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AMY KIRK: Escaping DIY purgatory

Recently, my husband offered to help me get my camper put back together by enlisting a friend of ours for whom we’ve jokingly dubbed as our “marriage counselor” — a veteran DIY (do it yourself) project man.

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My 1970s travel trailer restoration project has been parked in my husband’s shop, which has limited space and my camper is now on the verge of eviction. Our friend Jerry, aka “the marriage counselor,” has the project know-how and power tools necessary to keep marital peace between my husband and me by serving as mediator between my project predicament and my husband’s boundaries. He was also enlisted because he and his wife, Linda, have been married longer than Art and I have, giving Jerry more experience in dealing with DIY projects and marriage simultaneously.

Progress on Operation Camper Redo slowed when I got in over my head as a result of overestimating my female DIY capabilities. Mostly what I accomplished once I got my camper parked in my husband’s shop was to make it immobile, and now the grace period is over. He would like the other half of his shop back before calving season.

He compared my camper project in his shop to rebuilding a motor in my kitchen — an excellent analogy. So basically, all the shop floor sweeping, cleaning out, decluttering and organizing I did to help smooth over my camper’s presence didn’t candycoat the fact that my project had taken up usable shop space.

Since I took on restoring my camper by myself and landed in DIY project purgatory, I’ve worked on small-scale tasks and done what women do when faced with a dilemma: gather information. In addition to camper restoration research, I asked lots of questions and advice of known fix-it guys on how I should replace the entire wall where I created a gaping hole.

What I needed to get back on track toward the goal (for me it’s to have my camper restored the way I want but for my husband it would be to get his shop space back) was DIY men’s problemsolving suggestions and reassurance that it was possible to put the camper back together, but also to recruit more manpower and the power tools required for the job.

The guys I inquired about my situation included my girlfriends’ husbands, my constructionminded relatives, family friends, neighbors and employees at home improvement stores. Instead of picking one of the suggestions, I became too indecisive in figuring out the best way to go about putting my camper back together by myself.

By getting our friend involved to help Art and me, there’s been renewed hope that my camper will reach a status that my DIY capabilities can handle, that matrimonial harmony will not be interrupted, and the camper will be out of the shop soon. Jerry’s renovation problem-solving ideas, can-do attitude, table saw and necessary power tools we don’t own, has helped keep my marital happiness intact.

Art and I want each other to be happy, and Jerry’s become part of the solution to continued unity between us, and the three of us have made good progress on my camper.

I’ve discovered that the key to success on my DIY projects is quality marriage counseling, which involves getting a sound mediator who can address a couple’s issues and has good power tools.

-Write to Amy Kirk at