Woman painting wall yellow

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Lesson 1: You Can't Fix Everything
After college, I moved back to New York and attacked each of my apartments with all the bravado and limited income of youth. One of my first places had a huge living room—big enough to hold a party with 100 guests—but only four small windows. I painted the place in sunny colors and accrued a great deal of debt by charging new furniture and accessories. But the hopelessness of the situation didn't hit me until a friend saw me install an overhead pot rack for the copper cookery that I didn't yet own. "You're spending so much money," he said, "but this place is always going to be a dump." That was my first cold, hard lesson about DIY: You can do a lot of things to transform a home, but you cannot—at least I cannot—manufacture sunshine and fresh air. I've never again had a living room large enough to pass as a roller rink, but I've lived in bright, sunlit apartments ever since.
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