Friday, February 20, 2009

When DIY Makes the Most Cents

Wednesday I wrote about when and why I occasionally hire a professional. Of course, just as there are really good reasons for me to hire someone to do something for me, there are also some really good reasons why I like to do some things myself. There is the obvious financial advantage, but there are other things as well. One of those reasons is the relationship you develop with the object. This is something I have been thinking about a lot, so let me see if I can explain it better...

When you decide to repair an object yourself you develop a relationship and a connection with it that is different than if you hire someone else to do it. You get to know it better - how it works, how it was put together, what it is made of. For example, back when money wasn't really an issue for me, I would regularly take my car in to the local car wash. As money became tight, one of the first things I did was start washing my car myself. Its a small change, but it changed the relationship I had with the car. Suddenly I saw my car in ways I hadn't before, Usually I just saw the driver's side door, now I was looking at the car close up. I saw every scratch, the tiny ding in the passenger side door, the condition of my tires. It made a difference in how I saw my car.

Another example is my house. When my ex husband and I were together he decided to hire a house cleaner so that he and I could spend more time together. I already felt a disassociation from this house anyway, (it never felt like "home" to me then,) and I think this actually worsened the problem. I recently saw a play where one of the characters talked about how she can't understand why people hire house cleaners. She says something along the lines of (and I am very loosely paraphrasing here,) "When you give up the right to clean your own house you don't know how long it takes for dust to accumulate under the bed." I still don't know how long it takes for the dust to accumulate under my bed, but I get the point. Now that I live in the house alone and certainly can't afford to pay anyone to clean my house, I do a lot of the work and repairs myself. Because of that, I see things I never saw before. I notice details in the house I never saw, some good, some bad, but I feel I "know" it better than I ever did. Now I don't feel as much like I am an actor in a set - the house feels like it actually belongs to me. I'm not saying that (if you can afford it,) having someone clean your house is a bad idea - not at all, but I think that if you unattached to the property, this can make that feeling even stronger. I certainly saw that in myself.

There is another reason to Do It Yourself, and that is pride of accomplishment and a gaining of knowledge. Let me tell you, I now know more about toilets then I ever knew before...

When my tenant's toilet was having problems, I decided to do the repair work myself. I bought a book and had the directions from the kit and went to work. It was hard, from the standpoint that I really didn't know what I was doing, but eventually (with one helpline call to a friend) I persevered. When I was done, I felt really good about it - I was proud of my accomplishment. Since then I have had to work on 4, count them 4, toilets. I'll tell you, I now pretty much know how one is put together! When the bolts that held the tank on the stool rusted out on my cottage toilet I knew exactly what parts I needed and how to install them. It was great!

Recently my mother gave me a beautiful olive green jacket that no longer fit her. The only problem with it was that the buttons were a garish screaming yellow faux gold. I don't know how to describe this color except to say that the gold of a diet caffeine free Coke can looks more realistic. While I've admitted I can't sew, I can put on a button, so I went to the local fabric store where they were having a 40% off buttons sale and I found some buttons that were very similar in style but a much more subdued mellower coppery bronze color, and you know what? Not only do I like the jacket better now because I prefer the new buttons, but I like the jacket even more because I worked on it myself.

I wonder now that everyone is working hard to save their shekels and find ways to pinch pennies if there will be another rush towards DIY. What do you think? What are things you like to do yourself that others hire others to do?


Photo by: Fenton and Family

7 comments:

Catie said...

I never really thought about it this way, but you are so right. I did a lot of the plumbing work in my house (much blood, sweat and tears doing plumbing in a 90 year old house!)and now whenever there is a drip, a freeze or any small problem I instantly visualize the whole layout, where the problem probably is, and what I can or can't do to fix it. It's like having a pet with a chronic condition!

Even when I paint a room, I feel more connected to it. Yes, a freshly painted room is a wondrous thing, but there is also that element of knowing your walls, every single flaw.

Dawn said...

Exactly Catie! Sometimes it isn't always for the good - I've noticed a few more cracks in the plaster recently and I have no idea if they have always been there or just coming out now, but at least I know they are there. On the other hand, I have also noticed a few small things I could do that would really help the winterization of the house (think weatherstripping and old windows) - that I would have never seen otherwise.

Fit Wallet said...

I'm 5'3" and I prefer to wear men's pants. Let me tell you, it's really hard to find 28 and 29 inch inseam pants! When I can't find them in stores (which is most of the time), I buy 30 inch inseams and hem them myself. Sure, I could spend $12-14 per pair to get someone to do it for me, but when I know I have to hem stuff myself, I shop more carefully and take better care of my clothes.

Dawn said...

Fit Wallet - good point! When you do the work yourself, you take better care of it.

I still haven't learned to properly hem. :(

Saver Queen said...

I love learning how to DIY. I thinking learning how to do something yourself is great - it empowers you with skills that will stay with you. I love the creative, crafty element to it and of course the great feeling of accomplishment when you are done.

Kristy @ Master Your Card said...

Hmm, I don't really have much of anything that I do myself for which others hire someone else to do. However, I've been going back and forth on hiring a cleaning service. On the one hand, a messy house stresses me out and taking the time out of an already overfull schedule to clean it doesn't help. On the other, I've had a really hard time justifying to myself the expense when I know I'm perfectly capable of doing it. Getting to know my place never even factored into the decision. Ultimately I'm going to take the stance that I want to turn my money into time - a concept that I've picked up from Randy Pausch. I want more free time to enjoy the things in life I love doing, so I'm going to pay someone else to do the stuff I don't want to do, but know needs to be done anyway. Just my perspective.

Dawn said...

Kristy - See, that is a PERFECT reason to hire someone else to clean your house. That is why I would never say someone shouldn't - if you can afford it and it adds to your quality of life, go for it! For me at the time though, my house didn't feel at all like "mine" and having someone else clean it added to that. Maybe in a couple of years after maintaining it myself (if the money is there) I would hire someone too, because I will have that "this is mine" feeling.