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velvet goldmine

Put a big old piece of ductape over the oil burner switch so that you don't accidentally mistake it for the basement light and end up calling in professionals when the heat goes out in the middle of a snowstorm. (That was a big bill).

Hmmmm.... In the storm preparedness arena, perhaps check out an alternative energy store or web site? A lot of needed items, like lanterns or radios, are available as solar-powered, or even crank. Batteries become less of an issue.

Try to make as many things dual-purpose as possible, like using the kind of shephard's crook solar lights to line your walkway, which can then be hung inside if the power goes out.

Have mini-booklights so that if you don't have enough lanterns to go around for reading and keeping other spots lighted (stairs, bathrooms come to mind), you can still read.

Tim McGovern

You are a wonderful human being. I might've just finished Good Omens, but you could beat Terry Pratchett in a wit contest for sure.

And it's tough about the batteries. Everything important is pretty much double A, so it's not too tough to figure out, but in a year or two I'm sure those renewables Michael Jordan goes on about will come in vogue and BAM! another appliance to plug in and solar/wind panelize.

Linkmeister

My nieces used to call me "Uncle Battery" because I always had spares.

the blonde

in my defense...

i used to buy batteries and light bulbs when i was living on my lonesome. i also always know where the circuit breaker is, in any domicile i live in, and what to check.

because you've manfully taken on certain tasks doesn't mean i don't know how to do them!

actor212

The blonde has a curious defect in her hearing. She cannot hear any advice I give.

It's actually a developmental disability, Lance, and only occurs once you put a ring on a woman's finger.

Ken Muldrew

"I think it's probably not a good thing that both bedrooms are on the same circuit."

Current Canadian code (and since the two are mostly identical, probably this holds for the US NEC as well) calls for all bedroom outlets to be on an arc-fault breaker. Since they're so hellishly expensive, nobody puts in more then they have to, even if it means running a lot of copper (which isn't being given out for free these days either...). Bottom line is that putting all bedrooms on the same circuit is the norm these days.

As for practical advice, I'd just say that with anything that you can't fix, you should make regular maintenance a strong priority.

Chris The Cop

Not being terribly handy myself, the piece of advice I would give is: when the apparatus inside your toilet breaks (as it will at some time in your life), do not panic. The shuttlecock/water closet mechanism is unique (in my experience) in that the pieces are always awailable either in one unit or individually. It's often easier to change the whole thing rather than replace a piece and it is thankfully easy to do. It warms my heart to know that the person(s) who set up the basic toilet had enough sense---knowing that everyone has one and has to use one--to build a mechanism with problems easy to diagnosis, and easy to fix and replace. Even the theory behind it is easy.

If however, after you successfully replace the mechanism, you want to point to yourself in the mirror and say: "yo, I'm Bob f---king Villa," good ahead. Indulge.

Chris The Cop

Not being terribly handy myself, the piece of advice I would give is: when the apparatus inside your toilet breaks (as it will at some time in your life), do not panic. The shuttlecock/water closet mechanism is unique (in my experience) in that the pieces are always awailable either in one unit or individually. It's often easier to change the whole thing rather than replace a piece and it is thankfully easy to do. It warms my heart to know that the person(s) who set up the basic toilet had enough sense---knowing that everyone has one and has to use one--to build a mechanism with problems easy to diagnosis, and easy to fix and replace. Even the theory behind it is easy.

If however, after you successfully replace the mechanism, you want to point to yourself in the mirror and say: "yo, I'm Bob f---king Villa," good ahead. Indulge.

Uncle Merlin

Always know where ALL the water shut offs are.

If you smell gas back out slowly and LEAVE touch nothing.

Always have a fire extinguisher handy near the wood stove.

Clean and check the heating system annually. Especially the Heat Exchanger.

And if you overload your washer I will know it and report you to Automatcwasher.org.


Uncle Merlin

Let add this, always operate the water shut offs every year. Never let them sit idle for more than a year.

Karen

From my personal experience, when a young single girl on her own: if you REALLY want to get something clean, and feel that any ONE of your cleaning products won't be up to the task, DO NOT decide to combine the bleach with the ammonia in your water bucket. Visible fumes will arise and there will be a very bad smell. In addition, if the windows are not open, you may die.

Just invest in a really stiff-bristled brush.

She-who-must-be-obeyed

If you are a homeowner, get recommendations for a plumber, electrician, etc., BEFORE you have a problem. And make sure that you know who to call at your insurance company before you have a problem, too.

If you rent, get renter's insurance. It is cheap, and you may not own the structure, but you would not believe how expensive it is the replace everything you own. Plus, it insures you when, say, you are traveling abroad and you are robbed.

For everyone, you should always have on hand at home a flashlight, some candles, a hammer, both kinds of screwdrivers, and a measuring tape. And make sure that you know how to use them (I know. It seems simple. More people don't know how to use a hammer than you would ever guess). Other tools are also useful, but you should always have this little kit.

She-who-must-be-obeyed

Plus, of course, something to light the candles, and batteries, and such. You get the idea.

