Ask Us Anything No. 6

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!Ask Us Anything No. 6 DIY Playbook

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].

You Ask, We Answer!You ask, we answer

These first 2 questions are very similar, so we’re going to combine our answer…

Buying a New Propertyinvesting in a new property for DIY

Are there any properties near to where you live that you’d love to get your hands on to gut and redo? 

Have you (individually or collectively) considered buying a property in the area to fix up for content in the short term and rent out (full-time or Air BnB) as a long-term investment? (Maybe I’ve been geeking out over too many personal finance blogs lately, but I think this would be a great and lucrative fit for you.)flipping houses through DIY projectsWe absolutely love these questions because this is something we talk about A LOT. We’ve definitely discussed buying a lake house together that we would fix up and then use with our families during the summertime (and probably rent out when not in use). However, that is definitely something we wouldn’t do until much later (when kids are a little older and could appreciate it!). So we consider the lake house goal to be something we would want to do in about 5-10 years together. creating an outdoor patioHowever, we have definitely entertained the idea of “flipping” a house locally. We’re not big fans of the word “flip”, because it implies that you’re doing it on the cheap just to sell a home quickly. Instead, we think it would be really awesome to buy a house in need of some major TLC and spend a good year fixing it up (while documenting it on the blog, of course!) to eventually sell for a profit. We think it would quite the learning experience and it would make for some amazing blog content!

We still have a lot to discuss and figure out before we would buy a property together, but this is definitely something that is top of mind and would be oh so fun!

Budgeting for Home Projectsbudgeting for home projects

My husband and I are new homeowners. We love your blog and want to make similar updates to our home, but are trying to decide how much is a reasonable amount to spend on projects and furniture in a year without going over budget. How do both of you budget for home improvements? 

simple projects for your home

First, we think there are a lot of DIY projects that you can tackle right away that don’t break the bank. Painting walls, demoing trim, adding new light fixtures, installing board & batten…these are all DIY projects that are fairly inexpensive and can make a big impact right away!home doesn't happy overnightWe’re also big fans of living in a home for a while before making any major changes or buying pricey furniture pieces. Because if you buy items right away, you often end up with design regret (more on that rookie mistake right here). So taking a year or so to save money before diving into major home improvement projects is a-okay (& encouraged!). Bridget even wrote a post about making the most of the spaces in her home (like her bathrooms and kitchen), while saving up to renovate all of these areas. budgeting tips and tricksAs for budgeting, here’s what we each do…saving for DIY and home decor projects

Casey: When it comes to planning for home improvement expenses, Finn and I are always thinking about the long-term investment of our property. Over the past 3 years, we’ve dramatically improved the resale value of our home through hard work, DIY projects, and home improvement projects we’ve hired out (like our built-ins). We’re careful not to “over improve” our condo too much, but we also make sure to spend money wisely to improve our place so we can sell it for more down the line. Because we know we won’t be living here forever, we always have that on our mind when it comes to home improvement projects. If we think we’ll get a return on our investment and it’s a change we’re both excited about (like our recent bathroom renovation), then it’s usually a worthwhile cost in our to budget for projects

Bridget: Matt and I are really great at saving. Our method for budgeting for new projects is not very technical (we need a Finn in our household!!) but it works for us. So I’m not sure if you want to follow our lead, but for purposes of answering this question — here’s what we do.landscaping and budget questions

We have a “magic number” we don’t want our bank account to dip under. So after every project, we look at that magic number and as long as it’s still intact, we are good to move on to the next project. Because we are such great savers (and consistently live below our means), we don’t really flirt with coming close to that magic number and therefore,  are always ready to move onto the next project. In the few cases where we have come close, we just take some time to save and then start again when it’s time!

Sharing Family Momentssharing baby photos online

Bridget, how did you decide how much of Ben’s life you’re comfortable sharing publicly?

This is such a great question and honestly, one I wish I had a better answer to. I spent a lot of time analyzing my “plan” for this before Ben was born, but to be totally transparent, I haven’t thought about it a ton now that he’s here. I think I’m still testing the waters and trying to figure out the perfect amount.

