Warehousing Joy: A Retail Therapy That Works

 

Mostly, I hate to shop. I cook well enough that buying ingredients is sometimes a pleasure, but retail therapy doesn’t work on me. There’s only one kind of store where I consistently leave calmer than when I arrived, and that’s a home-improvement warehouse.

Many household chores produce only ephemeral improvement. Doing laundry and dishes never ends. With toddlers underfoot, as soon as you finish vacuuming or mopping, you might as well start again. By contrast, even minor home-improvement projects can deliver lasting satisfaction. Like many women, I’m no expert in naming all the doodads which make up a proper, manly workshop, but I’m still mechanically inclined and pretty handy with tools. A trip to a home-improvement warehouse promises long-term solutions to household problems. The warehouses also smell good — the lumber especially, though even the weird chemical smells in the lawn care section smell comfortingly of problem-solving. The warehouses’ high ceilings mean the background music is actually in the background for a change, and plenty of products on offer are pleasantly unclad: you see the items themselves, rather than a jarring welter of flashy packaging. These stores are peaceful places.

At least for me. My husband finds them frustrating. They can be frustrating. It’s frustrating to discover that of the zillions of couplings in stock, the one you need isn’t. It’s frustrating when items you think would naturally go together aren’t (though less frustrating if you’re willing to ask for directions). It’s frustrating when you need customer service and it takes a mysteriously long time. I chalk all this up to shopping being frustrating. Still, the frustrations of shopping bug me less at a home-improvement warehouse. Heck, the frustrations of life bug me less there.

Yesterday, for example, was a maddening day. Our toddler defeated not only the magnetic locks on some crucial cabinets but also our toddler gate latches — all of them. Nothing of value was safe in our home anymore, including him. We have flip locks high up on the doors to our place, but flip locks can’t be set on your way out the door, and without working toddler gates, mere minutes’ delay in the at-home parent’s setting them is all our toddler needs to undo all the other locks and run outside, possibly naked, into the street. Defeated cabinet latches are just a nightmare. Defeated toddler gates are an emergency.

Fortunately, both problems were easy to solve. The magnetic locks just needed firmer shimming than the cardboard we had on hand when I first installed them, and our toddler gates needed combination locks and chains. How best to arrange lock and chain took some thought, but not much. I’d like to say these very simple, minor improvements went off without a hitch, but of course, they didn’t. I brought home dinner from our Home Depot’s hot dog stand as a treat, and it turned out to be not enough dinner. Plus, my husband found the numbers on the locks I bought infuriatingly hard to read. An evening of chaos ensued, where, between my cooking dinner number two and finishing the shimming, our toddler hid all our drill bits but three. My husband and I aren’t fighters, but we came close. Fortunately, exchanging the locks for more legible ones gave me an excuse to get out of the house one last time, and… Peace…

I drove to our Home Depot during a nighttime squall in a hot car, uncomfortably pregnant, waited in line entirely too long to return my items, and I still found the journey a peaceful one. Perhaps the peace came from knowing that, at the end of it, I’d have a small but urgent problem lastingly solved.

Since I put the combination locks on the far side of the gates, our toddler can’t get at the locks well enough to fiddle with them. If he could, he would, and all we’d be doing is teaching our kid to crack combinations before he’d even learned to talk. The combination can be reset, but my bet is he’ll figure out how to unscrew the screw keeping the chain from slipping before he gets to the lock. Unscrewing was how he defeated the gates before, when he was still too short to reach the latches: he just unscrewed whatever he could reach until the gates gave. The ergonomic extensions on the nuts the gates came with made it easy for him. Even plain old nuts only temporarily stymied him, but so far he hasn’t defeated nuts secured with glue. I figure if he does learn to unscrew the screw, I’m ready for him.

In life — or my life at least — most problems can’t be solved, only managed. Problem-solving is fun, management is not. Shopping for home improvement strikes me as the most problem-solving form of shopping, which might be why it brings me joy. @bryangstephens asked yesterday, “What if we all focused on giving and receiving Joy?” I couldn’t swear that home-improvement warehouses bring others here joy, but I suspect they do.

In general, I don’t recommend retail therapy. There’s ample reason to avoid taking joy in shopping. But even those of us who generally don’t like shopping have our little weaknesses. One of mine is the lumber aisles. I haven’t had occasion to buy much lumber myself, but pushing a cart down one of those aisles, whether I need anything there or not, wins my vote for most restful experience in the retail world.

What about you? Are you a home-improvement fan? Or is there something else that, when you have to buy it, brings you joy?

