DIY with 2 jobs and young children: how?

walkin_yesindeedJanuary 24, 2008

Please excuse if this is a dumb question. But honestly, I don't know how you guys do it! I keep reading here about your amazing projects: furniture stripped and beautifully refinished, gorgeous paint colors selected and actually applied to walls (it's that second part that's my problem), carpeting yanked up and concrete floors stained... and if I'm not mistaken, many of you actually work (SAHMs, I include what you do as work -- I mean working whether it's inside or outside the house). You people are giving me a complex, frankly. (:

How do you find the time? How do you keep the children from ingesting the scraped-off popcorn ceilings or doing secret chemistry experiments with the tung oil while you're sanding the patio furniture? Do you ever sleep? How do you roll with the inevitable expansion of any DIY project, so that it takes at least twice as much time as you'd anticipated?

Specifically, I have a bedroom to paint, a freebie set of patio furniture that needs a coat of Rustoleum, some bookshelves and nightstands to paint bright glossy red for my kids' rooms, that kind of thing. None of it is all that much. But both DH and I are professors, both working on books and teaching full loads, and DSs are 3 and 6, and frankly it is all we can do to keep the house somewhat clean and not feed the children a steady diet of mac and cheese. Just the idea of getting DH to help me clean out the garage so I could spray-paint in there is daunting, let alone actually doing the work!

What are we missing? TIA, all!

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We have a one-hour rule in our house. If we can complete something in one hour, then we can DIY. Otherwise, we hire it out.

If you know of Flylady, she advocates that you can do anything 15 minutes at a time. Hokum, if you ask me! I tried painting my bathroom last fall in little spurts. After about 2 months, I had made it half-way around the bathroom, trim only, and was entirely frustrated. I finally gave up and hired it out. :)

    Bookmark   January 24, 2008 at 3:27PM
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My kids are older, and I'm not all that DIY, but I think the secret is to do only what you enjoy, can do in a reasonable amount of time, and farm out or pay for those other jobs.

I'd pay for powder coating or auto body spray the outdoor furniture, and the kids' room stuff. Or hire someone to do it. Or barter for it--do you have students who'd trade you tutoring time for some tasks?

I also think you have to decide--in advance--how much perfection you require.

For me--kid's furniture needs about 80% visual perfection, but a 90% durability rating.

Free patio furniture--if it's vintage Brown and Jordan, I'd pay some bucks for 85% visual perfection. Rescued from Target, Home Depot--65$ visual perfection.

DIY can be a money saver but a time waster and you have to add up how much you have, and have much you want to spend of both.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2008 at 3:34PM
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One other thought, if you do want to DIY some of these things, is to hire a babysitter to tend to the kids. As college profs, I am guessing there might be a few college students that you could get to do an occasional babysitting job for a reasonable sum.

The other thing is to know what the limits are in your life. If you can't paint until you clean out the garage, then you first have to decide if you have the time and energy to do that. If not, then the logical sequence is to hire out the painting.

There are some DIY things I would like to try, but won't, because we don't have a garage. Painting outside, except for small projects, just doesn't work well for me. I don't have a basement, either, so that is not an indoor alternative. Thus, I know the limits of my situation, and act accordingly.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2008 at 3:55PM
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I'm going to guess that those who do more DIY have kids that are older and don't have intensive academic writing as part of their professional endeavors! But then again, I don't know. My husband and I do just about all the work on our house ourselves--you name it and we've done or are planning to do it--but we're in a unique position in that working on our old house is mostly *all* we do right now. That may change in the future, and should we decide we want or need to do other things, this kind of DIY work on the house will definitely slow down to a crawl.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2008 at 3:58PM
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Well, I don't think you're missing any secrets. I would bet most of the posters here have kids that are older - or are at least in school.

I can agree with you 100% that doing the projects you list would be very difficult with little ones around who want to "help". I don't work full time anymore, so that helps alot too. When I was working, I tended to hire painters to do the big projects, or handymen to come in and hang ceiling fans etc. It was very satisfying to come home from work and see my "project" done! I decided it was my contribution to spreading $$ through the economy!

As far as the patio furniture. I would wait until it's warm outside and just do it in the lawn. I waited for a day when the wind was barely blowing so you don't accidentally end up painting your or the neighbor's house with the wind carrying the paint. I just mowed the grass after and presto, the painted grass was gone.

For the bookshelves, you might want to do those projects when you can send the little ones on a play date for the afternoon. I used to do alot of small paint jobs right in their bedrooms - lots of newspaper underneath, and was very careful not to spill! I found it easier than moving the pieces to the basement.

You've got a pretty full load without home improvement tasks! Just take your time and do one at a time and don't stress over how long it takes!

    Bookmark   January 24, 2008 at 3:58PM
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I'm a sahm with 3 young kids - I know exactly what you're talking about. The plain truth is that we don't get much done when the kids are around.

