Do It Yourself

When I was 7 years old, my dad got a job transfer to move us from Arizona to Oregon. My brother and I had awful dust allergies and it was going to become a weekly allergy shot ordeal if we continued to live there. My parents found a house along the Willamette River in a city just outside of Portland called West Linn. It was a newly developing area and the house they found wasn’t completely finished on the inside. My dad liked the idea of doing the finishing touches himself, so we moved in and he worked on it on the weekends.

My dad was pretty handy but he was taking on projects that were a little beyond his capabilities. He talked to neighbors on how to do some of them, a few even offering to help. My dad would have me and my brother watch and sometimes help with these projects. He felt it was a useful skill to have, and he was right.

I lived in apartments for a few years as an adult, where they had their own maintenance people. When I moved into my first house, I was excited that I knew some basic skills to do minor repairs and improvements on my own. When projects came up that were beyond my skill level, I would ask for advice from an employee when I was in Home Depot. I always got great advice, but the best thing came in the form of a “Do It Yourself” book that Home Depot had come out with. It broke projects down by category and even broke them down at skill level. If you were super handy (like building actual things) the more complicated projects would be easier for you. I appreciated the beginners level stuff because I had some skills, but I was no master project person.

A few months ago, one of my closest friends suddenly lost her husband. She’s always been a person who could handle taking care of things, but anything related to home improvement, yard maintenance or car repairs, she had left up to her husband. Now without a husband or his income, she didn’t know how to do these things but she also didn’t have the extra money to pay someone to fix them for her. She knew I had learned ways to do things like this on my own, so she used the power of the internet and googled how to repair the things that needed repairing.

Back when I was learning all of these things, there wasn’t a way to search online for stuff, which is why I got that book. But my 51 year old friend, who never knew anything beyond how to make a clothes dryer turn on, had watched a video online that showed her how to replace the belt and the fuse in her old dryer. The sense of satisfaction she had at being able to do this on her own was immeasurable. She had even learned how to fix a leaky hose on her car, Β how to patch a hole in the wall in her house, and how to work the riding lawn mower.

This may come across as a woman saying we don’t need men to do things for us, but that’s not my point. This applies to men and women. Sure, it may take a little bit longer to do on your than someone who specializes in that field. Β I have to say, knowing how to repair a sprinkler, change out a light fixture, a faucet, repair a hole in the wall, lay down hard wood flooring, tile and linoleum, apply and seal grout, replace a toilet gasket, or just repair a baseboard your puppy chewed on feels pretty damn great.



35 thoughts on “Do It Yourself

  1. My dad was a carpenter and when I left home, he gave me a tin of basic tools – screwdrivers, pliers etc which I still have 21 years later. And as he died Nov 2012, I treasure them more now.

  2. As a child of some extremely non-do it yourself geek parents I was never taught how to do many around the house things. To this day I don’t even try to do many ‘guy’ things, like automotive repair. But when I bought a house I was gradually forced to learn how to do a lot of things. And nothing feels better than being able to look at a remodeled bathroom, or closet or floor and being able to say “I did that”. And this applies to all genders, that feeling of accomplishment is a big deal.

  3. I agree this is certainly not just a women only thing. As a kid I never paid attention to when my dad tried teaching me basic repair stuff. Now I’m thankful I have the net to be able to google things so I can do them myself.

  4. My father was a teacher but he built houses in the summers, so he was a very handy guy. He could fix almost anything. When he died suddenly at the age of 59, I was in a very similar place as your girlfriend who lost her husband. I had not a clue how to fix things and I didn’t even know who to call to fix things and I couldn’t afford them if I could call them. I wished that I had been able to learn some basic it fix-it stuff too. It isn’t about not needing men, it’s about not being helpless if there is a lack of “man” in your life. Why should men be the only ones who can take care of their houses? I’m very impressed at all you can do and I bet it doesn’t threaten your husband at all that you can do it nor does it make him feel unneeded either. A real man would never feel that way. Great post, thank you.

    1. The putty is drying as I type this. I took a picture before I started and once it dries and I can sand and paint it, I’ll take an after picture and post both. So far, it looks really good. Woohoo!

  5. I grew up around the family auto repair shop, but also around an uncle on the other side who does marvelous things with wood — a skill I can’t begin to emulate. I’ve always — always — thought it important to know some basic fix-and-repair stuff. I don’t care if you’re male, female, old, young, solo, married, whatever — it’s important, and can even be life-saving, to know how to do basic repairs. You can’t always get a plumber, HVAC guy, electrician, whatever, over immediately when something goes wrong. Just being able to meatball something together, to at the very least stop further damage until a proper repair can be made, is a valuable life skill. Making something yourself – putting down a floor, installing a crown molding, building furniture, restoring a car – isn’t magical, and it’s not hard to learn if you choose to. You might even enjoy it.

