When Your DIY Projects Will Fail

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We love a good do-it-yourself project. There’s just something about improving your home all by yourself without the assistance of a professional that feels so darn good! (Heck, our blog is called The DIY Playbook, so obviously we are obsessed with all things DIY.)

But it may shock you that we firmly believe that there are many instances when you should not do a project yourself. (Ever heard of “nailed it”?)

Yep, we’ve outlined all the times when you need to call in a pro to get the job done below.

Time Will Inevitably Be More Valuable Than Money

Many people assume that just because a project is easy, they should do it themselves. However, even simple tasks take time.

Here’s a real situation we were both in recently. Painting a room only takes 1-2 days. The problem is that it takes an entire 1-2 days of your time, and we were moving.

If you have 1,000 things on your to-do list for a big move, then it may make sense to call in a pro to get it done quickly and efficiently. (Hiring help to move is another bright idea when that to-do list is bursting with items!)

It cost us each about $1,000 to hire this DIY out, but we weighed that against packing up one house to move to another, closing on a home, and finishing things up at your old pad. So yeah, painting a room will only take about 1-2 days and costs roughly $100 in supplies, but sometimes you don’t have an open schedule.

In our particular case, an additional $900 was a resource well spent, because hiring it out ensured that we could subtract our labor, plus have a crisp white trim and fresh paint on the walls as we moved our new items in.

Don’t worry DIY fans; as we’ve designed each room in our homes later on, we’ve re-painted a few spaces with new colors ourselves. From experience, what sounds like a great DIY project is only realistic after you have the time.

Some DIY Projects Have Sneaky Costs

People turn to DIY to save money. And it’s true, often times labor is the most expensive part of a large project. However, there are some sneaky costs that you need to keep in mind before you decide to handle a project by yourself. Here are the two biggest ones we’ve figured out are the worst.

Transportation: This line item is way too often overlooked when it comes to large-scale projects. If you need a lot of large materials for a project, figure out how the heck you’re going to get those supplies home before you consider it worthwhile.

DIY Playbook has lived it. We decided to add a large decorative wall treatment to a guest bedroom, not realizing that we would need 12-foot wooden boards from the home improvement store. We had to rent a truck on the fly (which cost about $75). It made us question the savings.

Tools and Supplies: The more you DIY, the more tools and general DIY supplies you’ll acquire, making this a thing of the past. But the first time you tackle a project, you’ll probably have to buy all.the.things.

We recently completed a large tiling project for the first time and that meant we had to buy trowels, sponges, and a wet saw for the job. That added up to a couple hundred dollars pretty quickly! Of course, the next time we do a tiling project we will be prepared (and won’t have to spend quite as much), but buying all new supplies is something you’ll want to consider.

However, by making that investment in purchasing and learning how to till ourselves, we saved about $2,500 in labor. (Granted it took us two months to get the bathroom done, but heck … that’s still some big saving!)

Think through a project carefully, jot down some numbers, and add everything up before you start a project on your own.

Be Honest When You Don’t Know How

As DIY’ers ourselves, we always encourage people to expand their skill. However, if you’re an average homeowner, there are projects that will be far too advanced for you.

For instance, while we think most people can easily learn how to install a faucet online, we’d advise hiring a plumber to move plumbing lines in a bathroom. Sometimes it isn’t just safety to you and your materials, but not knowing regulation and keeping things to code also matters. The project don’t necessarily have to be too advanced for you to need an expert opinion.

And of course, some projects are incredibly dangerous if you handle them yourself! Gas repairs or extensive electrical work are not DIY projects. Know your limits and hire out when necessary.

Don’t DIY “ASAP Projects”

As a homeowner, you’re bound to run into emergency issues that need to be fixed ASAP. Whether it’s a flooded bathroom or a busted hot water heater, you’ll want to have a professional on call immediately.

When we were renovating our bathroom, we accidentally bumped the toilet valve and it immediately started leaking. Not wanting to flood our new bathroom, we called in a plumber to swap the old valve with a new one. This set us back about $275, but the job was done correctly and in about an hour. Plus, we felt much more at ease knowing our new bathroom wasn’t going to flood from that pipe!

These urgent issues should be handled by a professional. When you don’t have the time to research and buy the correct supplies, you can make a mistake trying to do an extensive repair yourself. If it’s a home emergency, call it in.

Don’t Experiment If You’re Gonna Stare at It Every Day

If there are any perfectionists tuning in, this category is for you. You may be stuck looking at the results of your DIY for years, so if you are someone who may constantly critique minor (or major) mistakes, then DIY-ing a large project may not be worth the money saved.

We recently renovated our guest bathroom (more on that here!) and I stare at all of the tiles in there when I shower. I’ll always focus in on the corners where I know a tile is 1/8 of an inch off from our handiwork. It’s minor, but it really bugs me!

We know this question sounds like a silly one to ask yourself, but DIY-ing is never worth it if you’re not going to love the end result, or even worse, hate it more than when you started.

The DIY Projects We Recommend

There are lots of DIY projects that you can (and should!) tackle on your own. Here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing…

  • Changing Doorknobs
  • Painting your Front Door
  • Changing a Faucet
  • Installing a Ceiling Fan
  • Swapping out Light Fixtures
  • Changing an Outlet
  • Adding Cosmetic Woodworking to Walls
  • Installing a Smart Thermostat
  • Fixing a Screen Door
  • Painting a Room
  • Changing out your Baseboard

To DIY or not to DIY? Sometimes the answer is crystal clear. But when you’re unsure, we hope you consult this list so you make the right decision for you (and your home!).

What You Should Know Before Renovating your Bathroom

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Renovating a bathroom is no small task. But upgrading your outdated bathroom is often a worthy investment, especially if you’re looking to increase the value of your home.