There are 49 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Matt Balzer Member
    Matt Balzer
    @MattBalzer

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: I brought home dinner from our Home Depot’s hot dog stand as a treat, and it turned out to be not enough dinner.

    Wow, even getting food from a home-improvement store requires more than one trip. 

    • #1
  2. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: The warehouses also smell good — the lumber especially

    One of the things I liked about framing houses was the smell of fresh sawn SPF lumber.

    • #2
  3. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: The warehouses also smell good — the lumber especially

    One of the things I liked about building houses was the smell of fresh sawn SPF lumber.

    I noticed a small pack of deep-discount paint stirrers could be cut into the right shimming for the cabinets, with leftovers serving as paint stirrers (duh) and rulers for the kid (they’re ruled in inches). They had the loveliest pinewood smell when I open the wrapping!

    • #3
  4. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    Carpenters use cedar shakes for shimming.  Though a bundle is probably way more than you need.  But they’re cut on a slant, and you just shove them in however far you need.  If you’re putting up a door frame, you shove one in from each side to keep the frame square to the wall.

    • #4
  5. OkieSailor Member
    OkieSailor
    @OkieSailor

    I’ve always been a do it yourself guy so when we retired and relocated I designed our retirement home and was the building contractor. I did the parts I enjoyed and contacted out the heavy work . The most enjoyable part was designing and building our new deck to be used for pot luck dinners and viewing our bird feeders. We planned the orientation of the house so that the deck is on the west side. That way it gets morning sun and evening shade .  Mrs OS. is an avid flower Gardener so I’ve constructed about a dozen raised beds for her flowers also. I like designing and building additions and improvements but have to schedule regular maintenance via phone reminders or I’ll let them slip by as I don’t get the same enjoyment there . I use the big home stores a lot but really prefer an old style hardware store and will go there when I can because I can often get just what I want in the quantity I need there with more personal service when I need that too. 

    Tinkering with my projects has always calmed me as well as saving money through the years, mostly on repairs . 

    • #5
  6. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    OkieSailor (View Comment):
    The most enjoyable part was designing and building our new deck to be used for pot luck dinners and viewing our bird feeders.

    The most enjoyable thing about moving to our new apartment was designing simple furniture I’ve always wanted to build, to maximize use of space. Unfortunately, we have a neighbor exquisitely sensitive to noise. Our neighbor can barely tolerate ordinary family noises, much less the sounds of building. So the furniture I’d like to build may have to wait for our next dwelling.

    • #6
  7. TheRightNurse Member
    TheRightNurse
    @TheRightNurse

    Simple things bring me joy.   Unexpected phone calls about good things,  chatting with friends, being able to eat chocolate… I’m pretty easy these days. 

    • #7
  8. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda
    @RandyWeivoda

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: Many household chores produce only ephemeral improvement. Doing laundry and dishes never ends.

    To quote the late Joan Rivers, “I hate housework! You make the beds, you do the dishes and six months later you have to start all over again.”

    • #8
  9. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    I was a kid in New York City. Not a whole lot of room. I used to pore through articles in Model Railroading about ingenious Berlin city-dwellers who mounted whole train layouts that hinged their way out of shallow closets, and illustrated Popular Mechanics features on home workshops, where suburban dads had drill presses, miter saws, jigsaws, and re-purposed pickle jars full of labeled parts. My own dad was and is tough and practical, but he was never a home hobbyist. So I always thought, “Someday I’ll have room for a workbench”. In time I did. 

    I fooled my kids into thinking I’m good at this stuff. It’s all an act, but if you rehearse any act long enough, you get convincing at it. My local Home Depot supplies the props. Really, by the time I’m done drilling and varnishing and painting and wiring, even I’m fooled. 

    Midge is a mom, and we all justly love our moms. But once a year, dad gets his due at Home Depot. Any man of, ahem, a certain age and bearing walking into the store gets a big “Happy Father’s Day!” from the greeter, and corny as it is, it’s really appreciated. 

    • #9
  10. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    I, unfortunately, am susceptible to all kinds of retail therapy, especially clothes and shoes. I also love buying little home accessories. But the place that always draws me in and makes me want to buy everything is an art supply store. I want to try all the different weights and textures of paper, all the water colors, brushes, and pens. And don’t get me started on the colored inks.

    • #10
  11. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake (View Comment):
    The most enjoyable thing about moving to our new apartment was designing simple furniture I’ve always wanted to build, to maximize use of space.

    I could not find a desk to handle the fact that I have four PCs on a KVM switch. About fifteenish years ago, I designed one, and my wife bought me the materials for my birthday. It was a great birthday weekend building my desk. Still using it today.

    • #11
  12. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Wonderful! 

