DIY or Pay Someone to Do It For You?

drapes_1

I have a guilty secret. I must come clean. Several posts back, I blogged about my little-used sewing machine, and the piles of fabric I’d purchased, with every intention of sewing some fabulous curtains just like the ones I saw on Pinterest.

Well, the sad truth is, upon seeing similar print curtain panels at Target that I liked, at $24 a piece, my slacker tendencies kicked in. I decided to take the path of least resistance and bought my curtains instead.

Yes, I admit it. I did not DIM (Do-It-Myself.)

However, before I tattoo Pinterest Wannabe to my forehead, I have decided that sometimes it’s okay not to be able to do everything.
As much as we’d like to believe that, given the time, we could tile a kitchen backsplash that would make Michelangelo weep, some things are just better left to the professionals.

Luckily the advent of a thriving online marketplace has made it easier than ever to hire talented, ethical, reliable and professional service, craft and trades people.

Sometimes we want to attempt to tackle projects and repairs ourselves, whether our motivation is saving money or exercising our DIY-muscles.

But, it’s also perfectly okay to say, “I don’t have the time or the patience right now to do this on my own.” And that’s when you can dive into the ever-expanding and incredibly customer-friendly world of online home service providers for everything from sewing projects and repair work to painting, landscaping – there’s a professional for just about any task you need done. You can even hire a grazing goat service. Seriously! See Amazon Home Services under Other Services.

So, who are the key players?

Well, of course there’s the venerable, subscription-based Angie’s List with its convenient mobile app, Snapfix, that lets you snap a quick pic of whatever needs doing, such as having a retaining wall built or blinds installed, and you’ll receive multiple bids back for your project.
Thumbtack_-_Accomplish_your_personal_projects_-_2015-04-14_16.03.39

But, there are also many newcomers on the home services scene that do all the legwork of finding a professional for you for free, from TaskRabbit, pro.com and ThumbTack (who received a $100 million dollar vote of confidence from Google in August 2014) to the just-launched Amazon Home Services.

Dashboard_-_Thumbtack_-_2015-04-14_12.37.37Thumbtack has been around since 2008 and is the company I have used myself, most recently to find a pet sitter in my area within my budget that could meet my specific needs, caring for three dogs in my home, a 6-month old puppy and another with a LOT of issues.

When working with one of these companies, you’ll provide a summary of the service you need, whether it’s a fence installation or pet-sitting. Then they will analyze the request and provide you with bids on the project. Some companies like pro.com will charge a flat hourly rate. You don’t pay for the service of Thumbtack or Amazon Home  Services. Their Pros pay to bid on your job, or pay the company a percentage of the total job cost. That’s how Thumbtack and others make their money.

TheifWorking with Home Service Providers (HSPs) can eliminate the “meeting in a dark alley,” fear you get when dealing with Craig’s List, or a stranger off a supermarket bulletin board. All of the companies I’ve mentioned conduct thorough background checks on their pros, including scouring court records, sex offender registries, national and local court filings and criminal databases, and bankruptcies, judgments and liens. All customer reviews are verified to ensure they were written by actual human beings who received the services.

Amazon Home Services (AHS) has a clear advantage over its competition, solely based on the outstanding reputation of its parent company. If you buy a flat-screen television on Amazon, there’s now a button right there online to hire an installer to mount it for you with AHS, sparing you the hassle of having to find a contractor on your own. It’s the proverbial one-stop-shop.Amazon_Home_Services_Amazon.com_-_2015-04-14_15.58.59

Then, is there anything worse than taking time off work to meet a repair person and be stood up without so much as a phone call? The likelihood of that happening to a provider listed with Amazon is slim to none, as anyone who has experienced Amazon’s amazing customer service can attest.

Amazon.com_Happiness_Guarantee_-_2015-04-14_16.10.03Amazon’s services are covered by an A-to-Z guarantee and a price match. Plus, their providers must meet ongoing performance targets, including responsiveness, quality and ratings. I personally love Amazon. I am a proud Prime Member and I’m anxious to try their services. But I have to be honest, in my service area the search results were pretty slim pickings right now.  The majority of categories had no providers available within my zip code. However, they just launched, and integrated with TaskRabbit in March, so I’ll check back in a couple of months when I’m sure the service offerings in my area will be more robust.

The other drawback worth mentioning, from my experience is that for emergency repairs, say your hot water heater goes out on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, you’re probably not going to want to wait around for estimates. That’s when you may want to turn to Mr. Google for assistance.

110a46832bb3764a2e87ad55fc3d1651

My Secret Garden by Marjorie Wallace

And there  you have it. I freely admit it. While I would love to devote my every waking hour to recreating an amazing stone garden path that looked like it came straight from a storybook myself, I have a garden that needs tending, books that need reading, and dogs that need a rigorous round of tug-of-war or two. So maybe when it comes to that romantic garden path, I might just swing over to the online marketplace and see how much  local landscapers would charge. What have I got to lose?

– MB, Smart Perks blogger, crafter, gardener, reader, cupcake lover, social media junkie, shopping enthusiast & dog mom

Confronting My Clutter: How I Spent My Weekend

horder house

There comes a time in every shopaholic’s life when they must confront their demons.