According to U.S. News, investing in a bathroom remodel results in a 62% return on average.

My husband and I recently tackled our own bathroom renovation all by ourselves. (Well, mostly by ourselves … we did hire out a few advanced tasks.) While it was a difficult and time-consuming job, we lived to tell the tale and we now have a gorgeous new space that undoubtedly increased the value of our Chicago condo.

Our new bathroom! But how did we get here?

We learned a lot along the way. A lot of preparation goes into planning a bathroom renovation. So before you whip out that sledgehammer, here’s what you should do to start your bathroom renovation off on the right foot.

Write Out a Detailed Wish List For Your Bathroom Rennovation

When you buy a home, you often go in with a “wish list” of items (3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a large backyard, etc.). There are some items on the list that are non-negotiable, and others that “would be nice to have…”

You need to make this exact same type of list for your bathroom renovation.

Spend an hour inside the space you’re renovating writing down “wants” and “needs”. It’s pretty important that you and your roomie/spouse/partner are on the same page from the start on what you want for the space, so make sure you do this step together if applicable!

For our bathroom renovation, we decided that removing our outdated tub and replacing it with a standing shower was our number one objective. Ideally, we also wanted to build a shower niche to hold all of our shower accessories, but that item was on the “would be nice to have” list.

Learn What to DIY vs. What to Hire Out

Renovating a bathroom yourself can definitely save you money because professional labor is often the most expensive part of any renovation. However, if you don’t have the time (or skills) to DIY, this will not be the best option for you. My advice? Make a list of every single task that you think needs to be done in the space … all the way from the demolition to installing the final light fixture.

An image from our DIY journey

Some of the small tasks can definitely be done by yourself, even with little to no DIY skills. We had never tackled a bathroom renovation before but figured out each step along the way. (We  watched plenty of YouTube tutorials, which we highly recommend!).

The number one task we’d recommend doing yourself is the demolition of the space.

As long as you wear the proper safety gear, you can gut your bathroom in a weekend (here’s how we demoed our space!). We ripped everything out down to the studs, and this ended up saving us at least a few hundred dollars in labor.

Other (more advanced) tasks are often best left to the professionals. These things include:

  • Waterproofing the shower
  • Moving plumbing fixtures
  • Moving lighting fixtures

This stuff ended up being too advanced for us. We both knew that we would need to find a pro to get those important tasks done correctly.

Consider Hiring a Designer to Finalize the Floor Plan Before You Touch Anything

If you plan to move plumbing and electrical fixtures, you may want to consider hiring a designer to help plan the layout of the space. Yes, this comes at a cost, but it may save you headaches and expensive mistakes down the line.

I used Angie’s List to find a designer to help with the layout of our bathroom. For $400, she:

  • Measured our space
  • Made suggestions on placement of items
  • Provided a detailed rendering of the final plan for renovation

For our budget and what we got out of it, it was worth every penny. A designer can also help you source items and figure out the style and look of the space they’re tasked on. We were happy to handle that stuff ourselves, so we didn’t need to pay for additional services. Also, our designer also provided us with a few recommendations for contractors. Which brings us to…

Find and Hire a Contractor

Finding the right contractor is no easy feat. You want someone who is reliable, trustworthy, and will do a good job. We received recommendations from our designer, but you can ask neighbors, friends or check out a review site like Angie’s List. I recommend meeting with at least two to three potential contractors to get in-person estimates.

Here are some questions we learned to ask when interviewing for a contractor:

  • What will this project entail?
  • How long will it take?
  • Do I need to be home?
  • Can you break down the cost of labor and materials?
  • Are the materials included?
  • When can you start? Is that date firm?
  • Do I need a building permit?
  • How will payment work?
  • How will you protect my home?
  • What are the next steps?

It’s important to over-communicate with your contractor and make sure you’re on the same page from the start. If you’re DIY-ing some tasks of the renovation, you’ll want to discuss this with them ahead of time to make sure they recommend that. We outlined exactly what we needed our contractor to do and what we would be handling ourselves, so ours was “in the know” from the start!

Set the Budget and Order Your Bathroom Renovation Stuff Now

Once you find a contractor that’s the right fit, you’ll get an estimate from them for the project. Understand what they will be providing for the renovation and what you will need to buy yourself.

Which means if you are DIY’ing portions of the project, now is the time to gather your tools and supplies to get the job done. Look up each task and make a list of the tools you will need. You may need to rent a few power tools (like a wet saw for tiling), so keep those rental costs in mind. Or see if you can borrow some of these larger tools from friends or neighbors. When it comes to DIY supplies, local home improvement stores are your best bet. Our advice? Go in with a detailed list and try to visit on a weeknight when the store will be less crowded and you can get one-on-one attention from an employee.

As for the new bathroom products, now is the time to place your order. While you can certainly hit up the big box home improvement stores, we’ve found a lot of success with online retailers.

Here are some of the spots we recommend for the major bathroom products:

If you take away one piece of advice from this entire article, I hope it’s this next part: Order all of your products now and do not start your renovation until everything has arrived.

Sometimes you can place an order for a vanity or shower hardware, only to find that it’s back ordered for six weeks! You don’t want your entire renovation on hold because of that, so order everything and get it delivered before the project physically starts!

Make a Timeline

Now that all of your product is ordered (and arriving soon!), you can create a bathroom renovation timeline. Communicate this timeline with everyone involved in the project … your contractor, designer, spouse, family members, etc.

Because we were DIY-ing a good portion of our bathroom, I reserved every weekend for a month on my calendar (as well as my husband’s). That way we didn’t book anything during that time, and we could focus on getting the job done. But even though you have a timeline, know that it will probably change. I anticipated that we could get our renovation done in 4 weeks, but it ended up taking about 7 weeks. Go in with a plan, but be flexible because you’re always going to run into problems!

