You have DIY dreams and DIY goals. You know you can make your vision a reality. The project sounds easy. A cut here, a nail there, and some paint to top it off.
What could go wrong?
You’re ready to cut the paneling. You measured twice. You visualized the space. Piece of cake. The saw rips through the paneling and leaves a clean line. Like I said before, piece of cake.
You bring the panel upstairs and put it into place. It’s not close to fitting. In fact, you cut the angle in the completely wrong direction. How is that possible? You took all the precautions and double-checked everything. A moment of frustration kicks in, but you remind yourself to just keep going. Luckily you have some extra material to use. You re-cut the panel and go to hang it.
What could go wrong? It’s a few simple nails.
The nail shoots through the wall and hits a piece of metal. The metal bends the nail and sends it shooting through the adjacent wall. The drywall flies across the room, leaving a hole the size of a banana in your wall and exposing the metal beam that you hit. Now you’re going to have to repair the drywall and repaint the wall that you just finished painting last week. Another item for your to-do list.
The frustration comes back. This time, it’s here to stay. You start wrapping your mind around all the things are left in the project and how many things can go wrong because everything on this project seems to be going wrong. Every time you take a step forward, it feels like you take 5 steps back.
That was us 7 years ago, but now our projects are always smooth sailing. We’ve figured out this DIY thing.
NOT. That was a description of one of our more recent projects. We’re not experts (obviously), but we still love DIY and the awesome things we’ve been able to accomplish. But along this whole DIY journey, we’ve learned a simple truth.
The ONLY tools you need to DIY
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Failure is part of the DIY and design process.
But in the end, your projects are most likely going to turn out great. Out of all of the projects we’ve done, we’ve failed at some point along the way on every single project. And even if we didn’t actually fail, it sure felt like we didn’t make a great design choice. But in the end, we can’t name a single project that we’ve completed that we don’t love.
So now that you know the dirty secret of DIY, let’s talk about how to embrace the failure. I know it doesn’t sound fun and you would rather avoid the failure, but bear with me. The hard truth is that you’re going to stumble and fail at some point along the way, so let’s not let that ruin the fun of DIY.
This is where you’re thinking, “wow what profound advice…” but again, bear with me. When you hit a wall and want to give up, you need to push through. Keep going and see your project through to the end. Remember why you started in the first place and reset your mind on your beginning goal. If you give up, you’re never going to make progress. You aren’t going to learn and you aren’t going to end up where you wanted to be.
As my favorite fitness coach, Autumn Calabrese, always says, “if you’re tired of starting over, you need to stop giving up.” Super applicable in fitness, but also in life and DIY. If you want the table of your dreams but don’t have the budget/want to pay $3000 for it, you’re going to have to work for it. So keep going and don’t give up.
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Sometimes you get halfway through a project and panic that it’s actually going to turn out awful (me on 95% of projects). Sometimes it’s necessary to pivot and sometimes it’s just part of the process. When we were painting our bold blue guest bedroom, we opened the paint can and panicked because it looked neon in the can.
We already purchased the full gallon, so we started putting it on the walls. With each new paint stroke, my heart beat a little faster. I was sure it was going to turn out awful and starting racking my brain of how we would be able to cover up such a deep color.
At this point, we’d learned that we hate almost every project around the midway point. So even though I was feeling nervous, we kept going. We painted the final coat and I convinced myself it was looking slightly better, but I still didn’t love it.
We slept on it and behold! The next day it was actually looking pretty good. And now, people compliment our bold wall all the time!
Hating the project halfway through can certainly feel like a failure, but chances are, if you keep going, you’ll end up loving it in the end.
Pivot when NECESSARY
Sometimes though, you keep going and something still feels off. In the DIY drop zone that we built for Andrew’s sister, I looked at our progress and all I could see was a carnival stand. “Come on up and get your cotton candy” I joked with Andrew.
We kept going as we learned to do, but as we kept working, it was looking more and more like a carnival stand than it did before. I couldn’t unsee it no matter how much progress we made.
I grabbed a piece of paper and started sketching out simple things to add to the top to squash the carnival stand vibe. We grabbed extra wood scraps and tried to visualize until we came up with a new option that we loved.
So when your thought keeps nagging that something just isn’t right and you’ve seen the project through most of the way, it’s probably a good time to pivot. Brainstorm some options and draw them out to help you visualize.
You don’t need anything fancy–paint on your phone photos or a pencil and paper are all you need. Trial and error might be part of the process, but in the end, you’ll end up with something greater than your original vision!
Keep a positive attitude
We’ve failed too many times to count and honestly, we are still working on being persistently positive. Every time we finish a project we look back and say “why didn’t we just laugh it off when (insert failure here)? It turned out great.”
It’s a good reminder at the end of each project that we love DIY and it isn’t just about the end product, but also making memories. And making positive memories is way more fun than making stressful ones! So even though it can be difficult in the moment, try to laugh it off and stay positive.
Take a breather
If you’re in the midst of a fail and are struggling to stay positive, take a breather. Step away and go do something else. Take the dog on a walk, watch your favorite TV show–whatever you do, just step away for a moment. If you’re frustrated, you won’t be as efficient at problem-solving or making good decisions.
Your worst critic is you
Put your failures into perspective. Sometimes we think our failures are the end of the world and everyone is going to notice. I felt this way about our DIY shiplap wall when we were putting it up. Let me tell you, no one has ever noticed that the bottom board on one side is a 1/4″ shorter than the other side or that the boards aren’t 100% level all the way down.
People look at the big picture, not the exact details. You notice the details when you’re in the trenches of the project, but once you take a step back, you’ll probably forget what half your concerns and failures even were.
So during the next DIY project you tackle, don’t forget that failure is just part of the process. Instead of being discouraged, pause and take a breather. Keep a positive attitude and remember to laugh it off. And most importantly, keep going! Your DIY efforts will pay off and you’ll love your work in the end.