What FOMU Is in DIY Home Improvement, Plus How to Get Over FOMU

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No one likes messing up, and an aversion to making mistakes isn’t necessarily a problem—until that aversion veers into fear, and that fear prevents you from trying something or taking risks (even small ones). When it comes to home improvement projects, this fear of messing up, or FOMU, can really hold you back. Instead of trying a DIY project, you might hire a costly professional to do a task you could easily do on your own—or, worse, just make do with a space that doesn’t serve your functional needs and/or style.

In the BHG 2024 DIY Trend Report, our researchers coined the term FOMU to describe the fear that can keep someone from starting a project that would drastically enhance their enjoyment of their space. Read on to learn whether you might be suffering from FOMU—and how to overcome it to DIY the home of your dreams.

What Is FOMU?

FOMU, or the fear of messing up, is a condition where someone avoids a DIY project out of the fear that they’ll get it wrong—or make a costly or even dangerous mistake. Symptoms of FOMU include hiring professionals to complete jobs that you could easily complete yourself and avoiding projects altogether out of the concern that attempting them could lead to disaster.

FOMU is widespread: In the BHG 2024 DIY Trend Report, we found that 70% of people admit to hiring a pro because of their fear of messing up. Their reasoning varies. Some people don’t trust themselves to complete a project correctly, some are afraid they’ll make a costly mistake, and some are worried about potentially dangerous consequences of their DIY efforts.

In severe cases, FOMU can hit with projects of all effort and experience levels, but there are some projects that are relatively FOMU-proof: According to our Report, people enjoy DIY projects such as creating holiday decor, creating wall art, replacing doorknobs, painting, and upgrading furniture. If you thought that all these projects feel relatively small-scale, you’re correct—creative projects and those that offer maximum impact for minimal effort tend to be FOMU-resistant.

At the other end of the spectrum, of course, are the projects that require more specialized skills or that involve plumbing, electric work, or large swaths of work: Think electrical rewiring, replacing windows, fitting a new toilet, laying new flooring, and re-tiling a bathroom.

With projects of this sort in mind, it’s important to note that, sometimes, FOMU is valid. If a project is outside your ability level, involves working with potentially dangerous elements such as electricity, or could lead to true calamity—such as fire or flooding—if not completed properly, you absolutely should hire an experienced professional to complete the work. Even if you feel frustrated at not being able to complete a project yourself, you will probably still be happy with the outcome: 74% of our study respondents report having had great experiences with home professionals, and 70% feel a sense of relief when they hand a project over to a pro.

The important thing to remember with FOMU is that it shouldn’t keep you from taking on all DIY projects. Instead, assess your ability level and identify the DIY projects you can safely complete. You might be surprised by how many projects fall on your can-do list—and by how great it feels to finish a DIY.

How to Overcome FOMU

FOMU can be helpful, especially if it prevents you from attempting a project that you’re not able to complete safely and successfully. But if it’s keeping you from even trying a project you do have the ability to finish correctly, it’s hurting you—and keeping you from creating your dream home.

If you think you’re suffering from FOMU, here are a few tips to move past it and try DIY.

Think Positive

Focus on the benefits of taking on a DIY. You could save some money, enjoy a feeling of pride and accomplishment in a job well done, and challenge yourself to leave your comfort zone and learn something new—and those are just the benefits of the DIY process. At the end of the project, you’ll also enjoy the fruits of your labor, whether that’s a room painted in your favorite color or a fresh look for the bookshelf you’ve had for years.

Keep Your Motivations in Mind

Remember your motivations for even considering a project in the first place. Our Report found that the top motivations for home improvement projects are to make the home a wonderful place to live, to increase functionality, and to be able to take pride in the home. If you focus on your motivations, they might be enough to help you past any FOMU.

Ditch Worst-Case Scenario Thinking

Yes, some DIY projects could lead to costly or dangerous damage to your home if they’re completed incorrectly—but many, many, many won’t. Weigh the potential risks of the projects you’d like to complete, and be realistic. If the project really won’t cause long-term damage, even if you do mess it up, your FOMU might be unfounded.

Do Your Prepwork

Many projects fall apart partway through because of lack of planning. Set yourself up for success from the start by thoroughly researching the project, understanding what skills or abilities it requires, and making sure you have all the required materials. If you gather everything you need ahead of time, it’s much less likely that you run into unexpected bumps that derail the project entirely or give you more opportunities to mess up.

Let Yourself Mess Up

Give yourself permission to make mistakes with lower-risk projects. Think about FOMU-proof projects, such as replacing doorknobs or painting. If you’re feeling a little braver, you could even try projects that the BHG 2024 DIY Trend Report calls “annoying but fixable” if messed up, like reupholstering furniture, wallpapering, replacing light fixtures, mounting a TV on the wall, or fixing a leaky faucet. Go into these projects with the mindset that, even if you do mess up, your house won’t come crumbling down around you—you might be surprised by what you can achieve.

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