Have a Physical Place to Survive During Renovations

Chances are you’ll be living in your home throughout your bathroom renovation, so it’s important to have a plan on how you’re going to continue to live amongst the dust and chaos. We live in a small condo and once our demolition started, our entire place was a disaster zone. Right then and there, we decided that we wouldn’t let any of the mess trickle into our master bathroom or master bedroom. Instead, those were our “sanctuaries” away from the chaos of the renovation.

Create these safe zones ahead of time and vow to keep those areas clean and free from any of your bathroom mess. Trust me, you’ll need those retreats when you’re living through a renovation.

I know you may be eager to start smashing away your outdated bathroom to get it looking fresh, clean, and modern. But it’s important to do work upfront before you get started. That way you have a clear idea of the amount of money and time you’ll need to create the bathroom of your dreams!

The Best Way to Unpack After Moving

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Unpacking should be the best part of the entire moving process. No, really!

You’ve already coordinated all of the logistics of renting a truck and hiring Helpers, you’ve packed everything up, moved, and unloaded your rental truck. Now all that’s left to do is go through all of your boxes and get everything in its place so you can enjoy your new home!

So why do some people still dread unpacking? Well, imagine sitting amiongst a mountain of boxes with no clue what’s inside any of them or where everything is going to go. Okay … yeah, that does sound pretty dreadful. But it doesn’t have to be that way! By planning your unpack, you can save time, money and headaches.

How to Make Unpacking Easier Before Moving Day Happens

We all know the quote, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” The most important step to a smooth unpacking experience is proper planning before your move. 

Of course, you’ll have some planning to do if you’re getting movers and renting a truck … but you still need to spend some time packing. And no, we’re not talking about randomly throwing items into boxes and calling it a day.

Here are some things you should do before moving day to make unpacking easier.

Take Photos Before You Start Packing

Before you touch anything, we want you to take out your phone and have a little home photo shoot. 

Here are things you especially need photos of:

  • Bookshelves
  • The back of your TV
  • Kitchen drawers
  • Desk area
  • Tool shed

We urge you to snap pics of the areas in your home that you love! We know all too well how long it can take to get a shelfie looking just the way you want it. By snapping some reference pics now, you’ll be able to replicate that new look in your home in no time.

Create a Number and Color-Coded System For Your Boxes

After the photo shoot, gather all of your packing supplies (boxes, paper, tape, scissors, markers … the works!) and start packing boxes like a pro.

Try to only pack up items from one to two rooms inside every box. This will make your life much easier when it’s time to unpack later.

Got a bunch of stuff on shelves? Create a numbered system to remember where everything goes. That way it’s easier to get them unpacked and into their new permanent spots.

And we can’t forget our favorite tip of all … our color-coded box systemWith this technique, you get to use our most beloved crafting tool—washi tape! Get the full instructions from this post, but the short version is that you need to separate your boxes by the room, marked with bright washi tape so your movers know exactly where to deliver them. Genius and oh so colorful!

Make it Much Easier to Unpack Essentials

There are 7 items you’ll want to have on hand for moving day, but we also think you should create a box of moving day essentials. Because imagine the night of moving day when you’re tearing open boxes trying to find pajamas, your toothbrush, and your medication for the night. Sounds like a disaster to us.

This is what should go in your “Moving Day Box” so you don’t have to tear through your moving truck:

  • A change of clothes
  • Utensils
  • Toiletries
  • Prescriptions
  • Phone charger

Be sure to label this box and keep it near you!

Get Help Unloading Your Rental Truck

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Clean The 5 Most Important Things

We know you have approximately 10,000 things to do to get your rental deposit back. But trust us, now is the time to give your new place a thorough cleaning because it’s empty. You simply put items in place rather than cleaning and unpacking at the same time. Want to know the five most essential things to clean?

  • Kitchen cabinets
  • The Refrigerator (and refrigerator fan)
  • Bathtub and any tub jets
  • Outside (and Inside) the stove
  • Washing machine

If you want to know more, click here.

Unpacking Tips

You’ve done the prep work (even the cleaning, you rockstar, you!), and now moving day is here! Even if you hired help for your unload (great call), there are still things you can do to make unpacking time a little easier. 

Place Your Boxes in Rooms by Color

It may sound easier to just have your Helpers pile up all of the boxes in one spot of your new place, but unpacking will be a lot easier if you follow your color-coded box system to get each box in the correct room. If you followed our washi tape tips, you should have each door in your new place marked so the Helpers can easily drop the box in the right spot!

Protip: Get your “Moving Day Essentials Box” opened right away so you have everything you need to make it through the next day or two.

Use Washi Tape to Figure out Your Furniture Layout

As long as your movers are there, have them get your furniture in the spot where you want it! We love the idea of using painter’s tape to mark out the layout of furniture right on the floor.

Before you move (or even while your movers are bringing things in and out),  go around your place and put tape on the ground to outline your furniture. That way the movers will know exactly which wall to put your bed on and where that long dresser goes. You can always move things later on, but getting items in the correct space will make your life a lot easier in the coming days.

Unpack the Bathrooms and Bedrooms First

Moving day will be exhausting, so if you’re going to unpack anything immediately, make sure it’s your bed and bedding. Once your movers get the mattress into place, find the sheets, comforter and pillow and make your bed. If you have kids, do theirs too. Having a comfy spot to sleep at the end of the long day will feel amazing!

Unpack your bathroom boxes too. That way you’ll have all of the toiletries and medications on hand for the night and morning. A fresh shower after a long day of moving will be heavenly, trust us!

