Sarah Simpson Column: Building runs in the family

Even as a prospective home buyer more than six years ago now, I knew that the coat closet adjacent to what would become my kitchen would never actually be used for coats. It was a good distance from the front door and, you’d have to pass through a perfectly suitable laundry room to get to it from the garage.

Luckily for me back then, my husband did the right thing and fulfilled a family obligation on his side of the family which took him away from me, our six-month-old son, and our new home on moving day, so I was the one who got to make the call on the contents of the coat closet.

(Not that we would have argued with me about it. And don’t feel bad for him, part of his family obligation included a trip to Disneyland.) Anyway, when move-in day came, I put an old child-sized piece of furniture I’d been lugging around for 10 years into the coat closet. It was an old IKEA armoire designed for a child’s bedroom that I had purchased because it could fit in the small suite I’d been living in at the time.

The armoire fit nicely in closets and I knew that because it had lived in several closets before in our lifetime together. And, until very recently, that armoire has served as my pantry. It’s done a fairly good job.

But I had bigger ideas. Better ideas. I have power tools. And for once, I seemed to have time.

I’m not sure if it’s because we can’t go anywhere else, but I’ve been pacing around the house lately like a caged lion, itching to get something of substance done. Something that I could look at a day later, an hour later even, and have it still be the way I had it. So clearly cleaning the house or mowing the lawn wasn’t going to cut it. That stuff gets undone as soon as it gets done.

It had to be bigger.

We’d done a couple of small maintenance type things in the yard but that wasn’t what I was after. I wanted to see the fruits of my labour: I wanted something new.

I decided my project was going to be the pantry.

Of course I went straight to Pinterest and looked at all of the beautiful pantry ideas that I could find. Then, after realizing that I was neither made of money, nor did I have an unlimited budget, I opted to go more basic.

Besides, all of the Pinterest pantries are, however beautiful, totally and completely unrealistic.

I don’t know about your pantry but mine actually includes food and not just pretty, half-full glass jars and wicker baskets.

My dad helped me create a supply list and then helped me cut install the new pantry shelving. He even came up with an extra can storage feature that is my favourite part of the entire closet now.

Yes, this is adulthood. I have a favourite feature inside my coat closet pantry. And yes, it is totally the can storage. These were not things I dreamed of as a child, but here we are.

When I was little, I loved being in the garage working with my dad and despite this project being in the garage that I now owned, it brought me right back to my childhood: holding the ends of boards as he cut them to size, measuring stuff, sweeping up sawdust, drilling holes and handing over tools as required.

I remember building that super awesome foot-steered go-kart that my dad brought special wheels home from work for. It had a white metal lawn chair (that no longer had legs) nailed to it with U nails — to date my favourite of all the nails. All the neighbourhood kids were jealous of that go-kart. Because if you pushed the driver, it was only fair that you got to drive, so we took turns. It was for sharing and that was the best and worst part of it at the time.

This pantry project doesn’t have the same cache around the neighbourhood for some reason. Probably because there are no custom wheels involved.

The good news however, is nobody wants to share my pantry with me so it’s mine, all mine!

And while not the biggest of projects, it did take long enough to disrupt the normal rhythms of the house so my children were more than aware of what was happening.

They wanted to be part of it.

My son, while always a sucker for a good tape measure, carried a hammer around for a short time and banged randomly on things he felt needed a good smack. I shut that down pretty quickly so he’s taken to wielding a multi-bit screwdriver around “in case anything needs to be fixed”. Interestingly, my son has a penchant for the hand tools but my daughter goes straight for the tech. She’s intrigued by the stud finder, the laser level, and the cordless drill.

Any which way you cut it, by being my helper, they’ve found a love for tools, which I hope will help me foster their love of building stuff — just like my dad did for me. Scratch that.

Just like my dad DOES for me.

I can’t wait to see what we come up with next.

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