Monday, October 22, 2012

How to Get Started on a DIY Project

Recently several of my friends have told me that they want to do a DIY project, but either don't know where to begin, or that they feel overwhelmed at all that will need to be done, so they don't start.

I thought I would talk about how I go about my DIY projects. Maybe my approach won't work for you, but it might, or it might spark an idea on how to get yourself started.


When I decide I want to do a project, the first thing I do is start collecting images. I used to do this with magazines, glue sticks, and sketchbooks, but now I primarily use Pinterest. Even if I find an image in a magazine, I can usually find that image online with a little searching. I create a different Pinterest Board for each project.

For example, I am currently working on my bedroom, and I'm sure you will see the correlation between my Pinterest Board for my bedroom, here: and the Bedroom so far, as shown here:

The Power of Lists

Once I am ready to commit to the project, I start to make a list. My first list is wild and random, listing everything and anything I can think of that I will need to do. I usually break it down like this:

  • Things I need to do (give away, sort, paint, ask, borrow, etc.)
  • Things I need to buy
My first version of this list is always overwhelming, and sometimes repetitive. I don't try to be organized, I try to just imagine every corner of the room, plus the ceiling and floor, and what will need to be done there, and what I need to do to make it happen.

My next step is to create a new organized series of lists. I go into the "things to buy" and sort it by type (for example, things I would buy at a hardware store, things I would find online, things I might go thrifting for, etc.) When I have it organized, I use a highlighter to highlight the things I need first, and what I can currently afford.

Next, I go to the "things to do" list, which is usually a crazy mess. I sort it by categories; things to sort/give away, things I need to physically accomplish (paint, sand, cut, collage, etc.), and then a miscellaneous list of things like - questions I need answered, things I might borrow or beg vs. buy, etc.

Again, I go in and highlight the very first things I can do / afford.

Figure it Out! There is Always a Way!

If you are looking at your list and think, there is no way I can afford to do this . . . then you weren't creative enough in making your lists!

You don't have to have the latest / newest item. There is no reason you can reupholster a piece of furniture, or paint it, etc. I know from experience that things you create yourself have way more meaning for you than things you just buy and set up in a room. 

There are SO MANY step-by-step resources on the internet, that there is no reason you can't DIY anything you need to do. I have learned to wire lamps, hang chandeliers, and change out a manual thermostat for a programmable one - all by looking for online tutorials!

Don't forget inexpensive sources for materials such as Restore, local thrift shops, Craigslist, and garage sales.

If you want it bad enough, you will figure out how to do it.

Do What You Can Do as You Can Do It!

Not every room redesign requires getting rid of existing furniture. If it does, I usually try to get rid of things I won't be keeping in the room at the same time I'm getting whatever I will be replacing it with, because I don't love living in a place with no furniture! But, I like taking photos of things I'm getting rid of and offering them to family and friends, so that when the time comes, I know who is getting it, and how I'm going to get it out of my house. 

If possible, I repurpose things in my house (never underestimate the power of paint to give an item a brand new look!), and I tend to keep pictures and art in storage because even if I don't use the art again, I may use the frame, or repaint the canvas, and those are things I don't have to purchase.

I also like to talk to local friends and family about projects, because you will be amazed at how many times I've said I wanted something, and someone said, "Oh, I have one of those in my garage . . . you can have it!" 

Money Saving Tactics

Free Shipping Options

I shop online a lot, and I have paid for memberships at Amazon and for their free shipping plans. Because between myself, my family, and my clients, I have so many things delivered, these plans have more than paid for themselves.

Another option is to go to and look for sites specifically offering free shipping.

Be Willing to Customize

One way that I have saved a lot of money in furnishing this house is that I never worry about the color of furniture. I have repainted many of the brand new pieces I've brought into the house, but I have saved a TON of money over being forced to pay more for an item that is an exact match to something I already have.

If an item is the right shape and size, and made of a material that can be painted, I will purchase it in the cheapest color, and then customize it to my home when it arrives. 

The upside to this is that all of my furniture is unique - even if someone wants the same piece, they would have to be willing to do the same work to get their item to look just like mine! (Which would be fine with me, if they want to do that work!)

Beg / Borrow Limited Use Tools

I have accumulated a lot of tools, but if I need something for a one-time project that I don't foresee using again, I will start asking around. Friends will often lend me a tool. Because my house is organized, and I take good care of my own tools, they know I will take care of theirs as well. (Plus, on the rare occasion that someone hasn't wanted to lend me a tool, I have had friends offer just to come over and do whatever I needed done for me!)

Get Started

Once you have your lists completed, and you have highlighted those first couple of affordable / doable steps, then get started. Projects tend to have a momentum of their own. When something arrives for the project, it is hard to let it just sit there! You want to get to work on it, and the more you do, the more you want to do.

Each time you cross something off your list, highlight the next item to be done. I often write my highlighted items on a post it note and keep them in my calendar so that if I'm out and about and see something that might help, it is there to remind me. This is especially important with shopping lists!

1 comment:

  1. Now there is some news I can use! Pinned it! Thanks for a peak at your creativity process! I found it quite helpful!


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