Do I want to parade him all over the internet? No. Do I want to keep him secret and secluded from the blog, which is an important part of our family’s life? No. Am I mindful of what photos I share and how much personal information I give (like location, eventually school, friends, family)? YES! Do I think this topic will be even more relevant when he’s a bit older… and has an opinion? Yes!!

sharing baby photos on the DIY PlaybookMy hope is that we can test the waters a bit now since he’s got a bit more anonymity as a baby. Hopefully, by the time he’s older, I will have learned the amount of “sharing” that works for our family. I can see both sides of this debate and honestly respect both. I’m someone who airs on the private side, but I also realize the blog is a big part of our family, so it’s only natural to include Ben. AND selfishly, having some of these memories and information documented seems like an invaluable gift I can give to Ben someday.

My answer in short — I try to be mindful of what I share. I’m not perfect, I know I’ll make mistakes. But we’re learning together and hopefully documenting our family’s journey for Ben to look back on someday.

Decluttering your Homeanswering questions about getting rid of old stuff

Like Casey, I get a small sense of relief for everything I’m able to give away. But I only wish my partner shared my feelings about this. Any advice for balancing the minimalist life with a borderline-hoarder spouse?

getting organized and purging

Wow, such a good question and honestly a topic that neither of us has thought about much before. Each of our spouses is totally on board with our minimalistic approach to stuff in the home and they’re the first ones to suggest a good purge and clean out when things get too overwhelming. To read more about Casey’s recent purge, check out this postthe importance of purgingBut what to do when your partner is the one accumulating all.the.things?!

First, items in the home belong in a few categories…your stuff, your partner’s stuff, and stuff you have together. When it comes to your own personal possessions (clothing, toiletries, books, etc.) you should purge and edit as much as you want! As for the items in the “shared” category, you should definitely each have a say in what stays and what goes. We would suggest taking a day to go through all of the items in this category (probably most of your kitchen stuff) and make a large giveaway pile. Then loop your partner into the mix and talk about each and every item in the pile. This is where that famous relationship word comes in…compromise. You both will need to be willing to keep and part with items during this process.

Maybe your partner just didn’t want to go through the work of paring everything down and creating that pile, so if you do a big chunk of the hard work yourself, he might be on board and will part with far more items than you originally thought! answering reader questions about decor decisionsAs for the items that only belong to your partner, well that’s a different story. We’re all entitled to our own stuff and there could be many reasons why he isn’t keen on giving things away. If things are really affecting you and your home (i.e. the piles and mess is out of control!), this definitely warrants a conversation. Talk about how you want your home to feel (for us, we want it to be a calming and relaxing oasis away from the stress of the world), and explain that all of the junk in the house is preventing that comforting feeling of home. Sometimes all it takes is an open and honest conversation to get to the root of the issue, and in the end, you’ll both be happier.

Losing the Baby Weightanswering question about pregnancy weight gain

I just had a baby two months ago and so I’d love to hear updates on B’s journey of losing her baby weight.

First off, congratulations!! Secondly, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE give your body grace. I know that’s easier said than done, but seriously, you should be SO FREAKIN’ PROUD of your body right now.

Losing the baby weightI gained 40 pounds during my pregnancy and had my work cut out for me when I came home. Not to mention, my body was in bad shape after labor (I’ll spare you the graphic details). I didn’t love the way that I looked and definitely missed my body, but really tried to focus on the fact that my body just grew and delivered a healthy baby, which was far more important than what the scale said.

Fast forward six months, and I’m back down to my pre-baby weight. Breastfeeding helped take some of the weight off and just being busy took some of the weight off, too. And to get those last ten pounds (the stubborn ones!) off, I ate very healthy and cut almost everything “unhealthy” out of my diet. I gave up sweets, bread, cheese, and unhealthy snacks and only drank water and coffee for a month. I still want to get more active to feel stronger, but I’m happy with the progress I’ve made.

Bridget pregnancy questionAnd now that I’m back to my “goal weight”, I’d tell myself six months ago– who gives a shit about the extra weight!! You just had a freakin’ baby…I promise you’ll be back to normal someday (even if that seems impossible at the moment). In the meantime, relax and enjoy.

Submit your QuestionsBridget & Casey DIY Playbook answer your questions

You can submit your questions for next month’s “Ask us Anything” post. Just email [email protected] with the subject line “Ask us Anything”.


The Year of Casey

Hey there!

I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m a Chicago gal teaching you how to design, DIY, and maintain your home…by yourself! Learn more about me right here.