    Few joys compare to parenting. Studies show a lack of happiness, but there is so much Joy!

    • #12
  13. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    In the second paragraph, the following words appear–“pleasantly unclad”. Darn it, Midge, you know full well that most men are going to have their narrative sense momentarily derailed at that point. 

    • #13
  14. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    I think this pic says it all.  

    • #14
  15. GLDIII Reagan
    GLDIII
    @GLDIII

    I can understand the therapeutic need for having lumber around. Linda & spend almost two years building our home. There was a very satisfying moment at the end of each day when we were working was to see the physical progress of one’s labors. While I do get to design and analyze systems that are seriously high tech during the day, but the progress is glacial and always involves “process by committee”. Doing the home building or even the car/appliance/aircraft repairs does not have quite the same satisfaction quality that fabricating something does to one’s joy. 

    Years after we completed the house and before it was completely “finished” (is it ever really finished?), we always had a pile of 2×4’s stacked in one of the rooms, or eventually just a handy stack in the basement for when the urge came that something just needed building.  I still have that little twitch when I am in the lumber aisle of Home Depot, and given that after 34 years since we built this house, visits to the Depot for repairs is now a thing, and filtering the air from the pine and spruce still can carry me back to a more energetic period in my life.

    • #15
  16. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    GLDIII (View Comment):
    I still have that little twitch when I am in the lumber aisle of Home Depot, and given that after 34 years since we built this house, visits to the Depot for repairs is now a thing, and filtering the air from the pine and spruce still can carry me back to a more energetic period in my life.

    I have a friend who installed catwalks all over her house and passageways from room to room for her cats. Just a suggestion for when you get bored or retired.

    • #16
  17. dnewlander Coolidge
    dnewlander
    @dnewlander

    I love going to Lowe’s, and spend a lot of money there.

    I hate plumbing projects, and dread them, because they always require three times as many Lowe’s trips and three times as much money as expected.

    • #17
  18. EB Thatcher
    EB
    @EB

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: They can be frustrating. It’s frustrating to discover that of the zillions of couplings in stock, the one you need isn’t. It’s frustrating when items you think would naturally go together aren’t (though less frustrating if you’re willing to ask for directions). It’s frustrating when you need customer service and it takes a mysteriously long time.

    I, too, like going to these stores.  But here’s a tip to avoid the above.

    Go online beforehand and search for and order exactly what you need and choose Store Pick-up.  Go to the store, wander around peacefully smelling the wood and browsing.  Then, mosey over to the pick-up desk, get what you came for, and head on home.

    • #18
  19. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    EB (View Comment):

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: They can be frustrating. It’s frustrating to discover that of the zillions of couplings in stock, the one you need isn’t. It’s frustrating when items you think would naturally go together aren’t (though less frustrating if you’re willing to ask for directions). It’s frustrating when you need customer service and it takes a mysteriously long time.

    I, too, like going to these stores. But here’s a tip to avoid the above.

    Go online beforehand and search for and order exactly what you need and choose Store Pick-up. Go to the store, wander around peacefully smelling the wood and browsing. Then, mosey over to the pick-up desk, get what you came for, and head on home.

    Then you’d miss out on the experience of finding that tool you never knew you needed.  Or more drill bits.  Or the special on WD40.  And some replacement screwdrivers to replace the ones you used to chisel ice off your front walk.  Some ice melter too would be a nice preventative against further ruined screwdrivers, and since it’s August, it’s on special.  Which does remind you that you broke the snow shovel at the end of last winter – better check if they have those in stock yet… nope, not yet, but they do have fall bulbs in their stead, and that reminds you that a new trowel would be handy.  And some pavers for the garden path.  Which needs a garden in the first place…

    • #19
  20. EB Thatcher
    EB
    @EB

    My sisters and I were not as inventive as your toddler.  But there was some creep in adventures with each addition.

    I never got out of my crib.  The second child regularly climbed out of bed, so my father put a piece of plywood over the top and that kept her in.  The third child just pushed the plywood over enough to allow her to climb out, so my father then tied the plywood on every night.

    By the fourth child, that wasn’t enough, so he (ever inventive) built this addition to the baby bed.  Yes, that’s rebar.  (I have an actual picture of the toddler in prison, but it’s buried somewhere in the boxes from our last move.)

    • #20
  21. EB Thatcher
    EB
    @EB

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    Then you’d miss out on the experience of finding that tool you never knew you needed.

    That’s what the wandering around and browsing is for.

    • #21
  22. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    I really enjoy Home Depot.

