By Tanya Ruckstuhl LICSW
(I would insert a photo of the newly repainted furniture here–but I’m too lazy. You’re just going to have to imagine it. It’s dark brown).
I have a friend who refinishes furniture as a hobby. She and her husband go to rural antique stores and buy beat-up wooden furniture and bring them home and sand them down and stain and seal them. Her therapy office has gorgeous antiques that glow a golden polyurethane light.
My office, meanwhile, has Craigslist finds that I’ve tucked in higgledy-piggledy that are replete with water stains and scratches.
Every once in a while, I notice how beat up my furniture looks and hatch a plot. I will empty my bookcase and side table, bring them home and sand and re-stain them. But the thing is, I never actually do anything about it. My book case is an unwieldy China hutch that has heavy glass doors that do not come out and last time it was moved, the guy I bought it from nearly lost a hand when the glass door swung over and slammed into it.
This past month I’ve been reading “Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things” by Randy Frost and Gail Steketee. It’s about hoarding, anxiety, perfectionism and obsessive-compulsive disorder and this book has motivated me to be more half-assed in my approach to non-consequential tasks. Much of hoarding can be understood as avoidance of making decisions due to fear of imperfection/regret. If you can think through options like “if I miss this thing, I can buy another on Amazon and have it within 48 hours—and get even a better version of it,” or “even if I make the wrong decision about this, it’s no big deal,” you might find it easier to edit, or like me, decide to try to do something you are not excellent at.
None of my clients really care about my furniture. If they did, they wouldn’t be my clients because my furniture is—well– ratty. So, the condition of the furniture hasn’t affected my work life (which would be consequential), but it bums me out because it looks bad. Taking my new anti-perfectionist commitment to half-assery to heart, this evening I simply brought the refinishing supplies to the office. I sanded, wiped with rags, and stained just the tops of the breakfront and the side table, ignoring all the other sides. I spilled a little wood stain on the carpet and in spite of wearing gloves, managed to get some of the stain on my hands. That’s okay. All in all, the whole thing took about ten minutes to gather supplies at home, ten minutes to do the work at the office, and another five minutes to throw out the roller brush and put away the sanding and painting supplies afterwards. The finished product would make anyone with legitimate furniture refinishing skills (or OCD) cringe and shudder, but for my purposes, it’s great: the furniture looks better, it was easy to do, and most important of all; it’s done, aka not taking up space in my brain anymore.
This summer I embrace H.A.P.C. or Half-Assed Project-Completion whenever possible! I hope you will join me and relish in your own triumph over procrastination!