I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked with friends, family, or acquaintances, and they were shocked at the projects that I tackle around my home. They say something to the effect of, “Wow! I could never do that. You’re so talented!”. While that’s super nice to hear, it’s totally NOT TRUE! I’m a normal human being, just like everyone else..no special talents here. If you’ve ever wanted to DIY a project around your home, then you can! It’s 100% within reach. That being said, I didn’t tackle a whole kitchen renovation as my first project. I started way smaller than that.
Like, way smaller. I’ve mentioned it a few times on my blog, but I grew up in a DIY-centric family. My grandpa is an engineer, my grandma is a master electrician, my dad knows his way around a sledgehammer and dremel, and my mom is a killer painter and quilter. Even when I was very young, my family involved me in all kinds of projects around the house. I knew a Phillips from a flathead before I could talk, and my knowledge grew from there.
You definitely don’t have to be part of a DIY-centric family to DIY, though. My friends got roped into helping too. Apparently, if you stick around long enough, we’d put a hammer in your hands and tell you to get to work. My VERY best friend growing up still fondly remembers throwing hammers to demo the back wall of my parent’s garage when we were in elementary school. (She’s the cutie with the pigtails and I’m rocking that orange scrunchie in the picture above)
As I got older, my parents included me in more and more projects – I helped demo the deck on the back of our house, was in charge of painting my room, knew how to cut the electricity when we installed new lighting, etc. I learned what different tools were called, safety rules, how things were constructed, and generally how homes work.
And then there was this. You’re welcome for that face, by the way. Thoroughly embarrassing, but it was too good not to share. My dad has the most kick-butt workshop in the basement of their house, and years ago he decided to paint the floors. I asked if I could help, and well…that picture was the result. Straight up model material, I tell ya. If you’re looking for your first project, paint is a great starting point – it’s pretty safe and you can’t mess it up too permanently (unlike this image, which is now burned into my retinas. Oh, middle school).
Jumping In Head First
So, my childhood and adolescence taught me a lot about homes and DIY, but it wasn’t until I bought my own home that I really started learning more than the basics. One of the first projects I tackled in our home was tearing down a wall in the upstairs office (see that giant hole in our carpet?). It taught me about demolition, framing, and electrical. We painted everywhere, and that taught me about taping and how essential prep work is. Our dryer broke, and that taught me about appliance repair.
In other words – I learned through experience. You can’t be an expert at something if you don’t DO it. It’s one thing to read about it on a blog or listen to it on a podcast, and a completely different thing to actually make it happen. I have made SO. MANY. MISTAKES. But they’ve taught me a ton along the way, and I’m a better DIYer for it.
And in case you think I have a wealth of experience, most of the jobs in this house were my first attempt at that particular skill. I had never laid tile before installing it in our kitchen, I’d never put down hardwoods before installing 1000+ square feet of it throughout our home. Renovating stairs? Yeah, that was brand new, too. But I taught myself what I needed to know, and jumped in head first to slowly renovate our whole house. It’s okay to learn along the way – there’s no possible way to plan for everything.
Are You Cut Out For DIY?
Okay, cool motivating story, right? You totally want to tear down a wall now. I get it. But before you pull on your steel-toed boots, you need to ask yourself a few questions. Because DIY isn’t for everyone. I just so happen to genuinely enjoy it – I binge watch HGTV and scope out Lowe’s Youtube channel for fun. The bed in the picture above? I built that for fun. I generally just want to be Anna White when I grow up. And I think that has a lot more to do with my personality than my skills – I would enjoy it even if I was really bad at it.
You need to be reliable.
If you demo your kitchen, you need to know that you can finish it. Even when you don’t want to. If you say you’re going to do something and you don’t often follow through, DIY may not be for you.
If you’re someone that delivers on what they promise, someone that people can count on…I’d say you’re the DIY type. Finishing projects is so important – nobody wants to live in a kitchen without a sink.
You’re going to have to invest in tools.
For smaller projects like painting or building/hanging shelves, there aren’t a ton of tools required. But the more complex the project, the more complicated your shopping list will become.
I have SO many tools to cut things – a jigsaw, a circular saw, a hand saw, a miter saw, a table saw, etc. Each serves a specific purpose and are all needed for what I do, but they didn’t come cheap. DIY projects often mean you’ll save on labor compared to a pro, but you have to buy the tools that a pro would have brought with them. Be ready to plunk down some change for the right tool for the job.
You need to like research.
I hope that someday, I can cover 99% of the topics a homeowner could run into on this blog. And while I write several posts a week, my time and budget are limited. Someday I’ll be the female version of Bob Vila, but until I can figure out how to grow a rockin’ beard, I’ll be here. Don’t worry, though. There are wonderful resources out there that cover everything from how to fix textured walls to how to install a brand new kitchen sink (and everything in between). I learned everything I know from other people – from researching. If you love research, then you’ll love DIY. I probably spend just as much time learning about a future project as I do actually doing it.
You’ll need time.
DIY, like any other hobby or task, takes time. And I get it! We are all busy. I’m a mom of two kids born within 15 months of each other, a wife to a wonderful husband, a blogger for my little corner of the internet (which takes way more time than you’d think), and I have a home to take care of. But you know what? I have enough time to accomplish a TON.
If you want to do something badly enough, you’ll make the time no matter how busy you are. As I said earlier, I genuinely love DIY. I love the smell of sawdust, getting my hands dirty, and lifting heavy things. It makes me feel SO powerful! And because I love it, I find the time. I get a lot accomplished at night and during naptime. If you are passionate enough about the project you want to tackle, you’ll find the time.
It has to be okay if you are sweaty and gross.
Remember that troop-mate at girl scout camp that screamed when mud got on her leg? Or the classmate that wouldn’t share her water bottle
It’s dirty. And gross (especially plumbing). You’re gonna get sweaty, you’ll definitely be sore, and there will probably be mysterious bruises somewhere. And it’s TOTALLY worth it. I don’t enjoy being disgusting, but maaannnn that shower afterwards feels good. Especially when you think back on all you’ve accomplished.
You need to be persistent.
DIYing can test your will faster than most other hobbies – it can be straight up frustrating. But if you can keep an even head and realize it’s not the end of the world if x, y, or z happens, you’ll be just fine DIYing. I actually think this is the most important point on this list – if you get frustrated to continue and give up too easily, DIYing is not for you.
How To Get Started
Would it have been a great idea to tear out a wall as the first project in this home if I had never done any DIY before? ABSOLUTELY NOT. Start small. Do something inexpensive, that can be accomplished quickly, and is okay if you mess up. My favorite? Paint.
Our master bedroom has transformed since moving in, and it’s mostly because of paint. We brightened everything up with an almost white grey, and it completely changed the space. Does that mean I got it right the first time? NOPE. It was a way-too-bright blue for a few years before I came to my sense.
Then turn it up!
Once you have a few simple projects under your belt, it’s time to push yourself. Try something a little harder. Maybe build a piece of furniture or rewire a light fixture! You’re still going to make mistakes (I definitely do, all the time), but you’ll be better for it. Remember, even the masters started as beginners once (except for Tim the Tool Man Taylor…he was born with a wrench in his hand). They learned, and then they got better!
It’s all just knowledge.
You (probably) have the exact same set of hands and the same perfectly capable body that the pros do. Experience (and great tools) are the only things that really separate you from them. It’s all just knowledge. You can learn to do anything! Want to rewire your entire house (don’t do that, guys), go ahead! Just do some research first. And if you just want to throw a hammer at a wall, I’m sure my parents could put you to work.