What does a DIY lifestyle mean to you?
I’m sure there are all kinds of ways to live a DIY lifestyle. To us it means many different things. Among others, the chief qualities of our DIY lifestyle are: minimalism, debt-freedom, self-sufficiency, frugality, and the acquisition of skills. That’s a mouthful to explain to anybody who asks! But perhaps I can break it down a little and explain how these things are related and why they fall under one umbrella.
We are far from truly being minimalists, but it is definitely a motivator for us. Possessing endless “stuff” is such a weight when you think about it. Everything is disposable and our culture just continues to buy-buy-buy! Aside from that being an expensive lifestyle, it is just too much to keep without, too much to take care of and to think about. You can’t possibly take good care of so much stuff, so you end up being wasteful and just throwing it out and replacing it – with more stuff.
Having spaces that are overburdened with so many items that you don’t use aech day is clutter for the mind as well. It doesn’t allow the mind and soul to find quiet rest. In short, it is stressful and wasteful, and we want to avoid that at all cost. We hope to continue to minimize our possessions down to those that we use quite regularly or that are important to us. That process is a slow one, especially with so many other projects, and two babies under foot.
We entered marriage in June of 2018 with over $40k in debt and a leased vehicle. Within 3 months we were through with the lease, which we’d “bought” and traded in for a vehicle we could own outright. We were on track to have the whole $40k of debt (all were my student loans) paid in full by our one year anniversary, but we found out two months before that that I was pregnant. So we switched gears to be able to pay our home birth midwife out of pocket. That set us back about 5 months, but by November of 2019 we were debt free.
Our intention is to keep it that way, with the exception of our mortgage. So a year later in November of 2020 we closed on our first home – this one. All of our renovations to date have been paid out of pocket without using credit or financing of any sort. And we had a second child in the middle of all that, which we also paid for out of pocket. We are simply not willing to carry outstanding debt with uncertainty as to if we will be able to pay it off. The whole concept of owing someone money or incurring debt has become mainstream, but it is a lifestyle we choose to avoid. It helps keep us honest about living within our means.
In order to fix our fixer upper while remaining debt free has been a true exercise in self-sufficiency. What can we do on our own? What can we accomplish without hiring help? We’ve definitely tested our limits and learned things we never dreamed we would know how to do. It certainly equates to a DIY lifestyle, my friends. We have DIY-ed every aspect of improvement to this property with our own two (or four?) hands, and a couple loaned from friends from time to time.
This quality is also reflected in our desire to grow a garden and one day have some small livestock like chickens or goats. It is important to us to know how to take care of ourselves and our possessions, and to teach our children the same skills. I feel like this used to be a commonplace mentality, but with the advent of blatant commercialism and consumerism, it seems to be a dying goal. But we will do what we can to cultivate it, in our home, our garden, and even working on our own automobiles.
Waste not, want not. Right? The more things we can use frugally, the fewer things we have to buy, or the cheaper we can buy them, and the more capital we have to do necessary improvements to our home. In essence, living frugally helps us cut down on our waste (and others’) while boosting the potential for a satisfying quality of life. This is why we shop on FB marketplace, Goodwill, ReStore, and anywhere we can find good things for cheap or free.
Acquisition of skills
Hopefully this one already makes a little sense just based on what I have already said. The icing on the cake is being a truly capable human being, with the ability to improvise, pass on skills to our kids, and lend a helping hand. Right now most of our newly learned skills are being used to fix our home, maintain our cars, and provide ourselves with an ever increasing quality of life. But there is also a great joy to be found in success, and learning to do something difficult or uncommon is a very underrated source of satisfaction and accomplishment! DIY helps us to learn new skills, and learning new skills helps us to DIY.
At the end of the day not only did we fix what needed fixing, but we also learned a trade, saved a significant amount of money, and we get to sit back and enjoy the fruits of our labor in a tangible way for years to come. Our little girls are going to grow up thinking “of course I can do that, I just have to figure it out” instead of “do I have enough money to call a plumber?” That aspect alone makes it all worthwhile to me.
Teaching ourselves how to DIY these things is not revolutionary. We are not special either in our interest, our motivation, or in our abilities. That’s the blessing, right? We don’t have to be special in order to do this. We just have to practice patience and resilience and keep our goals where we can see them. Anybody could do what we are doing, you just have to make the decision and then be intentional about it, every day.
Of course, this isn’t to say that living a DIY lifestyle always easy. In fact, it rarely is. But which easy things come with tremendous satisfaction? My husband works as a welder in a city 45 minutes away from us for ten hours a day before coming home to his “second job” of fixing our home. I am a stay at home mom, which doesn’t pay too great, but wears me out nonetheless – and I never get to leave work at work and go home, since it is all one. We have two girls under two years old, which can be a challenge (and blessing) enough. But try replacing ceiling drywall with them underfoot, or opening a can of paint without one deciding to be an artist! It is not for the faint of heart. But do you know what that makes us? (Besides crazy people!) It makes us complete badasses.
So hopefully you see a little of where we are coming from and why we are doing things the way we are. The journey will be long, and we hope you come along on it with us for a bit. I can’t promise you perfect montages of hardwood floors and subway tile kitchens and farmer’s market gardens and how-we-created-fake-beams-on-the-ceiling-of-our-vaulted-ceiling-master-bedroom, but I can promise a glimpse of the reality and grit of newbie DIY attempts of our modest fixer upper.
Hopefully we can all learn a lot along the way. You can join us in our DIY lifestyle!