Over the last generation or so, a great number of skills have disappeared from the community at large, as we have become more focused on being good at just one thing – our jobs. The thinking was that everyone would be more productive doing what they know best, as they could use the fruits of their productiveness to pay for the services of professionals whenever needed. And so we have arrived at a situation in which electricians get called out to change light bulbs and plumbers are called over to people’s houses to unblock the toilet.
Turns out this system isn’t all it was cracked up to be. In the first place, it causes a colossal waste of time and energy – how much carbon monoxide is being pumped into our air by tradespeople making their way across town every day and night to deal with such simple problems? And then, there is obviously the monetary cost. How much of your time and effort did it take for you to make the $90 you just paid the plumber to drive over for five minutes? In smaller towns, there might only be a few plumbers, who decide that the charge for unblocking a toilet should be $180. In other communities there might only be one plumber who is too busy to come. Or no plumber at all – what then?
Suddenly we start to wish we knew the things our grandparents knew about running a home. Whenever there was a problem to fix, they tried to do it themselves, and succeeded most of the time in doing so.
Electrical problems are probably of the most concern due to the obvious dangers involved in dealing with electricity. There are some jobs which you might not legally be allowed to do unless you are a qualified electrician. Changing a lightbulb is not one of them. You should be aware of how to prevent electrical overloads, how to move electrical boxes, replace light fixtures and simple appliances. For the layman, it’s more important to know your limits with electricity. Thankfully, there are lots of video tutorials and guides on the internet to help you out.
Plumbing is similar in many ways. You definitely don’t want to jeopardize the plumbing of your home as it could end up causing you emotional and financial misery. Simple plumbing, however, is not difficult. Learn how to find and stop a leak, learn how different valves work, how to repair a facet, stop a running toilet and so on. As with electrical jobs, you can find a lot of help online for these tasks.
Basic carpentry is a skill which is becoming very scarce, especially among the young urban generation. And yet it can be extremely rewarding, providing both a creative outlet and a good way to save money. Learn how to fix uneven floors and walls yourself, how joists work and how to safely use your tools. You just can’t go wrong by reading up on each tool you might need, but you should definitely have a nailer, compressor, a miter saw, a pry bar and a sander. Join a carpentry club to sharpen your skills and learn what to do before you let yourself loose on your new home.
Taking things a step further, you could venture into the world of DIY. Try out some easy projects, such as building a workbench, cabinets, shelves and motion detector lights.
The more you do, the more confidence you’ll have. If you’ve been brought up in a situation where you have never had to do anything for yourself, your parents did all your cooking and washing, even through college, so you could get that job with the salary that let you put down a deposit on that big old house you needed to impress everyone with, you’re not going to be able to do everything at once.
Start small, listen and learn from others, practice and try to enjoy it. Like anything, the more you do it, the better you’ll get at it. Once you’ve learned to stand on your own two feet and got your big pants on, you’ll be ready to take on even the biggest challenges.