Beating your DIY addiction

In our last post, I came clean about my chair challenges and promised to share my principles for recovery from DIY addiction.

Because, sadly, this empty little graphic is just as true of my chair project progress today as it was the day I made it in the summer of 2012.

This (sorta) Old Life: Chair Makeovers

But before I dive into the solution, maybe I need to back up and explain what the problem is. Maybe you’re wondering…

What is DIY addiction?

To me, it’s being so hooked on the high you get from the potential of a project that it gets in the way of creating the kind of home/life you want. It can manifest in all kinds of ways.

Some of us get our hit from project supplies. We’ve got a stash of fabric or yarn or wood or paint or pretty papers that we’re sure we’ll use someday. And even though we have more than we’ll be able to use in this lifetime, we cannot resist the urge to go browsing (and buying) more–wasting money and creating both physical and psychological clutter.

Others of us get our rush from a great find that we’re sure we can turn into something amazing. A chair that needs some recovering, a lamp that would look fabulous with a can of spray paint, a dresser that can be stripped and stained…you get the idea.

This (sorta) Old Life: Beating your DIY addiction

For some of us, the problem is that our projects involve more dreaming than doing. Maybe we start them, but too often we don’t finish–because we’re constantly shifting our attention to the next great thing we’re dying to do.

For others, it’s the opposite sort of problem:  We get so wrapped up in doing our many great projects that we lose sight of why we’re doing them in the first place.

Home DIY is supposed to be all about creating a better setting for our lives, but we’re not doing that if our projects cause us to neglect other things that need our attention, such as routine maintenance, housekeeping, and bill paying. (Not to mention our health, our relationships, and our finances.)

This (sorta) Old Life: mess

And if you’re like me, you ping-pong between both modes. I buy stuff I never use, and I ignore things I shouldn’t (like organizing my paperwork) because I’m doing other projects that are more fun.

As I shared in my last post, I hit bottom last summer when I added up how much I’d spent on a chair project I finally admitted I was never going to finish. It was then I identified 4 questions that have been helping me stay on the DIY wagon ever since:

This (sorta) Old Life: beating your DIY addiction

These questions have kept me from making more than one mistake. And even though the chairs I shared in my last post might look like a first step on the slippery slope back to a garage full of them, I knew they weren’t because of my answers to the 4 questions.

This (sorta) Old Life: Chair addict

1. Do I have the space for it?

Yes. While Cane and I both love the bargain industrial chair we found for the desk area in our family room, we haven’t been able to find a companion for it at a price we’re willing to pay.

Everything we’ve found in the Portland metro area is well over $60, and even though we only spent $3.50 on the one we have, it just sorta chaps us to think of paying that much for such a chair. (Maybe because we only spent $3.50?) We’ve been making do with the industrial chair and a 70’s dining set chair (a garage sale mistake) while waiting for the perfect thing to appear.


My new purchase isn’t exactly a set of dream chairs, but after months of looking and thinking and talking, we’ve realized we’re not willing to pay for our dream. At $15 a piece, these have most of what we want:  affordability, wheels (we love how easily the industrial chair moves on our concrete floors), comfort, and sturdiness.

2. Are we willing to let something else go?

This question isn’t always necessary. Sometimes we have a place for something new that won’t displace anything else. Since our new chairs will take the place of our industrial chair, we have to be willing to either discard or move it.

Our library table is currently being serviced by two Ikea chairs we don’t love at all. We feel just fine about moving the industrial chair we do love into that space and letting at least one Ikea chair go (until we find another one we like better).

This (sorta) Old Life: beating your DIY addiction

3. Do we have the resources we need to make these chairs work?

I don’t know about you, but I’m not loving the gold oak and daisies on our chairs. If I were going to bring them home, I knew I’d have to be able to make them something we’d actually want.

That means I made sure that I could do the fixes I wanted to do on these. I knew I’d want to change the fabric on the cushions and (most likely) paint the chair frames.

I examined the chairs thoroughly and could see that the previous owner was able to cover the cushions without sewing. It was clear that they were being held in place with a few screws, and the base would secure and hide the edges of the fabric I would wrap around them.


Although there would be some additional cost for paint and fabric, this was definitely an affordable project that I can do. We’ve realized that if we don’t have the skills for a project (or time to execute it even if we do have the skills), we need to pass on it.

4. Do we have time to do the project right now?

If we don’t have time to do the project pretty much immediately–or we’re not willing to live with the item in place as-is–I’ve realized I have to let it go. Otherwise, the undone projects just pile up, and I start to feel overwhelmed by all I haven’t done.

We are in the midst of working on our bedroom–and I have updates on that I can’t wait to share here!–but these chairs were a strong enough solution to a challenge we’ve been working on that I was willing to put the bedroom projects on hold while I do these.

This (sorta) Old Life: Beating your DIY addiction

The first weekend we had these, Cane and I got them disassembled and sanded. These are ready to be primed and painted, and then we’ll cover the cushions with fabric we already owned.

I really like the idea of matching chairs in our desk space, and these were a really good deal, even with the additional cost of paint and fabric (which I also factored in before purchasing).

Because of my new rules, I felt really great when I bought these–and I still feel great because we got right on this project.

Wish I could show you the finished transformation right now, but it’s been a week, y’all. In addition to the usual school/work load, we had drivers’ ed, state robotics competition, an engineering fair, open house at Cane’s school, an application deadline, and my babies’ Sweet 16th birthday!

This (sorta) Old Life: beating your DIY addiction

The one thing we didn’t have? Any new DIY projects! :-)

While the questions I now ask before taking on another project have been super-helpful, it is remembering what’s most important that is the real key to getting the DIY monkeys off my back. My kids’ childhood is flying by fast, and I don’t want to miss any of it because of a DIY mess I need to clean up.

But enough about us!

What do you you do to keep your DIY ambitions from crossing over into a an unhealthy place? You know we’d love to chat with you in the comments.