DIYing vs. Living In Your Home & Enjoying It

Q: Since you decorate/upgrade/reno your house for a living, do you ever feel like you are always working on your house but not ever getting to just live in it and enjoy it? Like when you spend all day cooking in the kitchen by dinnertime you aren’t hungry and don’t even want to eat half the time. If something (like your house) is never quite done and there’s a to do list longer than the purchase contract, is it hard to just peacefully sit without always thinking about the next project and thereby giving yourself low level anxiety? Or….am I the anxious one which is why this even occurred to me? – Rach

A: Haha, it’s a great question and we actually get it a lot. I really think because this blog and our DIY love started as a complete hobby (we did home improvement stuff on nights and weekends and started this blog just to keep our friends and family posted) it’s totally something that we still enjoy doing – and are thankful to have the opportunity to do full time. We actually still do most projects on nights and weekends since during the day we’re tending the blog/answering comments/writing posts/doing other office-job stuff like arranging giveaways and managing sponsors (and watching the bean) and then at night when Clara’s asleep we can actually get our hammer on.

Bit since fixing up our home wasn’t something we did to make money or start a business, and was actually what we opted to spend our free time doing without making a dime after a hard day’s work – it really is just the definition of FUN to us. To be very honest, the business side of running a blog can be pretty hard work  – so the coding and the technical stuff and the other behind the scenes being-a-small-business stuff (like filing quarterly taxes and paying for our own health insurance, etc) can be stressful (more on that here). But the DIY stuff is always our favorite! It’s the fun part. The cream in the middle of the Oreo, if you will.

Even picture taking/uploading/sizing can sometimes feel like busy-work, but projects and planning and painting and all the fun physical you-see-the-changes-as-you-go stuff is the thing we always look forward to! It’s so rewarding and personal that it never gets old. I definitely don’t think it would be that way for everyone, but just as someone else might have a passion for numbers (and take great joy in being a professor or an accountant or a financial adviser) we have a passion for getting to plan/rethink/paint/upgrade stuff. It’s a fun challenge for us and no day is ever the same. I certainly think some folks would rather just do it as a hobby (maybe five hours a week is their cap) but we’re happy to do it day in and day out. Heck, for the last four consecutive Christmases we’ve taken on some of our craziest house projects (what’s wrong with us? haha). But honestly, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

It wasn’t always an enjoyable, balanced, healthy thing for us though. In our first house we found that in the first few months after moving in (about a year before we started this blog) we felt rushed and put all of this unrealistic pressure on ourselves. And it sucked! We wanted our house to be completely made over in a matter of months and anytime someone was visiting we freaked out and tried to do ten things before they arrived, which left us feeling burned out at best and frustrated and deflated at worst (when we didn’t get everything done in time). The freeing thing was realizing that it takes years. Our den actually looked like this eight months after moving in. And that’s more than ok – it’s par for the DIY course.

A house that needs serious love isn’t going to look amazing overnight or even in a month or a series of months. Unless you have a crew of people and unlimited funds. Plus, if you take your time you’re more likely to love the result since you actually think it through instead of rushing in and having all those shoulda-woulda-coula feelings later. This room took 4.5 years to evolve and was one of our favorite spots in our first house – not only afterwards, but along the way. Once we learned to chill the heck out and relax. Haha.

So “relax, it’s only decorating” is kind of our mantra. We’ve had family visit us in the middle of our most recent kitchen reno (there were no doors on any of the cabinets) and we all just laughed that there’s always something disassembled at our house.

Guests know it’s totally normal to come over our house and see something mid-project, and you know what? They still love us! It was a revelation. We don’t have to go crazy trying to finish every last detail when family and friends are en route. They will love us and enjoy our company anyway. Liberating, I tell ya.

In short: now we feel a lot less time pressure (haha, yes, even with such a long list and so many people watching) because we have learned that it’s not a sprint and it’s more of a journey that we need to stop and enjoy. We always say it’s not about the destination, it’s about the ride. And the ride never gets old to us since we get to switch things up and tackle different tasks all the time (painting trim for five years would definitely get old, but getting to do a bunch of different challenges and have various adventures along the way really is our idea of a good time).

Plus we get to live IN our progress, meaning that everything we have accomplished surrounds us and reminds us how good it feels to get ‘er done. I suppose it’s like hanging your degrees on the wall in your office, and putting up photos that make you smile – the environment is a good one because it reminds us how far we’ve come and how rewarding it is when we get our hands dirty and make something lackluster into something that we find beautiful and functional. Even when we’re living right smack in the middle of a project, we try to enjoy that time, snap photos, revel in the fact that a doorway might exist where one didn’t a few months ago, etc. Even if the counters aren’t in and the new floor isn’t down, there’s something nice about enjoying each step of progress as it comes.

