Toilet repair is frightening. Look at the diagram above. Does it intimidate you? It sure intimidates me. I am not a “DIY” guy. In fact, I am more much a “PDIFM” guy (Please, Do It For Me).
I do the time/cost calculations in my mind and usually find some excuse to justify spending money rather than time. (I don’t like spending money on things, but I do love spending money if I get more time out of it). This could describe you even if you are considering going back to work or becoming a stay-at-home mom.
Truth be told, I’m just not confident in my ability to fix anything. Also, I have taken the Hippocratic Oath (“Do no harm”) and applied it to home appliances and fixtures. As a result, I try to do the universe and my family a favor by just staying away from any and all tools. Double that if the tool has an electric cord attached to it. (You might not feel this way about home repairs, but you might struggle with the same challenges when applied to finding the best retirement investments. If so…read on…you’ll find a solution to that issue too.)
But as I sit writing this post, my toilet keeps interrupting me. It sounds like a submarine that goes into dive mode every three minutes – like clock work. (I keep waiting for Sean Connery to emerge from my bathroom in a Russian officer’s uniform to tell me we are taking the sub down to 100 meters like he did in the movie Hunt for Red October.)
OK…enough of my procrastination. (Did you see what I was doing just then? I was procrastinating…did you see that?) I have a leaky toilet and I’ve decided I’m going to fix it. I’m going in.
Here are the steps as I take them:
It’s Sunday afternoon and I have nothing to do and nowhere to go. I have promised myself that I am not going anywhere until this leaky toilet is fixed. Period
My old way of looking at things was off. I can’t justify calling a plumber based on the cost versus what I make per hour at work.
It’s the weekend. I’m not going to work today. Also, my kids are all busy playing with other kids. My wife is busy doing her own thing. I don’t really want to read a book right now. My old way of looking at the cost of my time isn’t applicable. This isn’t a choice between earning what I could earn by working an hour or fixing the toilet. It’s a choice between watching yet another episode of Law and Order or fixing the toilet. I’m committed. When I ask how can I invest my time best, the answer is clear.
2. Considered the alternatives.
The first solution that occurred to me was to search for an answer to my problem on the Internet. I did that and in fact I found a number of solutions. The only problem was that I didn’t understand a word of what was said. I mean…look at that diagram above. You might be the kind of person who can make sense out of it, but I’m not. My eyes glaze over and before you can say, “Pepto Bismal” I’m reaching for the phone calling a plumber. Well…not this time. I’m not going to be intimidated.
The Internet is not a good solution in this case because I’m just not hard-wired to understand this stuff. I need someone to talk me through it. I need to ask questions. I’m going to the hardware store.
3. Draw on past experiences.
I hate to admit it, but I’ve tried my hand at toilet repair in the past and didn’t get too far. The last time I went to the hardware store they started throwing around terms that I didn’t understand and that almost sounded vulgar.
Also, the last time I tried to fix anything, I had to go back and forth from my house to the store several times. I would try several ideas and none of them seemed to work. I never had any vocational skills training and it showed. This past failure contributed to my lack of enthusiasm. But I wasn’t going to give myself that excuse again. I was going in fully armed this time…I took digital pictures of my tank. Camera in hand, I went down to my hardware store. I showed John, the store employee, the pictures of the tank and asked for advice.
4. I refused to leave the store until I understood what to do.
I told John what the problem was and he told me that I probably needed to put in a new flapper. I didn’t know what a flapper was so he showed me on the diagram (above). At this point, I started feeling hopeful. It seemed like a minor repair.
John handed me the new part, told me that the directions for the repair were on the back of the package and started to walk away. That’s when the fear gripped me like a boa constrictor. Everything slowed down at that point.
I regained composure and asked John to explain the repair since the written instructions were clearly beyond anything I could understand. John complied and after I asked a few more questions, I left the store confident in my ability to unhook a chain, lift out a piece of plastic, replace that old plastic part and hook the chain to the new part.
5. Celebrated Success and Debriefed
The repair did in fact work. I celebrated. I wanted to jump for joy. Plumbing is never going to be one of my retirement hobbies, but I could plant my flag this time. I couldn’t believe that I had done it. I invited my wife and daughters to come marvel at my stupendous achievement. (Believe it or not, they weren’t all that impressed.)
While my wife could have fixed this problem in her sleep, I learned a great deal from this toilet tank trek:
1. I can solve (some) problems even if I haven’t ever done it before.
2. I can ask for help. I don’t have to be embarrassed just because I don’t know how to do something.
3. The hardest and most important work in solving this problem was getting up the nerve to try to do it again.
I believe we can all stretch our comfort zone and do much more than we think we can. I’m not going to be taking apart my car’s transmission anytime soon, but I am ready to tackle my toilet again should the need arise.
Are you intimidated by home repairs? How did you overcome that fear?