What a Home Decorating Fail Taught Me About a Job Well Done

I could be bitter about my home decorating fail, or I could learn a lesson from it. Maybe both.

I’m hobbling to this week’s CandysDirt.com column with both a bruised toe and bruised ego after a home decorating fail taught me a lesson or two. With all the personal development books I’ve read, I’ve learned that done is better than perfect. But when all you’re doing is procrastinating, it’s time to rethink that strategy. I learned my lesson last week when I took a detour from writing and ended up cursing myself on the floor.

This all began when I tried hanging sound-absorbing curtains in my home office-slash-podcast studio. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t tackle a home decorating project during my prime writing time as a full-time freelancer. But after I held myself to a summer of regimented schedules designed to keep me on task in my office writing, I felt bad about my growing honey-do-it-myself list that I’d made no progress on.  

So with the zeal of a little kid who does first and asks questions later, I figured out the cordless drill, looked for the closest thing to stand on that’d support me and started drilling holes. The drill bit went into the wall easy enough, but the screw didn’t and went crooked on me. I reversed direction on the drill and tried again. Just short of stripping the screw, I loosely hung the curtain bracket from my crooked screws, and started drilling on the other side.

But the holes I drilled weren’t the right size.
I didn’t have the plastic screw cap that I didn’t know I needed.
The screws that I did find literally lying around my office didn’t match each other, and one was already half stripped.

But I didn’t care that my window treatment handiwork was half-ass. I just wanted it done. I don’t know about you, but that’s my battle cry more often than I’d like to admit.

By this point, I’d made two major blunders and I couldn’t even admit to myself that the project wasn’t going as it should.

My first mistake was obvious. I should have taken one more minute to grab a sturdy ladder instead of the three-legged Crate & Barrel stool at arm’s reach. That stool flipped on its side when I shifted my weight and sent me crashing into a portable fan below.

Sitting there, clenching my foot in pain as a bruise quickly began to form, I cursed myself and the unstable physics of a three-leg stool. I knew better and even warned my son he’d break his neck on that thing, but many times in life there is a very wide gap between what you know and what you do anyway.  

My second mistake was a little more opaque, just like the curtains I wanted to hang. My fabric sound barrier was half-hung from a bracket mounted with wayward, crooked screws that were no more secure than the three-legged stool I stood on. Undoubtedly, that window treatment would have come down the first time I tried to close those curtains.

Whatever I’d done today would probably be undone by tomorrow. But I wanted the satisfaction of a job well done without having to do the work well. All this time I thought done is better than perfect, but half-ass is half-done.

I was never a perfectionist. Yes, I believe that anything worth doing is worth doing well, but I’m perfectly content doing the best job I can within the time and budget allotted. That’s what years of deadline work will teach you. But I realized in hanging those curtains–or trying to–I was doing something for myself more important than simple sound absorption. 

I decided it’s time for a new mantra. This one from the late UCLA basketball coach John Wooden: “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it again?”

Especially when you’re hobbling around with a half-broken toe.

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