For us what works the best is to spend a few weeks planning details of a project and buying every big and little thing we might need. Then the kids are sent off with family or good friends and we get to work for several uninterrupted hours.

Also, about every 3 months my dh goes on a 'man' trip with our boys and I get an entire weekend to diy to my hearts content. I also do the same for him, except I take the boys somewhere for several hours on a weekend morning.

To me the biggest pain of all is that everything has to be cleaned up - we simply cannot leave out anything so that we can work on the project again the next day or whenever. Setting up and cleaning up for the same project over and over really irks me. But same goes for many chores when it comes to children - cleaning again the room we just cleaned yesterday, making snacks and getting drinks again and again and again, ready the same story 117 times, on and on. I've mostly learned to accept that just like cleaning and child care related chores, my diy projects will never ever, and I mean never in my life time, be finished :)

    Bookmark   January 24, 2008 at 4:19PM
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We both work outside the home as busy professionals and I have elementary school aged children. The only way to do big projects is to hire out. I hire decorators and painters, landscapers, lawn services and cleaning people. I am not too proud to say I'd gladly pay someone else. I don't find the money or even the time the problem--it is deciding WHAT to paint, WHAT to buy, WHAT to do next. There is no confidence.....

    Bookmark   January 24, 2008 at 4:31PM
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I am also thinking that many on this board have older children. We moved to this current house many, many years ago when I only had two and they were tiny. So I would do most of the projects when they went to bed. Then #3 came and it seemed that for many years, we got nothing done.
But that's the way it was - and I would give anything to have all of them back again. Between working and all of their activities, in and out of school, we were constantly hopping.
It has just been in the last few years that we have made some major updates. I looked at the ugly fireplace wall for many years in loathe of it, but there was no changing it unless we had the money to pay someone, and there was a time when we didn't. Plus we like DIY.
I still do projects much the way I did when the kiddos were little. I first make sure I can handle the job. I then gather up all of the supplies we will need and make sure I set aside the time --- whether it means your husband taking the kids - or hiring someone for a day or two.
I personally think the most frustrating part of any project is dragging it out so there is a constant mess. We are currently working on the pathetic bathroom I posted about a few weeks ago. The flooring is in. I need to order the counter, get the paint, primer, etc., etc. When we have everything is when we will set aside the time - and then nothing gets in our way. We get it started and get it finished as quickly as we possibly can --- although in my post above, I stated it usually takes 5 times as long and costs twice the money.
I think you are in a perfect situation to hire someone to watch the kiddos for a day or two. You will accomplish more in that day or two with someone taking care of the kids than you will in two months trying to squeeze in a few minutes here and there - and it will not be totally frustrating, you will enjoy the project and the end result.
Good luck!!

    Bookmark   January 24, 2008 at 4:38PM
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I'm a SAHM with two little ones (not school age). We don't get things done! There's still the trim that needs to go up BUT since dh is more excited about redoing our kitchen island...guess what we're struggling to do now? :)

I'm sure everything will get done but perhaps not in the next five years!

Oh, I did paint my main LR/DR/Kitchen (mostly by myself). I did this during naptime and after my girls went down for the evening. It made for some very long days but I did get it done.

OT- I really, really, desperately need to find a babysitter!

    Bookmark   January 24, 2008 at 4:43PM
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tishtoshnm Zone 6/NM

Dh and I both work full time jobs. I have 4 children, ages 9, 6, 3 and 1. The two older ones are homeschooled and the 3yo has special needs. I consider this time of decorating my idea development phase and the implementation phase will come later. I try to tackle a few things one by one (little things) and eventually I will get around to the larger projects. I think that in the case of the nightstands and bookshelves, if at all possible, I would just put them in the kids rooms unpainted until a later time, irregardless of how they look. Function first, looks later.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2008 at 6:32PM
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I am different - we are both professionals - I own my own business - therefore I always seemed to have that struggling / survival instinct. When my son was in school, our free time was centered around his school & activities. We paid for more things to be done (cleaning, painting, yardwork ) in the leaner years because we simply had no extra time. Now that he is grown, we still have professional jobs, we are renovating all the time, doing as much DIY as possible, but nothing seems to ever get finished! In this area, it is hard to get contractors - there is too much work for them & unless you have a huge job, they are not interested.
Walkin, I think the only thing you are doing wrong, is feeling bad you aren't able to get that stuff done. Your kids aren't going to care that their furniture isn't painted gloss red. They will care if you spend "their" precious time painting instead of kid stuff with them. Enjoy them, and your professional life. All that stuff will wait for you -

    Bookmark   January 24, 2008 at 7:02PM
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No kids. But we both worked 2 jobs in the years immediately following the construction of our home in 1991. We have done virtually ALL the finish work in our home, and all the landscaping ourselves. How?

We put together a list of what needed to be accomplished to get us on the road to "finished". And every day that we didn't work TWO jobs we came home and did something to chip away at the mountain of work that had to be done.

