For fearful home improvers, social media offers respite

As someone who works in creative for a living, I am extremely apprehensive about making mistakes with creative projects. I have seen experienced ad writers totally bomb, resulting in the loss of lucrative contracts. I have seen graphic designers create web sites that had to be completely redesigned. I have seen financial service companies call up the financial printing company I worked for ranting about proofreading errors (not mine) in their reports. Creative work, including home and garden projects, has a huge margin of error.

Though there is a small wave of bloggers like Sonja Faust of who seem to even be making a living off of their crafting and cooking failures, the home improvement and gardening blog-o-sphere can look like a realm of perfection, where only the best survive. If you’re anything like me, you look at home and garden projects on the Web and think, “That would take me forever, and I would screw it up.”

Still, though, I think there might be hope yet for me. I’ve been spending an increasing amount of time lurking around, a social network all about home & garden projects (“Hometalk is where people share and help with everything home and garden,” is their tagline.).

Lurking around has given me a small boost of DIY and home improvement motivation. It appears that there actually are people out there who have skills, who will help you for free with your own projects. seems to be full of those people. Many are nice people from the Midwest, but there are strong urban East Coast and West Coast contingents as well.

It seems like Hometalk, by putting the “talk” into home and garden projects, is taking some of the potential for failure out. For instance, things like this seem to be happening on all the time: Tiffany Hall from Fenton, MO asked, “We are going to start a basement renovation this summer, but if I'm going to do it I want it done RIGHT. So tell me... where do we begin because I am overwhelmed with the thought of it. Our basement is probably 1,500 sq ft and I already have a wish list... Office/Scrapbooking room, Playroom/Lounge Area, Dance/Exercise Room, Bathroom, etc. The bathroom is roughed-in, but other than that it's just concrete floors and walls. Should I get a Designer/Architect to make the most of the space I want to create and get the decor I want? If I do that is it going to cost an outrageous amount? Any and all advice is much appreciated!”

Tiffany’s renovation question was answered by five different members, and each one had a different, and helpful, suggestion for her. Three of the members who replied to Tiffany were contractors themselves, and one was a pretty well known home and garden blogger. Can you imagine how much more secure she must have felt going into this project with professional advice in her pocket?

Also, the people on Hometalk are thrifty! Some Hometalk members appear to be affluent, and some appear to be living on very tight budgets, but they all have one thing in common: This is a community of homeowners and contractors who want to do projects the most efficient way. Though there is a contingent of crafty ladies who appear to spend a good amount of time and money on their projects, the more popular members of the community seem to be pretty savvy homeowners who won’t get taken by salesmen, and contractors who are willing to lend an air of honesty and transparency to the home improvement industry.

Many folks (myself included) fear that home improvement projects will be a waste of money. Hometalk, though, seems to have that covered. Hometalk members seem to specialize in thrifty solutions to everday gardening and home improvement problems. For instance, Robyn from Phoenix, AZ posted her latest thrifty find, a dollar store laundry hamper used to protect plants from birds. She got 40 appreciative comments from other Hometalk members who were glad to read her budget gardening tip.

If you’re on the fence about doing a home improvement, gardening, or even a crafty DIY project, I’d say ask about your project on, or do a search over there to find out if anyone else has already asked the same question that you have. It’s likely that there are some experts or experienced homeowners (and renters!) who will be kind enough to help you out. There are also (some of them are really hilarious) plenty of posts from members whose projects failed. There seem to be all kinds on, but the one thing most of the members have in common is that they are into making home improvement more transparent, and more foolproof.

Chaya Kurtz writes for

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