One Room Challenge: My Experience

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.

After (already messy with toys)

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 moodboard I envisioned for the space

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.


  • Kasia Hosford

    I appreciate your perspective! This is my first year participating because the timeline has always been a huge drawback. But I also love that you share that by participating it made you realize so much more about yourself and what you love. I’m also taking your experience as a warning that I don’t need to perform to the challenges constraints, but work on my time. You are an inspiration. Thanks.

    • Hadeel K

      Thank you! I encourage anyone to try it at least once. There was a lot of positive aspects to that experience. But like you said, as long as participants can keep themselves in check when they start having thoughts of self doubt. That’s where it can get mentally taxing! Good luck to you!

  • Cerrissa

    Hadeel this was great read. I loved your orc and I completely understand and feel your perspective. I don’t know why I am a glutton for punishment and continue to sign up haha- all joking aside I think this was important to share that’s the orc isn’t for everyone and that’s ok. People shouldn’t feel the pressure to complete it if it’s better for their mental health not to and if the process is less joyful and more stressful

    • Hadeel K

      Thanks Cerrissa! I love watching what you do for the ORC. I agree that everyone needs to assess the stress versus joy they get from these challenges and see what wins on that scale for them!

  • Molly

    I’m happy to see this being talked about. I have never participated. I enjoy seeing the participants push themselves, learning about renovations and getting real joy out of it. I do not like the fact that it is run by a profit making business(Home & Gardens and Apartment Therapy) who are in return getting all of this free content. It makes me cringe to see once again people not getting compensated for their time.

    • Hadeel K

      You’re absolutely right and I completely didn’t even think about that! And now that you mention it, it’s no different than those repost accounts that build a platform with a large following off of other people making content. Exposure doesn’t pay the bills, and I wish more creators would send invoices to these brands when their content is used for advertisement in that way.

  • Kell

    Exactly this, Hadeel!!! The stress of a tight timeline was enough for me to say no. I love seeing the transformations but at this stage of my life I just don’t see it happening for me. I appreciate your candor on this topic. It isn’t spoken about nearly enough.

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