Why I Stink at DIY

October 9, 2011

My dad will probably shake his head at this post because he is Mr. DIY.  He is amazing, can fix pretty much anything you put in front of him.  Our son loves it because anytime one of his Star Wars toys breaks he knows he can give it to DIY grandpa and it will get fixed.

Unfortunately for me, those do it yourself genes didn’t get passed down to me.  I’ve learned a lot of great things from my dad but being a jack of all trades, handy fixer-upper isn’t one of them.  I feel badly for my wife, house projects her dad or my dad could knock out in twenty minutes take me hours – and never turn out half as good.

I’ve thought about why I stink at DIY and came up with these 5 reasons:

1) I don’t have the tools

I do have many more tools for jobs around the house than when we first got married.  We finished off our basement at our last house so I had to buy a set of tools but my tool collection is still pretty small.

One of the things I’ve learned in the projects I’ve worked on is that having the right tools can make an incredible difference in how long it takes to do the work and how well it turns out.  If you hire an expert that has the right tools, they can get the job done more quickly and with a better outcome because they have all the right tools.

2) I don’t have the skills

The first point I made was that experts do the work more effectively and efficiently because they have right tools.  Of course, having the skills to know which tools you need and how to use them is a big part of it.

Skills for house projects or car projects can take a while to learn.  When you’re a do it yourselfer picking up these skills usually means trial and error – trying something out and learning along the way.  I love learning new things through trial and error but I’m a product of the virtual age.  I spend my days building software where testing and learning is the name of the game. 

I can create something amazing, test it, watch it crash and burn, then tweak it all with my five fingers and a keyboard.  I could literally spend all day, every day online reading about the latest developments in technology, marketing, or blogging but I have zero desire to learn how to build a bookshelf for my study.

So I guess the problem is not only that I don’t have the skills, but that I don’t really care to learn them.  There are other things I’d rather be learning instead.

3) My standards are lower

As I mentioned, trial and error is the name of the game when it comes to DIY.  My problem is that I’m often content with the outcome of the first trial when it comes to house projects.  It may not look great but its semi-functional and that’s enough for me.  Time to call it a day and move onto something else.

Unfortunately that approach is usually not acceptable to my quality assurance partner.  She wants it done the right way (understandably) and won’t put up with a shoddy end result.  Which leads me to the fourth reason I stink at DIY.

4) I don’t have the patience

Here’s how my projects usually look.  I come home from Home Depot or Lowe’s with the parts and tools I think I need for a project.  I sit down and tinker with it for a while before I realize I didn’t get the right size or forgot to buy something I needed.  Then I load the kids in the car and drive back to the store (cursing under my breath so they can’t hear me). While they’re climbing out of the cart and running down the aisles, I wait for the Home Depot worker to finish answering someone else’s question.  Then I finally get his attention, explain what I’m trying to do and why it’s not working.

He usually asks questions I don’t know the answers to so I end up buying more than I need.  I get a quarter inch elbow and a half inch elbow because I don’t know what size I need.  It goes on like that until my kids are lost in the store and I have twice as much as I probably need in my cart.

By the time I get home my patience is worn thin and the last thing I want to do is go mess with a project that I don’t fully understand and don’t even really want to be working on.  By the time the weekend’s over, I’ve visited the store a few more times and perhaps managed to pull something together … however it usually looks awful or doesn’t work exactly like it should.

5) I don’t have the time

I was telling my co-worker about an oil-change appointment and he asked why I don’t change my oil myself. I didn’t even mention some of the points I’ve already covered (I don’t have the tools, skills, or patience) because I know that changing your own oil isn’t that difficult of a task. 

I basically told him that I don’t have the time to do it.  Sure, if I blocked off part of a Saturday I could squeeze it in but when you add it in on top of mowing the grass, taking kids to soccer games, running errands, etc – there’s just not enough time to get it all done.  So I hire someone to change my oil and mow my grass for me and spend my time doing the things I enjoy – like spending time at my kids soccer game or working on this site.

My DIY Mentality Shift

When I have a new project or something to fix with our car or our house I don’t sweat it, I just log into Angies List or call up friends for a referral and hire an expert to do it for me.  It wasn’t always that simple.  When we were first married I hated paying other people money to do something that I could eventually (kind-of) figure out for myself.

I struggled through not having the skills, tools, patience, and my lower standards and would spend forever working on DIY projects.  Then once we had kids and things got really busy, I quickly realized that I had to find a better way.  I could no longer spend my whole weekend wrestling with a home project, especially once the kids were old enough that they wanted to “help” which made everything take even longer.

Maybe when I’m retired with no kid and no job I’ll have more time and patience to learn the skills and buy the tools I need, but until then I’ll pretty much avoid DIY when I can.  What about you, do you love or hate DIY?


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Ben Edwards, the founder of Money Smart Life, saved up enough to buy a Nintendo back when he was 12 years old. When he used the money to buy shares of Wal-Mart stock instead, he knew he wasn't like the other kids... His addiction to personal finance has paid off for his family and now he's helping you to afford the life that you want. Check him out on the web at Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook.

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4 Responses to Why I Stink at DIY

  • Philip

    Wow, I was just thinking about this today for myself. I’m totally over the DIY thing. I have a garage full of tools that I looked at today and said to my wife “these are about to be on craigslist.” 4 years ago I installed our glue-down wood floors, I built a desk for my home office, and I built a bookshelf for my daughter. Now I just don’t have the time to fool with such projects. And you can forget about repairs. I should probably look into Angie’s List since we’ve struck out with a few random repair guys.

  • Lindy Mint

    I DIY some things, but not all. I feel your pain when it comes to not having the right parts, making multiple trips to the hardware store, etc. But trial and error over time has helped me in that department. I do enjoy the work, so that helps. I also don’t do anything when the kids are around – way too much frustration.

    I happily outsource yard work and cleaning. ๐Ÿ™‚


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