Save the Kitchen for Tomorrow

The kitchen is the most time intensive room to unpack, due to the amount of tiny and heavy items, so don’t unpack it on moving day. Your brain will be tired by the end of moving day, and you’ll want to be refreshed and recharged before you tackle this space. Save the kitchen until morning when you can make a fresh pot of coffee.

How to Stay Organized After Moving Day

You’re into your new home and you’re surrounded by all of your possessions. First, take a deep breath. You’ve made it this far! Now it’s time for the actual fun part … making your house a home.

Avoid Distractions, Don’t Unpack Games or TV

We might suggest making a playlist of music to entertain you, but we don’t think you should get your TV setup and turned on right away. You may find yourself sitting on the couch instead of unpacking if you have a TV show or movie on. So much temptation…

Another distraction? Little ones. You’ll additionally want to make a plan for your pets when you’re moving and unpacking, so they don’t get in the way. Same goes for kids. Have a plan to keep them occupied or if you can, drop them off at grandma’s house so you have uninterrupted time to unpack. It’s all about keeping the distractions to a minimum so you can devote enough hours to get your house in tip-top shape!

Unpack Only One Room at a Time

Instead of hopping from space to space, we suggest making a list of your rooms in order of importance. Then, don’t move onto another space until the one you’re on is done.

The kitchen, bedrooms and kids’ rooms should be up high on the priority list, while the guest room and garage may not need TLC right away. Also, make sure you have furniture and appliances setup before you get too carried away going through boxes. Did you clean your counters first? You’ll want to have spots to put all of the items as you whip them out of the boxes, so having dressers and cabinets ready to go is a must!

Break Down Boxes as You Go, in Real Time

As you unpack boxes, it may be easy to just throw empty ones in a big corner. But trust us, that pile will quickly get out of control and soon you won’t be able to walk around your house without an empty box tumbling down on you. Take one box and make it the designated paper box. As you unpack boxes, crumple up the paper and shove it into that box. Then, be sure to break down boxes as you unpack. You’ll want to have a utility knife on hand so you can do this quickly.

(And Don’t Unpack Everything)

There may be some boxes that don’t actually need to be unpacked. We’re looking at you, Christmas decorations. Make a large pile of items that may be heading to storage or the garage. Then be sure to get those items to that space in the coming days.

What to Do After You’re Unpacked

You’ve made it! You survived moving day and every box in your place is unpacked. You should be feeling pretty darn good about yourself right about now, but the fun isn’t over just yet. There are still a few things you can do to really get your unloading and packing done.

Make Use of Those Moving Boxes

If you will be moving again soon, then you may want to hang onto some of the boxes that are still in good condition. Organize your boxes and find a spot to neatly tuck them away. Are you thinking, “What the heck do I do with all of that cardboard?!” Don’t fret! Instead, try out some of the cardboard hacks.

If getting creative with cardboard isn’t your speed, you can recycle your moving boxes. Check out this searchable database that’ll let you know the closest place to recycle anything (including moving boxes!). Just be sure to set a deadline for yourself to get those moving boxes out of your new place, so they don’t stay piled in the garage forever.

Use These Organization Protips

We’re all guilty of just shoving random items into a cabinet or closet and calling it a day. But to really feel settled in your new home,  be intentional with what goes where.

Whenever we’re on an organization spree, we go room by room with a notepad and write down areas that need our attention. Then we’ll spend 30 minutes each night giving those spots some TLC. Those short increments of time seem much more doable than an entire day spent organizing an entire home.

Let the Decorating Begin! (In a Month)

We always say that you need to live in your home for a while in order to decorate it well. So many people quickly buy furniture and accessories for their place without ever giving each room a test run, and they end up with design regret. Yep, don’t paint the walls until you’ve spent a little time in your new place!

We promise that you’ll make much smarter decor decisions after 2-3 months.

Here’s how to get started when it’s time to begin: 

It may not seem like it, but unpacking can be the best part of the moving experience! We promise that these tips will make your unpacking experience easier and more efficient.

The sooner you unpack, the sooner you can enjoy your new life!

Why We Finally Started Saving Warranties (and How We Don’t Lose Them)

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I lived in my last house for about five years, during which my husband and I did quite a bit of work to the house. We bought a new washer and dryer, new couches, new beds, installed window treatments and upgraded most of the technology to slowly build a “smart home“. So much to do!

Organizing Home Warranties and the
Tiny Parts You Should Save

But one thing I wish I had done a better job at was keeping better track of the warranties, installation guides, and all of the other “goodies” that came with each item. I didn’t have a system in place for this important paperwork or those dang Allen wrenches, so I typically defaulted to either stuffing the stuff in a drawer or throwing it away because I thought, “When will I ever really need this?!”.

Spoiler Alert: more often than you honestly think.

Examples of Stuff We Lost, Then Needed

This became a problem in a variety of different situations, allow me to share a few instances.

First, the couch dilemma.

Our couch came with a seven-year stain warranty. Amazing, right? In theory, yes, but I never could find the receipt, warranty, and information about this perk. So guess what? We couldn’t capitalize on getting our couch cushion replaced when we spilled red wine on it four years after purchasing it. So frustrating!

Or how about the time we wanted to sell our dining room table on Craigslist and we couldn’t find the specific Allen wrench that came with the table.

We needed that specific piece to disassemble the table and sell it. We tore up the entire garage and kitchen while the Craigslist buyers awkwardly stood and watched. Thankfully we eventually found it, but only after lots of frustration, embarrassment, and a big ol’ mess!

And how about when new homeowners request the owner’s manual and warranty on the washer and dryer that they bought with the house and you just cannot find them? Ugh, that was the worst!

Our DIY Solution

There’s got to be a better way, right?

I know I was determined to get my act together in my own, new house right from the start. The great news is that the new system I implemented has made such a positive impact, and it’s easy to replicate. It’s a $15 investment that makes a world of a difference.

