Friday, September 6, 2013

Proverbial Projects

A good ol' DIY project often teaches me a thing or two, and this refinishing job was no exception. While I definitely picked up a few pointers on topics such as matching stain colors and using paper patterns, I also rediscovered the truth of four proverbial life lessons.

1. Good things come to those who wait.

I tend to have more ideas than I have time or money. So it's common for an idea to jump into my brain and live there for quite some time... germinating, incubating, hibernating...until the time feels right for me to actually execute my plan. 

Over a year ago, it dawned on me that these four stools - which we use mostly as extra seating when a crowd gathers around the dining table - were looking a bit shabby. Shortly after that, I had a vision of using paint and oversize numerals to update their look, and it took me probably eighteen months  to take this project from inception to completion. I'm happy with the finished products, but it took a lot of patience to wait for the final result.

2. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

For me, it's often true that the hardest part of any project is just getting started. Once the tops of these stools were sanded down, the steps of re-staining, creating the patterns, painting the negative space, and applying a protective top coat were a stroll through the park. 

When I really feel stuck on a project, as I did with this one, I have a sneaky little trick to get the ball rolling. I identify the first step of the process, and add it to my husband's to-do list. Once he dutifully completes his assignment, then I feel momentum take over and carry me through the rest of the project. My strategy might be a bit devious but it sure does kick me into gear, and it definitely jump-started my work on this project. 

3. Waste not, want not.

Like most DIYers, I do projects partly because I love the creative challenges, but also to save money. 

However, unlike many DIYers, I'm not a penny pincher or a particularly good bargain hunter. I am a stranger to Craigslist and Ebay, I rarely use coupons, and garage sales creep me out. 

I save money by using what I already have.

These IKEA stools date back at least ten years, and have been used hard by my family for a long time. By rights, I would have been justified in dropping them off at Value Village and buying some new back-up seating. Dropping a few dollars for paint and sandpaper, and investing a few summer afternoons in the project seem a reasonable price to pay for giving these tired old dogs a fresh new look, and the satisfaction I get from that is priceless.

4. There's safety in numbers.

Maybe it's the algebra teacher in me, but I love things that are numbered. To me, the digits themselves have beauty and personality: 1 is a skinny kid, 2 a graceful swan. Number 3 always strikes me as a jovial, life-of-the-party sort, and poor 4, well, she is all awkward elbows and lopsided. 

And numbered items always bring a calming sense of order to me. My daily grocery budget is $30, Ranger and I leave for our walk at 4:20 p.m., and I watch for good things to come in threes. Numbers help me make sense of my life, and when I look down and see them on my new and improved stool tops, I can't help but smile. Sometimes, I even arrange them in non-sequential order, just to teach myself to cope with anarchy.

* * * * *

So there you have it: four refinished stools, four numbers, four proverbs brought to life. I don't know what my next project will be, but here's hoping it will shed some proverbial light on the meaning of this head-scratcher: Many a mickle makes a muckle.


  1. They are lovely.
    I always number my students to simplify many tasks.
    Sadly, I have little control over the anarchy when my 2nd graders mix themselves up. I get lots of practice coping.

    1. Thanks, JoAnne. Maybe you could put a few topcoats of polyurethane on your students. That may solve some of those mobility issues. ;)


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