a guide to DIY

The Awkward Girl’s Guide to DIY

Two months.

That’s how long we’ve been at this stair remodel, folks. Two loooooonnnng months. And, honestly, one of the main things I’ve learned from this experience is that doing DIY is a lot like having a newborn, because not only is it soul-destroyingly exhausting, it also has the ability to warp time. When I wrote the opening sentences of this post, for instance, I had to resist the impulse to write that it had been only two months: because that can’t be right, surely? I mean, it must have been a few years at least? AT LEAST.

(It actually ISN’T right, really: because this week is the start of the THIRD month of this project. That’s almost an entire SEASON, FFS.)

In our defence, it shouldn’t really have taken this long. Not only is the project pretty complicated to begin with, though, Terry’s also been working on it single-handedly (Literally, in fact, during the memorable week when he somehow managed to put a chisel through through his thumb, going right through the nail bed and putting the hand it belonged to out of commission for a few days. “We’ve been doing this for so long now that my thumb nail has grown back in again,” he said to me last week. “Never mind your thumb,” I retorted: “It was winter when we started this. We’ve been at it so long that the seasons have changed, the world has moved on, and Max will be starting university next week.” Or it feels like that, anyway.), and has had to fit it around both his own work, and Max’s nap schedule. (I’ve been taking Max out of the house as much as possible, but he has to come home to sleep, and we can’t exactly start hammering and drilling outside his door when he’s trying to nap…) Oh, and it’s ALSO taken longer because we keep inventing new projects to do at the same time. I spent almost all of yesterday painstakingly painting our magnolia bathroom white, for instance. There was absolutely no reason for it: it was just that my parents had Max for a few hours, and, well, the tub of white paint was just sitting there. What’s a girl to do? Other than “ANYTHING BUT THAT,” obviously?

So it’s been challenging, to put it mildly. The good news, however, is that the end is almost in sight (Or so I’m told, anyway…), so, as we prepare to unveil our shiny new stairs, I thought I’d take a quick look back over the last couple of months, and offer some sage words of advice for anyone else who finds themselves facing weeks of relentless DIY, with no end in sight…

car selfie

Step 1:
Abandon all hope

Going into a large-scale DIY project, it’s tempting to tell yourself that it’ll be OK: that you’ll just be really, really organised, and that it won’t be THAT much of a hassle, really. This is just a lie you tell yourself to make things seems less hopeless than they are, though, and it’s better to just face the stark reality of the situation: it will be hell, and you know it will, so the sooner you accept that, the better.

Over the last few weeks, for instance, there’s been a few times when my mum has walked into our house, looked around in horror, and then asked me how on earth I’m coping with all of the mess. The answer to that is simple, though: it’s that I am completely dead inside now. I have accepted that this project will just go on forever, and that I’m never going to see my kitchen worktops again. Max probably doesn’t even know there are worktops under all of the powder tools and random bits of rubble strewn all over them, and honestly? It’s better that way. He can’t miss what he doesn’t remember, after all, can he?

Step 2:
Lower your cleaning standards. A lot.

As some of you know, I’m fairly anal when it comes to cleaning/tidying, and I find it really hard to function in a mess. The solution to this? Just don’t function, obviously. Or not any more than you have to, anyway. With previous lengthy DIY projects, I’ve tried my best to wage war against the mess, and have diligently attempted to clean things up every night, only to have to repeat the entire process the next day. This, however, is a fool’s errand: there’s just no point in trying to deep clean a house that’s in the middle of a major reno – it’s like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, really – so, instead, I’ve been working on just accepting that the house is a mess, and will remain a mess until the very end of this whole, sorry process. I’ve also been planning a really huge cleaning session, when that day finally comes. I’ve bought one of those extra large bottles of Zoflora and everything, because, yes, I am one of those annoying bloggers who likes to buy Zoflora and then talk about it a lot. Yes I am.

(In a cruel twist of fate, I’d originally bought Zoflora’s ‘Winter Morning‘ for my celebratory cleaning session, but it seemed like a waste to use it while the house was still a building site, so I put it aside for when it was all done, but then, of course, the the project dragged on for so long that winter ended. It doesn’t really seem appropriate to use ‘Winter Morning’ in April, somehow, so I’ve had to go out and buy Hello Spring, instead. I’m quite excited, not gonna lie.)

Lower your cleaning standards, DIY-ers. Then lower them some more.

messy hall

Step 3:
But keep at least one corner of the house clear

If you’re only DIY-ing one room, it’s relatively easy to try to confine the mess to that one space. (I assume it is, anyway. We’ve actually never managed that, but I expect normal people could?) When you’re doing a staircase, however, the mess reaches every single part of your house, so there’s absolutely no escape from it. OR IS THERE?

