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The Truth About DIY…12 Tips for Sanity

[note: ever since i started reading blogs, especially wedding blogs, i've been wanting to write this post.]

i'm going to apologize up front to martha stewart and the other agents of the do-it-yourself movement. this post contains the diy dirty little secrets that few are willing to talk about. the secrets behind the beautiful photos. the truth about the time and effort that it takes to truly do things for yourself. and, do them well.

why me?? my life is one big diy project. from hemming my jeans to knitting christmas presents to making invitations to taking care of my daughter (do you know that they just let you take babies home from the hospital? no instructions. nothing!) to painting furniture to making some sort of dinner each night (my diy list is endless, by the way), i'm always trying to do things myself before i'll ask for help. sometimes to a fault. and, sometimes, i come up with some real gems…hence the creation of my stylish wedding garter company.

i've learned a few things along the way and i want to pass on a few kernels of knowledge to brides, bridesmaids and anyone else attempting to diy at home. i'm especially talking to those who aren't crafty and who aren't used to doing projects themselves. this is the raw truth from one diyer to another. here goes…

1.) start early…nothing will kill a project faster than not starting early enough. starting early gives you enough time to experiment, redo and get it right, or give it up and hire someone. it is a given that your project will take longer than expected. i'm classic for waiting until the last minute to start my projects, so don't beat yourself up too much if you are up the entire night before the big day. just remember that i told you so!

2.) plan ahead…i usually diy not because i don't want to pay for things, but because i'm usually so last minute with my decisions that it is too late for me to ask someone to do it for me. (well, that and i really like the challenge of diy!) if you are getting married or planning a party, spend some time looking through blogs and magazines in advance of the event. really think about the specific things that you want included so that you can plan ahead for the things that you are going to hire out and those that you are going to diy.

3.) make a list, set a schedule…if you are diying for a big event, make a list of all of the things that you want to diy and then set a schedule. include all the little, nitty gritty details like going to the craft store, gluing rhinestones and folding paper. once you see all the items down on paper, you can get a grasp for what it is going to take to accomplish your project, and you can plan accordingly. consider budgeting out a few hours one night a week to work on your projects.

4.) it never works out like you plan…once you get into a project and really start putting the pieces together, it never goes how you envision it in your head, even if you have the best directions. the glue won't stick or the paper cutter isn't cutting straight enough, whatever the issue, know that the unexpected will happen. just keep at it and don't give up until you are satisfied. on the bright side, some of my best diy efforts are the result of some major trial and error.

5.) multiple trips to the craft store are a given…as referenced in #4, things never work out as you plan. you will have to go back to the craft store to get something you forgot or to make up for something that didn't go according to plan. hence why waiting until the last minute is not good.

6.) don't skimp on product…as you are budgeting for certain items, be it pieces of paper, ribbon, whatever, always get more than you think you will need. you will mess up and you will want to start over. save yourself the time on the back end and get extra materials to start with. most importantly, as you go along with your project, you will get better and better, so much so that those first few items that you made will suck and you are going to want to ditch them. getting extra materials for a few spares is key. remember to save your receipts so you can return what you didn't use.

7.) get help…if it is big project like stuffing envelopes, have someone help you, especially if it is last minute. if you are a bride staying up the night before your wedding folding your programs that isn't good for anyone. enlist the help of those bridesmaids you so dearly love. also, don't micromanage the help. if you ask people to help you, show them what you want and then trust that they will do it right. only you are the ultra-perfectionist who will notice if the line isn't perfectly straight. get over it and move on!

8.) diy doesn't always save money…do an honest cost-benefit analysis before you just jump into a project. ultimately, you should be diying because you want to do it and you enjoy the challenge, not because you want to save money. many times, there isn't much price difference between diying and hiring a professional. and, the headache and hours lost will more than make up for the extra money. make sure that you are diying for the right reasons. think about other ways to cut costs rather than immediately turning to diy.

9.) it isn't the thought that counts…when it comes to gift giving, it is most certainly the thought that counts. but not in diy. you don't get an "A" just for the effort. if you aren't 100 percent happy with the product you put out there, it will bother you and eat at you until you fix it or get rid of it. so, save yourself the distraction and either don't do the project or follow my tips to help save yourself the personal drama.

10.) it isn't always fun…sure, the end product is something that you can and should be proud of. but, sometimes in the thick of production you are annoyed and hating your project. sugar coating 100 batches of almonds and tying ribbon around 200 boxes is tedious and takes a lot of time. when you are tired, step back and take a break. come back to it later and do your best to power through. avoid getting sloppy at the end, just to get the project done. most of the time, you are the hardest judge. wait to see the final product put together before honestly assessing it. you really need to wait until all the pieces are in place to make an analysis.

11.) be honest…they (you know who i'm talking about!) make diy look so easy and simple, i know. but, if you aren't crafty in other areas of your life is your wedding or your best friend's shower really the time to start? maybe it is. and, good for you, have at it! but, maybe it isn't and you are better off having someone else make your invitations or your homemade soap favors. if diying isn't your thing, don't be sucked into the craze and the seemingly simpleness of projects because, my friends, diy is never what it seems…which leads me to my last tip…

12.) pictures don't tell the truth…you see a beautiful picture of a diy project and you think, how hard could that be? i get it. i've been there. but, the truth is that many of those pictures are staged and they took a 1,000 shots just to get one or two that would look decent. i'm not saying that there aren't amazing, well-crafted diy projects out there. i'm saying that the pictures only show the end product (even in the pictures of the directions), not the labor that it took to get there.

so, that's it! it was kind of hard to limit it only 12. maybe i'll have to do follow up post…

leave comment below with your best diy tip, i'd love to know your advice on the subject!

good luck and happy doing-it-yourself!