Ever start a craft or home improvement project and give up after you’re halfway finished?

Or been disappointed when you’re done? 

Yeah. We’ve all been there.

But the benefits of DIY are so compelling, we usually jump back on the DIY wagon.

Hiring a professional or buying off the shelf is fine for many home staging and decorating projects. Other times, it makes more sense to do the work yourself.

Done right, DIY saves money, gives you results that are unique and customized, and satisfies that urge to create.

What are the problems with DIY?

But, DIY can also be a slippery slope. If you aren’t prepared with the right tools you can create more problems than you solve. You don’t want to hire someone for a do-over. If you don’t have the experience or know-how, you could wind up way over budget. And still have results that look sloppy, cheap, or hack --- not what you want when you’re selling your home.

Also, safety is an issue. We've all seen enough America’s Funniest Videos to know how common falling off a ladder is, not to mention dealing with toxic paints, glues, and solvents, handling unfamiliar power tools, and overusing muscles we didn’t know existed.

My safety advice is to wear the right clothing. Wear closed-toe shoes when you're moving heavy objects. Wear a respirator when you spray paint. Wear goggles when you use a table saw. Wear latex gloves when you mix chemicals. And never underestimate the curiosity of small children.

Don't work on projects when you're tired, stressed, rushed or inebriated. Pay attention. Stop if you lose patience or reach a stalemate. DIY should be fun.  

Learn how to win the DIY war

I used the old chair slings as a pattern.
So far, so good. But I soon
realized that I needed a heavy-duty
machine to sew through four
layers of canvas. Sailmaker to
the rescue. Know when to not DIY.

The main reason most of us DIY is to save money. So, don’t jinx yourself by overspending.

Whether you are upcycling hand-me-downs, garage sale bargains, or knockoffs from the dollar store, starting with economical purchases lets you take creative risks fearlessly. Ruining a family heirloom or wasting expensive supplies is discouraging.

Success breeds more success, so make yourself a winner by starting with goof-proof materials.

Know where to buy. Be creative about sourcing. Learn the local and online sources for getting supplies you need, especially when buying in bulk.

Visit places like dollar stores, second-hand stores, office supply stores, wholesale distributors, pawnshops, salvage yards, closeout bargain stores, and consignment shops. Search Craigslist, Freecycle, and eBay. Check sales at government offices, colleges, camps and other institutions because they sell furniture and equipment when they remodel.

Don’t forget Mother Nature as a source for natural materials like grapevines, logs, moss, leaves, branches, flowers, rocks, sand, and shells, to name some favorites.

Stay on the lookout for remodeling jobs or construction projects, and befriend the workers, where you can often walk away with doors, windows, lumber and other raw materials for projects of your own.

Just today I was visiting my friend Wendy, and she showed me some lumber she said she got free from Lowes. I said, "Lowes gives away lumber?" She told me she goes to where they cut lumber and if there are scraps she asks for them, sometimes big scraps. She told me the secret is to always ask for "Big Mike." She's made a friend.

Dumpster diving and curbside shopping are other common ways to acquire the makings of your home improvement projects, as long as you don’t turn your garage into a junkyard. My motto is, “Don’t pay for new when second hand will do.”    
The word on Harbor Freight tools is that
they are pretty much junk. If you need tools
that aren't electric and that you'll use
just once, they are probably okay.
Otherwise, buy good tools that last. 

Don’t buy tools you won’t need again. Power tools and special crafting tools are usually pricey. Even small tools can add up to a hefty bill.

Some supplies are sold only in bulk quantities. Consider borrowing or renting what you don’t have to own, such as an extension ladder, tile cutter, power washer, or miter saw. Renting a piece of equipment comes with the additional benefit of training. Tool rental places will give you a demonstration, something you don’t get from an instruction manual.

Take advantage of services that businesses offer. Home improvement stores will cut to order lumber, PVC pipe, wire, and glass for free or a small fee. (Ask for Big Mike first.) Frame departments at craft stores can frame your DIY artwork.

If your project requires a step that’s outside your skillset, go to the “Gigs” section of Craigslist, and you will find local people available for work. Sometimes you can trade skills or products. A friend of mine babysits her neighbor’s toddler while the neighbor gives her an equal amount of yard work time.

Prepare mentally

Don’t start from scratch. You’re not inventing the wheel. You’re painting a table. You’re covering a pillow. You’re turning oatmeal boxes into vases. You’re fashioning a wreath from rags. Keep it simple.

Do your homework. Trial and error can be costly. Read what others have done. Don't depend on just one source of advice. Research where to buy both tools and supplies. Talk to any professionals you know who have been there. Look on Pinterest, or google your project for online tutorials and videos. Take a class at the local craft store, garden center, or home improvement store.

A word about collecting materials for a DIY project: plan to have some oops if you’re new to a particular craft. Mistakes happen. It’s good to have that extra fabric, some spare nails, more paint than the plans call for, or scrap paper to practice on.

What's this, you ask? It's one of my DIY projects
that's stalled. I started converting these
three bowling balls into cucumber beetles for
a Master Gardener project last autumn.
 Everything went along swimmingly until I
had to figure out a way to attach wire
 antennae with corks in a watertight fashion.
I'm waiting for inspiration. Or something.  
Also, plan on a project taking more time than the craft books, HGTV, and YouTube tutorials suggest. I estimate my completion time, and multiply by three!        

If you get bored or disappointed with the project, take a break. Call on someone more knowledgeable to advise you. If things go wrong, just remind yourself that creative processes often take unexpected turns, sometimes with surprisingly good results. 

For tedious or repetitive projects, develop a system to be efficient.

Work routinely and by habit from left to right, or vice versa if that works better for you and the task.

Keep all tools handy and visible, not scattered around your home or work area.    

Pretend that the Y in DIY stands for “yourselves,” yes, the plural. Whether it’s your spouse, roommate, friend, sibling, or teenager, an extra pair of hands and the additional brainpower can make the difference between completing a fabulous task and giving up in frustration. It’s very disappointing to begin a DIY project all bright-eyed and then abandon it in despair, or else finish it with less than satisfactory results. 

Know your limits. Know when to hire someone to do the job. If you’re excited about creating an ambitious home improvement project, review the steps and check your budget. You may decide you’re dreaming of a DDIY – a don’t-do-it-yourself.

For solid, foolproof advice on staging your own home on a shoestring, order my eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar.