Stripping is not for sissies


“It has so much CHARM” I said.

“It has so much CHARACTER” I said.

“Just shoot me now” I said.

The latter as I entered hour nine of the stripping of the endless layers of wallpaper in the dressing room of our home.

It’s a small room and, as such, was slated to be a “small” project. In actuality, I suspect the room is at least six inches wider in every direction once you remove the seventy-eleven layers of wallpaper and old paint.

Seemed like a good idea

Per usual, my idiotic self entered into this adventure willingly and of my own volition. This happened when I decided the space “just” needed some fresh paint.

This evolved, as these things always do, in a flurry of money, dust, and me on a ladder cursing the day I ever said “you know, I’ve been thinking …”

Thinking is the root of all evil. Thinking with access to a tool belt is a recipe for disaster. I swear I don’t drink, although I probably should. It would make more sense if I were under the influence of something more than wild optimism when I trip into ridiculous projects like this.

Paper trail

As it turns out the first layer of wallpaper that came off easily with just the barest flick of a fingertip, the flutter of a butterfly wing really, was stealth scout paper. Sent there to lure you into a false sense of ease, the scout piece is what tricks you into thinking the project is going to be relatively uncomplicated. So you proceed to pull off that first piece of wallpaper. With that piece come countless other layers of paint, wallpaper, more paint, some more wallpaper, and so on.

At first you thrill to a glimpse of cabbage rose or a smear of some paint hue of long ago. I distinctly remember saying to GirlWonder with all the rapture of a museum guide, “Just imagine! We are the first people to see this in over 100 years!”

Hours into the project, I don’t care if the signature of Abraham Lincoln himself might be found upon these walls. I would cheerfully scrape it into oblivion if only it would take the last shred of soggy, permanently cemented wallpaper with it.

I find myself scraping while daydreaming about the possibility of time travel if only to get my hands on the people who said “what this needs is ANOTHER” layer of wallpaper and more paint!”

Sticky situation

To say that the wallpaper has “adhered” to the wall would be an understatement. The earliest layers are apparently some combination of mortar and determination held on with a fine layer of pure grit and a commitment to outlast the house — and possibly mankind itself.

Attempts to remove it are met with deep resistance. The paper not only fights all attempts to soak, steam, or dissolve it, but actually seems to emerge STRONGER and with greater resolve after repeated attempts.

At one point I found myself deeply disappointed that Mr. Wonderful didn’t have to cut a BIGGER hole in the wall than planned if only to alleviate at least that much wallpaper stripping.

Instead he goes in with the precision of a surgeon laparoscopically installing lighting and switches. Where is the man with wild abandon and a sledgehammer I fell in love with? Killjoy.

Meanwhile, a solution of vinegar and dish soap seems to be the only concoction to make even the tiniest dent, leaving the space looking like disaster central, and smelling like a particularly clean pickle.

It was not lost on me as I crouched on the floor, spraying hot vinegar and mild profanity, that the same people who gave not a whit about insulation AT ALL, apparently spared no expense in their commitment to highest quality adhesion in their decorating choice. This wallpaper seems designed to withstand the brisk northeasterly winds that blow through.

Had they given at least half as much thought to holding heat we would have much, much lower energy bills. Instead I have three layers of pink floral and the remnants of a paint shade best characterized as “Pepto vomit.”

One friend summed it up best when responding to my “So much charm” I said, “so much character” I said, “just shoot me now” I said” diatribe. To this,she said, wisely, “I think ‘I liked the wallpaper’ is what you should have said.”


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Warm, witty and just a wee bit warped, Kymberly Foster Seabolt is a native of Kent, Ohio, who survived childhood exposure to disco and grew up to marry and move to the country. Her column weaves her special brand of humor with poignant, entertaining, and honest portrayals of parenting, marriage, and real life. She currently lives in northeastern Ohio with her husband, two children, two dogs, two cats, and numerous dust bunnies who wish to remain nameless.



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