February 28, 2024 | Rome, Italy

The fix-it myth

By |2018-03-21T20:00:48+01:00May 30th, 2016|"American Girl"|
No, the dogs don't come with the transformation.

’ve been watching entirely too much HGTV lately and it’s got me into a bit of trouble.

HGTV stands for House and Garden TV. Many of its shows feature a reality TV format in which a couple or family look for a new apartment or house. Over the course of the program, they pick from three options with the help of a realtor. The chosen home is then gutted and set for a complete redesign. In a mere 30 minutes, the home is overhauled. Contractors rip out old kitchens, add walls and even whole additions. By the end of the show, the new owners beam with delight, saying it was all worth it.

It’s the ultimate transformation story.

After binging on six straight episodes, I decided it was time for a transformation of my own.

I looked around my apartment to see what I could change. Though I’d already renovated once, some things looked bit tired.

My eyes landed on the white walls, which were faded, marred, and looked a bit dirty. That’s it, I thought. A new paint job would be my modest transformation project. It wouldn’t take too long but would force me to move everything, rearrange, and give my home a fresh and clean look.

I seized the momentum. When inspiration meets energy, speed is of the essence. No telling when the feeling will come again.

I jumped off the couch and began pulling books from the bookcases, setting them down in stacks under the dining room table. I then dismantled stereo system. I disconnected the speakers and tied up all the cords. The TV followed. Armchairs were moved, the couch was covered, breakables were secured and wall hangings and pictures were tucked into safe cubbies. The contents of my world were slowly crammed into a pile in the center of my apartment.

I should have been pleased the transformation was underway. But I wasn’t. Instead, I was dismayed.

I noticed the baseboard along the walls needed repair. I also saw that the window recesses needed plastering. The wooden windowsills themselves needed a complete strip-down and sanding. Dirt and grime had settled into places I’d never seen before and the carpet needed cleaning or replacing.

As I surveyed the work ahead of me, my initiative and energy began fading. Yes, I’d wanted a transformation, but now my quick and easy paint job was turning into seemingly endless enterprise. On top of that, I had a pile of laundry to do, I was hungry, and my refrigerator was empty. Suddenly my inspiration was gone.

HGTV had its highest-rated year in 2015, making it one of the top 10 cable shows in the United States. It makes sense. Do-it yourself renovations and the before-and-after nature of the programming gives people the dream they can quickly overhaul a kitchen or turn an extra bedroom into an office. It seems so easy. Transform your surroundings and you transform yourself, for the better of course. Changing a life is as easy as changing a home.

But anyone who’s ever overhauled anything knows it’s all work. Often, the work isn’t fun and can feel never-ending. It’s also expensive.

Only by reminding myself of this detail did I feel a bit better about what lay ahead of me. I’d persevere, I told myself. It’d be worth it in the end. Then, to soothe myself, I walked across the street and found a place to have dinner and a beer.

About the Author:

Madeline Klosterman wrote the "American Girl" column from 2008 through 2019.