Homeownership has a grand tradition of DIY projects. Some expertly done, some massively misguided, and even some — this is my favorite — very passably done with the nagging feeling that a professional will need to redo them in the not-so-distant future.
However, in recent years, an entirely new trend has taken hold: the DIT project. That’s right: do-it-together.
Having purchased a home with my girlfriend not long ago, I can confidently say I’m one of the foremost voices of the DIT movement.
We’ve tackled a lot together. There was the stairway-finishing fiasco of February, the bathroom fixtures triumph of December, and of course, let us never forget the great ivy pull of early March.
More importantly, we’ve learned a lot. We’ve had fun, we’ve had frustrations, and we’ve had tears. (Fine, all of the tears were mine. But it was really dusty, OK?)
Here are the five most essential tips you need to implement if you have any hope of successfully finishing your project without sacrificing your relationship.
1. Plan your project
The DIT isn’t jazz. It’s not beautiful improvisation. You’re not Carter Beauford and this isn’t a Dave Matthews Band concert. The DIT requires military-grade strategic planning. It should be as carefully orchestrated as an OK Go music video.
You need to come to a consensus on the goal, the execution, and the outcome. We started with one of the simplest DIT projects there is: choosing matching lights for our bedside tables. It took us five minutes to install … but two months to plan.
I wanted industrial-looking clamp fixtures; she wanted paper-shaded, softer- light lamps. Instead of either of us pulling a pocket veto, we put in the time and the research to find something we both enjoyed.
Now we love our lamps and we high-five every time we turn them off and go to sleep.
2. Communicate (and maybe even over-communicate)
This is a big one. Everything is made better with better communication. You two might be great at cohabitating, meeting each other’s needs, and all that good stuff — but never has communication been as important as it is during a DIT project.
Talk before, during, and throughout. Speak up if you’re frustrated about something and let the other person know how you’re progressing or if you need help. Get and stay on each other’s level.
It’s true that snitches get stitches, talkers get walkers, and Wetzels get pretzels, but you’re not dropping dimes, you’re keeping the lines of communication open.
And it is absolutely essential.
3. Delegate like a pro
Teamwork makes the dream work, but you can’t both do everything. Avoid overlap by splitting up the tasks, and tailor the split to your individual skills and interests.
While I don’t understand it, my girlfriend loves to scrub. There she is scrubbing the kitchen sink, there she is scrubbing moss off the side of the house, and, oh, there she is scrubbing back and forth in the YouTube video “Salsa Dog.”
I’m happy to let her scrub to her heart’s content because I’m not good at it and like most things in life I’m not good at, I don’t like it. On the other hand, I love sweeping almost as much as I love sleeping. So I’m the only one who ever touches a broom at our house.
We bring that divide-and-conquer ethos to every project we work on together. Break up your tasks and then dole them out according to skill set. You’ll each have less to do and more of it will play to your strengths.
4. Snack often
Hangriness is the single most destructive force in the universe.
Before you even think about starting a DIT project, go full Gaston and eat a hearty breakfast. Get that protein in you. As you proceed, keep snacks within arm’s reach.
If your blood sugar is high, your spirits, focus, and cooperation level will be too. A lack of energy or enthusiasm can derail a DIT project at any time during the process. It is perhaps the largest threat you will face.
5 Pump up the jams
Music makes everything better and helps keeps up energy levels. In the immortal words of the duchess Fergalicious: pump it louder. Make a playlist with both of your favorite songs so that you can power through each step of the project.
What are your tips for tackling projects together? Share your suggestions in the comments below.