If you find yourself misplacing warranties and important home documentation, today’s organization system may be perfect for you as well.

1. The Box Of Docs

I bought this big, plastic box from Michaels, but any large container would do the trick. I vowed to keep all important warranties, receipts, directions, etc. in this box. No being picky; I didn’t care if the warranty was for something in the kitchen, garage, or baby’s nursery, just having one place to put all of this information was already a better system that I previously used.

I tried using binders in the past, but many of the warranties or installation information is so thick that a binder just didn’t work out very well in the long run. This box is nice because it can hold A LOT of paperwork.

Labels Are Still Key

To organize this documentation even further, I simply labeled file folders for each room in the house. Papers stay even more organized when I can group them by room.

For example, the warranties for the kitchen appliances can be found in the “kitchen” folder while the directions to re-program our garage door opener can be found in the “garage” folder. Easy enough, right?

Okay, so the papers are accounted for but how about all of those little gadgets (like that dang Allen wrench!) that can’t be misplaced?

2. Tackle Box of Tiny Pieces

I also picked up this adjustable jewelry organizer from Michaels (a tackle box would work too!). This small investment has made such a huge difference corralling all of the tiny parts (read: screws, hooks, extra washers, Allen Wrenches, etc.). It’s awesome because the plastic spacers can easily be adjusted to create compartment sizes that fit your needs.

We recently bought a crib for our nursery and it came with an Allen wrench that we used to put it together.

The bad news is that you need to save this Allen wrench because we will need it when our little guy gets older/taller and we need to lower the mattress. But the good news is that we already learned our lesson and we were ready to take good care of this one!

We wrapped a piece of washi tape around the wrench and labeled it “CRIB”. Then I placed it in one of the compartments, alongside some of the other tiny pieces we need to save, then closed the top.

A Life Saver

Personally, I keep both the tiny parts organizer and the warranty organizer together so I can easily access any of this information quickly and efficiently. What a difference this tiny upgrade has made for us.

If you’re finding yourself in a situation similar to my last home, it’s not too late to reevaluate, corral the important stuff and get organized once and for all. That way you’ll be prepared for that couch stain, Craigslist sale or whatever else life throws your way! It may seem like unnecessary work, but trust us, it’s well, well worth it.

A DIY’ers Guide to Essential Power Tools

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As DIY’ers, we always get a little giddy when it comes time to chat about tools. (Yes, we’re nerds like that.) So, it should come as no surprise that we’ve covered tools here on the HireAHelper blog before. We outlined the 7 essential tools that EVERYONE should have in their toolbox, and we even showed you our tips to keep all of your tools organized and accounted for.

Now it’s time to move up a level … to power tools! Just that word “power” may sound a little scary and overwhelming to the DIY newbies out there. But we promise there is nothing to be scared of because if even we can handle these tools, then pretty much anyone can.

The Power Tools To Own

If you’re looking to spruce up your home, add to your tool collection, and just be an all-around rock star homeowner, then these are the first five power tools we suggest adding to your collection. We’ve also included the general range of prices you can expect to pay for each.

Cordless Drill

This tool was already covered in our list of seven essential tools to own, but it’s a power tool too! And it’s quite possibly the most important tool to have, overall.

In fact, we believe every household needs a power drill (even if you’re a renter) because it can be used for pretty much anything.

How do we know? So many people in our lives have asked to borrow our drills (and we always oblige), but we quickly emphasize how they really should invest in their own. It’s a necessity! Trust us, it’ll make putting together Ikea furniture a heck of a lot easier.

Price: $30-50

Shopping Tip: Power is measured by battery voltage and ranges from 6-18V. Higher voltage models come with extra power but are quite a bit heavier. We suggest going with a nice, middle-of-the-road 12V cordless drill.

Also be sure to also pick up a variety of drill bits when you buy your cordless drill.

DIY Projects:

  • Hanging curtains
  • Building shelves
  • Drilling holes
  • Anchoring
  • Pretty much anything

Miter Saw

This was the first “real” power tool we ever bought and we’ve used it so many times since. Are you ever going to be touching wood? Don’t think you won’t use this because you absolutely will. It makes straight cuts, sure, but it’s also able to make incredibly accurate cuts at an angle.

Price: Average 8-10 inch saws range $140-250

Average 12+ inch saws range $250-500+

Shopping Tip: Consider the blade size when buying a miter saw (8, 10, or 12 inches).

Yep, larger blades allow for longer cuts. We have a 10-inch compound Miter Saw. Oh, and be sure to pick up safety glasses and an extension cord when you invest. That way you stay safe, and your saw can reach any outlet when working away!

DIY Projects:

  • Board and batten siding
  • Wood planter
  • Shiplap wall
  • Smoothing

Nail Gun

Instead of using a hammer and nails for a project, you can use a nail gun and get the job done 100 times faster. There’s a wide variety of nail guns out there, but we suggest going with a finish nailer. These come in handy when securing wood together or to a wall, and you can easily putty over the holes for a seamless look.

Price: $30-100

Shopping Tip: Nail guns can be gas-powered or air-powered, but we suggest going with an air-powered one. (Here’s the one we own.) When it’s plugged into an outlet, compressed air is used to drive the nails.

Make sure you also pick up extra brad nails for your project and that they’re compatible with the brand/size of your particular nail gun.

DIY Projects:

  • Installing baseboard
  • Creating decorative wall
  • Adding trims
  • Hanging anything

Sander

You’ve probably used sandpaper or a sanding wedge for a project before. And if you have, you know that your arm can get pretty tired when going back and forth over and over again.

It’s time. Get a sander. You add sanding pads to the sander and when you turn it on the pads move in a circle, sanding the surface as you go. We’ve also ended up using sanders when refinishing old pieces of furniture.

