Darius Stevens might call himself the “clueless father,” but when it came to this touching gesture, he knew exactly what he was doing. Having rewarded his wife with a richly deserved vacation, this super dad, with the help of his two daughters, set to work creating something amazing in the backyard. And to top it off? He did it all despite a serious risk to his own health.
Stevens – or Dare, as he prefers to be known – lives in Los Angeles, California, with his wife Rose and their two daughters. In 2014, with his 40th birthday on the horizon, he was struggling to make it as a filmmaker and screenwriter.
It had been, by Stevens’ own admission, a pretty tough year. After all, a series of unfortunate events had seen him lose his job, all his money and, consequently, his family’s home. And given his debts of more than $20,000, he couldn’t make the payments for his insurance policies, which were duly then canceled. But there was even worse news to come.
Noticing a couple of strange patches on his skin, Stevens went to his doctor, who referred him for a biopsy. The results came back positive – he had skin cancer. On top of that, as Stevens now had no insurance, he’d need to stump up $15,000 if he wanted the affected skin removed.
Overwhelmed by his run of extreme bad luck, Stevens couldn’t bear to tell his wife about his illness. He also didn’t go back to the doctor. After some time, then, medical services sent a letter to him explaining that he needed treatment for his life-or-death situation. His wife found the letter, though, and finally the truth was out. Still, although Stevens was relieved that his wife now knew about the cancer, he understandably became pretty depressed by his situation.
So as 2015 and that landmark birthday approached, Stevens was ready to give up. “I had once promised my younger self that if I hadn’t sold a script, a novel or made a feature film by the time I was 40, I would throw in the towel,” Stevens wrote on his blog, self-deprecatingly called “cluelessfather”.
Fortunately, things soon began to look up. Indeed, he managed to find a job, moved his family from a friend’s spare room into a new home and – perhaps more bizarrely – became totally obsessed with Pinterest. His creative side was, then, about to be unleashed.
“I was going to hit 40 without selling a script, a novel or making my first feature movie,” he wrote. “But damned if I was going to go into it depressed. I decided that I wanted to give my kids and my wife something special.”
Indeed, it was then that Stevens seemed to turn a corner with his depression and began to realize that his life was still worth fighting for. “No matter how bad I felt about my life, I was living a life that someone else, somewhere in the world right now wished they had,” he wrote on his blog. “While I stood there bitching about my minuscule problems, I was living someone else’s dream.”
With rejuvenated hope and plenty of Pinterest inspiration to lean on, then, Stevens decided to make some pretty drastic garden improvements. In fact, he had grand plans for a new outdoor deck, a kids’ playhouse and a pergola – all set among newly landscaped grounds. This, though, was obviously going to take some work.
Stevens first decided to realize his dream backyard in miniature. So he skillfully built a scale model of what promised to be an epic project. This was, however, just the start of the magic.
“I asked all my friends and family to give me wood for my birthday,” Stevens recalled in his blog. “I asked other friends for leftover lumber on their job sites. I looked through Craigslist.” He added, “I did whatever I needed to do to get my ducks in a row.”
Determined to make the whole thing a surprise for his supportive wife, Stevens sent her off for a five-day trip to New York City. In fact, he disguised the trip as an early birthday present in a bid to keep her in the dark.
He wrote, “In the ten years that my wife and I had been together, she’d probably told me a hundred times that she wished that one day she could go to New York. She had also mentioned that she wished we had a place that was outside to exercise and watch the girls play at the same time.” So Stevens quickly put his plan into action.
“By the time I got back from dropping her off at the airport the lumber was waiting for me at the house,” Stevens subsequently explained. “I went crazy building things like a madman.” Not only that, but he decided to capture the whole momentous project on camera too, making a time-lapse video of his progress.
Fortunately, Stevens didn’t have to take on this massive task alone. He had a pair of very committed and willing helpers – his two young daughters.
Indeed, the time-lapse video shows the two girls eagerly getting stuck in. In a cute touch, one of them writes, “I love you daddy” on a new chalkboard. Perhaps it was the promise of a playhouse complete with trampoline, slide and sandpit that helped spur the little helpers on.
