The One Room Challenge is just that, a challenge to complete the transformation of one room in an 8 week timeline. It’s a challenge, not a competition, to share your weekly progress in hopes that it’ll motivate you to get it done. I’ll start by saying this, it’s important to try new things and experiences so you can understand what works for you and what doesn’t. But you have to be willing to have honest conversations with yourself when those experiences are not what you expected them to be and are no longer bringing you joy. I’m still trying to learn this. There’s a lot I enjoyed about the One Room Challenge. It exposed me to a whole community of DIYers, and many of them have become my friends. It was also weirdly comforting to know a bunch of people were thrust into the world of room renovations and transformations with a tight deadline together. We were in the chaos together. I enjoyed sharing the process and progress with others who wouldn’t normally think that these projects are accessible and doable.
But there’s another side of the ORC that I think most people don’t talk about. And I don’t just mean the stress of completing it in time for reveal week. So for background, although anyone can participate in the ORC, there are featured designers who are selected by Better Home and Garden (now it seems that Apartment Therapy is the new host). These designers often have a list of sponsors who will work with them. If not paid collaborations, then many of the elements of the rooms are often gifted. So tile, countertops, sinks, faucets, furniture, decor items or wallpaper could be gifted by different brands. While I absolutely support working with brands, the reality for the majority of other participants who are not featured designers is that they are paying for almost every element of their project on their own. It was difficult to remind myself that I was already at a disadvantage because I didn’t have the same resources as others. Some even hired the work out, which honestly woulda been my first choice if the budget was there.
Most (not all) of the featured designers selected also happen to be in this space full time. This is their job. They’re designers or bloggers, or both. Social media, designing, content creating, or a combination of all three is their full time work and the main source of their income. Again, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But for most other participants, this is all a side hustle. So having a challenge to keep you accountable is great, but it’s also easy to forget that while others can dedicate their days to this challenge, many of us are having to do this after an exhausting day (or night) of work. Or after we’ve wrangled the kids to bed. Or on weekends.
This may be a me problem, I get that. But watching others make so much progress while I was trying to find small increments of time to get things done became less fun and more like I was just falling behind. It took Firas constantly telling me that I have an emotionally taxing job, 2 small kids, no childcare, and a small business to run to remember that I was not on the same playing field as others. By the 7 week mark, I realized that I was likely not going to finish in time. I exhaled and felt a wave of relief at the fact that I could stop cramming all this work in that crazy timeline and just take in all that I had accomplished. One year later, and the work is still not done. I was so burnt out that I haven’t revisited the project. But the room is still wildly transformed and is a whole lot more functional than it was before the ORC.
The biggest takeaway that I learned from that time is that I get much of my joy from making small specialty items. I enjoy woodworking much more than I enjoy large-scale DIY projects. I love working with hardwoods more than I like working with plywood and construction lumber. While I can admire my friends take on room renovations and basically transforming their homes with their own hands, it’s simply not for me. Participating in the challenge helped define my interests better and showed me that there’s many avenues of creating, and that lesson alone made the whole experience worth it.
I’ll still be cheering my friends on as they share their weekly progress, but when they ask if I’ll be participating, my answer is still a big, fat, NOPE.