Tying to DIY (in South Africa)

I never thought I’d say this, but I miss Home Depot.

I am my mother’s daughter – hardware stores are fun, and bohemoths like Home Depot are just aisles and aisles of possible new projects. Not that I’ve really ever been much of a DIY-er, a combination of not having a home to fix up and a innate klutziness have kept me from following that path. Of course, I have grand aspirations – I constantly read blogs and watch shows about DIY home improvement projects, own drills and tools (granted they’re now ancient and in a storage unit in MN somewhere), and avoid buying things because ‘I could make that!’.

However, fate is conspiring against me ever becoming a DIY-goddess. Aside from the fact that I can’t draw a straight line much less cut one, being in South Africa has rendered the few DIY skills I have learned useless. Even simple things like hanging pictures? Nope, no luck here. The walls here are all brick or concrete, so you need a fancy mason drill which makes a hell of a noise that scares the crap out of me and puts giant holes in the walls, which makes my trial-and-error approach to drilling far from ideal. It also makes  my stud-finding skills are unmarketable. Things like putting in shelving (which shouldn’t be rocket science right?) is made SO much more difficult by the fact that I simply can’t find the materials I need. SA’s version of Home Depot, Builder’s Warehouse, leaves MUCH to be desired. They carry a little bit of everything, but it’s all such low quality and there is no variety at all. We tried to find some simple shelves we could install in our bedroom, but in the massive store there was only one teeny-tiny aisle with about four options to choose from – small, big, bigger. It seems like for anything more sophisticated you have to find a specialty shop which usually involves costly fitting of said shelf. Sigh.

Lighting is another example – not exactly DIY but home-decor rant in general. I must have visited a million lighting shops to find replacements for the hideous wall lights in our living room. They all seem to have the exact same, nondescript stock. Unless I want to spend a million bucks for something fancy, it seems like the ‘umbrellas’ (as Nick calls them) will stay for lack of a better option. I’m probably being a bit harsh, but it feels like I can’t ever find what I’m looking for here. I guess it comes from having grown up in a place with such an amazing variety of everything, and also the fact that it takes time to get to know what brand reputations are, what shops carry which products, etc. Things I’ve spent a lifetime learning in the US.

If I can just find the right materials, I have hope that Nick and I can be a great DIY team. Nick has proven to be darn handy around the house, and also a possible DIY-guru in the making. Seeing as I have no skills myself, I was hesitant to mention projects, not wanting to seem like I was just coming up with a list of things for him to do. But I’ve heard him mutter more than once on a visit to another over-priced furniture shop, ‘I could totally make that!’. Promising. Plus, he’s king of teaching himself how to do things online. I can see this working out well – I do the searching for style ideas, and Nick executes the plans…I’m not sure how he’ll feel about this!

For now, I’ve decided to start with painting. Painting is something I consider myself pretty expert at, having painted more than my fair share of apartments. (Note: I never said color selection was my forte- I now concede that the traffic cone shade of orange I chose for the bedroom of my first apartment may have been a mistake). I might break down and hire someone to paint the walls, but I’ve got all sorts of plans for painting and staining old furniture in creative ways. Now, all I have to do is find out where I can buy the old junk…


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