I recently painted my 3-room flat. The cost of painting a 3-room HDB flat using a washable (higher quality) paint is approximately $1000 to $1500. How much did I spend? Only $100. I bought the paint on sale and with coupons: two 5L cans for $80 (from Qoo10). The other supplies — rollers, brushes, tape — cost me around $20 altogether.
Normally, it might take 15L for a 3-room flat (not include painting the ceiling), but if your home has a lot of built-in cabinets/wardrobes, and some walls (and the ceiling) didn’t need to be painted, you might get by with just 10L of paint (like I did).
Painting is possibly the easiest do-it-yourself (DIY) home improvement project there is. It’s so easy and fun, your kids can get involved too. There are tons of online videos on how to paint your own home.
The potential savings can also be enormous (up to 90%!). But that’s not the only reason why you should consider DIY painting and other home improvement projects.
Why DIY Can Be Good for You
When you live in a developed nation such as Singapore, just about everything can be outsourced, from cooking and cleaning to caring for your own children.
The “good jobs” are usually “white collar” jobs which involve knowledge/mental labour. On the other hand, manual labour or “blue collar” jobs are often looked down upon and viewed as unskilled and physically demanding.
But here’s the irony. Imagine a “white collar” man who travels from place to place by car/taxi, gets bulky/heavy groceries delivered to his door, and hires others to clean, maintain, and renovate his home. He might even have a helper who cares for his children. And because he spends the bulk of his day sitting in a box staring at a screen, he feels the needs to go to the gym, run on the treadmill, lift weights, and use functional movement machines.
He pays to have others do physically taxing work, while at the same time, he pays to go to the gym to do similarly physically taxing work, sometimes involving the exact same motions.
Throughout the vast majority of our evolutionary history, physically taxing/manual labour was the only kind of labour. But today, most people spend much of their lives chasing comfort and convenience. Life for such people isn’t very physically demanding.
But is this the way we were meant to live? We should also question why manual labour is socially regarded as being unskilled. There’s actually a lot of skill involved, and those skills can be developed, mastered, and transferred to other areas of our lives.
In many ways, manual labour and DIY projects are good for us. Here are some of their benefits:
1. It is widely accepted that any physical activity, even light activity (e.g., cleaning, cooking, etc.) is more healthy than being sedentary.
2. According to the IKEA effect, you will put a disproportionately higher value on the products or projects you were personally involved in creating. In other words, you will value and love your home project more than if someone else did it.
3. It gives you time away from your box, screens and devices. When you focus on something that involves manual labour, sometimes you can reach a quasi-meditative state devoid of stress and worries.
4. It gives you the courage to mess up. Learning something new often involves challenging yourself and sometimes failing. You need to learn and fail in order to grow. And with growth, comes greater self-reliance
5. It shifts your mindset from being a consumer to being a creator. And gives you a deeper connection to the things which maintain your life, and the systems that make that possible.
6. Lastly, you develop gratitude and appreciation for those who do your one-time home project as their everyday job.
There is so much more value in DIY than the money-saving component. Though the DIY culture is not nearly as strong in Singapore as in the States, it has grown over the last few years. And it is still growing.
I still look back with pride and satisfaction from all my DIY projects over the years. From installing ceiling fans, cabinets, and lighting, to tiling an entire room and laying concrete, these were all great learning experiences and time well spent, even though I had no idea what I was doing. They also gave me a good physical workout. And I didn’t even have to go to the gym!