Saturday, 27 February 2016

It Takes Two To Tango… And Build An Ikea Bookshelf

Last weekend was spent in full DIY mode. Having moved into the new house in August I’ve gradually been buying mirrors and furniture to suit the new surroundings and fit the space. This weekend, I built some shelves for the lounge. By ‘built’ I mean I assembled an Ikea flat pack kit but I’m still taking that as a construction victory.

I am a complete girly female when it comes to DIY for a number of reasons:

1. I read the instructions.

2. I set out all the components and count them before starting.

3. I assume all said components are essential rather than optional, and I therefore use them all when told rather than skipping a few to save time.

4. I use the tools I have rather than going out to buy the latest exciting gizmo which will shortly be relegated to the back of the garage never to be handled again.

5. I only use a hammer when specifically instructed to.

6. I believe the bubble in the spirit level.

I know this may sound sexist but I believe these to be the actions of more females than males. Only this morning I had a phone call from my soon to be ex-husband who left me almost 2 years ago (see my first post Single Plus Baggage) to ask where he should put the rinse aid in his new dishwasher! I gave basic generic advice then gently suggested he read the instructions. It was bizarre on so many levels!

Anyway, since moving into my new abode I have assembled a temporary hanging rail, a dining table and 6 six chairs, a chaise longue style chair, an egg chair, 3 coffee tables, 2 garden storage cupboards and now a shelf unit too. I have an electric screwdriver and I’m not afraid to use it!

The hanging rail was particularly difficult as it was an old one so the instructions were lost long ago, some bits were broken and other elements were missing… I think! It took me hours.

So, back to the bookshelf. I was alone in the lounge with the flat pack pieces, instructions, my tools and a cup of coffee. I had already organized the screws, brackets and wooden dowels into piles and was ready to go. It wasn’t long before I was fighting back the tears!

It’s not that my ex would have done this sort of thing before, as he wasn’t really into DIY. And it’s not that I was feeling cross at having to build a new world one flat pack at a time. I was angry because the task was physically tough.

I’ve had tennis elbow since Christmas Eve and the pain was searing through my elbow, down my forearm and into my fingers. I was trying to hold 2 large pieces of wood at a 90-degree angle and push one into the other with wooden dowels. I tried every permutation of standing, sitting, kneeling and bending with every possible option of shelf unit upright, on its side, on its back, upside down… it was hopeless. And even if I did manage to get myself and the components in exactly the right position, I then couldn’t reach the hammer without something wiggling out of place. And it hurt my arm, a lot.

It really would have been helpful to have another pair of hands, except there isn’t another pair of hands in my life anymore.  Those hands now reside elsewhere. The kids are getting a bit older and could help but if they’re out with their Dad then I’m absolutely on my own.

I was on the verge of tears when I managed to pull myself back from the DIY abyss. I remembered that an extra pair of adult hands comes attached to arms that are joined to the shoulders of another human being. If that other human being, say a spouse, has an opinion, critical voice and an unwanted short cut likely to end in disaster then that’s not really a pair of hands you want helping.

I suddenly realized that doing this alone was actually easier in many ways than working with someone else. There was no voice interrupting my thoughts as I read the instructions, no one standing watching me and no one making “helpful” suggestions.

I persevered with my one armed task. The dog was perplexed. She didn’t offer to help.

Finally, I did it. Granted the last screw only went into place when I had to lie on to top of the unit to force the panel down and align the holes but it worked and, for once, my weight was an asset! The feeling of satisfaction was fantastic. And obviously made me cry some more!

By evening, the lounge corner had been tidied up with the debris previously spilling out of it neatly filed on the new shelves. The room was once again in order. I was relaxed and ready to sit on my sofa, enjoying my newly finished space. Then the dog was sick on the carpet. Keeping my cool, I cleaned it up and settled back down with a serene smile on my face. Then my son, swinging around a toy in a fashion we have all told our children to stop in order to avoid disaster, knocked my full glass of Becks Blue off the coffee table onto the floor. I gave up on my quiet night at that point.

The next day, inspired by my success, I was tempted to pull out the bathroom cabinet flat pack, lounge mirror and hallway pictures and get stuck in. However, it’s important to know your limits.

Firstly, when your arm feels like it’s being stabbed with a burning hot skewer, it’s time to take some painkillers and rest. Also, any furniture item with doors that need adjusting so they don’t end up wonky is not for the novice DIYer. And hanging a mirror that you can’t even lift single handedly is never going to end well. So I’ve booked a lovely handyman for next week to come and finish off!

In summary, I would say 3 things:

1. Build what you can. Keep going. You can do more than you first think.

2. Get help when you need it. Be realistic. It’s not a sign of failure or defeat.

3. Invest in, or make friends with someone who own a carpet cleaning vacuum device.

Happy DIYing everyone!



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