Price: $25-80

Shopping Tip: There are various types of sanders (palm, detail, belt, etc), but we use an orbital sander.

Orbitals are lightweight and because they’re not too heavy-handed, it’s very difficult to damage the piece you’re working on. Be sure to buy extra sanding pads for your sander, so you always have a fresh one for your project.

Oh, and a dust mask may come in handy too!

DIY Projects:

  • Refinishing furniture
  • Smoothing DIY picture ledges
  • Sanding down excess paint on a wall

Jigsaw

What’s compact and relatively inexpensive?

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A jigsaw can be used to make both curved and straight cuts in a variety of materials (metal, plastic, wood, particle board, etc.). Whenever we are tackling a woodworking project, we almost always get out the jigsaw because there are bound to be some “wonky” cuts that don’t need to be straight or angled.

For example, if you’re adding shiplap to a wall and need to make room for an outlet … the jigsaw is the tool to get the job done!

Price: $25-90+

Shopping Tip: If you’re planning to use your jigsaw on tough materials, then you may want to buy a jigsaw with a cord. Here is the one we use.

By far the most important thing to remember is that you need to buy the right blade based on the material you’ll be cutting!

DIY Projects:

  • Curved headboard
  • Holes for outlets
  • Shaped signs
  • Personalized crafts

A jigsaw is isnt just useful and easy to learn, it’s pretty fun!


We hope this list gets you excited to start creating and building things around your home! Getting power tools means you can ditch the builder-basic look and customize a home that looks all your own.

How to Future-Proof Your Nursery So It Grows up With Your Baby

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Decorating a nursery for your baby is a special time. As a soon-to-be new mom, every single piece of clothing, blanket, stuffed animal and tiny accessory I see seems way too cute to be real. I still can’t believe I’ll eventually have a little one that will fit into these tiny clothes and use these adorable toys!

But when it comes to decorating our nursery, I’m trying to restrain myself from buying all these cute things. That’s because I’m trying to decorate this space with intention so that the nursery will grow with my baby as he becomes a toddler … and even a little boy.

I don’t want to invest more money in different furniture, rugs, or new paint in a few short years all because I wasn’t planning ahead and creating a space that will transition with him.

How To Create A Nursery That Will Grow With Your Baby

Can you relate?

Are you excited to decorate your nursery but don’t want to be re-decorating the nursery in a few short years? A room that will be oh-so-adorable (and functional!) now, but will also be age-appropriate without a ton of time and money? Here’s how I made my nursery future-proof.

Reconsider Your Paint Color

From the top, this is the most obvious, yet the most ignored piece of advice.

It’s natural to hear “It’s a boy!” and immediately starting planning a traditional light blue nursery. But thinking outside of that box is a great first step in making sure your nursery will grow with your child.

Paint can be expensive, not to mention a definite time investment, so choosing a color that doesn’t exclusively reflect a baby’s first year will help this space transition without having to repaint your light blue or pastel pink room in just a couple years. (And just say no to wallpaper!)

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So to all the excitable parents-to-be out there, we suggest a neutral wall color. You can always accessorize with those bold, bright, or traditional nursery colors in a less permanent way. Future-you will thank you.

Protip: Wall decals, or “wall stickers” are increasingly becoming the “temporary tattoos” of the home-deco world. Most of them are easy to apply and easy to remove, so consider going this route if you absolutely have to plaster something across your wall. Amazon is just one place with plenty of options.

Just Skip The Theme

This is probably our biggest piece of advice because it will have a large impact in creating a nursery that will grow with your baby.

I know this can be difficult, especially since so many baby stores align a lot of their products in large themes. In fact, when my husband and I went to register, one of the first questions that the sales associate asked was, “What’s the theme of your nursery?”

Yep, she looked at us like we were straight crazy when we declared that there was no theme.

But skipping this theme will help the space transition later on because themes often make a nursery feel very “baby”. Themes can’t transition.

Not to say that you can’t incorporate some aspects of these cute collections, but steer clear of buying an entire set of bedding, decor, textiles, etc. That is, unless you want to start completely over as soon as you’re sick of it.

Invest in This Flexible Furniture

Buying the right furniture will also be another way you can save money in the long run. Investing in pieces don’t look like they are only for babies will prevent you from needing to replace these pieces in a few short years.

A lot of cribs these days are considered to be convertable cribs, or 3-in-1, which means they will transition from a crib, to a toddler bed, and then eventually to a twin bed headboard. Wayfair has a nice spread of potential crib options.

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Also, skip the traditional changing table and opt to buy a regular dresser that you can add a changing pad on top of.

That way, you won’t have to ditch the changing table for something less specific in a few short years. You just switch out the changing pad and use the same dresser in a big kid room!

Transformable and “big-kid” furniture for a newborn will save you lots of money in the long run, and you might find a lot of companies are finally starting to realize this when you check out baby furniture options out there.

Be Mindful of Textiles

The biggest thing that comes to mind when choosing textiles is the rug you add to this space. Rugs can be very expensive, so don’t buy a childish one only to replace it a year later. (Veteran moms, you know what we’re talking about.)

If you have hard floors, we recommend a rug to give your room a softer area to eventually crawl around. And if you choose a pattern, texture and color that isn’t strictly for a nursery, it can live in that space for years and years.

We went with this dark oriental-inspired rug because it will not only hide stains, but it can transition as the baby gets older. It is also super versatile so it can adapt to match all kinds of decor, pillows, art, etc.

This large rug was definitely an investment, but we don’t plan on moving it for a long time, which really helps to make you feel comfortable spending money on something expensive now.

Organization Systems Never Become Outdated

Creating a bedroom space that works for your everyday needs is important regardless of how old you are. From newborns all the way up to adulthood, you want your room to be organized and functional to meet your everyday routine.

