The Cross House

Psychological Idiocy

I can restore a house from top to bottom. And even a wreck of a big ol’ house don’t scare me.

But some things, normally small things, can stop me in my tracks.

Years ago I learned that when a paint roller cover needed washing I would become paralyzed. I mean, I would paint a room with primer. Then I would need to wash the roller cover so I could then paint on the wall color. But I would freeze. Cleaning the cover just seemed overwhelming. And I would say to myself: I will clean it out…later. Then I would wrap the roller and pan in a garbage bag. But a day would pass, and another day, and then many more and eventually I would be forced to throw out the roller and cover and pan because the paint dried. All the while the room was not getting painted.

I cannot explain this psychological idiocy.

One day I decided to just accept this…oddness…and do an end run around it. Now, when I am ready to paint a room, I buy a half-dozen of those plastic pan inserts. Then I buy a package of a half-dozen nice roller covers. After the primer is on, I pull off the roller cover and wrap it in one of the plastic bags you get from the grocery store. Then I slip on a new cover, replace the plastic pan lining, and in just minutes I am ready to roll on a new color.


This solution seems rather a miracle.

When I finished the parlor in the Cross House I had five roller covers all wrapped in plastic (primer, white, antique white, teal, pale teal, and chartreuse). During the process I kept switching out cover X with cover Y and then Z. But, and this is the critical part, I kept working without interruption.


In finishing the parlor these past few months I kept putting off installing the electrical outlets. The room had a single newish one, several very old ones (not working), and one non-working 220 outlet (for an AC unit I assume). Doing this work should have been, sensibly, finished before the room was furnished and silk draperies hung, right?

But psychological idiocy stopped me. Even though I have rewired entire houses and enjoy the work. But every time I thought about doing the work I would just freeze up.

Now, even though the room is all clean and perty, I knew I could delay no further. And, I really wanted to see the fabulous new floor lamps lighted!

So, I played a trick on myself. I told myself that I did not have to finish installing electrical outlets but I had to at least install one. Just a single one.

(But I knew, from past experience, that if I just got started I would likely finish.)


The Cross House did not likely have had a single electrical outlet when it was finished in 1894. What was there to plug in?

As such, the outlets throughout the house all date from various eras, and are all at differing heights. And the latter really tests my delicate sensibilities.

In the parlor I decided to install the outlets in the base molding. I have never done this before. This decision came about for two reasons:

  • When walls are plastered the wet plaster is pushed through the wood lath to “key” the plaster into place. During this process wet plaster falls down into the hollow wall cavity and forms a solid block which can reach 6-inches in height. HOW does one snake a wire through this? By cutting into the base, I am very close to the bottom plate of the wall framing. I cut through the wood base, cut through the plaster wall, cut through the wood lath, and then chisel out the solid block of plaster until the wood plate is revealed. THEN, I can drill a hole though the plate to snake a wire into the basement.
  • I did not want electrical outlets cluttering up my plaster walls!


Old 220 outlet above. New outlet cut into base. I set the shop vac hose right next to the cut and all dust vanished into it rather than all over the perty finished room.


Old 220 outlet removed, and I used the old wiring to pull up a new wire. (The wire comes from below but is temporarily curved up inside the wall.) Wall color not accurate.


New outlet! I chose boring brown outlets and cover plates. They kinda just disappear visually. The shoe mold still needs to be installed (the little trim at the bottom of the base).


I was SO excited about getting one outlet done that I installed a second one! Then, whoee, I did a third one!!!!!!!! Tomorrow, I am actually excited about doing the last three. THEN THERE WILL BE LIGHT!




12 Responses to Psychological Idiocy

  1. Really does dissapear. I have to ask, was it a nerve wracking experience to sink a saw into 120 year old baseboards? I dont know if I’d be courageous enough to do it!

  2. I understand you psychological idiocy, it’s called ADD. I was born in 1957 and wasn’t diagnosed till I was 50. We’re everywhere. read “Driven to Distraction” and see if the shoe fits

  3. The original outlets in my 1935 home are also in the baseboard molding. In my one room with unpainted trim I bought unfinished wood cover plates and stained them to match the baseboard. They disappear even more than brown cover plates would. On the down side, the wood stands a little bit proud of the outlet, preventing extra large plugs from going in all the way into the outlet.

  4. I have to play tricks like that on myself also. I think it is because I generally want to do a good job but sometimes I am too lazy to take on the whole thing, so I tell myself I am just going to do this little bit, then like you, I get started…

  5. Roller sleeves are cheap, more exactly, it’s cheaper to use one and throw it out than it is to wash it. I just let them dry out and then i toss them. If you do have to wash them, scrape out most of the paint, and then toss them into the washing machine. Easy peasy.

  6. I can certainly relate to psychological blocks about certain things – or otherwise being too motivated for some things and not enough for others. After all, my basement stairway door is still leaning against a wall. But this paint the room and then patch the walls after thing is crazy!

    And the 4 outlets in my kitchen aren’t at the same heights. This became apparent only after I installed the cabinets. That’s the worst thing my electrician did. I also really want 2 more outlets in the living room, one in the floor. The annoying thing was I talked about all this with him at the beginning and wasn’t able to persuade him to give them to me. I think maybe I’d be better at that now.

    • Ooooh, I wish I could get into the minds of electricians! There is no logic to the placement of outlets or switches in my house. Switches should be within 2-3 inches of a door or corner, but not in my house. They are usually at least 8 inches in, preventing me from hanging pictures or mirrors in prominent places. I’d love to have artwork at the top of my stairs, except the switch to the stairwell light is in the middle of the wall! And some dingbat permanently affixed all the shelves in the kitchen and bathroom cabinets, so I can’t adjust them, hence all the stuff sitting on my counters. Grrrrrrrrrrr…..

  7. I’ve had more projects that took “a year and 15 minutes” than I care to admit. I think we can all relate.

  8. As for the rollers, how far would Michelangelo have got with the Sistine Chapel if he had stopped to clean his brush every time he switched colors???? I can sympathize with the odd outlets; we have several that are installed half-way up the wall, and one about 7′ high in our bedroom. Just another idiosyncrasy of living in a house that predates electricity. I agree with the brown outlets, and I like kizilod’s suggestion of wood receptacle covers. I’m really looking forward to seeing pictures of the parlor all lit up at night, but don’t forget to take pictures from the street so we can see how the stained glass looks with the room complete! It’s hard to believe how far you have come in just a short 3 years…

  9. Do you have to pay attention to electrical code requirements? Because Code often dictates how far up from the floor an outlet has to be located.

  10. Echoing Roberta regarding codes, does the historic designation have anything to do with outlet placement or distance from floor to outlet?

    I am so glad that you got your groove and your momentum back. Sometimes there are things that turn into a psychological monolith–it a process getting past it. Seems like you are on your way–way to go Ross!

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