Friday, April 12, 2013

Projects and How to Survive Them

Spring's arrival seems to signal an onslaught of various domestic projects.

Normally I enjoy undertaking projects. Projects are encapsulated tasks that have a beginning, identifiable steps and end with a predictable conclusion. It's more appealing to complete a rather simple task than a more complicated and hard-to-define chore. If someone said, "Go clean up the mess in the kitchen," I would probably be able to handle it. Such a task would require scoping out the room, checking for debris, seeing whether food has been left out that needs to be refrigerated, and putting dishes in the dishwasher/washing by hand. I would recognize when the task was done.

However, if someone said, "Let's remodel the kitchen," I would feel a bit overwhelmed. Too many variables are involved. Too many small tasks combined. What type of style do you want? What about eliminating/moving walls? What colors should be chosen for the walls? Change the countertop? Replace the appliances? On top of the numerous considerations is determining the result you hope to achieve and keeping the price within an agreed upon budget.

Small projects are do-able, easy to examine and complete. Nice, neat packages of easily finished tasks. However, spring complicates the situation because it presents so many projects that require attention all at the same time.

In my yard, the first sign of spring is the arrival of crocuses, daffodils and tulips. Gotta love bulbs, which arrive without fanfare and grow with little encouragement. The perennials break the ice and remind everyone that another season is just around the corner.

At my house, I have to remove outdoor furniture from storage and uncover several items which have been under tarps since late fall. There is checking the exterior of the house and yard. The property is dotted with trees, so there are small limbs to retrieve, winter foliage to trim or rake, and other general tidying up.

I don't worry too much about the lawn. The grass will grow and get mowed without too much sweat. The few dandelions are of little concern. Some people fret over dandelions and other blemishes on their lawns. But why worry about small yellow flowers with a certain sense of style? It is spring. So live and let live. 

Cleaning and disposing of superfluous possessions is a must. Winter allows us to stay indoors and get a bit slovenly until spring's wake-up call. "Spring Cleaning" is a good excuse to throw out items and make more room.

I usually have a yard sale during late spring/early summer. It's a good motivator to set aside items, knowing they still contain a lot of use and someone can pick buy them as a bargain. By all indications, my stash is going to be large this year. I enjoy sitting on the driveway on a Saturday morning, chatting with eager shoppers while basking in the sun.

It does seem as though there is a lot of pressure put on homeowners to "fix" every task that has gone undone during the winter. I'm going through a bit of that myself this year. The kitchen underwent a mild remodel just before last Thanksgiving, with the expectation of getting the entire project finished around the holidays. That did not happen and the longer the kitchen project went unfinished, the easier it was to delay the completion date.

With the arrival of spring making me feel guilty, I began in earnest about two weeks ago to finish the kitchen. It seemed simple, really. Just move everything out, finish up and move it all back. How difficult could that be?

Two weeks later, the kitchen is finally nearing completion and needs only to have items returned to their original spots. The result is lovely, much better than originally estimated. I should have known at the beginning that there was more to the remodel than meets the eye. But at least one project will be checked off the list.

Projects always take longer than expected. During the decades I spent working at law firms, I often referred to this handy guide: Take the amount of time a project should take then multiply it by 1.5 times. We called this the One Point Five Rule and often spoke of it reverently. Everything takes longer than expected. This rule also applies to life tasks such as shopping for groceries, having your teeth cleaned or waiting in traffic. Don't expect things to fit within your schedule.

You think I'd have learned that lesson by now.

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