Skills to Master in the New Year

woman with glasses and overall woodworking on a table
  • Beginner

When I graduated college, someone told me to make a list of skills I'd like to perfect throughout the rest of my life. It was a way to keep sharp and engaged in some form of an education process.

So at the beginning of each year, I select three to six skills from this list that I want to focus on learning more about and possibly perfecting.

My initial list has over a hundred and fifty potential skills on it, and I'm under no delusions that I'm going to love every single thing I try, but I do intend to try every single skill and hobby that I listed—at least once.

Perfecting a skill takes time and patience, so don't try and take on thirty new skills this year. Focus on a few that excite you, or that you think will be relevant to your life.

Getting Into a New Hobby or Skill

man working with pottery

Here's how it looks around here when we jump into a new hobby or skill. First, we look for tutorials on sites (like this one) that have detailed instructions.

We also do some good old-fashioned TikTok research, and yes, that's a thing.

Knock the social media app if you will, but it is a great source for quick educational content that can help you narrow down which skills you would like to jump into and which ones don't seem like a good fit for you.

In under three minutes, you can have somebody give you a pretty good idea of if a skill or hobby is something that you're actually interested in.

After we do research about the skill or hobby were interested in, we really like to talk with somebody first-hand who has a good amount of knowledge about that skill or hobby.

Finding an expert in the skill or hobby that you're looking to perfect can be hard, but we've come up with a few tips and tricks for finding those experts to talk with.

Firstly we crowdsource people that we already know. You may be surprised to find that some of your friends are already working hard at the hobbies and skills you're looking to learn.

If we don't find anybody within our personal friend/family group with expertise, sometimes we'll post on a local Facebook page and ask if there is anybody who would mind talking to us about the hobby we're interested in.

This is a pretty helpful tactic.

Another way will sometimes find people to talk to us about the hobby or skill is by visiting a specialty store. For example, when we wanted to learn about quilting, we went to a quilt store and got help there.

Being able to talk to somebody about this killer hobby gives you an inside scoop on the good, the bad, and the exciting about the hobby.

Every skill is going to have a learning curve, and it helps to have somebody who's been where you've been there to help you out when you get a little stuck.

We also recommend when possible utilizing local classes or online courses to help with your introduction to a new skill.

When we wanted to learn more about fly tying for fly fishing, we took a local class. The local class taught us a few basics, and then the contacts from that class came in handy down the road when we were trying to tie them on our own.

After we researched the skill online and in person, we make a plan. Sometimes after we've done a lot of research on a skill, we decide it's not something we want to pursue. That's okay.

You don't have to pursue any skill or hobby that doesn't interest you or benefit you. The point of learning something like this is to expand your skill set and bring enjoyment to your life.

When we make a plan for the hobby, we try and set very specific and measurable goals and give ourselves a few checkpoints along the way.

For example, when we were learning to tie flies, we set a year-long schedule for ourselves and blocked out time to learn and practice twice a month during the year.

We also picked specific flies that we would like to learn to tie. Then we found out what we needed to do to learn to tie those flies, what supplies we needed, and what skills would need to perfect first.

If you know what you want your end product to look like, you can reverse engineer the process to find out what skills you need to develop to get to the end product.

With our plan in place, we set a budget for what we were willing to spend on supplies and learning resources, and then we got to work.

Budgeting is an important part of planning because some hobbies can get really expensive really quickly. It's important to be able to accurately estimate the costs that you'll encounter as you learn.

Skills to Master This Year

Now that you've got the process down, here are a few skills that we think you should try out in the new year.

smiling woman sewing skirt

Sew It Goes

Sewing is a really handy skill to have, and it's about more than just fixing something or adjusting something, it can be a really great creative outlet as well.

To get started with sewing, you’re going to need needles, thread, bobbins, a basic sewing machine, a guide or some tutorials, fabric, and a table to sew at.

You can also decide which kind of sewing you would like to learn. You could learn to do something like quilting, or you could learn sewing that lends itself more to garment tailoring or home decor sewing.

The great thing about sewing is that the basic skills you learned will transfer to all different types of sewing. So if you decide that you would like to learn to sew your own clothes down the road, the skills you learn now will help you then.