For me, it was reading this article about clutter from The New York Times last week, and recognizing that a lot of the stress in my life was coming from years and years of collecting stuff.

I am a lover of things. I have many passions, a variety of crafts, books, magazines, baking, dressing my three dogs in adorable outfits, holiday decorations, home decor, gardening, tech gadgets, make-up.

However, all that passion leads to a shady part of town that everyone wants to avoid, Clutter City. It’s just two blocks up from Hoarder Town, a place I never want to live.

Cure For Hoarding, Red Open Blister Pack.

Clutter is like having a baby grand piano swinging on fraying ropes over your head.  It’s always there…adding one more layer of stress to your already stressful life.

Warning signs that you may have a clutter problem:

  • You have to move things off the table to sit down and eat a meal.
  • You open a kitchen cabinet and a sauce pan falls directly on your big toe.
  • You open the medicine closet and face creams, make-up remover, Band-Aids and cotton balls tumble out.
  • You spend a half hour or more each week hunting for something you put away just a day or two ago.
  • You have 7 pairs of scissors, but can never find one when you need one.
  • You cannot see the floor of your walk-in closet.

Luckily for me, the winter cold, and the fact that my husband was out of town for the weekend, gave me the perfect opportunity to undertake an organizational project of this magnitude. It took me all day Saturday and half the day Sunday to get the job done.

The areas I tackled were my craft room, my spare closet (where everything that doesn’t have a home elsewhere is hidden from view,) built-in bookshelves, and my holiday/winter decorations. I’d done my bedroom, linen closet and kitchen last month. The make-up drawer and medicine cabinet are still an unspeakable mess, but I’m saving those for another day. Don’t try to do the whole house at once.

A655609First I gather up my tubs, something else I hoard, plastic tubs of all shapes and sizes, with locking lids.  That’s another blog in itself, my addiction to organizational tubs.  I also use garbage bags, standard, and heavy-duty contractor grade bags.

The best way to get started is to make things worse before they can get better, by taking everything out of the closets, drawers, or cupboards, whether it’s your underwear drawer or the dreaded utensil jumble in the kitchen.

Then it’s time to take a fearless inventory, and make some critical life decisions.  What will stay and what will go?

I create piles. First a pile of like items.

For instance, in my craft room,  all my scrapbooking, card-making, papercraft stuff, like stickers, various papers, stamps, colored-pencils, stamp pads, go into a pile.

Then I have a doo-dad pile, pipe cleaners, buttons, ribbon, etc.

Adhesives are lined up on a counter…I have 8 different kinds of glue and glue sticks. Wood glue, fabric glue, archival scrapbook glue stick, Super glue, Tacky glue, it goes on.  You see my problem clearly now, right?

Then I sort through the individual pile, and I sub-sort by color, holiday, purpose, etc. This is actually fun. I love rediscovering things I’d forgotten (hoarder trait.) At this point gather the stuff that’s squirreled away in random spots all over your house that goes into these piles, from the bedroom to the kitchen counter. I can usually cull a few pile-worthy items, lessening the clutter throughout my home.

Then there’s the stuff that I realize, if I’m honest with myself (hence the fearless inventory,)  I will never use. These things go into a separate pile, the stuff that needs to go.

The stuff that needs to go, can go to several places (in order of requiring the most work to least):

  • Garage sale
  • Consignment shop
  • eBay
  • Craig’s List
  • Goodwill or thrift store
  • Charity that will pick up bags and boxes of donated items from your doorstep
  • As a last resort, the garbage. This is typically where damaged things I had a sentimental attachment to, or space-hogging packaging materials, end up.

Be sure to write down everything you donate and store in a file for taxes (you have one, right?) Here’s a link on how to value the items you donate. Then wrap breakables, and pile them with non-breakables, clothing, towels, etc, into your heavy-duty contractor bags, and move to the basement for selling, garage for pick-up, or directly to your car for drop-off.

After taking care of what must go, I place my “now-neatly-sorted items” into my clear plastic tubs (I should own stock in Sterilite and Rubbermaid) and label the container with my label maker (okay, I can’t find the batteries,) or masking tape and a Sharpie. The smaller things, like buttons, or my husband’s nuts and bolts, go into canning jars, upcycled spaghetti or baby food jars,  tackle boxes, or anything that can be put neatly back into my cupboards, or stacked with the labels facing out.

wooden branch shelf with colorful books isolated on whiteYou might think, why would I want to waste an entire precious day off decluttering? Well, because I don’t know about you, but for me, removing the piano looming over my head, threatening to crush me like a grape, is a huge incentive.  I get an enormous feeling of accomplishment, and relief that I got that out of the way for another year, (assuming I keep it up, maybe 6 months…we’ll see.) And sitting down to an organized house is like staying at a fancy hotel, no worries, everything is in its place. It’s a fabulous feeling.

For more organizing tips from an expert, look to the new Smart Perks website coming soon.  It’s a gold mine of helpful information for saving your sanity and money, too.

-MB

When she’s not blogging for Smart Perks, Melanie is staring glassy-eyed at Pinterest, her Pin It finger splinted from overuse. Besides crafting, gardening, shopping and cupcakes, the loves of her life are her three naughty terrier pups, the smartest and best-looking dogs in the world, and her husband.