    While this sort of thing has long been a “guy thing”, fortunately the times, they are a-changin’, and more emphasis is being placed on women learning some of this, too. There are plenty of examples. For instance, one of the best welders/metal fabricators/race mechanics I know is a woman who is also very girly — again, blowing stereotypes clean out of the water, and you have folks like Jessie Combs and the All Girls Garage on TV spreading the message.

    Go, Anne! Fill those bites. Refinish those boards!

    (In a related note, Kim wants to take a welding class. I suggested we could take one together, ’cause my welding skills are abysmal. :D)

    1. LOL! This amused me greatly! I hate dealing with electricity, but, man, can i disassemble and clean out a sink drain like nobody’s business!

  6. Great post – you hit the nail right on the head. I don’t know how people who can’t fix things themselves survive financially, leaving aside the personal satisfaction of DIY.

    I want my daughter to have the basic skills she needs to keep up a house and car, and the confidence to say ‘I can learn how to do that’ for bigger projects. She has her own tools (which I have to ask to borrow) and they are NOT pink.

    1. Do they even make pink tools? Because I’d kind of like a pink drill set and belt sander. Hahahaha!

      1. I do believe they may make some pink hand tools. You’d have to get past the overt marketing that might make you sick just looking at it. Otherwise, you can always paint the handles, the drill and sander. That’d be a real DIY project for ya! πŸ™‚

      2. I happen to have a pink screwdriver that my Dad bought for me. It’s got a bunch of different heads for it and I just have to slide which one I want. It could be a bit more Sonic though

  7. The power tools in our house are “mine”. I was so excited when my husband bought me my first circular saw as a birthday present. I was never taught to do the handy work, I just picked up a book and a tool and let ‘er rip! I’m also lucky that my neighbours’ husbands are always happy to explain things I don’t know how to do. Now I have my daughter help me with small jobs so that she can learn too. πŸ™‚

  8. Our house was broken into a year and a half ago and they broke a window to get in. After cleaning all the broken glass out of the carpet (that was a painful lesson in realizing i needed to get a flashlight and kneel down to find the slivers), we needed a temporary solution to cover the window. We couldn’t afford to fix it out of pocket for a few weeks and didn’t want to claim it on insurance (another hard lesson). Someone suggested getting two sheets of plywood, drilling matching holes and securing them with loooooong screws and nuts. I did it all by myself and felt a HUGE sense of pride when i finished! As a side note, my next major DIY is to rip out the carpet and lay tile. My sister already promised to help me….

    1. “Someone suggested getting two sheets of plywood, drilling matching holes and securing them with loooooong screws and nuts.” — Now see, I never would’ve thought of that! I’m tucking that tidbit away for future (if needed) reference.

  9. I inherited some of my mother-in-law’s tools. Awesome lady. Over the years I have always used the addage “If a human can make it, a human can repair/rebuild it, and I am a human ergo….” One of my greatest pet peves is people who throw stuff out without even TRYING to fix it. I grew up poor and didn’t have that luxury. Now I do it from habit.

  10. The DIY household fixes that my Dad really hated were anything to do with the plumbing. He could build furniture and cabinets, sand and refinish the hardwood floors, build a brick barbeque pit, you name it. But, if it involved water, forget it! (Side note – he was an Aquarius! LOL!) Therefore, guess who was taught to deal with the plumbing? Yep, his little girl.

  11. I completely agree. When I got my first car, my dad had me change the oil and change the tires (under his supervision). And when I moved out he gave me some basic tools to do some minor fixes. Truly a wonderful feeling to do and fix things on your own.

  12. Good for you; the joke in my family is my hubby married me for my tools. Dad was an amputee, a disabled Korean war vet at age 19, and there were 5 of us to feed. So he subscribed to Popular Mechanics and used his ‘crew’ to help him. Consequently I’ve used everything he taught me to pin 90 year old plaster to the lathing, refinish floors, make furniture, rewire/replumb and lay concrete. When our daughter wen off to uni I made sure she had a tool kit!

  13. I don’t get to do a “honey do” list. I’m better at it and love to putter around the house doing those kinds of things. Go you!

  14. My dad passes away when i was 10yrs & 11mths old. I was his shadow & watched intently as he did anything & everything. I did learn a lot handyman wise, but DEFINITELY not mechanical. I taught myself that from books & through family friends. I am still thankful to these men that helped me, as i could standon my own two feet.

