Weekday Journal

It all started with the new TV.

Steve turned 40 this year, so we decided that his big gift would be a flat screen television. That was back in September and we haven't actually bought it yet, since we're feeling skittish about spending money before bonus time. We'll probably get up the nerve to buy one in the next couple of weeks. After a decade in grad school, we have trouble spending large amounts of money. Makes us rather nauseous.

Then we were thinking that if we get a new TV, we should get a proper piece of furniture for it. Right now, our TV sits on a coffee table from some Bronx paisan that we painted in cheap black paint.

Yesterday, I looked around the living room and decided the whole room needed a face lift. All the furniture is grad school chic — found objects from NYC dumpsters and IKEA. The furniture is arranged the same way as the day that the moving truck left it four years ago. We never painted the room. In fact, I think Steve just stuck the clock on a random nail in the wall left by the previous owner. The curtains cost $9 from IKEA. And when I looked at them closer yesterday, I noticed that they were covered in black dust. We have the worst cleaning lady in Northern New Jersey.

After I overcame a lot of guilt, I hired a cleaning lady to help out when I went back to work. Luz has been cleaning my mom's house for the past three years. Luz only cleans things that are at waist level. She doesn't bend down or reach up. So, there are crumbs under the coffee table and dust on light fixtures and cobwebs on the curtains. She has many physical ailments and whenever I see her (she misses a lot of days), she says, "Oh, Louda, my aching back. Oh, the pain."

I would like to fire her, but her husband just got fired and I don't know how to do these sorts of things. When I ask my mom whether or not Luz really cleans her house, my mom says "I just get down on my knees and thanks the sweet Lord for sending me someone to help." Anybody who had to clean a Cape Cod with three worthless children and a husband for decades will take any help at all, even help that doesn't bend down.

So, after coming up with plans for new furniture, I decided that I needed new, cobweb-free curtains. The $9 IKEA curtains aren't washable. I do hate to spend money on curtains. They're just strips of fabric. I don't get why they should cost $100 a panel. A piece of furniture is one thing. It's solid and someone spent some time making it. But curtains? Nobody really looks at curtains anyway. It's like underwear. Another item that just shouldn't cost as much as it does.

Now, it's new furniture, new curtains. The next step was a coat of paint. But did I really want to paint the walls, when there was that nasty drop ceiling that we wanted to pull down very soon? The jerko who owned the house in the 70s did all sorts of nasty things to the house that we've been working very hard to undo. The living room ceiling was dropped by nearly two feet and is covering some molding and a light fixture.

The trouble was that I didn't know what the condition was of the ceiling under that fake cardboard stuff. This morning I punched a hole in the ceiling and looked around. It's a much bigger mess than we can fix with a little DIY patching. Professionals will need to be called in. Expensive professionals. Ugh. this isn't going to happen soon.

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8 thoughts on “Weekday Journal

  1. No matter how good housecleaners are, there are always going to be important irregular jobs that aren’t on their menu (windows, curtains, carpet-cleaning). Even if you have conscientious regular housecleaners, things eventually start looking grimy. Our current issue is the carpet in our high traffic areas, which should have been steam-cleaned a while back. I am so over carpet, especially carpeted dining rooms, except I suppose that carpet probably does have some insulating and sound-deadening effects that I don’t appreciate because I’ve always had it.
    I also don’t like the idea of curtains, for the reasons you mention–big sheets of fabric just hanging there getting dirty. We have mini-blinds in our rental now, and I’m very happy with them. Someday, I’d like to move on to plantation shutters.

  2. This post makes me nostalgic for our garbage picking days. Years later, I still can’t help myself. We were walking back from Chelsey and I saw this perfectly good cart with wheels–I had no use for it, but wanted it. Fiancee “You’re going to drag that thing across Manhattan?” (That said, he has been supportive of other garbage picking endeavors.) I’ve been using the same desk since 1992. I love it because of it’s functionality. But it looks pretty bad. Meanwhile, the $75 couch I bought off of grad students in Providence, is so comfy and it’s holding up, but my antique red chair is now being used by Kitty.
    Your ceiling fiasco reminds of me of removing the drop ceiling of the former sheep-farmer boyfriend. That’s not pretty. But I’m sure you’ll figure it out. As someone said, earlier this week “You can get good deals during recessions.”

  3. I really hate the sofa and would love to replace it with a dark brown leather IKEA Ektorp sofa, but I suspect your old sofa of being really comfy. If that is the case, carry on. I like how the browns and the blues work in your living room, while disliking the blue sofa itself.
    There’s a funny Ektorp ad here, featuring a man facing off with a dog that really wants a walk.

  4. “I am so over carpet.”
    Heh. Have a kid with a severe dust mite allergy. I had to get over carpet by necessity. His room has no carpet and no curtains, but some neat wooden blinds and his belugas and orcas.
    Laura, I’ve been rearranging my living room over and over again for the past 3 years, trying to find something that works. I think I just hate all living rooms. Seriously, does anyone else think the living room is an outdated room? You need comfy seating as well as tables to work at, if you ask me. I suggested to my husband that we get rid of the sofa and love seat and just get bean bag chairs and cushions. I got the death glare.

  5. The sofa is actually one relatively new thing in the room. It’s a nine year old Ethan Allen. The rug is from Fez. We bought it on our honeymoon. The coffee table and stereo thing is IKEA. The side lamp was found on the street w/Toni Macaroni, who is actually a world-class garbage picker. Sometime I’ll do a post on things on my house that I found on the street. The arm chair is a mid-century donation from one of the old ladies who lived next to me in the city. I had cushions made for it. The prints are from Steve’s great grandfather – he was one of the founding partners of Ernst and Young and those were prints that were given to all management. They are scenes from Manhattan.

  6. Half the time, when I’m looking at photos of homes, I wonder–where do these people keep all their stuff? I’d like to have built-in bookcases in our future living room, but ideally with shelves on the top and cabinets on the bottom for things like puzzles, games, art supplies, etc.

  7. Don’t underestimate curtains– I’m currently jonesing for a new set of living room curtains because the ones I have are not the creamy-with-gold-accents I thought they would be– instead, they’re just beige, and not in a good way.
    I like living rooms, but then we technically have two. One in the front, which we call the library because it’s got lots of bookshelves and the piano, and then the middle room, which is where all the comfy seating and the TV are, then the eat-in kitchen. No dining room here.

  8. Oh, I forgot why I initially wanted to comment! Our kitchen had a terrible drop ceiling when we moved in– it was painted dark brown even, and I’m not kidding. We had it taken down this summer and replaced with a nice new drywall ceiling with a ceiling fan. One of the best moves we ever made, even though it sucked up most of the money we had budgeted for the remodel.

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