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After Cassie shared her story about learning to sew, I thought I'd briefly describe my journey learning to DIY.
It started when I was a kid. I've always loved to build things. Puzzles, LEGO, robots, computers, arts & crafts. My grandma would always do art projects with me when she watched me (which, looking back, was very often 🤔). My grandparents also owned the first PC I ever used.
Building in the digital space
On the technology side – my dad was a consultant early in my life and so I had access to computers. I tinkered with them at first. Quickly that grew into building computers and then being a freelancing web designer through high school. I taught myself programming and went to school for business then made a career out of software development.
I just enjoy building things and the digital medium is so malleable--I have skills in video editing, graphic design, programming, game design, writing, and probably others I can't think of. I found it a lot more approachable than building physical things even though when I did, I enjoyed it. Plus the Maker community proves it's possible to merge the two!
Building in the physical space
On the physical side – my dad was a first-generation immigrant from Pakistan so I remember when he started out working on cars then got his degree and went into software engineering. He always did things himself at home and throughout my teen years I helped put in new hardwood floors, change windows, and painted the house. I wouldn't say I was overly interested in DIY but I enjoyed aspects of it and appreciated the effort that went into projects.
It's in my blood?
I added this section recently (in March 2021) because as I was re-reading this it occurred to me I completely glossed over the fact that my mom's dad was in construction when I was growing up. He retired by the time I entered college but I vividly remember visiting job sites, riding bob cats, and just generally being exposed to construction work early in my childhood. My grandpa built his retirement home, he built a warehouse next to it and has a collection of pinball machines and a home theater in that out-building. I kind of forgot all of that since it's been so long but now having watched so many building science and DIY videos in the past year, a lot of that is coming back to me.
On my dad's side, his family came from a line of blacksmiths in Pakistan tracing back to the Moghul empire. His dad worked hard in laboring to make things, my dad himself labored a ton as a mechanic before becoming a software engineer to support our family and his family back home.
I don't know if it's proven that proclivities for different hobbies pass down but I do believe there's some element of growing up in that environment and being exposed early on that made an impact on me. So maybe it's more in my blood than I initially thought.
Being a "Maker"
I think both these experiences building things with technology and participating in home projects as a kid instilled a love of building in me and that desire is something I also want to pass onto my kids. Rather than being a pure consumer I believe there is more reward and more joy in creating. I think my wife is seeing the same joy in learning to sew.
For me there was definitely more emphasis and passion on the purely digital side like software and web design but lately I've dipped a foot in Maker culture--which is merging both digital and physical like Raspberry Pi, Arduino, drones, etc. That is a subject that will definitely make it into this blog.
Motivation to DIY
We were renters for a long-time, about 8 years since graduating college. After we took a sabbatical we rented a house for 2 years before finally becoming homeowners in 2018.
Throughout that whole time I've done small projects in each of the places we were but it was nowhere near the scope of projects I am looking at now while owning a home. It's easy to underestimate the true costs of owning a home until you start to look into improvements (I mean, how much could painting a house really cost? 💰 Oh. That much.).
Now that I've gotten quotes for various improvements we'd like to make, my main motivations to be a DIYer are:
- To develop new (useful) skills 🛠
- To save (boatloads of?) money 🚢💰
I think there are other benefits such as understanding building materials, what labor goes into projects, and what are reasonable quotes for work. By understanding what goes into the projects I want to do I can better understand if it's worth my time to invest versus just hiring out specific, scoped work.
This past year I did some small repairs like replacing my kitchen faucet, sealing bathroom and windows with caulk, installed a new mailbox on cement siding, and fixing a toilet rubber seal. I also painted the windows and trim of our daughter's nursery (it looks awesome). Doing small things like this builds confidence and it gave me confidence to start learning more about home DIY.
It isn't just about DIY, I also like design
Ever since I can remember, design has always been a part of my identity. I did web design as a kid and through it learned about graphic and visual design. I never went to school for it or took formal classes but I've always appreciated things that were aesthetically pleasing. I admired the architecture of nice houses. I take an interest in building materials. I like finding inspiration from others. So my journey isn't going to only include pure hardware DIY projects, I hope to expand my knowledge and learning about spatial and interior design (and decorating).
It's a bit funny because Cassie has like zero interest in interior design. She likes the end result but she isn't the one moving pictures, changing furniture around, or thinking about what the best storage solution would be for our kids nook in the basement. That's what I'm interested in. I'm just not that good at it yet (hopefully you can help!).
Come learn with me
Part of my goal with this blog is to encourage myself to continue doing DIY projects and learning about design. I recognize that in order to become better I need to do. I'm counting on this blog (and you) to help me.
I just recently finished building a custom egress window cover and I'm excited to share that soon. I learned a lot while doing it and even though it took a lot of time, I did save a lot of money and had fun doing it. It embodies my feelings I expressed above: it's functional and it looks good (to us... 🥁).
The biggest obstacles for me will be time. I work on software projects during the evening most nights so the tough part will be making the time in an already packed week. However, Cassie and I try to do "screen-free Thursdays" where we take a break from the virtual world and I think that's when I need to find time.
I expect there will be projects where I don't or can't do all the work myself but I hope to work through it on this blog. Soon I'll be sharing a "housing upgrade tree" I put together to help track projects and I plan to share progress updates like planning, picking materials, and tools. Not only will it hopefully be helpful to other aspiring DIYers but it'll serve as motivation to get things done. Perhaps as the readership of this blog grows, you all can help us out too!