Just kidding. Except I'm not. Thursday night Jon and I stayed up reallllly late sanding the walls in the living room in a mad dash to get this room as ready as possible for Edith's party. We have learned quite a few lessons from this experience that I figured I would share in case you ever find yourselves in a similarly unfortunate circumstance.
First, prime the walls to help avoid bubbling when you add the wet drywall compound.
Second, I highly recommend buying premixed drywall compound, diluting it with water to the consistency of mayonnaise and rolling it on with a 1/2" nap roller. This is best done in teams of 2 so you can have one person rolling it and one person coming behind to smooth it. This is particularly important in second and third coats as the compound dries FAST. I had read somewhere to use a squeegee trowel but we couldn't find any in stores anywhere and didn't want to wait for one to be shipped to us so a regular drywall trowel worked just fine.
I should add that you probably want to spackle any holes and sand down the spackling before you do your first drywall coat.
Third, edge last and just use the premixed (i.e. undiluted) drywall compound for that.
Fourth, when it comes time to sand your top coat, you should wet sand! To do so, basically take a damp car washing sponge and rub it vertically or horizontally to smooth the walls. This is less physically demanding and I cannot emphasize the time you save in cleanup. Dust doesn't get everywhere and the walls still look smooth.
Fifth, curse at this project and swear you will never ever undertake such a task again.
We had gotten two different estimates to have the walls professionally skim coated. The first was around $550 and the second $850. Even though this was tedious and a definite learning curve, we found a rhythm after about two days and it went much quicker than we feared it would take when day 1 was abysmal. Now all that's left to do in our living room is paint the walls, fireplace and patio door trim; rip out / replace the remaining trim; rip out the carpet; add crown molding; install the laminate floors.
We should be done in a week, right!? 😖