Three Reasons You Need to Get Your Hands “Dirty”

When I was in elementary school, my parents insisted that my siblings and I learn to play a musical instrument. Being the scrappy little guy I was, I wanted to play the drums. Like good parents, they said “no” (could you imagine what our little house would sound like with five kids and a little knucklehead banging on drums?!?!?!). But I think my parents knew something (whether intuitively or they read it in a book or magazine haha). They knew that playing instruments helped kids learn better and develop more well-rounded. Long story short, I ended up playing the saxophone, and mostly enjoyed it!

Fast forward to my young adult years…I picked up a few hobbies. I self-taught myself how to play the guitar, I began to become interested in hand-repairing bikes and minor guitar repairs. I never had the exact vocabulary to describe why these things were so rewarding. I think I have found it. Any creative act of your own volition is an inherently rewarding activity. Conversely, any forced act, particularly a non-creative one, is inherently de-motivating (but that’s for another article). I believe there may be a little evolutionary psychology in this phenomenon. For most of human history, creation was synonymous with survival. Creating shelter, weapons, crops and the like determined whether you would survive or not, so it makes sense that these activities are rewarding. Anywho, let’s get into my four reasons why YOU need to get your hands dirty.

You Will Learn How to Concentrate

Opportunities for concentration in modern Western society are becoming fewer and farther in-between. It seems as though our culture, albeit inadvertently, rewards and reinforces multi-tasking and getting “alot” done as opposed to getting things done well. This makes sense, because many production activities can be replaced or augmented with technology.

When you pick up a hobby, you have to reconnect with concentration. Ask any person who has learned to play an instrument how much concentration is needed. Massive amounts! A millimeter in misplacement of a finger is the difference between a beautiful chord and an ear souring mess. When making framing for a wall, or re-wiring a light fixture, your hands are the sole determinant of whether the project is successful.

Having the ability to concentrate enriches every part of your life. Your relationships become imbued with better listening, you are more careful in your work, and (this is my opinion) you may become more physically graceful.

You Will Learn the Principles of Success

There are, in my opinion, too many success books out there. They are kind of redundant. But every success book worth its salt talks about the principle of learning from “failure”. I put failure in quotation marks because failure is a necessary part of success. In essence, every advancement in literature, science, civilization, etc. was created by someone or something failing and then making corrective adjustments.

I would encourage every person out there to take on a semi-difficult home improvement project. I can almost guarantee one thing. It will be much more complicated than you thought it would be. And this is a good thing! Through it you will learn to set your expectations aside and respond to the needs of the situation. This is an invaluable life skill. Any person older than 30 will tell you that life is full of twists and turns and surprises. If that person you talk to is a positive person, they will also say that this is good because through these experiences you will learn to “roll with the punches”.

You Will Learn that Progress is Slow

I want to make an important distinction here. Change can sometimes happen quickly, but progress is always slow. Progress in anything worthwhile such as losing weight, gaining muscle, completing a significant project, learning a new skill, implementing a new habit, etc. usually will take at least weeks, and more likely months to years.

Taking up a hobby you enjoy will teach you to be patient and enjoy the process. You know you have found a hobby when the process is just as rewarding at the product. Progress is slow in every meaningful endeavor in life. This could be something to be upset about, or it could just be something to accept. The sooner you begin, and enjoy the process, the sooner your rewards will come. One of my favorite quotes is attributed to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: “Just begin and the mind grows heated; continue, and the task will be completed!”

If your goal is worthwhile, don’t worry about how long it will take. I promise you it will be worth it! (worthwhile = worth your while/time and energy)

So, there are a few reasons to go out and get your hands dirty. What hobbies are you interested in? Until next time…

Kitchen Light Fixture Installation

As I have pointed out in the past, as an amateur DIY’er, even the simplest project has these little unknown difficulties that pop up. Interestingly enough, the more difficult the project, the more rewarding it is when it’s done! So while my latest project of replacing the kitchen light had a lot of little things pop up, I am very pleased with the finished product.

The old light in our kitchen was one of those (in my opinion) hideous fluorescent light fixtures. My wife and I decided that a new set of lighting in the kitchen would help improve the space. Now begins the colorful journey!

The old (and intolerable) fluorescent light set.

So…the easy part first. Taking off the cover and taking out the bulbs was a piece of cake. Took no longer than a couple minutes. Next, I had to unscrew the connections and take down the frame(?). This was a little tougher and I needed some help from my wife. Nonetheless, the light came down easily. But…

…A few unfortunate surprises. The mounting screws left holes on either side of the cord entry, behind the mount was not painted during a remodel, and the cords were pulled through a small whole in the ceiling. 😦

A less than ideal situation for hanging a new light…

So this means that 1) I have to plug the holes in the ceiling 2) Paint the ceiling, and (the BIG ONE) 3) I have to create a bigger hole, and install an “old work” ceiling box.

The surprisingly easily installed old work ceiling box.

Plugging the holes in the ceiling was easy enough. I just got some putty and a little mesh to help hold the putty in place. I let it dry and sanded it down. Installing the box was a little more complicated. First I had to cut a new hole in the ceiling with a hand saw (being careful not to cut into any studs), and then I had to install the box. After that was done, installing the actual light was simple enough. After it was up, because of a busy couple weeks, I didn’t get around to the second round of sanding and painting until later. But better late than never.

Overall, I am very satisfied with the end product! This being one of the more complicated projects I have done, I am happy to have added a few DIY skills in my skill set. Well, that was my latest journey in DIY’ing. Until next time…

Quick Project…Floating Shelves!

Our living room is nice, with nice pieces of furniture, but we have a large unoccupied wall space. So my wife and I decided to hang up some floating shelves.

Floating shelf materials. I think the company forgot to ship the set of screws they said came with it, so I used my 3 inch construction screws that I used to put in the pegboard.

The process was fairly simple:

  • Find the wall studs
  • Level the brackets and screw the holders into the studs
  • Slide in the wood slats
  • Voila!
Floating shelves! With some awesome cheap fake plants we got from Target!

I like little projects like this because it is a project that can take 20 minutes to install, but add a lot to the room (kind of like my pegboard project seen below).

One of my first projects…a pegboard on the outside of my kitchen to hold some pots, pans, and utensils that were clogging up the cabinets.

Plus they look great with the new chandelier and some fake plants from Target that we couldn’t resist buying.

Do you have floating shelves in your space? What do you use them for? until next time…