Things I've learned by not having a man around the house
I've been my own head of household for, well, awhile. And as such I've learned which situations call for reinforcements and which ones I can fix myself. It's amazing how handy I've become by sheer force of will and a little digging on the inter webs.
- •How to replace a light fixtureAnyone can unplug and move a lamp, but I'm talking about the real deal: turning off the power, taking down a hard wired fixture and replacing it by connecting the right wires and attaching it to the ceiling/wall, while simultaneously not causing a fire or electrocuting yourself. I know several grown men who sheepishly admit they have no idea how to do this. Happily, it's surprisingly simple and I've literally replaced dozens of them over the years.
- •Why the fireplace won't igniteI thought about calling a pro for this one but decided to take stuff apart first and inspect it... Not that I recommend messing with gas lines EVER. DO NOT DO THAT. I just took the logs off and visually inspected the pilot light. Turns out the ignition had slipped out of place and was too far away from the spark to catch. Took two minutes to diagnose and adjust, and presto- fire! In a good way.
- •A busted spark plug was the culprit for why the mower wouldn't startMy darling son left a gardening tool in the yard, which I ran over, promptly stalling out the mower with half the front yard left to mow, 30 minutes before I had to be at work. After several choice words, some quick research online, and ruling out other possible ailments, an educated guess led to the spark plug. Which was a cheap $5 fix. Confession: I did have to borrow a special "spark plug socket wrench" from my dad. Because who honestly has those lying around. Dads. That's who.
- •How to install a dimmer switchAnother confession: my first crack at this in my old house did in fact melt the end off a screwdriver and shock me a teensy bit. That's when I learned that if you have a three way switch, the power to ALL three switches has to be off if you're to avoid blitzing yourself- even if you've killed the power to the one switch you're replacing. Take two at this feat was successful.
- •Certain spiral CFL bulbs won't dim (or won't dim without buzzing)Ok, so I thought maybe I didn't actually install the dimmer switch correctly because at first glance the bulbs wouldn't dim or brighten in the 12 or so recessed cans in the basement. And there was some serious buzzing happening which I took as another bad sign. But then I noticed ONE bulb way over in the corner who was behaving as he should— further investigation showed he was a regular old flood, unlike the other fancy pants bulbs. Out with the CFLs, in with the standard floods!
- •How to replace the flush mechanism in the toilet tankThis hideous task was not for the faint of heart. I've actually had to tackle this a couple of times but there's a certain amount of satisfaction that comes with finally getting it right. Anyone who's ever dealt with this knows what I'm saying: There's nothing worse than a broken potty. For many reasons. The (second) most annoying reason being that you have to get every little part put together jussssst right or the damn thing won't work at all.
- •A steam iron is a wonderful thingA simple clothes iron can: 1) take steam burns out of wooden table tops (I know, this seems totally counter-intuitive but it works, swear to god) 2) plump up gauges in wood floors (from oh, say, stupidly dragging a refrigerator across the floor without a dolly) 3) pull stains/odors out of wood floors. Unless those stains are from your 18 year old cat peeing in the same spot on the rug for months unbeknownst to you. Then you're outta luck and better just put a piece of furniture over it.
- •I actually enjoy mowing the yardIt's true. Maybe it's the hippie in me talking, who likes the grass under my toes, the dirt under my nails, and the general sweaty euphoria that comes from working hard outside in the sun and heat. But mowing is fun and relaxing for me, and any man who has (rarely) offered to help with this chore has been met with a robust, "That's sweet of you, but no thanks."
- •Caulking a tub, grouting tile, and spackling are child's play.Nothing impressive here, just filling holes and gaps. Easy peasy.
- •That it's actually nice to have a man around the house...For his company, not his skills as a handyman. :)