Friday, May 17, 2013

Too Many Projects, update

So, those of you who read my post a week ago may have been wondering whether we ever got around to the two Projects we had on our list—the broken desk fan and the persnickety toilet—or whether we decided to give in and just buy something new. Well, as it turns out, once we actually took a minute to look at these Projects carefully, they weren't quite so imposing after all. In fact, we were able to complete each one with just a few minutes of work, a little ingenuity, and some parts we already had.

Here's Project #1: the toilet chain and flapper. After it got stuck yet again on Monday, I got fed up and did a quick Google search on "toilet keeps running," and I found a Wikihow article with some troubleshooting instructions. It suggested feeding the chain through a plastic soda straw to keep it from snagging. We had plenty of soda straws, so I cut one down to what seemed a reasonable length, unhooked the chain, and fed it through. That worked somewhat, except that the chain was too rigid; its full weight now rested on the flapper, forcing it closed too soon instead of letting it drop slowly into place. So Brian modified my fix by cutting the straw in half at the middle, and then he replaced the hook at the end with a small key ring so that it couldn't slip off. Total time: 10 to 15 minutes. Total cost: $0.

Project #2, the old clip-on desk fan, was even more straightforward, though it did require a couple of tools. Brian simply took a slab of scrap wood (about 6 inches by 9) and screwed it to the bottom of the fan, first drilling out a hole in the middle of the wood to accommodate the head of the screw. He plunked it down on my desk and said, "That should do for now; I can make it look nicer later." But as I was looking at this slightly kludgey construct and wondering what would be the best way to go about making it look nicer, my eye happened to fall on the stack of gift cards I've accumulated over the past few years, hoping to find some way of reusing or recycling them. And just on an impulse, I picked up the stack and fanned it out around the base of the fan, as you see here. Okay, maybe it's not exactly elegant, but then, a cheap plastic fan isn't going to look elegant no matter what you do to it, so you might as well go for whimsical instead. Total time: about 10 minutes. Total cost: $0. Bonus: a way to put something that had been just taking up space on my desk to good use.

So I'm revising my views on the subject of turning things into Projects. I now think that the real problem is not an unwillingness to spend money to fix a problem: it's the assumption that solving a problem without spending money is going to require a major investment of time, and thus should be put off until you have a large block of time free. Sometimes, it turns out, a cheap fix is also a quick fix.
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