There is no greater form of torture for me than having to do a jigsaw puzzle.
I HATE THEM. I just don’t know why anyone would want to subject themselves to that kind of torture.
And don’t ask me to follow an instruction manual to assemble something, or there will be much weeping and gnashing of teeth. My brain shuts off and my hands involuntarily fling the manual far from me and toward Andy. He’ll figure it out.
Andy figures things out. Which is an epic quality in a spouse, I’ve learned.
I get a surprising number of emails that sound like this one from Charissa:
“My husband and I are in the process of purchasing our first home… I want to completely redo the entire house (on our own might I add) but I am soooo nervous about that. I have a design eye (kind of) but we have not a single DIY bone in our body. What gave you the courage? How can I get started?”
If you want to know the truth, I’m not really much of a DIYer. Or at least, I wasn’t before we bought our house. I had installed a doorknob, once. The end. But I didn’t even think twice about buying a run-down fixer-upper: I just knew I had Andy and we’d figure it out.
It turns out, we had a lot of figuring out to do together. MOST of the jobs we did on our house were our first attempts: removing the popcorn ceilings, painting floors (?!), installing iron balusters in the stairway, yada yada. I’d say 95 percent of the jobs were brand new to us.
Since neither of us really knew what we were doing either, I’ll give you a rundown of what helped us build the courage to go job-by-job through a nasty ol’ foreclosure until it’s where it is today, which is (nowhere close to) finished. (Here are a bunch of before-and-after room makeovers!)
1. Start small
Pick a project that’s inexpensive and smallish to build some confidence. Paint a wall. Repair sheetrock. Install crown molding (this tutorial makes it MUCH easier). Start with a project that:
- Isn’t expensive
- Can be finished in a couple hours
- Won’t destroy your house if you mess up.
So, maybe don’t start with electrical work, or by trying to re-plumb your entire house.
These little jobs will build your confidence and teach you a few skills you’ll use for bigger jobs AND they’ll reveal to you how you feel about the work. If painting a wall is to you what jigsaw puzzles are to me, leave it to the pros! (Are there pro jigsaw-puzzle finishers? Can I hire them to put mine together?)
Andy’s first attempt at DIYing (before we bought our house) was to build the crappy, sweet little “before” table from this post. There wasn’t a lot he could mess up, and we didn’t have to spend a ton of money to try it.
(Now he’s advanced to THIS!)
(Even if hardcore DIY jobs aren’t your thing yet, start with some simple decorating projects like these.)
2. But take risks
So you might mess up. No biggie. (Unless you’re doing the plumbing thing.) Give yourself a little freedom and grace when things go wrong. You’re new at this, and DIYing is ALL about making mistakes. Let me say that again: you will make mistakes. We do, in every single project. (Word: My entire kitchen was one big mistake.) Most things can be fixed and redone, and even if they can’t be, small mistakes are usually only visible to you.
(And if other people notice and say anything, you can just glare at them, harshly, silently. For a prolonged period of time. It will be deliciously awkward.)
3. Start with what you enjoy or what fits your skillset.
if you’ve ever sewed, start with curtains. (If your sewing machine is part-satan, like mine, STAY FAR AWAY.)
If you like paint-by-number, start by painting. (Ooohh, paint by number! Do they still have that? I think you need a velvet paint-by-number elvis painting in your house. Most people do.)
4. Don’t expect to magically know it all.
Google is your friend. Google loves you and cares about you and it won’t let you down. We had literally never installed a backsplash before we did our kitchen, but we watched a lot of youtube videos, and when we came up against something we’d never seen, we literally put down our tools and went straight to Our Nice Friend the Googs.
I cannot fathom what life was like when people had to go to the library, use the card catalog, and read a physical book to find an answer. (See: the Dark Ages.)
* * *
If we can do it, YOU CAN DO IT.
We are FOR REAL not brilliant or special in any way. Well, maybe Andy is… mostly he’s super weird.
Our attitude is just: if there is someone who can do this, there’s no reason why we can’t either. In most cases. We’ve learned the pros don’t have any magical powers. They have better tools, but you can rent those. They have more knowledge, but you can find that online. And they have more experience, but you’ll get that quickly. There’s probably a certain level of ignorance-is-bliss necessary to get you started, but you can do it.
Do you consider yourself a DIYer? What gave you the confidence to get started? Are you a jigsaw puzzle