A Better World With Simple Hacks

Grant's jeans 2.JPGWhen I was first married my mother-in-law gave me a book entitled Hints from Heloise. I learned so much from the pages of that modest text. I don’t know what eventually happened to it. I moved it from one apartment to another and then to my first home where I resided for well over thirty years. I eventually became confident and adept enough at cleaning and repairing things that I no longer needed to refer to the dogeared tome and eventually the Internet provided me with all of the answers that I needed to take care of everyday household problems so I wasn’t too worried when I was unable to find it.

I’m a firm believer in keeping my appliances and purchases in good order so that they last longer. I seriously want to get the last possible dime out of every investment that I make and so I’m always puttering about attempting to prolong the life of all of the items that occupy my home. I learned all of the basics from Heloise but I find that there is always something that I did not know. Luckily I have friends who seem to be experts in the trivia of home maintenance.

I recently purchased one of those shower caddies that hold shampoo, soap and such. It kept falling onto the floor of the stall and I assumed that I had just made a bad purchase. I had used it a few too many weeks to return it but not enough to make it worth the money that I had invested in it. It wasn’t particularly expensive to begin with so I wasn’t too worried about having to purchase a new one, just a bit annoyed. I happened to mention to a friend during a phone conversation that I was irritated at having to find another style that would hang more securely when she suggested that I wrap a rubber band around the shower head to create enough friction to keep the hanging shelf from slipping off. Since I had nothing to lose I tried her idea as soon as I finished our call. It’s been four months now and my shower caddy is still in the exact spot in which I placed it on that day. My problem was so easily solved and I felt as though I had won some kind of lottery by being so clever.

I have often suggested that my friend who provided me with the successful hack should  write a book outlining the many ideas that she has. She is the type of person who is able to take a seeming pile of junk and turn it into useable items. She operates on a strict budget and somehow appears to live like a queen because of her uncanny knowledge about how to use virtually everything in unusual ways. She has shown me how to use lemon juice to get rust out of an antique tablecloth and peanut butter to remove gum from my daughter’s hair. She has memorized hundreds of healthy recipes and is like an encyclopedia when it comes to using everyday items in ways that nobody ever thought of doing. I find her insights to be quite interesting and hope that she one day finds the time to write a blog to share her ideas.

Just after Christmas my automatic ice maker simply quit making ice. I drink lots of cold water during the day and I was gravely missing the convenience of having those lovely cubes proliferating in a bin for my use. I was thinking of calling a repairman but chose instead to enter the world of YouTube videos that seem to run the gamut from music to relationship advice. I found a plethora of guides to troubleshooting an ice maker. Mike and I followed the instructions that I found by first turning off the water supply and unplugging the refrigerator. We then checked the water tubes for signs of blockage. When those appeared to be operating properly we focused on the ice making mechanism. We found frozen ice cubes stuck in the mold. It appeared that the little arm that determines whether or not ice is dropped or not was bent and in the wrong holes. We adjusted it a bit and reset the entire mechanism. I guess we will know in a few hours whether or not we have fixed the problem or need to purchase a new ice maker. Since we now know how easy the installation process is we will come out ahead either way.

I can’t really explain why I get a kick out of knowing how to perform such simple repairs. It gives me a sense of accomplishment and makes me feel as though I am doing my part to keep our planet from becoming a gigantic junkyard. I find that as people we tend to be a throwaway society. We would rather just go get something new than take care of what we already have.

It hasn’t always been that way. People would live in the same house for most of their lives. They would drive their cars until the wheels fell off. Most folks ate dinner at home every night and used every scrap of food for something useful, even creating compost heaps with the less edible parts of food. Which brings me back to my friend who is so creative in her habits. She told me recently that she saves all of the peelings from her vegetables in the freezer until she has a bag full of such items. Then she simmers them in water to make a lovely broth that she uses for making soups. I think we might all learn from her frugal and planet conscious habits. After recycling and using things to the maximum she has very little garbage and less expense that most of us.

Our ancestors made quilts from the fabric of feed sacks and old articles of clothing. Everything was used and reused. Tin cans held nails and screws. Paper bags wrapped gifts, covered books and sometimes even became makeshift suitcases. Cardboard was a special gift that covered windows or lined shoes that had holes in the bottom. Every woman had a grease jar to hold fat from bacon that might be used in recipes. Tea bags were used multiple times. Baking soda was a household miracle cure for a multitude of problems. My friend has studied all such things and created many more ideas for household maintenance from her own experiences.

I think that we all enjoy learning about ways to save money and our planet all at the same time. We really should think twice before simply tossing our refuse on the curb. There are so many ways that we might give our items new life or even new homes. I think that if we were all to consider such saves before rushing out to purchase the next new thing we might soon find that many of our planets’ environmental problems would begin to dwindle. If we think of ways to keep those trash bins as empty as possible we will all be better for the efforts. We might also learn a thing or two about saving our hard earned money in a world that seems to be on the verge of bankruptcy.

Find yourself a copy of Hints from Heloise or locate a friend who is already an expert at such things. You will declutter your life and have fun at the same time. There is nothing quite as rewarding as repairing a problem that may have seemed impossible to fix. We humans like doing that but haven’t been as skilled as we once were. Perhaps its time for all of us to learn how to do such things again.