Eric Stromer of TLC’s remodeling television series “Clean Sweep” is the father of two boys and a husband to an accomplished and busy woman. Following his dad’s example, he brings his family closer by having them work on building projects as a team. Stromer compares this as “sort of like construction and crafting meets day care.” In his new book, “Do-It-Yourself Family,” he gives tips on how you and your kids can renovate every room in your house. Stromer was invited on “Today” to talk about his book. Read an excerpt:
I have often thought of family life as a great unwinnable battle, complete with strategies, battle plans, troop movements, victories, and of course, occasional total and complete failure and humiliation.For any who disagree, try loading a family of four (two children, ages two and seven) into a car with an imposed time limit (morning car pool!) and tell me you’re not engaged in a major military operation. And do I even need to mention getting the kids to clean up their rooms? I didn’t think so. What about that great and elusive mystery of the ages — quality family time? If your home is anything like mine, quality is on the endangered list.On the other hand, I am fortunate enough to have met a woman who, in a moment of insanity, decided to accept my marriage proposal, and then willingly bore my beautiful, yet sometimes challenging, children. The topper is that Amy remains true to her principles as the center and strength of our family unit.After seeing my home disintegrate into total chaos one too many times, our crazy experiences encouraged me to jot down a few useful ideas for home and hearth improvement. Once put in place, these solutions didn’t exactly transform our home overnight, but they’ve made a huge difference in the way we enjoy one another. Interested? Thought so. Read on for my personal DIY Family Dream Team solutions for every room in the house!Creating the dream team
My notion to involve the family in my home improvement plans came to me as my son Dusty entertained himself by hurling his brother’s toys at my head. Meanwhile, my older son, Wyatt — the rightful owner of said toys — was screaming that he didn’t have anything to play with.Suddenly, I thought — voilà! — if my kids have so much free time, why not train them to serve as my very own Dream Team? After all, doing hands-on projects together was how I got to really know my dad. Sure, he said many things to me, but none resonated more than when we were together building stuff. We didn’t even need to talk; but the more we worked together, the more I gained a sense of who he was and who I wanted to be. Based on this experience, what evolved was a desire to draw my family closer through projects we could make together.Plus, because my wife and I have such hectic professional lives, we made a joint decision to not allow our home to be overrun by super-slick commercial messages from media and commerce — particularly aimed at our children through kids’ programming. Instead, we turned off the tube and slowed down the pace with some good old-fashioned woodworking. Our age-appropriate projects were born. My seven-year old, Wyatt, could obviously handle more involved tasks than my toddler could. But don’t count out the mighty Dusty Stromer! I found that he could handle some hand-sanding, painting, and of course, the ever-popular picking up the spilled screws that Dad kicked over. I reveled in how much quality time we were having together, all the while producing something that would continue to serve our home life long after the project was completed. Sort of like construction and crafting meets day care. I knew I could get my wife on board. Any interest in fixing up, organizing, or renovating our home gets me far more points than a fancy night out or a two-week getaway to a tropical paradise. It wasn’t Amy I was worried about — it was the boys! My guys have two speeds: on and off. How would I get my little band of insurgents to comply?In the case of my family, I managed to get my kids to participate in executing my home-improvement ideas by using two key strategies. One: make the project fun, so that it combats the boredom factor. Two: include the kids in all the aspects of making the house work, so that they feel a sense of ownership in the project and its continued use.Making the project fun
Ever heard of the Family Theory of Relativity? This long-accepted principle of family science (in which I have a Ph.D., did I tell you?) basically stands for the proposition that when left to their own devices, your smallest relatives (i.e., kids) will ultimately run out of things to do. This is where the “Dad, I’m bored” problem pops up. Over and over again. In stereo. And high-definition.
Having a stash of fun home-improvement ideas at the ready remedies this problem in a flash. And suddenly everyone is entertained and happy. My kids never do anything simply because they’re supposed to — they do things because they want to. Excerpted from “Do-It-Yourself Family,” by Eric Stromer. Copyright © 2006 by Eric Stromer. Excerpted by permission of Bantam, a division of All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.