Tag: spending money

DIY Hell

General Sherman once famously said that war is hell, and this is undoubtedly true. But so too are DIY projects.

Here’s the problem: I don’t come from mechanically-inclined stock. My people aren’t good with our hands. We don’t build things.

And yet, HGTV and design blogs have apparently warped my mind. They managed to convince me that DIY projects are as easy as they look; that I could definitely take one on and succeed. They erased my knowledge of the fact that construction — of literally anything more complex than baking a cake from a boxed mix — is simply not in my blood. And that’s how I decided to DIY myself a new desk.

This was foolish. Unwise. An act of total hubris and naivete. I did it at my peril.

And it turned out really, really fucking badly.

difficult lemon difficult

This is how it went down: the desk I’ve been using for the past three years, while fine, has a low clearance — so low that I can’t cross my legs while facing forward. Since I’m going to be working and writing from home once I leave my job (IN FIVE WEEKS!), I knew I couldn’t continue to use a desk that causes me to contort myself like a Cirque du Soleil member just to find a marginally comfortable way to sit.

I spent untold hours looking for a desk that would work — the right dimensions, not ugly, etc. — and happened to stumble on a desk that made me audibly gasp with delight when I saw it. No lie. I had a Sofia Vergara moment, during which I exclaimed, out loud, “I loooooooooooooooove it!”

jacqueline-maldonado-the-sound-desk-portrait-white-background-SQUARE-aston-gold_1024x1024
Here it is, dear reader: the desk of my dreams.

And then I saw the price tag ($429) and nearly died. I’ve never spent that much on a piece of furniture all for myself, and I buy nearly everything at Target, Marshall’s, and TJ Maxx. $429 for a desk seemed like outright heresy.

So I decided to try and make something I might like — although I knew I wouldn’t love it like the expensive one, I’d still like it — for much less. I went to The Container Store, got some Elfa shelves, desktop, and legs, and got to work.

Following the instructions from various blogs — all of which are lying liars which spread vicious, dirty lies about DIY projects being simple and oh-so-realistic — and the guidance of my mother-in-law (who thankfully is legit gifted when it comes to crafting, design, and DIY projects), I sanded and spray painted the legs. I got contact paper for the desk top. I figured I had it all under control. Easy peasy lemon squeezy!

Except that the spray paint was running down the desk legs in kind of a wonky, icky pattern. And the contact paper didn’t fit on the shelves or desk top I’d gotten. So I looked for other kinds of contact paper, but everything was fugly. Nothing was going to work without costing a ton of money. And I was starting to freak out and lose sleep over this.

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Death by DIY.

At this juncture, Brandon made an excellent point: not only were we not going to wind up saving money, but I was losing hours of time trying to figure out how to make this godforsaken project work.

“Look, dude,” he said while trying to get me to stop hyperventilating, “you’ve got your regular job plus your freelance job. You’re preparing to leave your regular job and make a huge career transition. You haven’t got the time or energy to keep working on this thing. Let’s just get the desk you love. I know it’s expensive, but I think it’s actually worth it.”

“But, but, but,” I protested while swallowing huge gulps of air, “It’s expensive! I’m about to leave my job! It’s ridiculous to spend that much on a desk, even if it makes my heart sing every time I see it!”

“I know. But babe, we’re not saving money by you doing this DIY thing. You need to get more materials, and the stuff you’d need in order to make this work — in order to make it be adequate — will cost almost as much as getting a desk you adore.”

Welp. You can’t really argue with that logic.

So that, my friends, is the story of how my dear husband retrieved me from DIY hell. I bought the gorgeous desk (helpfully, I was able to get a 20 percent discount — so I didn’t feel like barfing when I placed the order), and it should be here in 3-4 weeks. Satan and his DIY minions no longer have me in their clutches.

not today satan

But you guys, please: promise you’ll never again allow me to think that a DIY project is worth doing. Like, ever. Someone, please, promise you’ll have me taken out back and shot before I ever try to do this again. Kthxbai.

XOXOXO,
Lillian

#EarlyBirdLife, Budgets, and Diets: The Struggle is Real

There are three areas where I consistently, and without fail, ride the struggle bus:

1) Waking up early
2) Losing weight
3) Budgeting

It’s like I have a giant mental block around all of them – and as part of that mental block, things like my super comfy pillow, cookies, and Amazon Prime act like sirens luring me to my own wreckage. Like, I know I’d be better off if I woke up early, were able to stick with Weight Watchers, and adhered to a damn budget. I know I’d feel better, and that my mental and physical health would both be in a better place.

Similarly, I know I’m just screwing myself over when I hit snooze, eat cookies, and spend entirely too much money buying supplies for arts and crafts projects/decorating ideas.