Still, the job would turn out to be more of a slog than Stevens had initially bargained for. “I didn’t finish it by the time my wife got back,” he remembered. “I had to send her away again to take another four days off to go to her sister’s baby shower while the girls and I worked away.”
And despite all his meticulous planning and help from family and friends, Stevens ran out of cash before finishing the project. As a result, then, he ended up building another deck on commission to bring in the final few dollars that he needed.
He wrote, “I didn’t have enough money for a lot of the backyard, so I had to take another job on some weekends to be able to buy more wood (yes, no BS, I built a deck for someone else).” He must have been exhausted.
Yet while he may have described the build – which he combined with looking after his children – as “really stressful,” Stevens wrote that he and his two daughters “did have a blast.” All that effort, stress and juggling was, it transpired, totally worth it.
Finally, after ten days of hard labor, this super dad was done. It’s incredible what Stevens was able to achieve on such a budget – around $5,000 – and while coming to terms with a serious illness. His family must be so proud.
And if his wife’s reaction is anything to go by, she loved it. Writing on his YouTube channel, Stevens explained, “When she walked through the back door, her jaw literally dropped. When I took her around and showed her everything, she was still stunned. And then she started crying… I think she really felt how much I love her and our daughters and was trying to express that through this simple creation. I felt very proud and that the hard work had been worth it.”
It seems, then, that all the hard work paid off, and it’s made a big difference to Stevens’ life, too. Indeed, he wrote, “The kids love their new space. And I feel strangely satisfied. It felt good to build this. It sort of gave me a renewed verve for keeping going. Pursuing my dreams and taking the struggle that comes with that in [my] stride.”
At the end of the time-lapse film documenting the build, Stevens thanked all those involved. He reserved a special mention for Pinterest and, intriguingly, comedian and chat-show host Ellen DeGeneres – which obviously warrants some explanation.
It turns out that when Stevens was at his lowest point, he turned to The Ellen DeGeneres Show – a program he ended up watching most nights. In addition to the positivity of the presenter and her guests inspiring him, the dad said that it helped put his own problems into perspective.
Later, after Stevens had posted his build video to YouTube in September 2015, the internet was suitably impressed. As of November 2016, it’s been viewed more than 1.5 million times and has attracted more than 100 comments.
Indeed, it seems that the so-called “cluelessfather” has won himself a whole new army of admirers. YouTube user Marie Oliva wrote, “What an incredible dad and hubby you are. That is truly inspiring. Amazing!” Amyvenify agreed, writing, “It takes a lot of vision to pull that together, and a lot of work. Congratulations.” Oscar Rivera, meanwhile, joked, “Okay, how soon can you get to my house?”
And there was more good news to come. Luckily, a friend of Stevens’ mother was working for a dermatologist and put them in touch. The dermatologist agreed to take him on as a charity patient, allowing Stevens to get treatment while paying only what he could afford. And, as of January 2016, he was clear of the cancer.
“I want to thank all my wonderful friends and family who contributed to the project,” Stevens concluded in a blog post. “And most of all to my wife and daughters who give me more happiness than I could’ve ever asked for. Every. Single. Day.”
For Cornelia Bayley, though, it wasn’t just the yard that was going to get a whole new look. After Bayley had failed to clean her huge country estate even once in the whole 29 years that she’d owned the property, two OCD sufferers turned up at her mansion to overhaul the entire place. And it’s fair to say you won’t believe the transformation that followed.
Back in 1986 Bayley purchased her Jacobean mansion in Flintshire, Wales, for around £70,000 – or a little over $254,000 in today’s money. Known as Plas Teg, the house is believed to have been built in 1610. Since then, the estate has naturally been passed down through a number of different owners.
In fact, Plas Teg was initially built for politician and associate of King James I Sir John Trevor I, who lived there with his family at the beginning of the 17th century. During this time, the Trevor family hosted a variety of events for their guests. Then, in the 18th century, the mansion came into the possession of Lord and Lady Dacre, with their own descendants taking charge in the 19th century.
In the 20th century, though, Plas Teg was used to shelter allied soldiers during the Second World War. Then, after an auctioneer bought the property, it became a furniture shop in 1945. And some 41 years later, antiques collector Bayley splashed her cash in order to own the historic building.