    They confronted a lot of hostility when they were exploring building a store on Cape Cod. We don’t have too many chain stores or big-box stores here, which is good since the tourists come here partly for our charming small towns and tree-lined streets.  :-)

    But a lot of people here live on tight budgets, and the local lumber and hardware stores have always been expensive and, frankly, unhelpful. Although the historic and land-use commissions did not want them here, we homeowners did.

    There was a legal and political battle that lasted a few years, but finally the homeowners won. Home Depot was allowed to open a small store, about half the size of their regular stores, in Hyannis, which is in the mid-Cape area.

    My husband and I went to the store the first Saturday they were open. It was a lovely day in April. The parking lot was full to overflowing, and everywhere we looked, we saw families going into the store so happy and excited to begin making their home improvement dreams come true. There was a wonderfully festive atmosphere in the parking lot.

    I love going into the Home Depot store. The aisles contain solutions to problems I didn’t even know I had! :-)

    • #22
  23. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    MarciN (View Comment):

    I really enjoy Home Depot.

    They confronted a lot of hostility when they were exploring building a store on Cape Cod. We don’t have too many chain stores or big-box stores here, which is a good since the tourists come here partly for our charming small towns and tree-lined streets. :-)

    But a lot of people here live on tight budgets, and the local lumber and hardware stores have always been expensive and, frankly, unhelpful. Although the historic and land-use commissions did not want them here, we homeowners did.

    There was a legal and political battle that lasted a few years, but finally the homeowners won. Home Depot was allowed to open a small store, about half the size of their regular stores, in Hyannis, which is in the mid-Cape area.

    My husband and I went to the store the first Saturday they were open. It was a lovely day in April. The parking lot was full to overflowing, and everywhere we looked, we saw families going into the store so happy and excited to begin making their home improvement dreams come true. There was a wonderfully festive atmosphere in the parking lot.

    I love going into the Home Depot store. The aisles contain solutions to problems I didn’t even know I had! :-)

    Our Home Depot has more and more lesbians working there for some reason. One day a few years ago, a lady in the garden center reached for a potted plant she wanted to buy, and there was a rattlesnake hiding in it and he bit her and they had to call an ambulance.

    • #23
  24. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    MarciN (View Comment):

    I really enjoy Home Depot.

    They confronted a lot of hostility when they were exploring building a store on Cape Cod. We don’t have too many chain stores or big-box stores here, which is a good since the tourists come here partly for our charming small towns and tree-lined streets. :-)

    But a lot of people here live on tight budgets, and the local lumber and hardware stores have always been expensive and, frankly, unhelpful. Although the historic and land-use commissions did not want them here, we homeowners did.

    There was a legal and political battle that lasted a few years, but finally the homeowners won. Home Depot was allowed to open a small store, about half the size of their regular stores, in Hyannis, which is in the mid-Cape area.

    My husband and I went to the store the first Saturday they were open. It was a lovely day in April. The parking lot was full to overflowing, and everywhere we looked, we saw families going into the store so happy and excited to begin making their home improvement dreams come true. There was a wonderfully festive atmosphere in the parking lot.

    I love going into the Home Depot store. The aisles contain solutions to problems I didn’t even know I had! :-)

    Our Home Depot has more and more lesbians working there for some reason.

    I think they flock together or something. Our local elder services department is run completely by a group of them.

    • #24
  25. Guruforhire Member
    Guruforhire
    @Guruforhire

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    I think this pic says it all.

    Thats a weird fetish.  I have never once considered the operation of a hoist to be particularily sexual.

    • #25
  26. GLDIII Reagan
    GLDIII
    @GLDIII

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    EB (View Comment):

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: They can be frustrating. It’s frustrating to discover that of the zillions of couplings in stock, the one you need isn’t. It’s frustrating when items you think would naturally go together aren’t (though less frustrating if you’re willing to ask for directions). It’s frustrating when you need customer service and it takes a mysteriously long time.

    I, too, like going to these stores. But here’s a tip to avoid the above.

    Go online beforehand and search for and order exactly what you need and choose Store Pick-up. Go to the store, wander around peacefully smelling the wood and browsing. Then, mosey over to the pick-up desk, get what you came for, and head on home.

    Then you’d miss out on the experience of finding that tool you never knew you needed. Or more drill bits. Or the special on WD40. And some replacement screwdrivers to replace the ones you used to chisel ice off your front walk. Some ice melter too would be a nice preventative against further ruined screwdrivers, and since it’s August, it’s on special. Which does remind you that you broke the snow shovel at the end of last winter – better check if they have those in stock yet… nope, not yet, but they do have fall bulbs in their stead, and that reminds you that a new trowel would be handy. And some pavers for the garden path. Which needs a garden in the first place…

    Yeah home ownership, the biggest scheme/scam to separate the masses from their money while thinking it was voluntary.