If you're looking for a beginner sewing project, you could always start with something like an apron or a pillowcase. When we were learning to sew, we started with projects that involved a lot of straight lines.

Furniture Flip

Furniture flipping is a great way to upgrade something for your home and make it perfectly personal, and it's also a really fun way to earn a little extra income if that's something you're interested in.

We have no problem with people monetizing their skills and hobbies, and furniture flipping is one place we see that happening a good amount.

In order to start furniture flipping, you're going to need furniture to flip, a sander, a good degreaser, a paint stripper, wood stain, wood conditioner, sealant, lots of brushes, and a tarp.

To start flipping furniture we recommend starting with something like a solid wood dresser. Working with real wood is the easiest way to get a great flip in the end.

Start by sanding or stripping the old paint or finish off the dresser. This task sounds simple but the process can be long. Make sure to degrease and clean the dresser great before you start.

After the dresser has been sanded and stripped, condition the wood and decide whether you’re going to paint it or stain it. You can also decide if you want to add new knobs or pulls.

We don’t recommend changing up the knobs or pulls on your first try, because you will need to use wood filler and a sander, and then reattach new pulls all in the same spot.

Treating the wood with a quality conditioner will help the paint or stain apply nicely to the piece and will keep things looking professional.

The more you practice, the better your pieces will turn out. In the meantime, be patient with yourself, this is a skill that takes time!

hand sanding wood chair

Maintenance Basics

This year is the year you learn how to tackle the maintenance basics around your home.

Especially if you’re a new homeowner wondering how to swap out a shower head or even a renter who needs to learn how to unclog a toilet — maintenance basics are a great skill to master.

If you’ve got a handy friend or family member nearby, see if you can swap them dinner for a little expertise. Invite them over, feed them well, and then have them teach you all about how to maintain a home.

As part of mastering the skill of maintenance basics, we also recommend creating a home maintenance schedule that will help you remember to do things like swap your air filters and clean your washing machine (yes, you have to do that).

Other useful home skills to add to your repertoire include learning how to unclog drains, learning how to clean and maintain a dishwasher, and learning how to clean your own carpets.

Cleaning Basics

Believe it or not, cleaning is a skill you can learn. While there are definitely people who are naturally more clean and tidy, you can 100% learn how to clean.

Before you start cleaning, your home needs to be a clean slate, which is why we recommend decluttering, dejunking, and organizing at the start of a new year. Cleaning is easier without clutter.

If you didn’t grow up in an environment where you were taught how to clean, don’t stress. You can learn the basics of how to clean efficiently and correctly in no time.

Finding someone who has this skill and asking for a little help learning will go a long way. We recommend creating or purchasing a cleaning calendar to help keep you on track.

If tackling the whole house at once feels intimidating, break it down. Learn to clean one space really well every month. Start with your bedroom, move to the kitchen, and work your way around the house from there.

Want to take your cleaning skills to the next level? Learn how to make your own cleaners.

Plant Parenthood

indoor plants by a window

Want to give your green thumb a try? This is a hobby and skill that can be cultivated throughout the year. If you’re kicking this learning process off in January, start with houseplants.

Healthy plants start with healthy soil. So before you select a houseplant, secure quality soil and a fertilizer full of microbes so that you can keep your houseplant happy and healthy.

Next, make sure you have a place to put your houseplant with the appropriate amount of sun, away from air vents around your home.

Next, it’s time to pick a plant. Pothos, ZZ plants, Philodendrons, and Snake Plants are all easy plants to take care of. There are dozens of stunning plant varieties to pick from.

After you’ve picked a plant, dive in and see exactly what it takes to keep your budding plant happy and healthy. Cultivating a green thumb isn’t always fast and easy, but plants are resilient and very forgiving.

Once you’ve mastered caring for houseplants, you can try your hand at other forms of plant care. Gardening is a rewarding way to benefit from a hobby and skill, and even if you don’t have a yard you can grow an herb garden indoors.

If you find that you love houseplants, try propagating them. Propagating can be done in a variety of ways and is a fun way to turn one plant into many.

We have several Pothos around our home at this point, and every plant started out with the same parent plant and we just kept propagating.

No matter what skill you chose to master this year, be patient with yourself and have lots of fun!