A hammock and hammer are best tools for a pleasant weekend

September 24, 2005|By ROB KASPER

GO FIGURE. That is how I approach most weekends, by figuring out how to split my time between recreation and renovation.

One of the constants of modern life, along with taxes, pictures of Paris Hilton and those pesky Asian tiger mosquitoes, is that there is always something on the home front that needs patching. Weekends are generally the best time to make the mends. The problem comes when other commitments -- ballgames, concerts, social gatherings -- activities that usually travel under the heading of "fun," also fill up weekend calendars.

There can be unpleasant conflicts. Late on a Saturday when I am paint-splattered, bone-tired and capable of doing nothing more than lifting a cold beverage, I don't want to learn that I have to scrub down, dress up and be at the Lyric in half an hour.

Nor do I want to be headed out the door for the big football game holding a couple of tickets that I snagged at the last minute, only to be reminded that this was the weekend I promised to fix the cracked glass in the living room window. Been there, suffered through that.

After having squandered several weekends, I have devised some strategies to try to balance the errands and the enjoyments that fill up Saturday and Sunday.

The first tactic is to have a clear-the-decks session. Sometime late in the week, usually

Thursday night, I have a tell-all meeting with my significant other detailing what is in the works for the upcoming weekend. I might have nodded in vague agreement some months ago that this was the weekend I was going to shop for kitchen light fixtures, but now it is time to either man up or bail out. Similarly, I don't want to start rerouting the plumbing on the same Saturday that 50 people will be coming to the house for a party.

Tactic No. 2 is to limit each weekend project to half a day of labor. Usually I plan to start a task early Saturday and finish by lunch. I hardy ever finish by lunch, I often don't even come close. But since every project takes about twice as long as it should, I still have plenty of wiggle room, the remaining half of the day, to mop up.

Tactic No. 3 is to hunt and gather during the week. Half of fixing is fetching the parts. If I want to fix the fluorescent light on Saturday, I drop by the hardware store on Friday and buy a replacement tube bulb, and while I'm at it, a ballast. (A ballast looks like a metal tube yanked out of an old TV, but it is needed to start some fluorescent fixtures.)

Rarely is any home repair completed with only one trip to the hardware store, but if I have parts on the kitchen table as I drink my Saturday morning coffee, I have the feeling that I'm ahead of the game. If I am lucky, these parts will be all that I need. But even if they aren't, thanks to my earlier trip to the store, I now know exactly which aisle in the store to head for when I return later on Saturday to get the right stuff.

Tactic No. 4 is to never start a new project or make a major decision after 4 p.m. Things get worse, not better, as the day wears on. As the sun begins to fade, so do I. Late in the day, I tell myself not to be tempted to tighten that pipe a few more turns or to knock a new hole in the wall. I remind myself to stop and put it off until tomorrow. Many a "one last thing" has ruined what had been a perfectly productive weekend.

Finally, proper spacing between labor and leisure is important. If they bump into each other, both suffer. Hurrying to finish a paint job, for example, so you can make the 6 o'clock movie is, I have learned, a recipe for an ugly paint job and an unpleasant evening. Transition time, also known as time to take a shower and unwind, is a must.

Ultimately, I have discovered, every relaxing and fruitful weekend contains one segment that is devoted to doing absolutely nothing.


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