When our four children were young, my husband and I decided to build a wooden swing set in our backyard. My husband had the God-given talent to design it, the necessary tools and the hands-on skill to actually build it. I had none of these but was willing to encourage, lift, tote, run to the hardware store and be a cheerleader. The project turned out great. The kids loved it. And we learned lessons about ourselves from this DIY experience.
We needed to be honest and evaluate whether or not we could accomplish the task. Ask these questions:
-Do I have the time, patience, tools and talent to see this project through to completion?
-Am I willing to put up with days, weeks or even months of construction mess (e.g. dirt getting tracked in, materials piled by the garage or on the driveway, keeping kids away from power tools and other dangers)?
-Can I work a full day at work or home and then spend evenings and weekends completing a DIY project?
We formulated a plan, including a budget (as we called it, a pile of money), a detailed, measured drawing of our swing set and a list of materials. Then, we cost out each box of screws and carriage bolts, each 2 by 4, each length of nylon rope, and so on. We arrived at a grand total, were able to place our material orders and had a margin of cash for needs that could, and did, come up unexpectedly. We needed to buy extra, and expensive, hardware that my husband felt would make the swing set sturdier. Yes, with any DIY project, surprises will happen; so put some extra money into the budget.
Submit to assistance
As with most everything in life, a DIY project is never truly “do it yourself.” So humbly settle that in mind and heart ahead of time, and think of someone who would be a good adviser or a strong back when the need arises. In our case, a kind brother willingly helped set posts into concrete, raise the heavy support pieces of the swing set, and so on. I had to be o.k. with him being around more than usual.
Be patient with setbacks
DIY setbacks could be financial, delays in delivery, injury or in our case, weather. Working in light rain was not a problem, but heavy thunderstorms stopped work for days. Then the yard had to dry. While we wanted the project done so the kids had time to enjoy it before school started, we did not set a hard and fast deadline as this would have turned what was supposed to be a healthy combination of work, learning and fun into a thing of stress.
Expect comments and company
This is something neither of us anticipated. People will come, and often, to look at the progress on your backyard project. (And they may make comments, laugh, scoff. Remember Noah and his DIY ark?) One relative thought we were taking too long and that he could have built it quicker and better. Take it all with good humor.
Afterwards, people are going to visit. (“If you build it, they will come.”) In our case, comments were largely complimentary with a few suggestions of ways to make the set safer. What I was too foolish to anticipate, though, was the number of neighborhood children who now wanted to be in our yard. This meant more supervision on my part when I allowed the influx of kiddos, and strict rules about not being in our yard without permission. You, too, may have to set boundaries–albeit graciously. For example, just because you have a beautiful new deck doesn’t mean you host every little league planning meeting or family birthday party.
Your lessons learned in diy projects may be different from ours, and they may be change project to project. However, hands-on skills, teamwork, thinking, planning and understanding strengths and weaknesses are all part of any home project.