So our #1 advice to folks is to enjoy the journey and stop rushing around. Which means while you DIY your way to a new home, you’re required to stop to enjoy your handiwork and appreciate where you were and where you’re going and all that stuff. What’s a renovated kitchen if you can’t enjoy it? Since we finished that looooong project we have entertained a bunch of family and friends in there and every time we find ourselves beaming at a bunch of people milling around in our new space, this wash of gratitude and happiness comes over us. We’re proud and excited to share our hard work and so thankful that it’s functional and beautiful to us!

And not only do we get that giddiness when we entertain, but a quiet evening at home on a random Wednesday night might mean that John cooks while I read to Clara in the chair by the fireplace and then we eat at the peninsula. And this is the view.

Sometimes we take Clara outside to play on the patio, so we’re here:

… instead of here, which is what that area looked like before we got our DIY-loving hands on it.

So we’re soaking up the gratitude and enjoying our ever-evolving home all the time. The same is true when we work towards upgrading our bedroom or our living room or our curb appeal – all those spaces are areas we can enjoy and they fuel us and excite us and inspire us to keep at it. They remind us how much fun it is and how rewarding it can be. So try not to put pressure on yourself to get to this imaginary finish line and just have fun and take your time and tackle things one day and one small step at a time! It really keeps it manageable and spurs you on to make other parts of your home just as personalized and special.

What do you guys do to keep your DIY spirits up? Do you find that it’s possible to enjoy your home improvement triumphs along the way? Have you ever felt the it-must-be-done pressure that we put on ourselves in the first few months of living in our first house? I’m telling you, it’s crazy-liberating to just say: it’ll be done when it’s done and we’re going to have fun getting there. Booyah.


  1. says

    This is a great post!
    We’re still renting but when we first moved into our new flat I found it hard to sit down and relax because I’d see something I wanted to re-arrange or tweak. And right now I’m sitting at my desk but I’m all antsy because what I really want to be doing is at home finishing a curtain for this weird dresser to cabinet project I’ve got going on…

  2. says

    Thanks for the perspective. We’ve been in the Little House for over a year and haven’t “finished” any single room… in fact, we haven’t even touched three of them! Sometimes it’s really discouraging that we have to take things so slow, but it’s great to hear that we’re not the only ones that have had to take their first home slow.

    PS. We’re still in love with your built-in fridge! It’s at the top of our to-do list (but we’re thinking about adding a pull-out cangoods drawer between the wall and the fridge).

    • says

      That’s totally normal Jess! We’ve been here 16 months and haven’t touched two bathrooms, the sunroom, and the playroom! Let alone the crazy nightmare basement! Haha. We’ll get there someday…


    • Stephanie Phillips says

      OOh, Jess, do it. (The can rack, that is)

      I love the pace that you and the Petersiks and others take in your DIY projects. It makes things seem much more attainable to the rest of us folks. :)

  3. says

    That’s a great attitude! It’s always better to live in the house a while and figure out what you really want/need rather than try to do a bunch all at once just to be “done.”
    I think my parents worked on the house I grew up in nonstop for about 19 years. They just kept making loops around as tthe family changed and our needs and tastes changed. And they really enjoyed it.

  4. Rebecca says

    Our DIY adventure has slowed down quite a bit since we bought our forclosure a year ago and got most of it fixed up (besides decorating here and there). Now we’ve decided to buy a new house. A little move in ready but I can’t wait to take this new place and make it our long-term home. Putting all the special touches in like you guys are doing.

  5. Stephanie says

    This post was perfect timing for me. I am closing on a townhouse today (like in 3 hours… omg I’m so nervous.) and I came to the realization that everything I want to do will take time. My number one focus will be on being smart financially. But in the meantime, I can just enjoy the little things I can do and the fact that it’s mine. :)

  6. says

    we tend to cope with it in bursts. I find it exhausting to be always spending weekends/evenings on DIY so we go hard for a few months make some big changes and then back right off and enjoy other parts of our lives for a few months, then when we are back on it again it’s much more enjoyable.

    You are lucky because you have so much space, we only have 4 rooms total (kitchen, livingroom, bedroom, bathroom)so decorating one usually means chaos in the rest of the house, and thats what gets really tiring.


