Ask Us Anything No. 3

Earlier this year, we started a new series called, “Ask Us Anything!”  We certainly get lots of design-related questions, and we’re trying our best to answer those in our Reader SOS blog post series. But we still get tons of questions about things outside of the DIY/design field. That’s when the idea for our “Ask Us Anything!” series began.

Ask Us Anything!

You can check out our first Ask Us Anything: Blogging Edition right here and Ask Us Anything No. 2 right here.  We’ve gotten awesome feedback on this series, so we’re so excited to check in with this post every month or so. Be sure to submit your questions in the comments, or send us an email at [email protected]

If you could be featured on one HGTV show, which one would it be?

Okay, how fun is this question? So creative. It may come as a surprise, but neither of us watch much HGTV! Shocking, we know. While we do get inspired by a lot of their shows, so many are about real estate or projects with million dollar budgets (not exactly our speed.) We miss the budget-friendly design and DIY shows that they used to have! In a perfect world, we’d have our own HGTV show where we showcase real people, with real home dilemmas, and real budget-friendly design and DIY projects. That way viewers can learn takeaways to implement into their own homes.

However, we are soooo excited about Trading Spaces coming back (TLC, not HGTV). While their designs were sometimes legit insanity, it is such an entertaining show! And even though we don’t consistently tune into Fixer Upper, how can you not love Chip & Joanna?!

How did you find a following in the initial stages of your blog? Did it take you a while to build an audience? 

When we started the blog way back in 2013, we secretly created content for 6 months before making our blog public. Not only did we want to create a nice archive of content, but we also wanted to be sure that we enjoyed blogging enough to stick with it. We were hooked right from the start and decided to have a “launch day” where we made the blog public and told everyone we knew about it. We created an email template that included information about the blog and had our families email it out to everyone they knew! We also put it out on our personal social media channels and just tried to get the word out about the blog. That gave us some nice momentum from the start and I think we even got 10,000 pageviews that first day (which felt like a million pageviews to us at the time!) just from having people we knew spread the word.

We certainly haven’t grown super fast and didn’t see overnight success. It’s been a slow and steady upward progression and each year we gain more and more readers. Consistent and quality content is the name of the game for us, so if we keep on doing that we’re confident we will continue to grow!

What do you guys do for fun/hobbies?

Between jobs and the blog, it’s sad to say that neither of us has much room in our jampacked schedules for hobbies. God, we sound pretty pathetic. But we do both have ways to relax and de-stress…

Casey: I’m a very active person and can’t sit still for very long, so I love being on the move. I do a lot of workout classes and have really gotten into yoga in the past 6 months or so. I was a dancer growing up and through college, so anything to get my body stretched and moving feels amazing! For fun, I hang out with my family a lot. My siblings and mom all live in the city, so we have a lot of dinners out and time hanging with my niece and nephew.

Bridget: Like Casey, I mostly spend all of my “free time” hanging with my family and friends. I have two amazing sisters that I consider my best friends so spending time with them is always fun, not to mention my favorite little nephew. I also love hanging out with my mom and dad. Is it weird that our favorite couple to  “double date” with is my mom and dad?!  They’re just the best. Outside of family, I love taking my camera and exploring new places, usually on day-trips with Matt. And slowly but surely I’m trying to adopt exercise as a new hobby. It’s not always easy for me to get out there but when it’s over, I really do enjoy the feeling.

I think Casey has mentioned before that they have an amazon echo… if so, what are your favorite ways to use it? 

I feel like we certainly don’t use our Amazon Echo Plus to its full potential, but I will say that we use it just about every single day. I ask the weather every morning, and often set timers when we’re in the kitchen cooking. We also have our lamps all setup to our Alexa too. I have a night time ritual of going around the house around 7pm, where I’ll lower the shades, light my favorite candle, turn off the overhead lights, and turn on the lamps (we use these smart bulbs). I simply say, “Alexa, turn on the lamps” and all of the lamps in our place turn on automatically! You have to plug the lamps into a smart plug (we use these ones) to make it work, but it does feel pretty cool and saves me time. We also have an Echo Dot in our master bedroom since our Alexa in the main room can’t reach all the way back there.

Oh, and we can’t get enough of Jeopardy! Finn and I sit on the couch every Friday night and catch up on Jeopardy for the week. Yes, big time party animals over here.

Bridget, how will you manage full-time work, blogging, and the baby? 

That’s a great question, I’ll have to get back to you when I figure it out!! I’m pretty nervous about going back to school and “juggling it all” because quite honestly, it’s hard getting all of my blog work done now and I’m on maternity leave. The good news is that I don’t have to go back full-time until August (outside of the last week of May) so I’m hoping Ben will be on a schedule by then and I’ll have a better idea of how I can fit it all in. If you have any tips, I’m all ears!!

I’m starting a blog. It’s completely overwhelming, but I think my biggest challenge is photography. Should I start by using some good stock photos? Should I try to shoot something every day just to get more comfortable?

Starting a blog is definitely overwhelming, that’s why we’ve dedicated a lot of posts to the topic (including this one that has a step-by-step guide for those early days). Photography was a challenge for us at the beginning too. In fact, we both used our point and shoot cameras for the first 6 months of the blog. You know, the digital cameras you had from college that you’d take out to the bars and then inevitably lose? Oh wait, was that just me?

Moral of the story, you’re not gonna be good at first. And lord knows our photos in the first few years (!) will prove that. But the best thing you can do is invest in a DSLR camera (here’s a list of our favorite equipment) and learn how to shoot in manual. Practice every single day and you will get better and better. We would suggest staying away from stock photos and definitely do not use anyone else’s work on your blog (without their explicit permission!). 99% of the content on our blog is owned by us and we admire bloggers who don’t rely on other photography to create content.

My question for Bridget is, how much did you budget to spend on your house’s renovation? And how do you know when enough is enough when renovating? 

To be perfectly honest, Matt and I are amazing savers, but we aren’t so great at sitting down and coming up with a detailed budget (we need Finn in our household!!). We figured out what our finances would look like when we bought our new house. Then we chatted about what amount we didn’t want to dip below in our bank account. Since then we’ve taken one project at a time and as long as we don’t dip below that magic number, we move onto the next project. I wish I had more of a strategic gameplan to report back because I really admire those who have more of a financial system in place… ours is very amateur!

I’d love to know what you think your “big break” was if one event really changed the trajectory of your blog!

This is such a fun question because it forced us to stop and think about some of the amazing experiences we’ve had over the past 5 years. We’d have to say we felt like “legit bloggers” when we did our first Lowe’s Home Makeover in Buffalo, NY back in 2015.  We had tons of people submit their spaces and we then chose a backyard to makeover in 48 hours. We flew to Buffalo and worked with a talented team of Lowe’s volunteers to transform a space over a weekend. It was our first big partnership with Lowe’s Home Improvement, and we’ve been lucky to partner with them several times since then. We even did another home makeover with them, but that time it was right here in the Chicagoland area.

Here’s a video of that awesome transformation. Another big moment that really took our blog to the next level.

To submit questions for May’s Ask Us Anything post, comment below or email us at di[email protected]. We can’t wait to read your questions!


The Year of Casey

Hey there!

I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m married to Finn & mom to Rory and Ellis. Together we’re creating our dream home in Chicago, one DIY project at a time.