Out With The Old: A Look Back at the Beautiful Disaster of 2011

Just so we’re clear from the start, the “beautiful” part of 2011 was definitely how the Memorial House turned out, and, well, I think “disaster” is the only accurate way to describe what I looked like for the better part of the last year– paint-splattered, unshowered, and a general sawdust-covered mess.

I’ve got a plan to tackle that last part in 2012 that I’ll let you know more about later, but first I think I should give 2011 a proper send off by looking back at some of the most significant milestones and projects of the year.

Where It All Started

Yep. This time last year I was totally living in a garage.


That snow covered grill was the one major cooking appliance at my disposal, if that gives you any indication of how awesome garage living was. There was also a lot of mice.

So it’s safe to say that 2011 started out with the singular focus of getting the hell out of that garage. This meant spending a lot of hours each day making progress on the Memorial house with projects like these…

Rustic Window Trim

Master Closet Pipe Shelving

Pottery Barn Inspired Vanity

Rustic Beachy Bathroom

Kitchen Cabinet Installation

Master Bedroom Floor Installation & Finishing

Master Bath Tile Floor Installation (The one that nearly did me in.)

And somewhere in between all of the drywall and paint and tile and sawdust I also spent a lot of time studying for the contractors exam. I totally passed, by the way, which seemed surprising to me when it happened, but now that I look back on it… I was building a house with my bare hands at the time, how the hell could I have failed it?

That’s the beauty of perspective, I guess.

Middle Ground

All of the hard work in the first half of the year did get me out of the garage, but it’s funny how once you step out of the tunnel and into the light things don’t look exactly like you would expect. The middle of the year held a somwhat unexpected twist… MysteryMan and I got the house to a liveable state, and then decided we didn’t actually want to live in it. At least not together for all of eternity. We did spend almost half the year living it the house together as roommates while we finished off miscellaneous projects, in what I’m pretty sure we could call the most amicable end to a four-year relationship ever. (And we’re totally still good friends.)

That meant that for me the second half of the year was open for more projects that weren’t strictly related to constructing a house, and I went to town with stuff like this:

Pottery Barn Inspired Pinboard

Rustic Wood Wall Art

Tiny Planets

DIY Spice Jar Labels

Fun & Functional Tool Boxes

Custom Door (With the cameras rolling, just for fun.)

I realized in those few months that were the first time in a long time I wasn’t singularly focused on building a house, that I really missed the creative part of just building stuff. Stuff that doesn’t have to be pretty or structural or, you know, make sure the roof doesn’t collapse on you in your sleep.

I mean, there’s an art to all of it. There’s something incredibly cool about building the place you’re planning on living in and knowing the walls, the wires, the pipes, inside and out, but this year also taught me that I need to have a little bit of both in my life– big challenging projects, and fun creative ones.

Where It Ended Up

As the end of the year approached, the Memorial House finally took shape, inside and out.

June 2008

January 2011

October 2011

Of course, the end one big project meant it was time to move out and move on to the next adventure. I moved a little farther north into Michigan, found an old farm house to rent so I could be surrounded by cornfields and some awesome old outbuildings while I work out a plan (and finding a place) for my next house.

You could say that 2011 didn’t end anywhere near where I expected when it started out, but looking back on it I wouldn’t change a thing. I had the opportunity to work on a lot of awesome projects (I even finished a few of them) and it was wonderful to be able to share my stories with all of you who visit DIYdiva. The lessons I’ve learned this year are too many to list, but they’ve shaped my one resolution for 2012:

To be constantly grateful and live deliberately every day.

Here’s to more sawdust, paint, crazy ideas and big projects in the new year!


17 Responses

    1. Thanks Robin! Things wouldn’t be the same without finding at least one mouse in my shoe this year…

  1. Michigan??? I thought you lived in Ohio, girl.
    Plus, I’m super impressed with all of your DIY decor taking place alongside the heavy stuff. Do yo sell those tool boxes?

    1. Ah, I actually work in Ohio and the Memorial House was just over the Ohio/Michigan border. I’m a full 30 minutes into the state now though, so I’m a proper Michigander. (Also my contractors license is MI so I like to have a Michigan address.)

  2. Good wrap up…you should be incredibly proud of all you accomplished last year…good luck on this year’s journey and thank you for sharing it…your posts make my day.

    1. Thanks Kelly! It would be way less fun to do all of these projects if I didn’t get to share them with you guys!

  3. You said it well and your story proves that we just NEVER know where life is going to take us. What you expect sometimes just doesn’t happen and all the better comes out of it if you just look forward. Looking forward to your new adventure in DIY world.

  4. Wonderful & funny recap of your year! So glad I found your blog about a year ago. Your humor and DIY projects are encouraging and inspiring…minus the zombies! I have no idea why that post sticks in my mind! Guess I just like your humor and quirkiness! Looking forward to 2012 with ya’!

  5. This year I bought a house. I brand new house designed to fit my needs or I thought so. After a couple of months I realized it needs more than decoration, it has some details that I want to change. While I was browsing the internet to get some ideas I found your site, I don’t remember how I got here but it has opened my eyes. Following your steps I have done two things: I assembled a List of projects and I started researching how to do the things in said List by myself instead of asking quotes so somebody else do it for me (including a pergola in a couple of years, maybe not a badass pergola, but a pergola!). I still don’t have the confidence to talk outloud about my plans yet, but I’ll get there. So thanks for inspiring me to grab my tools and figure the fuck out of it.


    New fan from Mexico.

  6. As a general contractor, i know how hard it is to turn design into reality. Many times customers have great ideas for design projects but when it comes to doing such designs, costs start to rise and customers choose the simple alternatives.

    Simple = cost saving (most of the time**)

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