Wallpaper removal can destroy your mental health


A sample of the paper that inspired the scraping.

Courtesy photo

Why do the home improvement gods hate me? I have done nothing but worship on the altar of their divine greatness.

I watch TV shows celebrating their prowess, read magazines with the fervor of a zealot, spend hours on the Internet plunged deep into the teachings of renovation apostles and reverently walk the sacred aisles of Lowe’s and Home Depot.

Trust me when I confess that I have been void of any transgressions that would warrant the wrath that has befallen me. But yet I have a tale of woe and it all started with me trying to save a little money.

Let’s examine those last four words: Save. A. Little. Money. How many stories of desperation do you think have begun with that quartet?

My conservative estimate is to infinity and beyond.

In fact, there should be some kind of mental health evaluation for anyone who utters that phrase. Mainly because so many bad choices could be headed your way you need to ensure you have the emotional strength to persevere.

Suffice it to say I did not.

The catalyst to my complete mental collapse was wallpaper: specifically the removal of hideous wallpaper in a bathroom that gave off a serial killer ambiance.

I know I can’t do plumbing or electrical work but most certainly I should be able to remove wallpaper. According to the best online experts you get a spray bottle and fill it with hot water and the secret sauce, liquid Tide, and basically go to town spraying and then lifting the wallpaper off with a large putty knife.

Sounds easy enough, right? But when you live in an almost 40-year-old house where the wallpaper was put directly on the drywall this becomes a study in the dramatic mental decline of a 50-something woman.

The wallpaper had mated for life, like the macaroni penguins, with the drywall. I doubt a nuclear blast could have separated these two lovers.

When I did get a less than one-inch piece of wallpaper to finally surrender, the backing still clung to the wall. It refused any attempt at removal, tenaciously embracing its one true love: the freaking drywall.

Now, this is when a sane woman would have realized that this was a job that was not going to end well. That same sane woman would have decided that the best course of action would be to hand it over to someone who was well versed in the many moods and glues of wallpaper.

I was not that person because the more the wallpaper fought me the more determined I was to get it off the wall.

Hour upon hour was invested in scraping off teensy pieces of the wallpaper. At one point I had to stop and wrap my wrists in athletic performance tape to have the radiocarpal strength to continue.

In my darkest and most desperate hours I took solace in a Halloween fun size bag of Snickers candy. Around 1 a.m. I found myself lying on the bathroom room floor covered in Snickers wrappers and wallpaper confetti. Had I fallen asleep? Passed out from excessive exposure to liquid detergent fumes? Or had a complete mental collapse. I’m thinking it was probably a combo platter of all three.

This is when I realized that I required a mental health intervention. The next day I called a contractor. He sent over a wallpaper guru who had had the paper off in under an hour.

I’d like to think it’s because I had already done most of the work, but that, I’m afraid, would be a lie.

Reach Sherry Kuehl at [email protected], on Facebook at Snarky in the Suburbs, on Twitter at @snarkynsuburbs on Instagram @snarky.in.the.suburbs, and snarkyinthesuburbs.com.

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