Glamorous Escapades,  Tiny Kingdom Exclusive

A Cheater’s Guide To Spiffing Up Your House

WARNING! This hint for making your house look fresh should NOT be read by interior decorators or perfectionists, as the system I advocate may cause you to retch.

Tools: Can of white latex paint, old newspaper, paint brushes of various sizes, paint stirrer if stirring is important, paper towels, painter’s tape. No ladder! (A small brush for pretending to paint the trim around windows and a sponge brush for quickly running over the baseboards are great).

Don’t worry about second coats, thickness of paint, or even doing an entire door. The theme here is that women will only look at the walls from their eyes down, and men will not look at them at all.


Our baseboards and trim were sparkling white when we moved into out house in January 1998. Five minutes later Finn had run around the kitchen a thousand times, dizzy with excitement about his new home, falling against the walls in the process. Two days later, after we’d carried the twins in and out of the house in their car seats, clumsily bumping them against the trim, it became apparent that underneath the shiny white surface was dark wood, waiting to be unleashed.

Unleash it we did. Through the years, there’s been wrestling in the kitchen, resulting in the loss of Porter’s two front teeth and lots of paint near the door between the kitchen and the den. There’s been climbing on the walls, resulting in more of the same. And there have been the activities of daily living: lugging in sacks of groceries, carrying laundry to the washer, watching Porter fall off the counter, taking the ant farm with him, and wondering for a split-second whether priority should be given to catching the big-headed ants, mopping up the blood, or heading to the hospital. But you’ve read the stories. You can look at the woodwork for yourself.


This has been cleaned (!)with 409. It just needs to be repainted.


Ditto. Nasty, scuffed. One year I covered all the dark scuff marks with Liquid Paper but that is NOT the method I am advocating here.


1. Buy some white latex paint and a few paint brushes of assorted sizes. Also grab some painter’s tape to mark off the walls if they are a different color than the trim or your kids will be “helping.”

You could try to match the white of your trim to the white of the paint you’re buying, but that sort of ruins the spirit of this project. It’s much better to do as I did and just have your husband grab a gallon of whatever he sees and bring it home.

2. Stick newspaper on the floor and tape the walls.

3. This is the second most important step– decide ahead of time how you’re going to handle this psychologically with your children. Will they be painting as a punishment? Will they have to observe you painting for five or ten minutes, watching you have all the fun, before you grudgingly let them participate? Will you market painting as a valuable life skill that once perfected, can be performed for money, rain or shine, drought or no drought?

If you have toddlers I don’t recommend this project for you, unless you have some alone time.

4. Start painting. If you’re anal like I am, you might wash the walls first to get the ancient glops of dried applesauce off the molding. Alternatively, save time by skipping this step, paint over it and the food will blend right in.



I chose to sell this as a marketable skill, which inspired Finn to finish the foyer, Drew to participate for thirty minutes, and thrilled Porter, but not enough to keep him away from his pogo stick for more than eight minutes.

5. This is not “real” painting. Start at about eye level and paint lightly down the woodwork, morphing into a semblance of a true paint job at about your waist line or wherever the nicks start.

At the bottom, just paint low enough to get the scuff marks, but don’t worry about getting it all perfectly aligned with the floor. No one looks down there. The less you mess around way down low, the less you’ll spill on the floor and have to clean up.


Wow – it looks like this area just got a professional paint job!



If you look closely, you can see where the bright white and the cream meet up on the woodwork. I’m only showing you. A guest inspecting your molding so intently needs a drink or a job. Send him to carve the turducken. (Click to enlarge)


On this door I painted the bottom, then used the tiny paintbrush to swipe around the knob and lock (grimy there!) and the bottom of the lowest row of panes. Then I sort of blended the paint up into the higher regions of the door and called it a day. It doesn’t look perfect, but that is not what I was going for. (In the photo you see a big white stripe on the left between the hinges, but in real life, with no flash, you don’t notice it much at all.)

If you’re really in a rush, forget the kids, the newspaper and the tape, and just dab white paint on the scuffs. Use dim lights when guests come over if you’re paranoid.

Happy spiffing!

I posted this as part of Works For Me Wednesday at Shannon’s!

Two years ago in My Tiny Kingdom: Cleaning Out My Closet


  • Suzie

    I love your blog!!! I have 2 boys that could give yours a run for their money. I swear by Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser. It gets scuff marks from black soled shoes, non washable marker, and a variety of other unidentifiable messes. But even I, occassionally bust out my paint and redo the paint job. Your method is much more thorough than mine, where I just cover each blemish. LOL

  • Rhen (yestheyareallmine)

    That is too funny and too good! I keep a small can of Kilz and a brush around. When the kiddos go to bed I go around “sprucing up” the door frames. We also have a house where dark trim was painted white. It took no time for it to show. Then my wonderful children even peeled it off of the bedroom doorframes. The people who painted it didn’t bother to sand or prime to get the paint to stick so you can rip off long sections at a time and we all know just how irresistable that is to kids!

  • Cyndy

    This is what white paint is for! I am in the process of painting ALL my wood work white for this very reason…it’s an easy “clean-up”!

  • SAHMmy Says

    “Will they have to observe you painting for five or ten minutes, watching you have all the fun, before you grudgingly let them participate?” I’m down with the Tom Sawyer method! Funny article 🙂

  • GiBee

    Fabulous, Dahling! It’s funny … I was just thinking the other day that I’ll need to repaint soon, because my 2 yr old keeps banging his toys into every single wall. Sadly, we didn’t save any paint to use as touch-up paint. WHAT WERE WE THINKING!!!

  • Rachel

    LOL! I needed this laugh! I have thought this many times. I am the queen of quick touch ups and ‘face lifts’ on the house.
    You are so fun!

  • Cassie

    I refuse to paint. Refuse. My husband has worked for Sherwin Williams since we were in college, and all he’s ever done is critique my painting, which is alot like your method. So I have officially handed in my paint brush.

  • Jodi

    Excellent tips. When my kids are old enough to be used as unpaid labor, I’ll give it a try. Until then, I’ll heed your advice on not trying this with toddlers. I’m imagining what would happen if I tried this right now, and I’m headed off for a big glass of wine to make the bad thoughts go away.

  • Charro

    Looks great to me! Years ago, I was so proud of myself for touching up marks etc on our walls going up the stairs..until I realized later that I had used the right color paint but glossy on satin.. ended up with polka dots all over the place. Oh well. Another cleaning tip… dust baseboards with your feet..socks on of course !!! haa haha

  • Jordan

    This got many laughs over here at Chez Wonderwheel! I’m sure we’ll be employing your methodology in a few years when our new paint job looks like that. Thanks for the fantastic tips!

  • Maggie

    You’ve been tagged.

    (SORRY. Sorry sorry sorry sorry! Sorry.)

    See my blog ( if you’re confused.

    Oh, and shit, I just saw the person above me tagged you, too. That’s OK, right? What are the friggin’ Meme Rules?? This is just like that time I stayed up into the wee hours of the night, at six years old, because I was convinced awful things would befall my family if I didn’t write all those chain letters…..

    Sorry. 🙂

  • Jamie

    I have fantasies about having all of the trim in our house repainted. Sigh…

    Between two dogs and two small kids let’s just say it’s a little dingy! I guess “white out” or toothpaste isn’t an option? 😉