DIY projects tend to follow a formula.

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Tess Bennett built these shelves for her nursery.  They were not as easy as she had hoped.

I’ve always been a hands-on person. It’s led me to try a variety of different things, from painting and sculpting to sewing and woodworking.

Most recently, my DIY tendencies led me to build a set of shelves for my baby’s nursery. Maybe it’s because I’m eight months pregnant, or maybe it’s because I’ve never constructed shelves beyond assembling a piece of wood on some brackets before, but for whatever reason, this particular project put me through hell.

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After a long weekend of questioning my decision, I realized all DIY projects tend to follow a formula. They’re a journey, if you will, often filled with highs and lows — but unlike other pursuits, DIY projects are about both the journey and the destination.

Theresa "Tess" Bennett

Here are some of the inevitable, distressing, yet somehow irresistible lessons I’ve learned from a lifetime of DIY.

1. Things are unlikely to go as expected.

You may start off bright-eyed with a head full of fantasies (or delusions) about your DIY capabilities. Or, maybe you start off thinking, “I’m not sure if I can do this, but I’m going to try it. How bad could it be?” Heck, you may even begin by thinking, “This project is going to cause so much pain, but I’m going to do it anyway.” Whichever thought you think, try to throw it out the window. Even if it isn’t your first time pursuing a particular project, most DIY endeavors have a way of surprising you, for better or for worse. It’s best to limit your expectations if possible and instead go into it knowing anything could happen.

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