Tips to Survive DIY Projects with your Significant Other

Whenever Finn and I do a big project together, I’m always bombarded with questions about how we manage to survive projects side-by-side. How do we not kill each other when projects go awry and DIY gets stressful? First of all, I’m here to clarify that we have our moments! We are certainly not smiling and giggling every step of the way when we are tackling large DIYs together. Not at all. However, we always make it out the other side with a completed project and more importantly, an intact marriage!Our new garage floor

Our Garage Floor Project

I thought it would be fun to share our tips on how to survive DIY projects with your spouse (or significant other). These are small things that can make a big difference on project days and these are tips that we’ve learned from trial and error. So let’s get to it…

Don’t Let Anyone Get Hangry

Roasted red pepper frittata

Breakfast Frittata Recipe

This first one is the most important for us because Finn gets (self-admittedly) super hangry (hungry + angry = hangry). If the man doesn’t have food in his system, he is not a happy camper. Since we discovered that, we started making it a priority to have a big breakfast on the days of big projects. When building our built-ins, we would wake up early on Saturday mornings and walk to the diner down the street for a big breakfast. We would strategize our day over coffee and omelets and it was a great way to start our project days!Trail mix during work

Then, during projects, we always have trail mix in the room with us. I know, I know…this sounds over the top, but it works! Oh, and full water bottles at all times. And finally, we always order food for dinner and have it set to arrive at a particular time. Project days can get crazy and the time flies by. In the past, we would find that it was 8:00 pm and we were starving with nothing to eat and a filthy kitchen. Now, we have an order placed and ready to arrive that evening so we can eat, shower, and clean up from that day’s work.

Set Aside TimePut projects on the calendar when you diy with your spouse

The only way projects get done around here is if they’re on the calendar. I send Finn a google invite for any big project we have. That way, he can reserve the day and we’re both on the same page. This is also nice because I can try to estimate how many days we’ll need for that particular project and plan it all out ahead of time. (Although, I will say that most projects take us longer than we anticipate!)Finn cutting with the circular saw

And I know I’ve given this tip ten times before, but we always shop for our project supplies during the week. I put our shopping trip on the calendar for Thursday or Friday night. That way, we can wake up on Saturday and get to work! Shopping during the week is faster because it’s less crowded and we can make sure we have everything we need ahead of time.

Every Project Needs a LeaderSharing a behind-the-scenes look of January 2020

Installing the Built-In Cabinet Base

Every project needs someone to take the lead. That doesn’t necessarily mean that that person is “in charge” for the entire project, but someone needs to call the shots, keep the day on task, and create the gameplan for how big things will get done. I’m usually the leader for the overall direction of the project (planning, figuring out what to buy, setting the calendar dates), but Finn usually takes the lead on project days. That’s what works for us, but figure out what works best for you!

Before you Start, Discuss It ThroughOur new steel beam in the living room

We will often have an informal meeting before starting a big project to sit down and talk it through. This is usually where I’ll present my ideas to Finn, show him pictures, and we’ll create a supply list together – checking what we have, figuring out what we need to order, checking our tools, etc. I sometimes have these big ideas in my head, but it’s not until I sit down with Finn that I can really start to figure out how we can actually make them happen.Power tools 101

Our Favorite Power Tools

I think it’s important to have a meeting prior to the project day to really talk everything through and see any potential problems that might arise during the project.

Play to Your Individual StrengthsReader survey feedback adding Finn to more content

DIY Butcher Block in Laundry Room

While we’re both hard workers, Finn and I have very different strengths. He is super detail-oriented and is amazing with numbers. I’m a workhorse and I don’t like to stop until things are done. Finn likes everything to be precise and will do something over and over until he gets it right, but my motto is “Done is better than perfect.”Demoing a fireplace

DIY Marble Fireplace Makeover

Finn obviously handles anything that has to do with math (measuring, cutting accurate cuts, following precise directions), while I’ll do more tedious tasks (painting, caulking, nailing in molding). This really works for us because we’re both able to do tasks for a project that play to our strengths.

Divvy Up Tasks

Our DIY office built-ins

Building the Built-In Bookshelves

To expand on the above tip, you don’t have to work on the same task for an entire project. We like to split things up and often times that means working in two different areas of the home. For example, with the built-ins, Finn worked in the kitchen making cuts while I was up in the office drilling pieces together and building the shelves. We were working together to get the job done as a whole, just not necessarily on the same tasks at the same time. Sometimes it just doesn’t work to have two people doing the same thing.

Set Realistic Goals

Home renovation lessons

I have more of a “pie in the sky” view when it comes to a project and I always underestimate the amount of time something will take. I remember when we were building the built-ins and I told Finn I thought we could build and trim out the upper shelves in a day’s work. He laughed in my face! (And he was so right. I think it took three or four full days just for that. Oops!) I think it’s always good to talk about your goals for the day, but manage your expectations and stay on the same page with your partner throughout the process.

Make it Fun!Wearing a paint suit for spraying

Painting the Built-Ins

Finally, the most important tip I can give you when it comes to DIY projects with your spouse is  – make it fun! Sometimes projects can get stressful – the house is a mess, you haven’t accomplished as much as you want, there is tension in the air. But, I urge you to slow down and enjoy the time you spend working together. Creating a home together and working side-by-side is really special and rewarding. So turn up the music! Take fun pictures! Have a celebratory drink after a hard day of work! Whatever you do, remember that your relationship is more important than any DIY project. So laugh and keep it fun.


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.

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