Ken Muldrew

Further to Chris the Cop's comment, here is a lovely story of a similar adventure:

http://community.middlebury.edu/~harris/Humanities/MyToilet.html

Bil from Beloit

My recommendation for a young man--or woman, because I'm not sure anyone learns how to do this any more--comtemplating setting up housekeeping with or without a mate? Learn to bake from scratch. In particular, learn how to make a decent pie crust. Of course, I really think anyone ought to be able to put down a first class feed in its entirety, but time and tide tell me pipe dreams like that lead to misery.

Being able to bake allows you to contribute to meals--especially wingdings like the inevitable family gatherings--without being in the way. Face it, unless you're the heir to a vast gypsum fortune or a refugee from a boy band, your first kitchen will be small, and when you try to prove how helpful you are by stirring...something, your spouse will be forced to elbow you repeatedly to get the food on the table on time. You can put something together ahead of time, lend a hand when it's actually wanted, and feel good about having shared the load beyond buying the liquor and washing the dishes. If you're on your own, you can show whoever you're cooking for that you appreciate their showing up, and maybe they'll even want to take seconds home.

Better yet, being able to bake means you can create whetever delights your spouse or Other Who Should Be Delighted on the days when a spouse or Other should be delighted--birtdays, etc., and not have to fib about where it came from. And you can contribute to office events, bake sales, et al, without having to hit up someone else (usually at the last minute because you forgot, which is genetic and not your fault) yet again.

Besides, unless you stray into a few dangerous areas--things that fall that shouldn't, things that clot when they shouldn't or don't when they should--baking well, while hard damn work, is not complicated. Follow the recipe, pay attention, don't try to shortcut, use decent ingredients, and you should be able to turn out respectable pies, cakes, or cookies.

And lighting up the eyes of friends and family is worth it.

huh

When I ran my electric, I found that arc-fault breakers are, in fact, required here in the US for bedrooms - but they trip easily and therefore usually not used for lights and that includes in bedrooms. So the norm nowadays is to have the outlets in multiple bedrooms (I think 16 per circuit is the max) all on an arc-fault circuit while the lights - again for multiple rooms are on a different one. Of course there are also specialized rules for bathrooms, kitchens and smoke-detectors - the rules sure have changed since I was doing this stuff as a teen.

Personally, I think everyone - man and woman - should have sufficient basic skills to get by for most everyday common task - one should be equally at home in pouring foundations, splitting wood and ironing shirts (and yes I do the latter and the kids come to me when they need something sewn). So while I certainly agree with your point, I must say that I find the general lack of competence on these things a little depressing.

velvet goldmine

huh: well, huh.

It always interests me when people base their "what all folks should be good at" list on.... what they themselves are good at. Unless one pours foundations for a living, for example, I don't see how anybody would need to do it "every day."

Similarly, my lack of depth perception makes the idea of my splitting wood (or even more than light ironing!) laughable, even though we do heat with wood. I do, however, go into the woods with loppers and whatever I can manage, or drag back all manner of fallen trees and limbs back home for my better-sighted half to split.

You can't have every skill in the world, or even live with someone who yins your yang, but you can get by. Nothing depressing about it.

Connie

Take a "Home Inventory" and keep it up to date. You never know...

calliopejane

Pouring foundations?? Are you kidding? I'm quite handy, I just finished remodeling my bathroom, but I have never once in my life felt "underprepared" due to the fact that I have no idea how to pour a foundation.

It is certainly helpful to learn the basic principles underlying plumbing and electricity (and to turn the electricity OFF before working on it!) If you're a homeowner you can avoid paying huge plumber/electrician fees for very minor problems, and you don't have to wait for someone to find time to come. Even when I rented, I found it easier and faster to do something like snake out the clogged toilet myself than to call the landlord. Or I hate bright overhead lighting, have always installed dimmers wherever I lived.

And if you do want to be handier, here's a great big tip that probably most guys learned young, but that no one explained to my girl-self: Get decent tools!! I think a lot of women think they can't do things because they don't have good tools. It was this huge revelation for me, a rather small person, when I realized that brute strength not required when you have good power tools -- I needn't apply massive amounts of torque, DeWalt will do that for me! And even for hand tools, it's worth the extra money to buy solid durable stuff.

At the very least, do get some basic hand tools! It astonishes me how people can get by at all with no tools, even if they don't own a home. Recently I had to grab my toolbox and go over to a friend's apartment because she could hear a cat mewling from inside the dryer (not inside where the clothes go, but inside where the motor is) but didn't have a wrench to take the back of the dryer off. She had somewhere to go, but couldn't in good conscience just leave it, and who knows how long the landlord-to-handyman-to-apartment process would have taken.

Dawn

Install at least one easy thing, like a dimmer switch or replacement light fixture, that requires you to turn off power and use basic tools, and gives you a positive outcome. I did that in my first apartment and it was a great confidence builder. My parents were never handy around the house and I always assumed such tasks were beyond the abilities of mere mortals.

Maria

Posts like these are why I read your writing.

The grammar seems atrocious in that previous sentence, but I wanted to highlight your posts, not me (i.e. "I read your writing because of posts like these"). You get my (complimentary) point. ;)

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