When I moved into my first solely owned house, post-divorce at 32, I was buzzing. My own place, to do whatever the hell I liked with. How bloody exciting! And then I quickly realized that I didn’t have a frigging clue how to do any of the things I wanted to do.
Even the seemingly simple tasks like hanging up a mirror in my living room, I didn’t know where to start. My Ex Husband had been the DIYer. And I’d never paid too much attention to how anything was done. But the thing was, he was no longer around.
Sure, there were jobs that were just too big for me, and at times I needed to call upon a pro. But I didn’t always have the free cash to make that happen. Or tasks I roped a family member or friend into to help with. Yet as I’d bought a place too far from family and friends to call upon them regularly – Partly as being further up North meant being able to afford a house in the first place – I mostly had to learn to do things by myself.
It’s really empowering becoming a handywoman
Honestly, it’s true. I loved becoming self-reliant and learning how to do things I’d never done before. I had this sense of accomplishment and pride whenever I tackled a difficult thing, and managed to get it done.
Like putting together flat pack furniture and replacing bath panels. Removing wallpaper and redecorating. Plastering a kitchen (Thanks to my sister – a fellow single woman – who jumped in to take on this challenge with me). Updating shed roofs and laying down a paved garden border. Putting up shelving. Decoupaging and renovating old pieces of furniture and bringing them to life in my unique style.
There is nothing wrong with making a few mistakes along the way
Sure, occasionally something doesn’t quite go right (Like the bath panel I cut just a teeny bit too small, and strategically positioned a plant to hide it). But it’s really empowering giving things a go, even if they don’t go entirely to plan.
My Ex had been quite controlling. No task could be undertaken without his overseeing and approval. Quite often, it led me to never take on a task at all. So it was liberating to not have a keen observer picking apart something I was doing. And the beauty of tackling a DIY job with no-one else around, is that if you make a mistake, no-one sees you fuck it up.
I once hung a mirror in my living room, and after painstakingly measuring out the holes for drilling ensuring they were aligned, I somehow drilled one about an inch from where it should have been. Imagine my disappointment as I proudly began to hang the mirror only to realize I’d messed it up!
After drilling in the correct place, I decided to leave the incorrect hole unfilled as for one, it sat behind the mirror out of sight. Secondly, I liked the reminder that I didn’t get it right all the time, but I was trying. It was one of the first jobs I’d tackled solely, and I was proud of that damn hole.
DIY for the Single Woman
Where I’m leading to, is this. If you live on your own, whether single or otherwise and are under confident in tackling a job, start upskilling yourself.
Knowledge is power!
YouTube is a great starting place if you’re unsure, or have entirely no clue where to begin. I’d never used it much pre-DIYing, yet it became my go to for any job, large or small. It equipped me with some basic understanding and instructions on how to tackle a thing.
Go buy a tool kit!
Without one, you’re pretty much lost when it comes to fixing, maintaining or repairing anything around the house. I now have a large toolbox that’s ever growing with a collection of all sorts. Most recently, I added an electric saw to the collection, to set about chopping up logs for the winter. At first I begun with fairly cheap items, as I didn’t have a clue what I needed. But since then, I’ve steadily invested in slightly more expensive items. When it comes to tools, most of the time, spending a little more guarantees better quality and more reliably for getting jobs done.
Ask people who know more than you
Whether it’s a friend, work colleague, the local builders merchant, Google. Or in my case, my incredible handywoman Mum! DIY is a skill that takes time, the more you do things, the more you learn for the next job. The more people you ask, the greater your knowledge becomes. No question is stupid, we all have to start somewhere. And it’s important to note that sometimes, you’ll head into a job you probably shouldn’t be tackling.
Like the time I attempted to change over a light fitting, only to get an hour and a half in, stressing about which wires went where, lost by the Google suggestions, my Mum didn’t have the answer, finally approached my friends Electrician husband, only to learn that the law in the UK has changed and no unqualified electrician should ever be handling the job. Luckily, he came to help sort the situation. It was a good reminder for me that other people know more, and its okay to ask them.
You don’t need someone else to do it for you!
I’m going to counter that section title, by saying that it’s perfectly okay to ask for help at times (As the scenario above confirms). Sure, I’m all about self-liberation by becoming a amateur (like me) or professional (not me at all) DIYer. But of course it’s perfectly okay to ask for help when you really need it.
The reason I say this, is because people tend to sway from one camp or another with no middle ground. There are those in the, “I can’t ever ask anyone for anything, it’s all on me,” camp. And those in the, “I can’t do anything without help, so I’m just going to have to leave that hole in my floor and walk around it until I move out,” camp
I’m absolutely in the former camp, and I don’t really listen to the advice much myself, when I ought too. I’m not sure why, I just struggle to say, “Would you mind?” and where possible, will undertake something by myself even when I should have roped in support.
Like the time B&Q delivered a 6ft by 6ft fence panel to my front door which needed to go by my back one
The only access to my back garden was down a long, narrow 200ft path that edged the side of it. I lifted that bugger all the way, and then only when it was clearly obvious that I couldn’t lift it high enough into the air to slot it into place, did I call in the help of my neighbour.
He couldn’t believe I’d lugged it that far on my own. My response was, “There wasn’t any other choice.” I mean, mostly that was true. There wasn’t. It was a simple case of, I did this stuff or no-one did. I had no partner to rely upon and take on these jobs. If something heavy was delivered, I had to work out a way to get the item where it needed to be. When something broke, I had to learn how to fix it. If I wanted to update or replace something, that was on me.
But there was a time I bought a sofa bed, and did attempt to hoist it up my stairs, only to find mid-way through it was far too heavy. After sending the awkwardly positioned picture to my family, my sister insisted she come help tackle the job. I learned that sometimes, you just have to accept the help on offer. You can’t always do everything yourself, even if you want too. And that’s perfectly okay.
The Single Woman DIYer
It’s empowering becoming self-reliant. Not seeing jobs as pink or blue jobs. Just jobs to get done. Not being held back by a lack of knowledge, and empowered by upskilling. I found it to be a therapeutic step in my self-care journey as a singleton. Because that sense of pride and accomplishment, it’s a pretty awesome feeling.
I’ve done grotty jobs, difficult tasks, and things I never thought I could or would do. Figured out where my stopcock was located, and learned how to change a fuse. The seemingly simple things like, How to change a lightbulb? To the larger ones. I’ve given most things a go, and spent hours watching videos of how to chop / drill or sand. Fix, maintain or repair. Watched as others helped me do a thing, and paid close attention with the thought in my head, “Next time, I’ll do this.”
Sometimes – okay a lot of times – things didn’t look nearly as good as if a professional has done it. But, I did it myself. I took control of situations and I did it for me. If you’re new to the land of DIY, welcome to the club!
Are you a single woman DIYer? What tips would you share?