We live in a “do-it-yourself” age. When you’re trying to deal with stress, though, trying to do it all can do you in. I am not simply talking about the stress of trying to balance a job, keeping a home going and raising a family. That’s plenty as it is. But even with all that, if we are not careful, we can pick up the idea that no matter how much we are doing, it will never be enough.
Home improvement DIY shows are full of ideas of things we can do to fix up our homes, our lawns, or our lives. But just because we can doesn’t mean we must, or if we don’t have a talent for it, that we even should. At least, not all at once, or all by ourselves.
Find your own talents.
You can certainly learn the skills to sew, bake your own bread, hang wall paper, or retile your bathroom floor. The question is whether or not you want to. Competing with co-workers, friends or family members who wave their skills at you is an easy trap to fall into if you want to belong. If you love or excel in skills you can share, then absolutely, wow them with your blue ribbon brownies, or whatever it is you do best.
If you have no interest, however, in baking, quilting, or whatever the people around your office do in their spare time, that does not mean you have failed somewhere. Trying to fit in by doing everything someone else does is a sure fire way to cause yourself more stress. You can be generous with your praise for what other people do, without feeling the need to do the same.
Negotiate for your precious free time.
Our families love us, but that doesn’t mean they won’t expect us to drop everything and sew a costume at the last minute, bake cookies for tomorrow’s bake sale, or be the extra pair of hands for some project in the garage. You may not mind. After all, helping each other is part of what family life is all about. But stress can build quickly if you are the only one doing the helping part.
If your own time is limited, don’t be afraid to wheel and deal. Okay, you might say, I’ll make the costume, help with the science project, or hold the car engine, but then I need you to do something as well. DIY can also be a family affair. Working as a team is much more fun, and with luck, makes the project go faster.
For everything there is a season.
DIY can be fun, and give you a great sense of accomplishment. But if your project takes longer than a weekend, don’t be afraid to set other things aside. Give your full attention to being a builder, plumber, or landscaper for a while, and let your kids cook or order out. If visitors come to the door and your house is a mess, so be it. You have plaster on your hands to prove your goals are somewhere else for the day.
Some other day, when your home improvement is done, there will be time to explore new things you want to learn and do. There’s no need to do it all at once.
If you don’t know what you’re doing, hire a pro.
We always hear how much money we’ll save if we do everything ourselves, but if you know you don’t have the skills, and don’t really want to learn them, hire the job out to a professional. Most of us can do simple repairs, but we’re not all meant to be plumbers or electricians, and it could be dangerous for us to try.
In her marvelous book, Never Done: A History of American Housework, author Susan Strasser describes how the “labor saving devices” of the 20th century took some of the hard labor out of housework, but also created the myth that the happy housewife should do everything herself. In the process, it also put a lot of housekeepers and laundresses out of work.
In our enlightened age, we have turned the tables so much that we feel guilty if we pay anything to anyone that we might possibly bungle up nicely ourselves. Don’t fall into the trap. You don’t have to bring home the bacon, cook it, and serve it on your handmade table with the needlepoint chairs. If you do love needlepoint, fine. Let someone else cook.
We cause ourselves stress when our lives are off balance. Trying to do everything, all at once, will throw you out of balance fast. Remove some of your stress, relax, and do the things you’re good at, and the things you love.
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Strasser, Susan, Never Done: A History of American Housework, Macmillan Publishers, 2013.