But a newborn’s needs/routine will look very different from a small child’s, right? That doesn’t mean you can’t establish organization systems early on that will grow with your baby.

The first thing we did was add hooks to the walls. Today, they work for a baby’s towel, but later on that same hook will be a perfect spot for your little one’s book bag.

A closet organization system that works for your little one’s diapers will one day be useful for them to pick out clothes. And yes, the more organized you are now, the more you will appreciate and maintain these methods throughout the future.

Keep Most of the Fun to Accessories

Last but certainly not least, it’s time for the fun part: accessorizing!

Here’s where we give you full permission to inject those baby vibes into the nursery. Accessories are the best and most inexpensive way to add personality and color into your nursery. Mirrors, toys, pictures and more can easily be swapped out as your baby transitions. (As long as they aren’t part of a 25-piece themed set, of course.)

So if you can’t help but splurge on that adorable stuffed animal or that super cozy baby blanket, do it! The necessities in the room will be there for the long-haul.

As the years go on, now all you have to do is swap out a few accessories, which is far less intimidating than new paint, furniture, new rugs and a whole new theme!

This Is How I Made My Living Room Into a Cheap, Secret Gym

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Like many people during the month of January, I’m vowing to clean up my diet and add more exercise to my weekly routine. But there are a few challenges I’m already running into when it comes to working out.

First of all, the gym is packed! All of my workout classes are filled to the brim and each cardio machine is taken. Second, the temps have been in the single digits here in Chicago, and the thought of freezing my buns off on my walk to the gym is enough to make me hit the snooze button instead of getting in that a.m. workout.

So, what’s a gal to do? Improvise!

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Instead, I’m getting my workouts in at home in my “secret gym”. And since we live in a small spot in the city, there’s no buying a huge “Total Gym” machine (sorry, Chuck Norris). How did I manage? I got creative with a few workout items that I can easily store and hide in our condo.

To open my gym, I push my table aside.

Take a look at my family room. Little did you know it doubles as an at-home gym space! I simply move the coffee table and chair … and boom! I’ve got plenty of room to spread out and get sweaty.

“Home gyms” actually take a very small amount of room. Take a look around your home and find a comfortable spot where you have space for an at-home workout. Just give yourself enough space so you don’t break anything or hurt yourself. If you’re looking for a new home right now, it goes without saying: make sure there is accumulative space to make one of these in your home.

I concealed all my workout equipment.

I designated a cabinet in the room for all of my workout equipment. This ensures that I have everything I need right on hand, plus it’s less of an eyesore because it’s hidden. No need for one of those big racks.

I’ve got all of this stuff in one cabinet:

  • Yoga mat
  • Foam roller
  • Weights
  • Resistance bands
  • Printed workout plans

They’re all easily accessible right in here. I used to just throw all of my resistance bands in a random drawer, which actually meant I rarely used them. Now, they’re all organized neatly in the box on the top shelf, so I can grab them and get to work!

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I suggest maybe also investing in a few baskets or a container to organize your workout gear. Sometimes it makes it easy to just grab the entire basket and have access to everything you need at once.

I printed and organized my favorite routines.

I’ve dabbled in various workout routines over the years. I love changing things up to keep myself motivated. You can find lots of awesome workouts online (they’re seriously everywhere) and can print them right at home. I printed off a few of my favorites and put them into this workout binder.

Now, I simply flip through my $2 binder and find my exercise routine for the day. It’s super easy and I no longer have to dig through drawers to find these crumpled sheets of paper in my desk.

Personally, I’ve also run into a few injuries over the years and have had success with physical therapy. Those trips to the therapist left me with lots of random sheets of paper outlining the exercises I needed to do to keep those injuries at bay. You can bet they’re all organized nicely in my at-home workout binder.

I just use a stepping stool, and it works great.

Some of the full-body workouts I do require a step, to get in some cardio. Since I have absolutely zero space for a workout bench to step up on, I improvise with a step stool. This little guy easily fits into a closet and I bring it out when it’s time for my sweat on. Consider buying one with two steps so you can always make things more challenging as you progress with your workouts.

If you don’t believe you can get a good workout with just a stool, you obviously have never tried it!

A Closer Look at the Supplies

Instead of running to the sporting goods store for tons of crazy equipment, I invested in the essentials.

Smart Dumbbells

Light weights and heavier weights should do the trick for most routines. My husband actually purchased these smart dumbbells that can start at five pounds and go all the way up to 52.5 pounds … all in the same dumbbell. Definitely a space saver!

Inexpensive Yoga Mat

A yoga mat is another must, even if you’re not a yogi. I love using mine to cushion my knees for push-ups and when I lay on the ground. It’s also great to dampen the sound made when you’re working out! I don’t want to disturb my neighbors downstairs when I’m doing jumping jacks or jump lunges, so I always try to do those exercises on my cushioned mat.

Resistance Bands

Resistance bands are incredibly effective, can be used for just about anything, and are super cheap! (Here’s some from Amazon.) What’s not to love about this gym supply? We have a variety of tensions and use them for full-body workouts.

Finally, I watch stuff on Youtube.

To round it off, a TV or computer that can connect to YouTube is a must for at-home workouts! There are so many free exercise videos online, it just takes some searching to find ones that are right for you. This blog post outlines some of our favorites workout programs that you can do from the comfort of your home.


I’m convinced that you don’t need a huge home or tons of supplies to get in a great at-home workout. Until the new gym members lose motivation, you’ll find me getting my exercise in right from my secret gym at home.

Really Cheap Lifehacks for Storing all Your Holiday Decorations

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Even though much of the holidays are officially behind us, we bet there’s probably still holiday decorations lurking around your home. And to be honest, both of us like keeping up our Christmas trees as long as possible, because you just can’t beat the soft, pretty glow of those lights. Sigh.

