Coping with Frustrating Fixes – When You Just Want To Quit

Before you decide to stick your head in the oven over a frustrating fix, read these tips from Deren for coping with projects that don’t always go as planned.
I could see it coming, clear as day. My precious son, apple of my eye, joy of my life, first-born child, cause of much laughter and contentment, was about to make a big mistake.
A pocket door connects our master bedroom to our master closet. The door is new, but the track and hardware were manufactured during Reagan’s second term. Changing out this door three years ago was extremely frustrating and for no good reason other than pocket doors are, by definition, embedded in a pocket. Door replacement should be a 2 on the the 1-10 scale of home improvement difficulty. But this one was not. This is the pocket door from hell.
So when my boy attempted closing this door, using all the 3-year-old muscle he could muster (it is a solid-core door, and heavy is an understatement), I knew it was about to come off the track. Please note: he has done this before. Each time, it led to an hour of cursing and sweating (in that order) as I attempted to get it back on track. This time, though, he found a way to get both tracks off. I was in trouble, and so was he…
The only way to reinstall this door is to swing it out of the opening towards our master bedroom. Easy enough, right? Wrong. Doing so requires removing the pocket door jamb, casing, decorative blocks, etc. Ugh. A good 60 minutes of very careful removal, 60 minutes of door manipulation, 45 minutes of re-installing all the trim, 15 minutes of caulking and filling nail holes, and 60 minutes of touch-up painting using three different colors. All over at least three sessions due to dry time.
So why write about this? Handling home improvement frustration is tough, especially for those who take pride in what they create/alter/refinish/replace. Here are three ways to handle the frustration and keep yourself from sending your kid back to where he or she came from:

Coping Step 1 – Realize Everything is “Fixable”

OK, nearly everything… One thing to remember is, no matter what goes wrong, it can almost always be fixed. The fix may involve more cost and/or time than expected, and it may need to be (gasp!) done by a professional in the given trade, but alas, it is fixable. Maintaining this perspective turns “disasters” into “setbacks.” Also, I must admit, there’s an element of relief when something breaks beyond my repair abilities. It gets me off the hook, so to speak. I have an excuse to bring in the professional, and my wife usually agrees.

Coping Step 2 – Realize Most People Will Not Notice
We all have them. You know, the little lurking project flaws. The things you see clearly but no one else notices. I have a collection of these sitting around my house and even at the office. Don’t let them get you down. Consider them your “stamp” on the project; the reminder that you are human and you are pretty handy to undertake the project in the first place. Besides, think of all the “perfect” work you have done in the past that no one has ever noticed. (I will tell you about the worlds greatest crown molding corner in a future post). The flaws are as hard to spot as these little victories.
Coping Step 3 – Realize it is a Marathon, Not a Sprint
Setbacks happen to all of us. Cope by remembering home improvement is a process not an end goal. There will always be something to do, something to fix, something to purchase, someone that needs help. Enjoy it for what it is. And don’t be so hard on yourself.
Well, I ended up calling in the experts for the pocket door. And it is now as good as new. And in a few weeks I will have forgotten about my “frustrating fix.” Until my son does it again…

Deren S. Monday has spent over a decade in the residential and commercial construction industry, and is a graduate of the Construction Management Department at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. He has two kids under 4, and has to cope often because of them, bless their hearts… Deren is the author of Your Cheap Kitchen Remodel: A Guide to Your Affordable Dream Kitchen. More information on his book can be found at

photo: superfantastic

You Might Also Like