Fifty years ago, or more (no one really knows) my great-grandmother painted her doors a disgusting brick red and mint green combination. After she died, my grandmother painted over them in light blue. My mother chose white.

I firmly believe that wood is elegant and beautiful in its natural state -- and absolutely pointless if it's only going to be painted over. So since we remodeled and I was given a choice for my door, I asked, "Is there any way we can just get all the paint off and varnish it?"

My parents are sweet people and they humored me. I don't know if I would have been quite so eager to have a natural wood door if I had known what it would entail, and I haven't even been doing the majority of the work.

First we took the door down. That was easy. We applied a coat of paint remover, let it sit the appropriate amount of time, and scraped it up. That got the white, the blue, and most of the green. Except for all the little cracks and nicks that the door had accumulated over the years, which had been filled with paint each time a new coat was slapped on. The paint remover did not seem to work very well, so my father put a steel brush on some spinning sort of tool that he has and went over it with that. I have since spent hours and hours sanding away at the detail work on the door, damaging the wood with my scraper as I try to get all the bright paint out of the cracks. The red is the most stubborn paint, but luckily the streaks of dark red look fairly natural.

The hours of work outside, bent over the door lying across two barrels, are taxing but tolerable. The dust is not. You see, the doorframe couldn't be carried outside, so my father laid down plastic in the doorway and attacked it with his belt sander. The sander has a sawdust-collector on it... but that didn't help.

My new room is covered with dust. It coats the walls and... well, that's almost all that was in there. The computer had a sheet thrown over it, and the bed (a mattress on the floor) had been turned sideways and leaned against the wall. A little dusty, yes, but liveable. I haven't really moved in yet. The other side of the doorway, my brother's room, is the disaster. Dust coats everything, and this room is filled with junk. The closets and drawers are all hanging open filled with junk. My brother's horrendous messiness coupled with my having nowhere to stick my things, and therefore leaving them stacked in odd places in the room that used to be mine, created a room full of junk. Now it is a room full of junk coated in dust.

My brother, who suffers from asthma, is sleeping on the couch in the living room until I can get some of this cleaned up. But the dust, oh the dust! We had to change our air conditioning filters, and we've had these window units for maybe a week.

The dust is still settling, and my lungs are not happy. Please, please think before you paint... and if you decide to undertake the daunting task of un-painting, remember to cover everything, and to wear a dust mask... for about a week.

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