However, it’s time to snap out of it and focus on the new year ahead (bring it on 2018!), so into storage the holiday decorations must go. But before you throw everything into a big box and call it a day, we have some easy storage hacks to efficiently pack away all of those holiday items. With these ideas, you can get a head start on your resolution to get your home clean and organized for 2018.

Before you start, purge!

As with most organizational projects, we first suggest taking inventory of what you have and doing a nice little purge. Get rid of decorations you no longer love and donate them. There’s no sense holding onto items that never even make it out of the box each year. Once you have everything that makes the cut for next year, it’s time to buy the proper containers to keep everything organized.

Invest in some different colored bins.

We highly suggest color coordinating your holiday bins. We have red and green bins that hold all of our Christmas decorations. (Get it?) It makes it so much easier every November when it’s time to head to the storage unit and get all of the holiday decor. Instead of hunting, you just grab it! Obviously you can even use some washi tape (or a label maker) to still mark the contents of each bin. There are always great deals on organizational supplies after the holiday, so head to the store and grab the essentials.

Get your wrapping paper under control.

Wrapping paper has been a big nuisance in our household for quite some time. We used to put all of the rolls into the corner of a closet, and whenever you open the closet door they would tumble out and unravel. The worst. Not to mention the paper gets beat up and crinkled when it unrolls.

To tackle this mess, we hit up the hardware store and purchased an inexpensive piece of foam pipe insulation. This cost next to nothing. We got the kind that comes pre-slit, so all we had to do was take scissors and chop it into one-foot pieces. We then slit the foam open and put it around the open wrapping paper to hold the container.

Not only does this keep the open wrapping paper from unraveling, but it also prevents it from rolling around! Now, these rolls lay flat on the top shelf of our closet and are way more organized than before. This is a must-do lifehack, if you ask us.

Store and protect your ornaments this way.

We absolutely hate when we go to decorate our tree and half of our ornaments are broken or tangled together. Next year, we’re not letting that happen! Yes, we invested in a container that is meant to hold small items. You can buy these from a hardware or big box store, and they can hold dozens of ornaments easily. The grid easily keeps the ornaments separated and organized inside.

Before, we never really thought it was worth the money to buy this specific of an organizer, but trust us when we say that we are excited about the prospect of not opening up a box full of broken ornaments next year!

Protip: If you have a bunch of small ornaments on your tree, save some egg cartons from the holiday season. These can be used to hold and separate lots of small and delicate Christmas ornaments. Each one gets its own little “cubbie” so it’s safe when you put it into a larger ornament box.

Prevent “tangled ribbon syndrome”.

If you haven’t noticed by now, the holiday season comes with lots and lots of gift wrapping. We already showed you how to tackle the paper clutter, but the bows are another beast. Personally, we both like to use silk ribbon to wrap our gifts (it just gives gifts a little something extra!), and when you accumulate a lot of spools of ribbon things can get messy really quickly! We used to just keep all of our ribbon in one basket, but it would inevitably become a big tangled mess. We had to get creative.

To keep things organized, we purchased a wire basket and a dowel for less than a dollar. We cut the dowel in half and fished it through the wire basket, along with the spools of ribbon. Now the ribbon is all organized and ready to pull through the holes of the basket! This will make gift wrapping a heck of a lot easier (and faster) during next holidays, or any time of the year, honestly!

We know you may be ready to just throw all of your holiday decorations into a bag or box and into your storage unit. But taking some extra time to efficiently store your holiday decor is well worth it. Just think of how good you’ll feel next year when it’s time to deck the halls, and your holiday decorations are organized and ready to go!

This Is How Easy It Is to Make Your Home Smell Like Christmas

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We love all of the amazing smells associated with this time of year … cookies in the oven, peppermint hot cocoa and fresh pine from a new Christmas tree. But because we’re holiday obsessed, we like to take things one step further. Yes, we have our own recipe for a potpourri to make your entire house smell like the holidays, and it works extremely well.

Plus, it’s a cinch.

Now we know what you’re thinking. Potpourri? Isn’t that the dried up stuff in my Grandma’s bathroom? Fear not, potpourri has made a comeback. And the potpourri we’re talking about is a mixture of fresh ingredients and spices that are warmed on the stovetop or in a slow cooker. Heating things up makes the concoction that much more fragrant, so it can fill your house with heavenly aromas!

Stovetop potpourri ingredients

  • 1 cup fresh cranberries
  • 1 orange (sliced)
  • 6 cinnamon sticks (break them in half)
  • 1 T. cloves
  • 1/2 t. nutmeg
  • 4 cups water

Instructions

Combine all ingredients in a small pot and simmer over low for as long as you want. If the water gets low, add more and toss in some more ingredients. There’s no exact science to it, so add more of anything that you like. Personally, we love adding a few extra cinnamon sticks to really let that smell permeate throughout our homes.

That’s honestly it!

Enjoy the holiday smells all day long.

If you don’t want to leave your stove on all day long, we highly suggest using a slow cooker! Just place all of the ingredients in the pot and put it on low for a couple of hours.

We actually did this when we put our Christmas decorations up this year. With Christmas tunes blaring, and this heavenly concoction in the slow cooker, our day of decorating was that much more enjoyable.

But it doesn’t just smell amazing, this concoction is also a feast for the eyes. The cranberries add such a beautiful pop of color, along with the orange slices.

If you’re hosting any holiday parties this year, we suggest you get this potpourri going a few hours before the party begins. When guests enter they’ll be greeted with the amazing aroma of the season. If that doesn’t get you the title of “hostess with the mostess”, we don’t know what will!

Cheers to a magical and fragrant holiday season!

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