I fondly remember the first night in our current home. We sat on the floor of the living room, eating fish and chips, drinking wine, discussing what we wanted to do with the house. We were excited and enthusiastic, and had grand plans and intentions. Decorate every room, convert the garage, build a conservatory. The house was a little unloved and dated, but we were eager to try our hand at decorating and DIY. Our first home had been freshly painted and required minimal work, so this time we were keen to get our hands dirty. Two weeks later, we donned overalls, and tackled the first room. Daily arguments in B&Q, matching up patterns on dripping wallpaper, aching arms stripping off woodchip, drilling heavy sheets of wood in to the plaster. Decorating was laborious and tiring. However we were immensely proud of the finished bedroom. As we discussed what to tackle next, I realised the scale of the job ahead. Daunting. Then only a few months later I became ill… and all of the grand plans had to stop.
For four years we lived in the house barely making any changes. We lived with the threadbare carpets and woodchip walls. We lived with the borders, patterned paper and glass light shades. I couldn’t see an alternative. I couldn’t see how we could decorate when I was ill and unable to help. Despite Phil’s protests that he wanted to, I refused to let him try. I didn’t want the dust and the disorganisation, the fumes and the faff, the mess and the mayhem. I needed peace, quiet, organisation, consistency. Besides, now I wasn’t working, we no longer had the spare money. Even though I sometimes hated the house, and longed to live in the beautiful homes of my friends, I couldn’t see a way out. I was paralysed by inertia.
But then in the summer, I met up with some friends. Kate was proudly showing photos of her finished home, and Louise was excitedly discussing her decorating plans. After I sat moaning to them about my abode, they kindly offered to come and do an SOS makeover in my living room. Their kindness and willingness to help, started something slowly whirring in my head. I decided then and there, that I wanted to kick my inertia and do something about the house. However, instead of a quick fix SOS makeover, I wanted to decorate the living room properly.
The planning and organising were to be my jobs, however through getting ill and no longer working, I’d lost a lot of confidence that I could successfully project manage something. So, as I started planning, I initially found it stressful and overwhelming. I worried that my colour scheme would clash or be too dark. I worried that my transplant call would come mid-job and so we would never get it finished. I worried how my lungs would cope with the dirt, the fungus, the dust, the paint smell. But I persevered, and every time I got stressed and wanted to run back under the covers, I visualised the end goal and gritted my teeth! When I needed advice or thoughts, questions or encouragement, Kate and Louise were ready on WhatsApp. I spent many an hour on pinterest, ogling beautiful blue rooms, and alternative fireplaces. I read forum posts on the best settee material for a dog, instructions on how to put up television brackets, and searched through pages of navy curtains. We wanted new carpets, new walls, new sofas, new fireplace, new furniture, new lights. We wanted more plug sockets, the TV on the wall, to remove the hearth. It kept me busy. I coped when the plasterer pulled out of the job the day before, the curtains were the wrong shade, and the TV bracket didn’t fit. Every time I organised something, arranged something, bought something, coped with something, my self-belief slowly returned. And moreover, I felt proud that I was kicking my inertia.
Phil was amazing. He did the majority of the donkey work on his own after work. Night after night he chiselled away at the concrete hearth, or smoothed the bashed plaster, or painted and repainted the walls. Every night for weeks; working in the dark until midnight. To keep my lungs away from the fumes and dust, a plastic curtain was put on the frame of the permanently closed door. Phil hoovered the downstairs daily. Windows were always open. Dusty old clothes and shoes were confined to the working area only. Every night the air purifier cleared the air in the hallway. I rarely ventured in, so Phil photographed the room each day to show me what progress had been made.
And I basically lived upstairs in the spare room for six weeks. The TV was set up, a mini kitchen was fashioned in the corner, food and crockery were hoarded. Amazingly, by the end I was able to walk up and down the stairs four or five times a day, a massive difference from the once a day of the last four years. I also worked out a clever technique to carry heavier items up the steps, without causing too much strain on my heart.
Happily, we got through the stress and the dust and the upheaval and the banging and the living upstairs. And we now have a wonderful, beautiful living room. Calm and peaceful. Exactly what we wanted. On the night it was finished, we sat together on the new sofa, and started planning which room to tackle next. It seems that once you’ve achieved something you were putting off, something you were dreading.. suddenly you have the confidence and self-belief that you can do it again. My illness stopped us in our decorating tracks, but hopefully we’ll have a beautiful home in the near future.