News headlines over the last 12 months would suggest the DIY culture that swept the nation 30 years ago could be in terminal decline.
In March last year Kingfisher announced it would be closing 60 B&Q stores over the next couple of years, and that 6 months after Home Retail that owns Homebase announced plans to close a quarter of its stores by 2018 due to “the rise of a new generation of consumers less skilled in DIY” amongst other things.
It seems fewer young consumers these days have the desire to tackle home improvements, preferring to spend their money elsewhere.
So DIY is becoming “Do It For Me” or as an old family friend puts it “GSI” or “Get Someone In”. I totally get why this is happening. Oscar Wilde said that life is what happens whilst you’re making plans, and let’s face it, we’re all so busy just trying to hold down a job and make ends meet that the thought of picking up tools at the weekend to sort out things in our homes is just too much. Isn’t it?
Well, actually, I don’t think it is. For me, DIY has always been something I’ve loved, and when I had a job in London where I was working until 10.30pm Monday until Friday, the thought of renovating my little house at the weekend is what kept me going. But maybe I’m not the best example. A friend recently posted on Facebook that she had fixed a leak on her radiator and felt massively empowered as a result. That’s more like it. Someone who doesn’t normally do DIY, but turns her hand to something and not only realises that she can do it, but feels a real sense of achievement and empowerment as a result.
Back to me, DIY has become a family thing. When we moved into our cottage in Worcestershire money was scarce and every home improvement job had to be done by me. It still is! I’ve gone from being an enthusiastic hod carrier to my builder friend Roger (who helped me renovate my first house) to the guy actually mixing the sand and cement, and making the big decisions on how best to rip apart and put back together a room.
When we realised the builders hadn’t properly prepared the render in our Sitting Room so that the plaster was coming off the wall, we stripped off the plaster and my two children, aged 6 and 4 helped me do what the builders should have done in the first place (photo left)!
We’re now gradually sorting out the upstairs of our house, and the children are still taking an active involvement in the DIY. In our new bathroom , my son helped me stain the engineered oak floor and screw plasterboard to the walls, and my daughter had enormous fun helping me cut the soundproofing for under the floor. And funnily enough, the only job I sought external help on in my bathroom was the plastering, and it’s the one thing I’m really unhappy with (a local handyman who wasn’t up to the job). So there’s a lesson in that – I would have been better doing it myself!
DIY has taken on an even greater significance now as I begin to renovate the childrens’ bedrooms. By helping out it gives them a real sense of achievement, and for many years to come they will be able to sit in their room happy in the knowledge that they helped to sort it out.
My son, who has autism, and struggles to concentrate or commit to a task for long, spent a good hour a couple of days ago stripping the wood chip, polystyrene backed wall paper from his ceiling.
In short, he’s able to immerse himself in DIY in a way that he isn’t in other, every day tasks – it keeps him active and engaged in a way that his tablet doesn’t.
So when DIY is so beneficial on so many levels, then why is it in such, apparently terminal decline? A plethora of cheap, reasonably skilled foreign labour in the last 10 years has probably contributed to this, and whilst domestic DIY is dwindling, the trade side is flourishing with Screwfix and other stores rapidly expanding.
But I remain convinced that people just need to be reminded how fun and rewarding DIY can be, and maybe Wesfarmers, the new Australian owner of Homebase, will find a way of revitalising it’s new chain of stores, recapturing the public’s imagination. and luring them back to the DIY fold.
In the meantime, I’ll do my best to show you all in this blog and on my You Tube Channel how many things you can turn your hand to if you’re willing to give it a go! Start small, as I did. There’s so much help out there on the internet to guide you step by step, and with each challenge completed, it will whet your appetite for bigger and more ambitious challenges ahead!
So come on everyone – I implore you – Learn DIY – your House needs you!