it may be time to bite the bullet and buy new cabinets

I’ve been wanting a nice kitchen for some time, but I am practical, thrifty, and don’t want to be like those people on HGTV who tear out working kitchens just so they can replace them with whatever is now in vogue, like a certain grade of wood cupboard or a farm sink.images cabinet

I have a working kitchen. I cook almost every night–I’d say at least 350 days a year–yet I have a kitchen smaller than the size of most modern homes’ bathrooms or walk-in closets. That’s no exaggeration. And because it’s so small and so used, it’s showing signs of wear and tear. Heck, at forty-two years old, it showed signs of wear and tear long before I moved in over twenty years ago.

I’ve Band-Aided the poor thing over the years, gluing the microwave door handle on when it pulled halfway off, inching the extremely heavy trash compactor out the door when it stomped its last load of trash and wouldn’t open back up, making my own ice using trays when the automatic ice-maker broke (it’s still broken). I finally gave in and bought a new stove the third time it shocked the bejesus out of me while stirring spaghetti. And I did end up getting other appliances (on sale and low-end models anyway) when they were on their last legs, but only then.

Whatever the opposite of a conspicuous consumer is, I’m that. I put off buying until it’s absolutely necessary. I came from a thrifty family on a low income whose patriarch fixed everything whether he was an expert at it or not. My mom put up with battered furniture (as I do) and old, nonfunctioning appliances until they were no longer reparable. And that’s what I do too.

Our fence was falling over this spring, so we contacted our neighbor, who called on his contractor, and had it replaced. It was double what I had thought it would cost, but we were able to afford it after moving money around and scrimping for a while longer. Same thing with our floors last summer. We had a leak in the wall and, well, not right away but five months later, I was on my hands and knees laying down vinyl plank in the dining room, ripping out more sections of carpet, and laying down more planks. It’s not the best-quality flooring, but it looks OK, and, best of all, I was able to lay it myself. A plus too is that when I decide to change out the rest of the carpet, I’ll at least have done half the work.

Next I thought I’d tackle a longtime problem: painting the cabinets in the kitchen. Painting would cost a fraction of having the cabinets replaced, and I’d get the color I want and not have to have workmen in my house. I knew it was a lot of work–I even heard that from a licensed painter who told me he didn’t want to paint them because of what a big job it is. Still, last summer I spent a couple days meticulously painting the backside of the cabinets, the side that faces the family room. I liked how it turned out and thought I’d tackle the big job of all the fronts of the cabinets this summer. But just as I was about to start the project, I found myself waffling, something I do when I fear making the wrong decision with long-term consequences. I waffled about the color (should I stick with the linen, which looks a bit drab, or change it to antique white, a more popular shade?), and I waffled about whether I should keep them unpainted and just apply a deeper color of stain. That’s an easier job, especially if I use gel stain, but I like the cottagy look of painted cabinets much more.

Now I’m questioning the appearance of the painting I did last summer and whether it even looks that good. I’m looking closely at the polyurethane I used, noticing it’s turning yellow. I had thought it looked great last summer but am thinking it may make the cabinets look old and dingy and is that the look I’m going for if it’s going to take so much effort?

Then when my husband asked me last night why one of the cabinets sticks out near the hinges and doesn’t close properly, I realized that the doors and drawers are nowhere near in good enough shape to simply paint. Painting would be yet another Band-Aid effect, like putting lipstick on a pig, and the cabinets might look a bit better but still wouldn’t function so great.  The real solution is new cabinets. I’m guessing nine out of ten people would agree, if not all ten.

I have company coming in another month and before that we are taking a family vacation that even after I use my airline miles will cost a couple thousand dollars. I’d love to get a new kitchen by mid-August so my best friend of forty years doesn’t doubt why she’s friends with such a schmuck as me, but spending that money now on new cabinets is not going to be easy.  Still, for the first time my mind has concluded that the cabinets must go.

Or so I currently am rationalizing. Give me a couple more days with little or no freelance work and I might pick up my paint brush and begin transforming the cupboards and drawers as best I can on my own. Time will only tell whether I stick with my plan to buy new (which adds even more complications like should we bother putting the cabinets where they are or opening up the entire kitchen) or whether I paint. Yes, time will tell.



have a little faith

Faith. It’s when we believe and trust that positive outcomes will happen. If we don’t have faith, we don’t have hope.

Sometimes I need to have a little faith.

My son was in an auto accident. No one was hurt. It wasn’t my son’s fault. But it was my vehicle and it’s never a pleasant thing to hear that your car, which you weren’t even driving, was in an accident. And no matter who caused the accident, it’s still an inconvenience to have to take the vehicle, assuming it’s even drivable, to a body shop for an estimate, deal with the insurance agency, file a claim, hope that the other party’s story corroborates with yours or the claim may not be paid at all, and if you get the repairs done, be without that vehicle for up to a week or more, or if you don’t, live with an ugly gash in the side of your car forever.