And yet.

Lately I’ve been trying to figure out what, exactly, my problem is, and why trying to do these basic things is like beating my head against the wall separating Westeros from the white walkers. I mean, would it be so hard to resist the allure of the “purchase now” button on Amazon? Would it be so hard to stop myself after a half-cup of ice cream?

Apparently.

I realized that I have similar mindsets about all three of those issues: waking up early, trying to lose weight, and budgeting all feel like massive sacrifices — something akin to voluntarily chopping off a limb. I know the long term benefits would be worth it, but I can’t seem to get past the short-term sacrifices they require. (Why must I be so beholden to instant gratification? Why do my dopamine levels fuck with me like this? WHY, BRAIN? WHYYYYYY?)

I decided to do what all normal people do, and consult the Oracle at Delphi Mountain View, AKA Google. “Why can’t I stick to my budget?” I asked. And lo, the Oracle produced many articles, one of which was…actually helpful. Most notably, this piece from New York Magazine came up, and DEAR GAAAAWD did it ever resonate with me:

There are few words in the English language that conjure a sense of dread faster than the word budget…But the main problem with budgeting is its approach, says Brad Klontz, a psychologist and certified financial planner. “I think the entire concept of budgeting is flawed,” said Klontz. “Your emotional brain responds to the word budget the same way it responds to the word diet. The connotation is deprivation, suffering, agony, depression.” Klontz says hearing the word diet makes us feel there’s a famine coming. We can muster up the motivation to take on that famine in the short term, but in the long term, research shows that diets don’t really work.

Welp. That sure does explain a few things.

I spent some time poking around for other articles within the Science of Us series, and I was happily surprised to find some pieces that helped me ask crucial questions. This piece on the importance of asking what, not why, when trying to figure out how (and, uh, why) we do/don’t do something /feel/don’t feel some particular way, also felt like it hit the nail on the head.

So, that got me thinking: instead of asking why I’m so bad at this, I should ask myself what: what is it that I like and don’t like about making the effort to wake up early, stay on Weight Watchers, and stick to my budget?

What do I like? I like end result.

After I’m awake and out of my cozy cocoon, I’m productive and I have time for writing and art.

After I stay on WW, I like how I feel and how I look. I like that I’m able to run without my knees hurting from all the pressure that the extra weight puts on my joints. I like feeling like I can actually run, not just lumber along like a geriatric water buffalo. I like being able to wear clothes that I actually love, and not just ones that are adequate.

After I save money and stick to a budget, I like knowing that I have more flexibility to do things that really matter to me, like traveling, trying to start a family (egg donors don’t come cheap, y’all) and, ohpleaseohpleaseJesusOprahBuddhaletthisactuallyhappen, eventually quitting my job.

What don’t I like? I don’t like the discipline, effort, or sacrifice. I don’t like having to plan out my meals and exercise. I fucking hate sad desk salads. I don’t like having to plan out my purchases (as opposed to, y’know, just making them whenever the urge strikes).

Part of it, I think, is that my depression, PTSD from the cancer and hysterectomy, and the feeling that I have almost no control over my life suck up so much of my bandwidth that I rely on things like cookies and Amazon to give me little moments of happiness (GO GO GADGET DOPAMINE!). Without those little things, life would feel 99% heavy, dull, and grinding. With those things, it only feels, like, 90% heavy, dull, and grinding.

But really, what am I getting out of that 9% difference? More importantly, even though it comes with an immediate happiness bump, there’s also a rebound effect which amplifies the feeling that I’m not in control of my life: sleeping late makes me late for work, which means I have to stay late to make up for lost time, which then means I have less time to do what I want. Spending money on things I don’t need makes me feel queasy and gives me pangs of guilt. Seeing myself in the mirror, totally devoid of muscles and nearly as heavy as I was at the end of my progesterone treatment, makes me depressed.

The immediate gratification gives me a moment of satisfaction, but it’s quickly followed by guilt and discontent.

So, that 90% is probably more like 95%. Which, y’know, doesn’t seem like much. And it’s probably not worth the rebound effect of the guilt.

When I think about this more, I realize that by trying to actually do these things that I find so hard — self-control, discipline, short-term sacrifices for long-term gain — I might actually start to feel like I do have some semblance of control over my life. And, considering that this lack of control is one of the factors that feeds my depression, I might actually stand a chance of breaking out of that self-reinforcing feedback loop.

So, those will be my next tasks for renovating my life, and it will undoubtedly be among the biggest and most difficult: creating a budget and re-starting — and sticking to — Weight Watchers. Any tips y’all might have for how to make this happen, or how to make it suck less, would be greatly appreciated!