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The DIY Lifestyle and The Value of The “Journey”

I’ve mentioned this before, but I love to make things.

There’s something about rolling up your sleeves and getting things done on your own that really appeals to me. And I get a lot of flack for it, too.

Some people in my life put a target on my back the second I go public with some new DIY thing that I’m doing. It could be the most inconsequential thing ever (see some of the things below), but some jump at the chance to treat me as stupid for wanting to make my own stuff – no matter how harmless it might be.

Here’s just a short list of some of the things that are homemade in this house:

  • Bread. I hear a lot of “You know bread is only, like, a DOLLAR at the store, right?!?” I’ve made probably a dozen different types, but my current favorite is a “5-minute” bread dough recipe.
  • Beer. I’ve been using the Mr. Beer line of products for a couple years now, but I am about to graduate to brewing 1-gallon batches completely from scratch (starting this afternoon if I can get my work done!).
  • Mouthwash. This is a new one, but a combination of a few simple ingredients seems to really refresh my mouth without the burn of chemicals.
  • Laundry soap. One of the biggest targets of chuckles by many, I love making our laundry detergent. We use a liquid recipe that takes all of 20 minutes to make every 6 weeks or so.
  • Brownie mix. All the tastiness of from-scratch brownies with all the convenience of your Betty Crocker varieties.
  • Granola. New to the list, but might be my new favorite. Doubles as cereal or a snack with a few added dried fruits.
  • Pancake mix. Fresh, delicious pancakes any morning of the week.
  • Our TV system. Instead of an expensive cable package or a limiting Roku box, we put together a slick, all-inclusive home entertainment system with a computer and some hard drives. Includes everything we need, including live HD television, a limitless DVR system, and all the Netflix and Hulu we could need.
  • My job! One I don’t think of as “homemade” very often, but I’ve rolled my own career instead of going through the resume-job-sucking up to the boss-hoping I don’t get laid off cycle that so many are stuck in.

A lot of these are pretty recent, too. But for all the mocking I get, whether it’s to my face or behind my back, and whether it’s just a little good-natured ribbing amongst guys or a legitimate shot at what I’m doing, there’s one thing I remind myself of every time I hunker down to address one of these things (or any of the dozen other things we make from scratch):

There is value in the journey of making things.

The experience alone is so valuable. It’s hard to describe, really. Any attempt to would sound more flowery than I tend to get. It’s almost a spiritual thing (see? Way too flowery for what I mean).

But it’s something that happens inside of you. Here are a few ways that you benefit from getting into the habit of making things yourself:

  • Knowledge. In the case of food, this is huge. Pick up a box of whatever in the supermarket and look at the ingredients on the back – do you even know what some of those words mean? I don’t. And while I am not the type that says CHEMICALS ARE GOING TO KILL YOU SO STAY AWAY FROM THEM AT ALL COSTS, I do believe that 90% of the health problems in our society are directly related to how we are treating our bodies. So for me, paying attention to and understanding what I’m putting into my body is a huge priority in staying healthy. Making things from scratch whenever possible is – again, to me – a great and convenient way of keeping tabs on what’s in what I’m eating most of the time.
  • Pride. When I bring a few bottles of home-brewed beer to a get-together and pass them around, I often get complimented on it. When I whip up a dinner from scratch for my parents, it’s cool to hear them comment on how good it tastes. Sure, it’s a selfish reason to do this stuff, but we’re all a little selfish, aren’t we?
  • The satisfaction of a job well done. This is a lost art in today’s world, but there was a time when people took great satisfaction in getting their work done without any other external benefits. Sitting down to eat a delicious stir-fry for dinner that I chopped up and tossed around in my wok for a few minutes is really satisfying – much more so than tossing a packet of pre-made stir-fry in the microwave.
  • Savings. In most cases, we save a ton of money doing it ourselves. That TV system? We have everything we could ever want to watch and we save more than $1000 a year. And to calculate cost savings, you have to look at the apples-to-apples comparison. A quality meal or a quality beer will cost you more, but making it yourself is cheaper. Sure, you could drink Hamm’s beer and eat frozen pizzas all week and you’ll save more money, but I guarantee it’ll suck a lot more than drinking a home-brewed craft beer and eating a scrumptious homemade pizza or a simple pot roast.
  • Independence. This is one of our arguments for homemade cleaners with basic ingredients: we don’t have to rely on a single store or brand. No more “I hope they carry this cleaner here!” No more unexpectedly running out and having to make a quick stop at the store. When you keep the basics around all the time, you can always make more. When we’re out of bread, we can toss another loaf in the oven while we do other things instead of having to drop what we’re doing and go to the store. We’re not entirely self-sufficient or anything, but having staples on hand to take care of your basic needs is incredibly freeing.
  • Shifts you from a consumption mindset to a production mindset. This is a huge one. Instead of giving money to other people to have things done for you constantly, you’re producing something. You’re doing something with your time. Most people come home, microwave some convenience food (or boil water for it, or whatever), then plop down in front of the TV, where they pay $100+ a month for some kind of entertainment. There’s something more… fulfilling, I guess?… about making it yourself and saving the money. It makes you functional, instead of just a passive consumer of the world around you.

There’s one more – and it’s the biggest reason I can think of for making things…

The result is higher quality.

I can walk through the store and grab a jar of applesauce off the shelf. Or a package of those foil-topped individual cups. When I break that applesauce out for dinner or for a lunch one day, it tastes… fine. It tastes like what we’ve come to expect with applesauce.

But when I go to Grandma’s for dinner, she’s got something else entirely. She has… APPLESAUCE. Putting it in all-caps is the only way to describe it. It’s smooth but chunky, and it’s even served warm. It’s amazing, and it puts that other store-bought applesauce to shame.

When I first set out to obtain that applesauce, I called my mom and had her explain to me how to make it.

The “recipe” is as follows:

  1. Buy a bag of apples.
  2. Peel and core them.
  3. Throw them into a big pot with a little bit of water or apple juice.
  4. Boil the heck out of them until you can mush them.
  5. Mush them.

That’s it. There’s no special ingredient (other than love, of course). Real, homemade, can’t-believe-how-tasty-it-is applesauce is just… apples.

And it’s a recipe I don’t have to babysit. I can do plenty of other things while this is going on. I make applesauce all the time now, and I love it. It’s fun, easy, and the results are outstanding.

When I brew beer, I get a delicious craft beer that puts Miller Lite to shame.

When I bake bread, we get a crunchy-crusted, soft-centered loaf that has more flavor than Wonderbread could dream of.

The quality of the results blows the “convenient” solutions completely out of the water. It makes the journey that much sweeter.

You could even look at my career results as another one that is 100% better than the “convenient” (if you want to call it that) path. Because I built my own business, I have an income, lifestyle, and work-life balance that most people I know would absolutely kill for. But I have it because I built it myself (and because God

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let me do it – I never want to forget that).

Foregoing the traditionally-accepted way of doing things might feel a little weird. It might raise some eyebrows.

But we save thousands of dollars every year. I have complete control over my career and income. Our home has never been cleaner. We eat delicious meals that make other people jealous. And we can watch whatever we want on TV at night, if we want to.

We reap this lifestyle because we resigned ourselves to a life of doing it ourselves whenever we can. We roll up our sleeves and get it done.

And we enjoy the journey.

baking, business, cooking, diy, television, work