Monday, January 7, 2013

Tales from the DIY Junkyard: What You Can Learn from Scrapping Projects

Today, I'd like to introduce a new series of posts that I'll be writing from time to time.... Tales from the DIY Junkyard! 

Despite my best efforts, sometimes a project just doesn't work. It's okay to admit it. In a lot of ways, the internet and parenting magazines are empowering, because they offer new and creative ideas. On the other hand, they can get you down, because everything looks so perfect and simple. "Look... an heirloom afghan in two easy steps!" But, like we tell our kids, things are not always as advertised.

It's easy to get discouraged thinking that people are born Martha Stewarts.  Even Martha has had some DIY disasters, I promise you. Who knows? Maybe she had a few bad starts to those prison ponchos she made and had to turn them into washcloths, instead.

And, it's not just DIY projects that can go bust... Some home organization ideas can actually make things messier, new recipes can be awful, and birthday cakes can be accidentally dropped on the floor (true story). Instead of locking these stories up in the shame vault, let's be loud and proud! Sometimes, you can learn more from failed projects than successful ones.

On that note, may I present to you: "Bailing on the Recipe Binder"

When my son was born, I got free subscriptions to every parenting magazine, plus cooking magazines. In my nesting frenzy, I ripped out EVERY recipe that looked remotely good. Faced with a mounting pile of pages, I made my own recipe binder. First, I made the dividers, then made the pages, then cut out the recipes and taped them. I won't tell you how long it took to make, or how many times I arranged and rearranged it.

Then, a funny thing happened. I NEVER USED THE BINDER!!! It just took up space, gathering dust, while reminding me of my failed ambition. Last week, I wondered why I didn't use it and I realized... The recipes weren't tried and true, they were just things created to sell magazines. And, in my younger days, I was a lot less realistic about what I was truly going to cook.  I thought, "Sure, homemade pasta sounds like a great idea", or "My family will love crispy kale!"

So, decision was made to scrap the binder.  My son and I went through it, and salvaged about 10 out of the 200 recipes in there that I had actually cooked and found to be decent.  The rest got thrown into the recycling bin.

I went from this behemoth...
To this small pile of recipes that I will actually use!
Then, I copied them over onto nice recipe cards, and put them in my most treasured cookbook, a handmade collection of recipes from family and friends that my mom made for me when I got married. See more about how to make one yourself, here.

Without further adieu, here are my lessons learned from DIY junkyarding.... 
  •  Just because you see a project working for someone else doesn't mean it will work for you (and that's okay).
  •  Your preferences for what projects you want to attempt will change over the years
  •  Don't worry about admitting defeat and scrapping the project, at any stage.  It's a good message to send to your kids that even projects you tackle don't work sometimes, but it doesn't stop you from trying new things.
  • Value can still be found in a scrapped project.  The ten recipes that I unearthed from the PILE of ones to recycle were really good ones, and I'm glad that I have them. 
  • Share your not-so-great projects with others.  We need to realize that Supermom doesn't exist, despite the images we see everywhere!
Remember, even Martha makes mistakes, and "it's a good thing."  What were some of your project disasters?