And after purchasing the mansion, Bayley spent thousands more in maintaining Plas Teg’s 17th-century character. Eventually, however, her resources dwindled considerably. So, following her retirement, Bayley was forced to live exclusively off her pension.
As a consequence of her financial situation, Bayley was also required to find other ways of making money for Plas Teg. So while the mansion had hosted glamorous events in past centuries, it now merely accommodated paranormal gatherings. Such occasions, however, were not enough to maintain the estate. And given how messy the place had become, the retired owner of the house was short of other options.
Fortunately, then, a British TV show decided to step in and assist Bayley in 2015. Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners is focused on OCD sufferers who travel around the country cleaning dirty houses. And in this case, the cameras captured the duo of Dann and Hayley heading to Plas Teg’s doorstep unaware of the great challenges that awaited them.
Before they start work, though, Bayley offers some insight into her troubles. “200 years ago, there’d be 20 or 30 people looking after the house,” she says in the episode. “Now there’s just me and the cat!” The owner then provides an explanation behind her passion for Plas Teg.
“This house means so much to me because I’m a collector,” Bayley continues. “I almost think furniture and things are as important as people, you see. [But] the financial pressures are terrible. It’s got to make more money.” From there, she lists a number of issues inside the house, including the broken oven and boiler.
The latter problem in particular leads Bayley to make a frank admission. “The last time I had a bath was about two or three years ago,” she says. “[I] can’t afford the hot water. But in the 18th century, people didn’t have baths all the time, so I’m just living in another age. That’s all!”
After that, the retired antiques dealer turns her attention to other parts of the house. “I don’t hoover because I don’t like hoovering,” she states. “You know, I think this floor has been hoovered perhaps two or three times in 29 years.”
The episode then reveals that, in an effort to raise funds for Plas Teg, Bayley has agreed to host a public tour of the mansion. Due to the state of its interior, though, she is in serious need of assistance. “When I bought the house, I didn’t realize how much it was going to be a problem,” she claims on the show. “It’s just me, so I obviously need extra help.”
And, with that in mind, OCD sufferers Dann and Hayley then arrive at Plas Teg, immediately noting the size of the property. After being greeted at the door by Bayley, the pair walk into the mansion with the task ahead of them clear to see. However, before they take a look around all the rooms, the owner lays down some conditions.
“I want things done how they were done in another age,” Bayley tells the pair. “You can’t use any spray polishes [or] any of these modern things on my furniture. You know, I don’t like the modern smells, and I hate things that make rooms smell nice. I think they’re ghastly.”
Dann and Hayley are left somewhat perplexed by the request. Yet after seeing the state of the kitchen and realizing Bayley’s struggles, the latter offers an assessment. “To get this house in order, I think we need a miracle,” she says. “I can’t express enough how big and how messy this house is!”
Upon learning that neither the bedding nor the mattresses in the bedrooms had been washed in roughly 100 years, Dann and Hayley forgo the invitation to stay in the house. Instead, they choose to sleep in a nearby hotel. But despite this decision, the pair press ahead in their mission to clean Plas Teg.
But due to the sheer size of the mansion, the cleaners concentrate on fixing up just three of the rooms: the great hall, the kitchen and the bathroom. And with her vacuum cleaner in hand, Hayley starts to clean the large rug in the hall, immediately noticing the difference. From there, she and Dann split away to focus on the other two rooms.
However, because of the limitations placed upon them by Bayley, Hayley struggles in her efforts to properly clean the homeowner’s bathroom. And the problems didn’t end here. In fact, Hayley and Dann eventually clash with Bayley while working in her kitchen and being scolded for moving things around.
Nevertheless, Dann and Hayley eventually complete their mammoth tasks, with Bayley returning to Plas Teg alongside her friend Mark. And while Bayley somewhat plays down the improvement, her friend says later that she is secretly delighted. And not long after that, the public tour takes place, with some visitors suggesting that the mansion would be the perfect place to host a wedding.
Following the tour, Dann and Hayley say their goodbyes to Bayley, who then hails the work that the cleaners had completed. “They have done a good job,” she says. “They’ve made it much cleaner.” And from there, she looks ahead to the mansion’s future. “I think weddings could be part of Plas Teg’s future,” she says. “I’ll keep fighting the battle for this house. Because I love it.”