Motivation for DIY: the buddy system

Kit Stansley

March 20, 2013

By: Kit Stansley, DIY Diva

In: General Remodeling

For some people, getting over that mental hurdle to start a big DIY project is the hardest part, and I talked a little bit about how I get myself going on new projects in my last post. [insert permalink to last post.] For me though, getting started is less of a problem than actually finishing something before moving on to the next of the 357 projects currently on my list. It's a little bit of a problem, actually.

And since I'm a woman living alone who doesn't mind navigating the minefield of tools and half-finished projects that cover every horizontal surface in my house everyday, sometimes I don't have a lot of incentive to get a project done.

Truth is, if it's a project that is going to take more than three or four hours to complete, I'm going to hit a plateau. My fingers are going to go numb from the constant vibration of the sander, or I'll run out of caulk, or on my way to the kitchen for lunch I'll spot just a tiny place on a wall that needs a little touch-up, and an hour later I'll have half the walls in the mudroom painted a different color. That's happened before.

And the next thing I know I'm on to fifteen other things, and three months later I still only have half the wallpaper stripped from my upstairs hallway. In eight years of tearing houses apart, I've only found two really successful ways of motivating myself through those "stuck" parts of projects to the end:

  1. Invite people over for dinner.
  2. Make it a race.

I actually throw more dinner parties than you would expect for a person who lives in a half-finished house in the middle of nowhere. Not because I like to cook, but because of that moment of horror that happens right after you invite ten people over to your house and then look around and see half the light switches hanging out of the wall, three sanders laying on the ground, and an inch of dust covering pretty much the entire house. All of a sudden I can't get those switches re-wired fast enough. (Unintentionally electrocuting dinner guests is in bad form, I hear.)

Nobody who knows me or comes over to the house actually cares what shape it is in, but those artificial deadlines are one of the things that keep my straggler projects from hanging on until the end of time.

The throwdown

The other way I motivate myself through the messy middle of a project is to draw on my competitive nature. Mary Poppins might have made everything a game, but I make it a challenge. One of the most motivating things I've done recently was throw down a Dueling DIY challenge to a fellow DIY blogger, to keep me moving forward on a project I knew would drag on forever -- refinishing my stairs.

Let me tell you… I have found more ways to squeeze and hour or two of work in on that staircase in the last month just so that I wouldn't be completely shown up during our weekly check-ins that even I'm amazed at my progress.

So here's the moral of my post: Even if you like to DIY alone (and I do), never underestimate the power of using others to help keep you motivated. Sounds like something you'd read on a motivational poster, but I'm telling you…it totally works.


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