A DIY story: How up-cycling furniture gave me hope

Moving house has got to be one of the most stressful life events ever. It is a logistical, organisational nightmare especially if you have ADHD like I do. My planner was full of loose bits of torn paper serving as extra to-do-lists of my actual to-do-lists. Not to mention the other reminders and notes on my phone. Labeling of boxes served my logic – ‘white shelf‘ meaning all items in the box are from the white shelf that used to squat in the living room. This way it helps me preserve my piles of organised-chaos paperwork so that I don’t spend weeks looking for misplaced reports.

I’m pretty sure I lost stuff along the way, but I’m not too bothered. As long as I have the important things with me like my family and pets, we’re good.

My planner stuffed with extra notes.
Embossed with the year 2020 in case
I forget what year I’m in.

Moving house naturally brings up the past, as you dig out things in the back of your cupboards or out of storage. (Hello, electronic keyboard!). I used the opportunity to get rid of a lot of stuff that no longer served me. Many were still unopened in their original packaging. Stuff like a juicing machine, electric grill, clothing, and some furniture. Things I’ll probably be looking for in a few years time, no doubt, wondering what happened to them.

I’m always busy with a hobby or side-project. Drawing, knitting, sewing, music, gardening, DIY projects (ADHD heaven!) Naturally some hobbies never go beyond the first project. Once it loses its novelty, it’s hard to stick with it. Even more so if there’s a lot of friction getting started and it’s not one that can be done anytime or anywhere.

Up-cycling furniture was one of those old hobbies I abandoned. But I can proudly say that I have rescued two pine writing desks, three pine chairs, three pine bookshelves, a dining table of some dark wood from the 1960s and a stool that I thought was a piano seat and have called it such since its rescue. The piano idea was so firmly implanted in my mind, that I didn’t realise I varnished it a dark ebony-ish colour and re-upholstered it in ivory faux leather.

Seven years ago

All of these pieces of furniture were saved from my late mother’s rubbish pile during one of her de-cluttering phases. I restored the dining table and the piano seat. The rest were put straight to use as I could no longer bother to restore them. They were still in relatively good condition. Old, but useful. Like how we all hope to be one day.

Over a period of two or three weeks, I sanded and varnished the dining table and the piano seat. For the dining table I used a sanding machine that left my arms feeling as if I was still sanding the table hours after I switched off the machine.

The dining table does not have an immediate appeal. Maybe that’s why I liked it. It has a simple design, made of solid wood with an odd punch-hole feature. Old cracked varnish and signs of wear and tear shine through the thin coats of new varnish – it is true vintage. It has proudly served as my dining table for the past seven years.

The piano stool was one of the items removed from storage during the moving process. I restored it seven years ago then it went into storage gathering dust.

Until this past week where it eventually found its destiny in this awkward pot plant area in a corner of my new home. You’d think I’d put it by my electronic keyboard, but no. Somehow I like it in this space. A makeshift window seat. My favourite place to have coffee and enjoy the winter morning sun.

Express your originality. Save the environment

With DIY you can be as original as you want. Custom made pieces or decor are literally at your fingertips. I enjoy re-using, recycling and re-homing furniture, appliances, clothing and books. Come to think of it, most of the things in my home are second-hand or up-cycled. My dad, who works in construction, gave me steel garden fencing that one of his clients threw out. That fence has been used at my old house and now re-installed at my new home. Painted a fresh white. Admittedly, I didn’t install it. So it cost me labour and paint.

Often we throw away things that are still in good condition. With some elbow grease and a few coats of varnish I obtained two pieces of furniture at a fraction of the cost. I find this kind of frugality very satisfying. Not to mention it contributes to the environment by reducing waste. Points scored!

A little magic and hope

When I see a worn out piece of furniture get a makeover, it’s like witnessing a tiny miracle. A little bit of magic and fairy dust. I guess it is so satisfying to me because it makes me feel hopeful. That all is not lost. What is broken, can be fixed. What is lost, can be found. What is worn and old, can be restored into beauty and put to use again. What’s more, all those cracks, pock-marks and imperfections will shine through in a beauty like no other. All it takes is your effort and determination.

Thoughts of a dying dream

I was born with you, the day of your birth,

in your awakening

Out of those moments of joy bursting with light.

I stood by you, through years of your longing,

in your flagellation

Through those moments of pain echoing with the truth.


We have always been one, though you split us in two

Denied me, seeking fulfilment from others besides me.

Embarrassed, you walked away

I saw you look back eyes dark with regret.

You had no sense to know you could never forget.


Once in your mid-life, I sent you flowers, a fragrant bouquet

Hoping to remind you of what we had, and all the missed hours.

You read the note, threw it in the bin

Hid in the bedroom and found you could not hide from what was within.

That night, in the yellow of the porch light, you looked up at the stars

wondering, always wondering.


And here we are, together still at the end of your life.

Yes I’m still here, beside you, within you

And I bloom in your chest, with a lot of regret.

You tell me you’re sorry, you don’t know what happened

I say nothing, just let you speak, hear your voice cracking.


The pain in your voice is much for me to bear.

I know I tried to tell you over the years

that for you to truly live, both of us need to have life.


But I will die with you, the world never knowing who I am

More tragic than this, is the self you hid from the world.

All I could do was show myself to you

Hoping you would find your courage.

Something you could never do.


Oh the life we could have lived!

The possibilities we could have explored!


It is harder for me still, to question my own existence

The dream that never could and never will,

be more than a thought in your head

A fledgling hope that never took flight.

Why was I here? It makes no sense.


Then I look in your eyes,

moments before the light in them goes out,

and I see the same questions stirring about.



Inspired by an article I read on the regrets of the dying. Unfulfilled dreams were one of the biggest regrets.

There is something about unfulfilled dreams, hopes and desires that cause us so much pain. Most of it seems to go against logic and reason and it takes courage to follow them.

Undeniably, dreams are a part of who we are. To fulfil them is to fulfil ourselves. To give them life, is to give us a life that feels authentic, and has a buzz to it that makes us feel very much alive.

Need a better title. It is a WIP. Suggestions welcome!

Here’s to your dreams 🙂