I generally abide by Mark Twain’s adage that I should never put off till tomorrow what can be put off until the day after tomorrow. I also tend to follow Parkinson’s Law, the truism that states a task takes as long as a person has to get it done. I consider procrastination to be the exact opposite of puttering on a project endlessly, yet these two common character flaws work together to prevent me from accomplishing as much as I am capable of. One keeps me working on a project well after I should move on to something else, and the other avoids projects altogether. A good example has been my recent flurry of home repairs. 

In early January, Manyu left La Crosse for Taipei, Taiwan. While I thought her three-monthlong trip was two months too long, I recognized her extended time away as an opportunity to tackle some of the home repair projects I’d been avoiding for years. With my wife out of town, I could make a mess of the entire house, take extended breaks with jobs half done, and use the table in our breakfast nook as my workbench. I had ceilings to paint, grout to reseal, a bedroom door to realign, and cracked glass to replace. I had a vacuum cleaner to repair and magnetic cabinet latches to install.

As a rule, I stay away from electrical and plumbing projects for fear of making things worse, but otherwise I have no problem taking on projects beyond my abilities. What I lack in skill I make up in patience. I am willing to repeat the same step four, five, six times if that’s what it takes to get the job right. My home repairs are like my writing in that I don’t always know when to stop. Sometimes good enough is better than perfect, and reworking a plaster job or restructuring a carefully worded sentence can deprive both of the imperfections that give them their personality.

Last Monday afternoon I drove to Minneapolis/St. Paul to pick up Manyu from the airport. It was not until the previous evening that I finally lugged paint cans to the basement, returned sanding tools to the garage, and threw a couple of cheap plastic drop cloths in the garbage. It was only fifteen minutes before I needed to jump in the car to drive to the Twin Cities that I vacuumed plaster dust out of the carpet.

 In addition to Manyu’s return, last Monday was also the first warm day of 2023. I thought I might be done with DIY projects for a while, but the work just moves outdoors. 

Steven Simpson