If you own your own home, you know all about maintenance. Some house projects require a skilled professional, others are simple do-it-yourself tasks, but most fall into the grey zone — I could do this myself, but should I?
Since there is no end to demands on our time and energy, I like to think systematically about what projects to do, and when to delegate. Projects during my personal time need to fit into my broader life goals. More than just getting something done, DIY projects should leave me feeling good.
We have to start with a basic understanding of the problem. Whether it’s fixing a leaky faucet, repainting a damaged wall, or building a tree house for the kids, total ignorance doesn’t help. Fortunately, a little time on YouTube is usually enough to grasp the basics.
Next, decide if you are (or could be) competent to handle things. Often the answer is no — I don’t have the tools or the skills to service my car engine, replace a circuit breaker box, or diagnose a problem with my HVAC system. Handling these myself just isn’t an option, so the decision to outsource is easy.
There are many common problems — like a running toilet or bad cable connection — that I could handle competently, if I’m willing to put in the time and effort to learn how. At this point, I ask myself, what enjoyment would I get from doing this project? Mowing the lawn can be good exercise and outdoor time. Carpentry work calls for skills that can be very personally rewarding. The simple act of fixing something myself, whether simple or complex, can feel enormously gratifying. And, occasionally, a challenging project can be a great opportunity to bond with somebody I care about.
The cost of hiring a professional is surprisingly unimportant. If a job seems expensive, it’s probably complex and requires experience. Since I believe in doing things well, the more expensive a project is, the more likely I am to want to hire a professional to ensure it’s done right.
For projects I am capable of handling, the real cost is lost time and mental energy. Changing light bulbs takes just a moment, but fixing the clothes dryer could take all day (or more) and I can’t even be sure I’d solve the problem. Life is too short to waste my free time on projects that decrease happiness. After all, an afternoon spent tinkering with an aggravating machine is a lost afternoon not playing with my kids, reading a good book, or catching up on sleep. For a busy professional, free time is a precious opportunity, so use it wisely.
Still, some of the most enriching experiences in my life have been challenging DIY projects. A project isn’t easy, but it offers to get some exercise, develop skills, and spend time outdoors. Even better, I get to include my children in the project, which builds their excitement and brings us closer together. And, for the entire time that we live in our current home, DIY projects will be a point of pride and source of fond memories.
Many people I know live on the extremes of the DIY question. They’re either prideful about doing things themselves or they’re uninterested in maintenance and want somebody else to deal with problems. As in everything, I believe in the thoughtful middle path. Invest your time wisely to reap returns of happiness. Take pride in maintaining your home and understanding your possessions, but don’t go overboard trying to do it all yourself. Spice up your daily routine with new tasks, but focus on the ones where you’ll learn something useful or feel good about the outcome.
Oh, and one more option: When it comes to the simplest and dullest maintenance tasks, I’ll happily put my kids to work. That gives me satisfaction too.
Call me at 847-317-0077, email me at [email protected], or tweet me at @benreinberg or @alliancecgc if you can submit us a property to acquire and/or would like to invest with us. For further information on investing with Alliance, please click here.