    • #26
  27. GLDIII Reagan
    GLDIII
    @GLDIII

    Guruforhire (View Comment):

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    I think this pic says it all.

    Thats a weird fetish. I have never once considered the operation of a hoist to be particularily sexual.

    No no you are missing the point. Look at the rocker covers on that engine!

    • #27
  28. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    dnewlander (View Comment):

    I love going to Lowe’s, and spend a lot of money there.

    I hate plumbing projects, and dread them, because they always require three times as many Lowe’s trips and three times as much money as expected.

    Yes.  Plumbing projects are a nightmare, and the source of immeasurable frustration.

    I thought, years ago, that I had it licked when someone explained to me that the diameter of plumbing pipe is measured on the inside of the pipe, so that consistent water flow is insured.  1″ diameter pipe is always 1″ across on the inside.

    Great!  Problem solved!  Right?

    No.  Just trust me.  No.  Not going to hijack the post with a discussion of the excruciating difficulties of adding in a new fixture on an existing plumbing run, or retrofitting drains below an old sink into the current waste pipe, or even of finding the right threads, connectors, do-dads and baubles to install a whole-house filtration system under the stairs where the pipe from the well comes into the house.  Or even those of trying to figure out, without much expertise, if what you’re looking at is copper (well, actually, that one is pretty easy), PB, PVC, CPVC, PEX, ABS or something else, or which type of solvents, connectors or fittings one needs for each one, or to get from one sort of pipe to the other.  Just. No.  The frustration quotient is just too high.  (There are probably several “Plumbing Chick” posts just waiting to bubble over and be born.  Maybe soon.)

    Argh.  My blood pressure is going up.  My temperature is rising.  My face is getting red.  I’m starting to shake.

    Clearly, I need medicinal therapy.  Where’s the gin?

    Ahhh

    Joy.

    • #28
  29. GLDIII Reagan
    GLDIII
    @GLDIII

    She (View Comment):

    dnewlander (View Comment):

    I love going to Lowe’s, and spend a lot of money there.

    I hate plumbing projects, and dread them, because they always require three times as many Lowe’s trips and three times as much money as expected.

    Yes. Plumbing projects are a nightmare, and the source of immeasurable frustration.

    I thought, years ago, that I had it licked when someone explained to me that the diameter of plumbing pipe is measured on the inside of the pipe, so that consistent water flow is insured. 1″ diameter pipe is always 1″ across on the inside.

    Great! Problem solved! Right?

    No. Just trust me. No. Not going to hijack the post with a discussion of the excruciating difficulties of adding in a new fixture on an existing plumbing run, or retrofitting drains below an old sink into the current waste pipe, or even of finding the right threads, connectors, do-dads and baubles to install a whole-house filtration system under the stairs where the pipe from the well comes into the house. Or even those of trying to figure out, without much expertise, if what you’re looking at is copper (well, actually, that one is pretty easy), PB, PVC, CPVC, PEX, ABS or something else, or which type of solvents, connectors or fittings one needs for each one, or to get from one sort of pipe to the other. Just. No. The frustration quotient is just too high. (There are probably several “Plumbing Chick” posts just waiting to bubble over and be born. Maybe soon.)

    Argh. My blood pressure is going up. My temperature is rising. My face is getting red. I’m starting to shake.

    Clearly, I need medicinal therapy. Where’s the gin?

    Ahhh.

    Joy.

    Yes Plumbing is a racket. Each of the various materials (and if it is for source or sewer) have different standards for size and thread type. When I do a plumbing job I either go to a pro shop (Ferguson’s is now open on Saturdays!) or it is on line since everything is tending to over priced blister packs from Lowe’s or Home Depot. And the most aggravating thing is to use two or three fittings to get a transition between standards when it can be done in a single fitting step with the selection from a Pro Shop or online.

    • #29
  30. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    RightAngles (View Comment):
    One day a few years ago, a lady in the garden center reached for a potted plant she wanted to buy, and there was a rattlesnake hiding in it and he bit her and they had to call an ambulance.

    I hear mama rattlesnakes (ahem) in the South like to lay eggs in bags of mulch at home and garden centers. Especially in Florida. Up north here, the worst nesting in our mulch bags have been centipedes. Centipedes were about the only thing I was afraid of when I was little, so when they had a big ol ‘pede in a tank at the zoo, I’d make myself look. I still don’t like most of ’em, though the little striped zippy ones with long legs that look like false eyelashes come to life are rather cute.

    • #30

Comments are closed because this post is more than six months old. Please write a new post if you would like to continue this conversation.