As I have confessed many times before, I like lists. Correction: I adore them.
I’m not alone, either. TopTenz provides top ten lists ranging from the bizarre to the mundane. Paul Simon gave us possible ways to exit a failing relationship in “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” (okay, in total he only provided 5). And, there is now the popular Bucket List. Long or short, lists simplify and organise. They scratch an itch or tick a box. And list making is good for the brain, helping us cope in an age of information overload. Let’s face it, without lists we would feel muddled and purposeless. Am I overstating it? I think not. To anyone who makes lists, there is a joy in crossing off completed tasks, overturning stones, packing suitcases, shopping for groceries, etc. etc.
Unlike a millennium ago when some lists were chiselled into stone, Roger and I opted for a three-page Excel spreadsheet of projects at Crockern. Some items were all encompassing representing seven or eight steps in a single line. Avoiding a fine level of detail permitted us to avoid the weight of a seemingly unending list of things to do. Sanity preserved. Enthusiasm easily ignited. And our master project list remains a three pager, growing and contracting with each new renovation hurdle.
One of our first projects at Crockern was to install a wood burner and since accomplishing that undertaking, we left refinishing the wooden floor in that same room for a later date. Despite the seeming ease of the project, the floor would have been trampled upon as we worked on other projects in further reaches of the house, so it was tabled for four years. This is part of the wisdom behind list making: Don’t do something to have to re-do it later.
With the back part of the house now completed, we’re investigating the centre of the house. With all there is to do in this area of the house, we’ve turned our attention to the simple and inexpensive: Project Floor Refinishing. In October, I was in the US for a week and before I left, Roger and I examined this particular floor, which Roger felt like tackling in my absence. Before heading for the airport, we moved furniture and looked at a few spots along the skirting board that were rotten.
Closer examination revealed the skirting board was “attached” with concrete along the interior stonewalls. Never a great idea. Over decades, moisture from the outside wicked through the stones and onto the wood. Whole sections of floorboards were damaged. After moving furniture, Roger and I pulled up the skirting board and removed each floorboard to assess the next steps.
List twitching alert!
As I was leaving Roger with floorboards to mend and concrete to chip off the walls, I said, “You know, we should really pull the ceiling down and repair that while the floors are up.” It is in precisely this manner, with such casually tossed sentences, that our projects grow from manageable weekend efforts to full on disruptions that roll into months, giving birth to new project lists.
My own list making is well practiced and instinctive, kicking in whenever my mind becomes too crowded. Since short-term working memory can only hold around seven items, lists are essential aides and this project is a good example. Armed with a fresh piece of paper and a pen, I quickly write a title at the top of the page. Then I underline it for emphasis. Following are bulleted items that must be considered and acted upon. For those of us possessing a certain disposition, this is a productive use of paper, pen and twenty minutes. It is a soothing, no cost and anxiety-reducing step that prepares me for the project ahead. Hanging on the refrigerator, a list becomes a reminder of what we need to do. I will admit, too, sometimes I add an item, which has already been done, just in order to enhance the sense of accomplishment. I am certain I am not alone in this behaviour.
With the finished floorboards in the barn (yes, this step was added to the list after it was done) and the ceiling pulled down (this step, too, was added ATF), we are pondering our best approach to replace the ceiling. Naturally, a new ceiling gives us the opportunity to address lighting in this part of the house. The removed floor also allows us tend to a much needed extra electrical outlet. But before we can get started, there is a granite wall to address. It was painted at some point in its history with exterior weather shield paint on the inside and outside. Arguably, a way to use up left over paint. Unfortunately, in the long run, this sort of paint traps moisture and creates some damp issues. I suspect the painting culprit did not make a list or anticipate how challenging this paint removal would be on the inside of a house.
Getting the paint off the wall has now become a research project with a host of challenges. To the list adverse, this particular hiccup may seem tragic, but to those of us who are ready to off-load all the ideas bouncing around inside our heads, making way for clarity of the next steps, I say hand over a pen, fresh paper and let me record the first item: “Make List”.