    It was extremely helpful as my first husband was a real dick….in everything, he couldn’t even drive, never mind repair a car or change a flat tyre. Yeah, that’s the sort men i attract!!!

    Years on, I’ve taken wood working intro & can produce pretty good & useful pieces. If i get i stuck, i have friends whose input us good & i listen to &take on board.

  15. Excellent blog. I can do basic stuff, though I confess I was much better at it before my husband came along, as he enjoys that type of thing a lot more than me, so I let him do it. Still, I can manage if I have to, and with YouTube now, there’s no reason not to fix things that are broken instead of getting new ones, etc.

    I’m scared of electricity, though. Eep!

    Funny story, though. When I was a kid, my older brother worked at Sears and got all sorts of discounted tools. He had a massive collection. Still does. Well, the rule was that I could use any tool I needed to do anything I needed as long as I cleaned it and put it back when I was done. Once, I didn’t do that, and he locked his tool box. I learned my lesson, and soon I was back to taking apart my bike and changing out trucks on my skateboard just fine. πŸ™‚

  16. Anne, I completely agree.
    I wasn’t taught to do any DIY, but have picked up bits and bobs as the years have passed. I’m looking to move house this year, as we’re selling the marital home and going our separate ways, and I hope to be able to do a lot of the ‘doing up’ in my new place myself.

  17. I also learned how to do basic home repairs growing up and do them now more than my husband because I enjoy it (usually – we don’t talk about the “simple” replacement screen that turned into new screen and front doors incident!). My boss owns several pieces of commercial rental property, and I am always amazed when tenants call with a problem and don’t even know how to turn off the water to the toilet tank or check the circuit breaker. I will call a professional when the job is out of my league, but I hate feeling helpless when it is something that I could do myself with a little research.

  18. My first response to anything that we need fixed or built is to figure out how to do it myself. The trick is finding time for all the projects.
    No matter how capable you are, there are still some things you want a warranty on. Our bathroom fan needed replacement recently, and as I prepared to replace it, I discovered that the original fan wasn’t vented to the outside. It just went into the attic, which fortunately somehow hadn’t mildewed. I replaced the fan and patched the ceiling drywall that I had to cut out to get to it, but I called in a professional to cut and seal a hole in the roof for the vent. I guess that’s where I draw the line.

  19. So true!

    Before the internet, you had to know “a guy”. And if you did, you’d be pestering him with questions or bargaining with him to do some or all of the work on his own time and for cheap. I hated doing that.

    With the power of the tubes, it’s possible to learn or explore alternative methods for almost any task. I’ve completed renovations and rebuilds without (much) fear because of all that shared knowledge out there. I can’t imagine a world without it.

    I’m a huge nerd but I was willing to learn something new to solve my own problems (and I saved a lot of gold pieces, too. πŸ™‚

  20. With help from my oldest daughter, we put in a new floor in the dining room. Ripped out the carpet and went to seek help from the home depot. The people there are truly helpful. Our new floor is lovely. πŸ™‚ My youngest works really long hours. He barely has time to mow the lawn once a week. I don’t usually wait for him to be available to help with home projects. My daughter and I are tackling the back deck next….How badly could we screw things up??? πŸ™‚

  21. I have amazingly awesome parents who believed in teaching their children how to do things for themselves. Dad and Mom taught us how to cook, clean, repair a toilet, change a flat, build a fence, pour and level concrete, etc. It is amazing to know I don’t have to call a repairperson for little things. There are so many things to be thankful to them for teaching me.

  22. Definitely! My mom was a single mom (my dad passed away when I was 4) so I grew up watching and helping her fix and build things all the time. It wasn’t until later I had a bf that got butt hurt any time I wanted to do anything on my own, which was all the time, that I realized it’s not all that common. I was also taught to change tires, oil, etc on my car too and could install a new car stereo thanks to my now hubby in like 10 minutes, lol. The only problem, though, is I do tend to fight and get frustrated before giving up, haha.

  23. I am continually amazed at the things one can learn from the internet, there’s a YouTube video for pretty much everything, and i’m so grateful to the people who post these things. We’re not always lucky enough to have family or friends close by with the skills to teach us.
    This blog post (and all the comments) makes me think I should be trying to be a little more proactive around the house. πŸ™‚ so thanks for that. I think. πŸ™‚

  24. My wife of 20+ years and I were both long-time apartment dwellers but knew how to do some things. When we got our house we were happy that, not only did we know HOW to do things, but we could actually DO them without asking a manager or landlords’ permission to do it! We’ve been in that house about 9 years and this small fact still makes us happy.

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