When I moved in, I furnished the place with funky garage sale finds and hand-me-downs, and I was very happy with the results, even though I only had two ancient easy chairs as living room furniture. If worse came to worse, I could get every item of furniture I owned down the stairs by myself.
Over time, though, I started hankering for a couch to stretch my legs out on and maybe for a little extra seating for guests. I imagine it's a bit odd these days to walk into someone's place and find that it has room to seat only two people. Not great for socializing!
Still, I could not gather the nerve to ask anyone to help me haul a couch up those stairs. I certainly didn't want to have to ask my poor, hard-working senior citizen father. Despite the fact that he is still strong and agile with "rancher pipes," it just didn't seem like a good thing to do.
(Where-oh-where is my strong-backed husband, universe? *snicker*)
So for the past two years, I've stuck with the Easy Chair Duo. And I haven't invited many people over.
I did spot what appeared to be a great deal on a second-hand love seat and chair on a garage sale site a few months ago. The set was in great shape, it was in the area being sold by people I knew, and it was a great price. But still, who would help me bring it up those stairs? I really hate asking anyone to help me do anything like that (though I would generally not think twice about helping someone do something similar), so I didn't make a move on it at the time.
The post was taken down a little while later, and I assumed someone had snapped it up.
But at the end of July, months after I saw the original post, I saw the woman advertising it again.
This time, I couldn't pass it up.
Now, I'm well aware of the astrological caution not to make big purchases when Venus is retrograde. It's a karmic time for money and physical possessions, and if you can avoid it, you should.
But I also understand that some people are never without karmic conditions around these things (your anarchist astro-reporter being one of them with a tricky Venus placement in the natal chart).
And sometimes things do seem to naturally come together during a retrograde period. You can't fight it.
So I called the seller to tell her I would come look at the set and that I would take it if it would fit up my stairs.
I knew my Dad would lend me his truck and help me load the furniture into it, but I tried to find a local strong back to help me get it up the stairs to my place. I offered to pay $25 or whatever the person thought was fair, but I had no luck, so I had to draw my strong-yet-seniorly father into service, after all. What's a girl to do? I couldn't exactly haul a love seat up the stairs strapped to my back.
So my Dad and I went to pick the love seat and chair up, and as per the photos on the garage sale site, the set was in great shape. Thankfully, it was also quite light. I did notice that the couple had a dog, and I have allergies to pets, but in the past, a good vacuuming and the use of packing tape to pick up errant hairs had done the trick, so I didn't think it would be a problem.
We loaded the love seat and chair into the back of my Dad's pick-up, brought it into town, and wrangled it up the winding stairs.
I got out the vacuum and gave it a good going-over. I actually had to pull the dog hairs out by hand under the cushions, as they were so embedded in there. But I finally removed the hair of the previous owners' beloved Pug.
I thought all was well post-vacuuming and dog-hair-removing, but I did notice that the furniture had a bit of an "air freshener" scent to it. It was fairly faint, and I didn't immediately think it would be a problem.
I was wrong.
Every time I sat on the couch or chair, I would have an allergic reaction to that scent. My lungs would start to tighten and fill, and I would get the standard itchiness going on.
Was Venus retrograde karma striking?
The furniture seemed so perfect! The price was so great! We'd wrangled it up those stairs in the heat of summer, grunting and sweating! Was it too good to be true, even after two years penance of living without a couch?
I had a pretty strong suspicion that the offending scent was Febreze, a chemically spray advertised to "get rid of odours." The well-meaning previous owner had likely sprayed the couch and chair down with Febreze hoping to get rid of any dog smell. However, I have intense chemical sensitivities, so her good intentions had some unintended results.
I started doing research online. Apparently, it is somewhat difficult to get rid of Febreze.
Not to give away the ending of this absolutely scintillating little story from my life, but, in honour of Mercury transiting Virgo (detailed, specialized, and kind of anal), here are my Tips for Getting Rid of Febreze on Second-Hand Furniture. This set is micro-suede, but this may work on other fabrics, as well:
I started with vinegar and water solutions. The first couple times did not eliminate the Febreze odour, so each time I wiped the couch and chair down, I used progressively stronger solutions until I was using one part white vinegar, one part water. (You can probably just start with that concentration.)
I wiped the furniture down with a wet cloth soaked in the vinegar-water solution three separate times, saturating the fabric but not making it dripping wet, and let it air dry completely with the windows open each time.
This process definitely helped matters. The Febreze smell was growing more faint. However, the sniff test and my continued allergic reactions told me I was not quite getting to the root of the problem with the vinegar and water.
So I upped the ante with Dr. Bronner's peppermint castille soap. Dr. Bronner's is a natural liquid soap. I don't have any allergic reaction to the peppermint scent, but people with bad allergies should test it ahead of time.