I vividly recall coming home from my "straight" job, taking off the skirt, hose, and heels and priming sheetrock or sanding primed sheetrock. I primed woodwork before dinner and did more of it after dinner. We worked every "day off" and every "weekend". It was relentless and we're still picking away at the finer details.

You have to have a LIST and you have to priortize the things that must be finished first. You have to figure out how to keep the kids amused/out of your hair. I know this is going to sound "mean" and I don't want it come across that way, but how the hell do you think people who crossed the prairies in covered wagons managed? you do WHAT YOU HAVE TO to get done that which you want to see done. It's not easy and it often requires great sacrifice. I remember the discussion about giving up our "second jobs"... we took in boarders to continue the capital needed to get things done at the rate we wanted to see them finished. And we kept room-mates until we retired our mortgage. I can tick off 3 friends, all single mothers, who have done the same thing; they've had long term boarders with kids and they've communally addressed childcare needs. They've been creative and made tough choices. "Modern pioneer women".

You assess your situation. You list the things that have to be addressed. You set priorities. And you work your asses off, learning to satisfy yourselves with the smallest goals. You learn to "make do".

    Bookmark   January 24, 2008 at 7:22PM
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I worked full time, DH had a retail business that took up 7 days a week, I ran a local non-profit, had 5 teenagers, two dogs and 3 cats in a house with one bathroom. I had a DIY list six miles long. I finally, one day asked myself, who was I trying to impress? All my girlfriends homes were just as big a wreck. No one in our group had the to-die-for yards, homes, furnishings we all thought we needed to have. We had means, but no time, and priorities were not in the projects. I mean, if we found some free time, which would we rather have done, taken out the boat or reorganized the garage? (I like the wind in my hair, just so you know!)

So, my 2 cents would be, just put the yard furniture out there. Will you be able to use it like you envision anyway?

Will the kids care that the bookcases don't 'go' with their decor?

Do you HAVE to paint the bedroom?

When the kids get a little bigger, and you've gotten your books done, then you can budget a little more time to those projects you'd like to do, but just aren't that big a priority.

Now the kids have moved out, we've gotten a bigger house and it's just the two of us, and I am spending soooo much time doing all those little things I always wanted to do. I'm loving it.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2008 at 7:48PM
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With very young kids like yours, it's not easy. Preschool hours fly by, that's for sure. I hired a mother's helper (enthusiastic 11 year old) to play with the little ones when they were small. I found in my last house, it took a long time at first but then the projects started to roll-- by the time we moved (7 years) we had done a lot to swing the house our direction. This house, I am being tolerant with myself (to the point of welcoming party guests to a bathroom with garbage bag window treatments, still up 1 year later). It takes a while but things get done. It kind of snowballs. Painting your bedroom might be something you could accomplish in a few stages-- buy the paint one day, tape another, find a couple of afternoons by stashing the kids with a friend or sitter, put on some music, and get it done. Very rewarding, painting. Big effect for relatively minor effort. As your kids get older there will be more time, or (let me rephrase that) more time where you might conceivably be able to do a project because they are not trying to "help." One day they actually WILL be able to help competently, which is entirely cool! Those cute little underfoot anklebiters will become 11 year old girls who can wield a paint roller and 16 year old boys who can heft boxes before you know it.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2008 at 9:51PM
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I have three young kids 5yrs old and under. I now stay at home (but work very hard!) :). We have done some painting in the evening, it's always fun to start painting at 8:00 or 9:00! But really now I have assembled a great group of "helpers" and we hire it out. My painter will paint a bedroom for $100 (2 coats and do a great job), honestly, to me it's not worth getting the supplies out for that! I have a good, and very reasonable handyman too (a retired gentleman that my mom found). Anyway, see if you can ask around or do you have an Angie's list in your area? Hopefully you can find some independent people who are reasonable enough to help you until the kids get older. Good luck!

    Bookmark   January 24, 2008 at 10:11PM
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DH works full time (usually more than 40 hrs because he's the boss now) and I'm a SAHM. We have two kids, ages 8 and 4. We have always had to do our projects with the kids around (DH even had to rip out and put in new subfloor in our bathroom, hallway and part of our bedroom due to a water leak, which I also helped him with and DS was here the entire time). We do not have the money to hire people to help so it's mostly on our own with occasional help from maybe my father or his step father but that doesn't happen often anymore. We either make sure the kids have something to keep them busy (movie, toys, etc) or they help in some way. Most projects are done over the weekend.

I paint a LOT. The kids have learned to stay back or help! LOL DD helped paint her bedroom last year. DS helped me do most of the rooms in our house when he was 3-4. I let them help, just not with the last coat. I actually painted DS's room back when he was 4 and his sister was crawling all over the place! LOL My kiddos stopped napping before the age of two so I just had to find a way! There are ways to do it if you really want to.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2008 at 10:18PM
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