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The hardest thing about DIY projects is getting started

by Lorenz Prem
published on September 24 2012 11:26 pm

We all have a long list of things we would like to get done around the house. Many of these tasks have been on the todo-list for years, but never seem to get done.

More often than no fear of failure keeps up from getting started. The project seems more daunting than it actually is. So it sits in our mind and weighs us down.

Getting these projects started is hard. Let's take a look at what a few things we all need to realize about DIY projects. Removing the fear of failure goes a long way towards getting anything done.

Knowing everything is not possible

We are all inherently afraid of the unknown. Danger lurks in the shadows; in those areas we cannot see. The issues seem larger than they actually are simply because we don't understand them. Everything is larger in our minds.

DIY projects are never fully predictable. Every room is different; every piece of wood differs from the next. Chances are you are going to run into special circumstances during your project. It's the way things work.

The key is to realize that a problem is not the end of the road. It is be beginning of a new task. The problem may take time and resources to conquer, but it can always be solved.

The solution to a problem is always different. It's up to you and your skills to rise to the challenge. In the age of the internet, help is only a post always. If you and your friends cannot solve the issue, you can always hire a pro. Doing so will not invalidate the good work you did up to this point. Where there is a will, there is a way.

Perfection does not exist

In our minds a perfect job is only acceptable outcome. Everything else is failure. The real world is very different. Defects are plentiful in every home, including yours. If you look carefully you'll find doors that are no level, paint on the trim, holes in the drywall, ...

Professionals understand that perfection is something worth aiming for, but it is never truly attained. The true goal is 'good enough'. In our daily lives we don't nice all those defects around our homes. The fit and finish in any home is good enough to hold up to every-day use. Upon closer inspect the difference between what is there and perfection will become apparent.

The realization that perfect is impossible frees the mind. When you are painting, you will probably produce a perfect finish on 90% of the surface. The remaining 10% are defects you may or may not want to fix. That spec of dust embedded in the finish looks awful when you are inspecting your walls, but it will be invisible for the rest of the time you live in the house.

The only time someone looks at your project with an inspection light from 5 inches away is when you do your last walk through. From then on your project has to stand up to the scrutiny of daily life.

Mistakes are inevitable, success is certain

Mistakes are not the exception, they are the rule. Professionals make mistakes all the time. They know that the only thing that matters is being willing to recover from a mistake.

Most mistakes are small issues in a small area of the project. It's very tempting to think that a single mistakes ruins all the work you have done. In reality a mistake is a localized issues. It can be fixed, if necessary. At worst it affect only a small area.

Every mistake can be recovered from. I think of a mistake as a penalty I have to pay for in time and materials. If I paint outside of the lines, I have to spend the time removing the extra paint and repainting the damaged surface. Once that's done, it's as if the mistake never happened.

To complete a DIY project you must be willing do fix your mistakes. Sometimes doing that can be painful. It's necessary to accept the possibility of having to do extra work in order to get started.

Time heals all mistakes

Even the worst of mistakes can be fixed given enough time. Elbow grease gets it all done in the end. If the paint is falling of your walls because you forgot to clean your walls, you'll need to scrape the entire wall and start over. Sure that's a lot of work, but once it is done the project is done.

When you start a project, think about the worst way a project go wrong. Would you be willing to do the work to recover form that mistake? In most cases getting back on track does not take as much time as first thought. The danger hiding in the shadows is actually much smaller.

Many paths lead to the destination

When reading instruction and looking at pictures it's very easy to think that what is before us is the only way to get things done. Nothing could be further from the truth. A paint brush may be the best way to paint a wall, but a piece of cloth will get the job done too. Screwdrivers can be used as chisels, a fork can stir paint, ...

DIY projects are about problem solving. The articles on web are a good starting point. When you get started you can do whatever you want to. Some ways are faster than others, but there plenty of ways to get to the finish line.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Don't let others dictate what the outcome of a job should be. The home decor magazines are full of glamor shots of impossibly perfect kitchens and bathrooms. Such perfection is only possible in Photoshop; or at the very least, in a kitchen that no one ever cooks in.

Your task is done when you think it is done. When you are happy with the result, put down your tools. You project might be a few steps away from being featured in one of those magazines, but you have something you can be happy with right in front of you.


Every DIY project is a bet on yourself and your skills. Do you have the will and resolve to complete the challenges and problems that come with any DIY project? To get started you must overcome the doubts in your mind.

Realize that mistakes are incremental and inevitable. Trust that will overcome the problems that pop up, and that you will finish the project to your satisfaction. Do you have faith in your abilities?

About the Author
"Lorenz is the founder of Hingmy. When he is not reviewing power tools or improving the site, he is building things in his workshop or playing hockey."