I made a strong soap solution of about 1/8 cup peppermint Dr. Bronner's and 3 cups water. I had one pail with the soap solution and one pail with clean water (and a separate cloth).
I shampooed the couch and chair with the soap solution first, scrubbing every part of the fabric with the soapy cloth, and then went over it with the wet cloth and clean water to remove the soap.
Again, I let it air dry overnight with the windows open.
And again, the Febreze smell was still faintly apparent. (It really is somewhat difficult to get rid of that stuff!)
So I upped the ante again by adding peppermint essential oils into the soap solution and also into the rinse water.
I repeated the shampooing, scrubbing, and rinsing process and let it air dry again.
That did the trick. The Febreze smell was gone. But now I had a fairly strong peppermint essential oil smell with an underlying smell of vinegar. Not bad, definitely better than Febreze, but still not the preferable smell for a couch and chair.
So the final step in the Febreze-ridding process was to use unscented Dr. Bronner's soap in a solution, repeating the shampooing and rinsing of the furniture fabric. After that had dried, I was left with a tolerably slight scent of peppermint and vinegar, which I hope will fade over time.
(Editor's Note: Hot weather seemed to re-activate the faint Febreeze smell from beneath the couch and chair cushions, so I gave them one final dousing with full strength vinegar and allowed it to dry. I followed this with another shampooing with Dr. Bronner's unscented soap in water mixed with some Thieves essential oil. This has eliminated the smell, but I will repeat the process if the Febreeze rears its ugly head again!
Editor's Note Part Deux: the Febreeze did rear it's ugly head again, so I rubbed raw onion slices on the problem areas and then left the onion slices on them overnight so as to absorb the smell. Yes, raw onion smell is preferable to Febreek (the reek of Febreeze). Any natural smell would be, to be honest! So far, the raw onions have done the trick. I will re-apply later if necessary.
Editor's Note Part Trois: onion juice ftw! If you prefer the slight whiff of onions to the whiff of Febreek (and I do 100%), raw onion juice and slices will overpower the Febreeze smell, and eventually the onion smell will dissipate.)
Overall, I do think it's a good idea to avoid making big purchases during Venus retrograde if at all possible.
However, it's not always possible to avoid buying during this time frame, and it is also potentially a time when things will fall into place on their own, offering you opportunities that are too good to pass up. This is especially the case if you have an overly karmic Venus placement of your own, as I do. It's almost as if the Venus retrograde motion negates the usual "bad luck" and screwiness around these issues for folks like us.
If you do make purchases during a Venus retrograde, especially a Venus retrograde in square aspect to Saturn, and particularly a Venus retrograde in square aspect to Saturn in Scorpio, you can avoid frustration by expecting that your purchases may be more work that you imagined! (Venus has been within range of a square aspect to Saturn since the end of June. The final Venus-Saturn square occurs October 10.)
But with a little extra elbow grease (or a lot, as the case may be), you can come out on top with a bargain purchase you are happy with.
(Though this particular bargain purchase might need another shampooing or two to be completely acceptable...)
The Willow pad
Owning grown-up furniture feels pretty darned good, and the fact that I got a bargain makes it even better. Now I can sit on my (slightly pepperminty, slightly vinegary) furniture and feel that I'm home. Very grateful for that.
Just one further note on the "Venus Rx Purchases That Require a Little Extra Elbow Grease":
I'm an intense bargain shopper. I can only really be certain that something is for me if I get it on sale. I'm a huge fan of Winner's, Dots, and other clearance places.
I've written before about my take on over-priced jeans way back in 2009 when I was working at Art of My Heart: "Tales from the Retail Frontlines Episode #2 - the Value of a Dollar."
But secretly, I always wanted a pair of rich girl jeans. Just one pair. I wanted that soft, stylishly-distressed-to-look-lived-in fabric covering my ass just like it would cover a rich girl's ass. Don't ask me why I coveted these ridiculously over-priced appropriations of working class culture. I just did. But I knew I would never, ever be able to justify the price tag.
Well, friends, I now own not just one pair of rich girl jeans but three pairs. And I got them all on sale at a local store (in a town of 1,500 people, no less) for $20 per pair. Yes, I got a pair of jeans originally marked a staggering $264.00 for just $20. Truly amazing.
The Venus retrograde hitch?
Two of the pairs needed to be hemmed. (Are rich girls' legs longer than the rest of ours? Because I'm five foot 10, and they were still almost three inches too long for me.)
And one pair had to go back a second time because they were left too long after the first hemming.
But again, with a little extra elbow grease (by the tailor, sure) and a bit of extra driving to and fro, Rich Girl Jeans Dreams have come true for Willow.
(Please note: I'm definitely poking fun at myself here. I realize these "jeans dreams" of mine are shallow and silly. But still...they came true during Venus retrograde!)
And now, I get to wear my rich girl jeans to my job slinging beer at the honky tonk dive bar.
Couldn't be more excited about that!