This time we were lucky. This time the person whose huge, new Dodge Ram pickup hit our not-such-a-slouch-either SUV was woman enough to admit fault and deal with the consequences in the proper manner. Why is that surprising? Well, we’ve had several occurrences where the other party didn’t have insurance, wasn’t even a legal driver, and/or caused a hit-and-run accident, without leaving as much as a note on our damaged vehicle. Those times, you’re stuck. There’s nothing you can do unless you want to pay out of pocket for the repairs or file a claim against your own policy. Usually, it’s not even worth the trouble because the costs are exorbitant even going through the insurance, since your rates will increase or you have a deductible that still means a good chunk of money will come from you before the balance of the costs are covered by the agency.

So if you’re going to be in an accident, you hope it’s the other person’s fault and he or she admits to it and that person has an up-to-date policy with a reliable insurance company that pays for the repairs. I should have been happy that this accident ticked off all those boxes, but, being me, I wasn’t. When my son told me what happened, I wasn’t level-headed, calm, and adult about it. I got angry, I became accusatory, and I was upset because this vehicle is supposed to be mine to drive and not my son’s (he lost his own car in an accident a year ago and never replaced it), and I knew that I would be the one who would have to deal with the repercussions, not my son, not my husband, but I. And I was right.

But I was also wrong, because I thought it would be a horrible ordeal that would be time consuming, emotional, and dreadful, and it really wasn’t. Yes, I had to make the appointment for the estimate and take the vehicle in on a Saturday morning while my son lollygagged in bed, and, yes, I had to make the call to the insurance agency and file the claim. And yes, I will have to field the calls from the body shop (who just now rang, by the way) and listen to service reps who try to convince me to get the repairs done and not pocket the check, but it’s nearly over. (It will be when the check in my name arrives in the mail–and the phone calls stop.)

So all in all, as far as auto accidents go, this one was fairly simple. I’ve got to remember all things do not have to be incidences of Sturm und Drang. Yeah, I’ve got to have a little faith.

rosie the riveter

There was a big, gaping hole in our wall (holes, actually) after a plumbing leak. The pipe was replaced so there was just one thing left to do. Call the drywall guy, you say? Hire a contractor? No, of course not. I just tackled this one myself. A couple weeks later, the patchwork of holes has been filled with a couple 2 foot-by-2 foot sheets of drywall cut to size, some joint compound, and a little ingenuity (and a lot of YouTube videos, I might add).

I guess you’d call me a handymom. And I learned it from my dad. I grew up in a family who never once saw a contractor, a plumber, an electrician, or any other skilled tradesman enter our house. With five kids and a blue-collar lifestyle, money was always an issue. My dad’s do-it-yourself attitude stemmed from that and the fact that he was quite handy–or he became that way because he always gave it a shot. There wasn’t anything he wouldn’t attempt. He could build a home addition and change a carburetor on our station wagon, to boot.

My dad was born during World War I and was a teen during the Depression, a time when there was no such thing as credit cards. You either had the money to hire someone or you did it yourself. No putting it on the Visa card and paying it off down the road. The only time I saw anyone other than my dad doing any kind of work in our house or yard was when our town had everyone hook up to the new sewer system, and even then the worker stayed in the yard.

Working with one’s hands was a necessity in generations past. It’s a lost art today. But it’s not always people’s fault. With cars becoming evermore computerized, for instance, no one can work on their own cars for fear of messing with the brain of the vehicle. That lack of effort or fear of trying may have flowed into home-repair projects as well, despite what you see on HGTV. Although Home Depot and Lowe’s are doing a bang-up business, it seems that most people (the ones I know anyway) hire out for jobs. Those must be the contractors and the handymen loading up on supplies at the home-improvement stores. Or they’re homeowners who buy there and hire out the work. Rarely does the fiftysomething female buying the sheets of drywall, screws, and mud hang it herself.

Not only did I get the desire to do the work (and save the money) from my dad but I also got his slapdash way of working and a less-than-amazing finished product. I have to admit, my completed projects are more Walmart than West Elm, but I can at least say I did the work myself, saved the money, and have a sense of accomplishment from doing it.

Some of my friends will say, “Oh, but you’re good at doing stuff like that. We aren’t handy.” To that I say, “You just have never tried.” I’m no handier than anyone else. I just put in the effort and give it a go.

The next time you’re thinking of calling the plumber or the drywall guy or the electrician, if it’s not too difficult a task (and it’s often not if you watch online videos and have the proper tools), you may surprise yourself that you’re handier than you had thought. We can do it! 0828151150