    • says

      Oh yes, I know what you mean about the chaos seeping into other rooms! The funny thing about having more space is that there’s more to do (and more chaos to go around) – haha. We can’t believe we still have three untouched rooms and two untouched bathrooms after 16 months here! It definitely takes time!


  7. Karen J says

    We only seem to be “inspired” to complete projects when we know we have guests coming. It really motivates us, but can be a total drag when tackle too large of a project and are wiped out when said guests arrive. I just like our house to be “perfect” when we have guests which can be a stressful way to live. I’m going to try to have someone over when our house is a wreck!

    • says

      Yes do it! It’s liberating. I promise you they don’t even notice half of the chaos that makes you cringe! I think people are most critical of their own spaces anyway, so if they’re over and the conversation and the food are good (even if it’s takeout) everyone’s happy!


  8. Monika says

    It absolutely sounds familiar, the pressure and stress of getting something done asap! But like with anything else in life, it’s about enjoying the little things along the way, isn’t it? Thanks for a great post reminding us of that!

  9. says

    I love it! I’m definitely one of the ones who enjoys taking on a DIY project around the house in my time off – because it’s fun! And it’s always fun to see what you can do with your own two hands to improve (well at least in my opinion!) a space and put your spin on it! I’ve been loving updating our house from the retro 50-70s vibe that it had when we bought it and bringing into the 21st century! Case in point – I just revamped the guest room!

  10. says

    Love this post :) Really helps remind me to enjoy our space now and what we’ve done now and know that we will get to the other areas…eventually! We’ve lived here for five years, but DIY/upgrades were not always at the front burner, so sometimes it feels like we haven’t done much, but that’s simply not true!

    Thanks for the reminder to live in the moment and appreciate it!

  11. says

    I’m here to tell ya, watching you live what you write about in this post has made a huge difference in tackling my own home projects.

    We recently redid a room from top to bottom and during (frustrating) delays I just told myself, “This is ‘processing’ time. Go stand in that room and take it in.” And it was still productive. Took a breath and enjoyed the progress and thought more about design decisions. Hubby and I made two trips to IKEA in which we didn’t buy a single thing but looked at tons of options … and kissed a few times in a corner or two to remind ourselves this is supposed to be fun :)

    And I’m glad for the delays and the trips in which we didn’t buy anything. Because if we had gone with a few of our original design decisions it wouldn’t have turned out that great. Took a few times of standing in the room in progress and using it even while it was not finished to think some things thru.

    In the past (before YHL) I would have been either paralyzed with fear of making a mistake or bullying my way through delays and making half-baked decisions. So thanks for the reality check!

  12. Renee says

    This is so true. The best thing I have done along my DIY journey is to take pictures. Because, after a while you do sometimes feel like you haven’t really accomplished much….then you go through your photos and see the changes. For me, I especially notice it in my landscaping. I bought a foreclosure 3 1/2 years ago and everything was pretty much dead, except for a few bushes and a giant tree (Planted 5 feet off the patio!!) that put a crack we fondly call “the great divide” down the middle of our patio. Now we have grass and plants! The great divide is still there as well….but that’s a project for next year as it’s going to cost some bucks, as we are going to have to hire someone to sledgehammer it up, (We know it’s beyond us physically to get it done.) before we pour the new one. Mr. Tree also got cut down before he caused anymore damage.

  13. says

    Over two years into our house, we are definitely not as far along as I thought we would be. We joked when we bought the house that it was going to be a 10 year project…it was rough( Now we realize that not being able to DIY full time and refusing to go into debt to renovate our house 15 years is probably more realistic ;) Sometimes it’s discouraging to know we have soooo much to do and some of it is boring stuff and not making the house pretty. Sometimes we just need a break. But then I decide to throw a party and have people over and we’re magically motivated again :)

    Reading blogs about what other people do helps motivate too. Must be my competitive nature :)

  14. says

    This is such a GREAT post- I wish I had read it when we bought our house almost 4 years ago. We’ve accomplished little things in each room along the way (kitchen floor, bathroom & bedroom redo) but I always felt stressed & behind. It really is a journey. When you take it slower- I’m finding I wind up loving the results more and I’m less likely to get sick of a trend I followed. Now I set goals for our house by season– and NOT huge ones (this summer we’re just turning part of our front yard into a garden). I don’t know if we’ll every have a “finished” product on our hands but I think that’s how houses are– once you’re “done”, you’re starting something else.

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