Interior design is like chili powder — you can only take so much

One time, when we'd been married about 10 years, my lovely wife and I were in a store looking for window treatments. At one point, my wife asked me if a certain colored curtain would match well with our bedspread.

I looked at her, and, in all honestly, told her I had no idea what color our bedspread was. Her response was succinct and to the point: "You're pathetic."

I know, you'd think I should have known something so obvious, but my male mind just doesn't register some things like it should, I guess.

I bring this up because, factotum that I am, I've again been forced to deal with window treatments on a grand scale. My son and parents both moved into apartments recently and I've been tasked with doing all the window-treatment installations. As taxing as that sounds, in many ways it's the easy part. The hard part is picking out and buying them in the first place.

My wife has really gone above and beyond in this regard, which is totally amazing when you consider she's on a chemotherapy regimen for breast cancer. She's supposed to be taking it easy between treatments, and she does have good and bad days, but the work she's done for my son and parents has been phenomenal. If you've ever shopped for window treatments you know what I mean.

Shopping for window treatments is quite a bit like shopping for cars. You have low end, high end, and everything in between. You can even buy used (think Craigslist), and sometimes a home or apartment's prior residents will leave them behind. Mostly though, buying window treatments involves lots of visits to lots of stores and a lot of standing around talking to helpful employees with a pad of measurements (and you hope you measured right!).

Picture a sunny summer Sunday afternoon. What you really want to be doing is pre-heating the grill and getting the drinks iced and the burgers made.

Instead, you're standing in a packed, narrow aisle under bright fluorescent lights, looking at all manner of shades (wood, vinyl, and more), curtains (tall, short, simple, fancy), and related sundry items like valences, rods, and drapes, in a seemingly unending assortment of sizes, shapes, styles, colors, and patterns.

Here's where I have to give my wife credit — you look at her standing there deep in thought and imagine the almost infinite combinations taking shape in her head, jugging the various permutations of style, color, and cost, while I'm standing there thinking of where the best place to watch opening day of football this year would be.

I just don't have the interest, ability, or desire to work out all the possibilities — what matches what, what's better for this room, room darkening versus room-lightening, etc. I get tired and bored just thinking about it. When you drive around a college housing area and see newspapers and sheets inside of windows, don't be surprised.

Interior design is like chili powder. You can only take so much.

When you finally find something you like, you have to then order them. Many times, this will involve custom cutting or sizing.

You really, really better have measured the windows correctly, because, if you don't, you'll wind up with an expensive mistake for sure (though if you order them too wide they can usually be shortened without too much trouble). Ordering window treatments correctly requires concentration and fortitude.

They should make it an Olympic event, with judging and everything. You know, "The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat" — window treatment shopping has all that in spades.

Once the products have been purchased, it's always my job to install them. Since I've done many of these, I know what tools to bring — tape measure, drill, etc. The goal is to bring just enough tools to get the job done but not so much that you're breaking your back and then have a lot to put away later.

I thought I'd had it covered until I went to install the first bracket. Sometimes you're installing these brackets in the space above the window, which is usually just painted drywall. When you install anything into drywall, unless you're lucky and happen to have a wood stud right at that location, you have to use some kind of drywall anchor for the screws.

If you don't, the screw will simply pull out of the drywall the first time you put any pressure on it, like when you pull the shade open. Always in the past, the manufacturer has included several of these little plastic thingies, often extras, too, just to be safe.

This time, there were none! Is the economy really that bad that they can't just for the heck of it include these little plastic anchors, which probably cost them pennies apiece, and that you almost certainly will need? Give me a break.

So now it's drop everything and run home to get some drywall anchors. That's the problem with doing anything like this on an occasional or part-time basis.

A "good man" would have some anchors with him in his tool belt, tool box, or, at worst, out in the van. Sigh. At least both of these apartments aren't too far from my house.

When I finally got these huge patio-door sliding blinds installed, I ran into another problem: The provided brackets were not long enough, such that, when you tried to open the slats perpendicular to the door, to let the most light in, they would rub on the door casing.

There was no adjustment possible; the brackets were at the maximum length. What's needed is to get those brackets further out from the wall.

The store agreed to provide some wood, but, even with that, now we're into making custom bracket extensions will all the attendant measuring, cutting, fitting, and, yes, swearing. I mean, first they don't provide the wall anchors, and then the brackets are too short? I don't know what gives, but I sure know I've had enough of it.

The window blinds we purchased came with this little plastic thing that's supposed to act as the pull. The thing is, it's split in the middle, and the only thing holding it together is a tiny plastic hook.

You're supposed to insert the three separate cords into this thing in such a way that it stays closed when you pull. Of course, it's so poorly made that it often splits open when you pull the cord.

Again, it would be easy to either purchase a proper pull, or fashion one out of wood, but why should you have to? It's tough enough dealing with this often-flimsy hardware in the first place; when the design is inferior, it makes it even worse.

Buying and installing window treatments is one of the times in a married man’s life when that Talking Heads song with the lyric "How did I get here?" comes to mind, like when you're waiting endlessly outside a ladies’ room, or holding your wife’s purse while she tries something on, or trying desperately to keep your mind from drifting during a "chick flick."

It just comes with the territory, I suppose. I have to admit, though, that, when you're finished, the windows do look nice, so there you go.

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