Two Projects You Can DIY (and 1 You Should Almost Never)

You might not think you’re handy, but there’s plenty you are capable of doing. Anyone who can manage more than one schedule and figure out how to put booties on a fussy baby can do just about anything.

While there’s something to be said for the sense of accomplishment that comes with finishing a home project on your own, the idea behind most do-it-yourself (DIY) projects is cost saving.

If you’re sick of the sad sage green paint in the living room that was so popular five years ago, do you really need to pay someone $1,000 to change it? Is there a way to lower your food bill while increasing your access to fresh fruits and vegetables? I say no and yes, respectively!

Interior painting is a definite doable DIY project for anyone with the right tools and a little patience. And constructing a raised bed or vertical garden is a great way to improve your life and save you money.

Now, if you are imagining the results of either of these projects will look like a lifestyle Instagram feed, there’s a decent chance you’ll be disappointed. But, if you are looking to save money, get physical, and do some work as a family or a single, you can make that happen.

Project one: Small gardens for beginners

I couldn’t wait to have a raised bed garden of my own after living in apartments for years. I wanted to grow my own kale and jalapenos. Seriously, those are two veggies I cannot live without. So, as soon as I moved to a place with a patch of grass, I got to work.

Choose your design. I haunted Pinterest checking out DIY raised beds and vertical gardens before taking an assortment of ideas and combining them to suit my living situation.

I decided on one raised bed outside and a wall of indoor plants chosen for their ability to thrive in partial sunlight with moderate water needs. This suited my ability to keep things alive without constant attention.

Get your supplies. The folks at the hardware store where I got my lumber knew exactly what I wanted as soon as I said raised bed. They knew what I needed for a basic raised bed and even offered to cut my lumber for free. With chicken wire, wood stain, and other embellishments to make it my own, I spent about $50 total. I wanted my pine boards to have a pretty cedar stained finish because I chose to put the bed in the front yard.

I’ve used power tools before, but I don’t own any. A friend loaned me a drill and his truck for the day to get it done.

If you don’t want to build a bed, think about other free ways to do the same thing. Dresser drawers and old bookshelves are great to use, because they already have sections for your various veggies.

Vertical gardening might sound intense, but I just repurposed my brother’s old CD racks. I placed long narrow planter boxes on the shelves broken up with ceramic and reused-glass succulent containers. Now I have cascading green leaves interspersed with cool looking plants. It adds clean air and a relaxing atmosphere.

New Englanders love to save a buck and reuse things. It’s a regional hobby. It’s how we humblebrag. Oh, that table? I found that wheel on old man Miller’s farm, washed it off and laid it on a stump and got so and so to trade me a cut of glass… It’s insufferable but addictive.

Project two: Painting interiors

First, scheduling. Winter is a good time to plan for spring or summer painting projects. Unless you live in a warm climate, you won’t be able to properly ventilate your space until things warm up anyway. So, use your winter months to find paint bargains and target a time in your schedule, a few days or a week, when you can get the work done.

Second, supplies. You’ll need tarps, tape, paint, rollers/brushes, and paint pans. Little things add up, so before you go to Lowes or Walmart, look in the garage or ask friends and family if they have anything you can use. Just about everyone I know has an assortment of rollers and pans they’d be more than happy to share if I promise not to give them back.

Third, finding tips and tricks. There’s a lot of advice out there: your parents, friends, the guy at the office party. But expertise online offers solid step-by-step guidance. And when you pause them, they won’t be offended. It’s also a good way to see how to tape and protect a window or learn the best method to cover corners.

Home Depot and Home and Garden both offer free videos that cover interior painting for DIY beginners.

While you probably aren’t going to become a master gardener or start a painting business, you can save money and have fun building a home environment for your family.

Doing it yourself will give you self-esteem in spades, and did I mention what it’ll do for your body? Oh yeah, nothing works your upper body like rolling a few walls.

Good luck and remember to have fun. You should also remember that your project does not have to be perfect. Do the best you can and if it’s not exactly what you want, get a little help at the end. That’s still a win and you will be building skills for your next project.

Oh, and that DIY project you should almost never? Anything electrical. Call a professional.

–By Nic Desmet

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