Our house has been comprehensively destroyed by this project (Seriously, even the main bathroom has been constantly filled with building crap, because there was nowhere else for it to go…), but we have managed to keep two spaces mess-free: Max’s room, and our en-suite bathroom. Now, Max’s room isn’t totally pristine, because, well, a toddler lives in it, but trust me, the en-suite has NEVER been cleaner. Ever. It’s the only room I have any control over, so I’ve been making the most of it. I haven’t cracked open the celebratory Zoflora obviously, because I’m not a savage, but I DID buy the bathroom a new shower caddy and toilet brush, and I WOULD have bought it a new soap dispenser, too, but I haven’t found the right one, yet. Honestly, I’d live in that bathroom if I could: and if this project doesn’t end soon, who knows, I might have to…

Step 4:
Dig out your oldest clothes

Other than when I’ve had to leave the house to meet someone, I’ve basically been living in workout clothes for the past two months – which is hilarious, really, because I haven’t actually worked out since 2016. The thing is, though, if I try to wear “real” clothes, they just instantly get covered in dust, so, like the Zoflora, I’m saving them for the possibly mythical day when I finally have a nice, clean house to live in again, and we can go back to wiping our feet before we enter the house, rather than before we leave it. That would be nice, wouldn’t it?

Surviving a stair remodel

(Yes, I know I’m wearing jeans in this photo, but those are my painting jeans. I didn’t want to get paint on my workout clothes, obviously…)

Step 5:
Watch cleaning videos on You Tube

Have you ever wondered what kind of sad fool sits around watching You Tubers clean their homes? Well, wonder no more, people: IT ME. I LOVE watching cleaning videos on You Tube. And, OK, a lot of the time it just makes me feel painfully inadequate, and a complete failure as a person, to see all of those immaculately dressed women clean things that weren’t actually dirty in the first place, but other times it makes me feel all calm, and at peace with the world. Until I look around at the mess I’m sitting in, obviously, and realise that no amount of scented candles or chunky blankets are going to fix this, are they? BRB, just having a quick breakdown…

Step 6:
Repeat after me: “It’ll be worth it when it’s done. It’ll be worth it when it’s done.”

When you embark upon any major DIY project, people will start telling you that it’ll be nice when it’s finished, and that it’ll all be worth it in the end. At first, you’ll simply smile through gritted teeth while inwardly screaming, “BUT IT’LL NEVER BE DONE, DAMMIT!” but, in time, you will come to adopt this mantra as your own: to live by it, and to fall asleep muttering it aloud.

It’ll all be worth it. It’ll all be worth it. It’ll all be worth it.

And it WILL. And all it’ll have cost you will be every last penny you have, plus what’s left of your sanity. Bargain, huh?

The rest of the story:

Stairway remodel: demo day

A DIY Diary

P.S. I write a weekly diary which goes out every Friday to my subscribers. Sign up below to get on the list...

books by Amber Eve
  • Hang in there, it WILL end. Although you probably can use the winter cleanser by then again…

    Anne – Linda, Libra, Loca

    April 4, 2019
  • Lol at what Anne said 🙂 If it’s anything like my house renovation, she’s right!!

    Hang in there Amber. I know it feels rubbish now, and it is amazing how living in a messy space can eat away at your soul, but it will be so worth it when it is done. Just think of those beautiful stairs? Already looking amazing though! Nearly there! Just tell Terry to be a bit more careful with the tools, you don’t want any more delays! 😉 xx

    April 4, 2019
  • Catherine


    Will it be Zoflora cocktails when it’s all finished?

    April 4, 2019
  • Myra


    Take heart. My cousin’s husband has been building their kitchen for four years, and she sees no end in sight. I don’t know how she she does it. It would drive me mad. At least yours will be finished soon. Looking forward to seeing the ohoris.

    April 4, 2019
  • Myra


    Or photos even lol

    April 4, 2019
  • Laura


    Hi Amber,

    First off, love ur blog!! I am contacting u bcos I recently had a miscarriage & to be honest , I’m completly WTF! Was fine b4 this happened, happy without kids & now, the pampers aisle in Asda sends me running!!

    I am now considering IVF, which old me Is like how r u in this place, but here we r! What I’ve found is there’s lots of info but no direct contact. So really sorry, but hey, ur it!! Hope my Scottish wit comes through there….

    Anyway, was just wondering if u’d found any helpful websites, insight, all powerful wisdom in ur journey!

    Thanks xx

    April 4, 2019
  • Laura


    Hi Amber,

    Thank you for responding. That means so much!!
    Keep doing u!! xx

    April 9, 2019