's from Pottery Barn. It's a dark brown rug and we shall call it Peter Orszag." I have to say that I adore it.

My house is still jacked up - but it's so much better. Yay! Sigh... If only ass-reduction were so easy. But that's next week.

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