The Joy of Repairing Stuff

The Joy of Maintenance Repairing Stuff.

I had the opportunity recently to have several home repair issues taken care of—which got me thinking about an Oct. 2016 Freaknomics episode called In Praise of Maintenance.” In the podcast, Harvard economist Ed Glaeser traces municipal maintenance back to 6th-century BCE Etruscan and subsequent Roman Republic projects in the time of Cato the Elder (2nd-century BCE).

But while maintenance of stuff is certainly important, I find I get a lot more inherent pleasure out of getting stuff fixed.

I’ll stick to the last two months

  • Guest bath: completely new faucets and hoses to fix longstanding dripping problem
  • Guest bath: varnished under-sink wooden cabinet base to keep it from flaking (after years of dripping from the sink)
  • Front door weatherstripping replaced
  • Front door latch bolt replaced (caused by weatherstripping replacement)
  • Front storm door pneumatic closing mechanism adjusted (that’s the gizmo at the top that prevents it from slamming closed and allows you to lock the door into an open position

  • Main bath shower: drain strainer fixture replaced (after previously botched job)
  • Main bath toilet: loose seat adjusted (subsequently loosened again)
  • Roof: installed drain pipe from rooftop AC unit (to keep water from dripping down the roof tiles)
  • Laundry room: replaced ballast on fluorescent light fixture
  • Kitchen: fixed broken track light, installed dimmer switch and new bulbs for track lights (I actually cracked the track light fixture trying to install a bulb while balancing on the tippytop of a ladder, thus necessitating the repair and renovation cycle)*

  • Loft fan: bought new fan to replace decrepit unit
  • Refrigerator: super-glued door shelf back into place (this vintage fridge really needs to be replaced—it’s already lost the ability to serve water and ice and some of the light bulb fixtures are defunct)
  • Patio: scrubbed out long-standing bird- and tree-dropping stains from concrete area.
  • Fireplace: vacuumed and scrubbed out (this is probably more like yearly maintenance but it still feels good to get it done with).

Note that none of these are regular maintenance projects like changing your car oil or house AC filter, filling your bike tires or watering your plants.

(I admit that I’m pretty proud that this orchid has started blooming again after two years of, um, benign neglect)

Oddly, I think I derived greater pleasure from these simple maintenance projects than from buying new things for the house. It’s like removing one little nuisance after another.

Now, can the same thing be done for our government? Repair (not replace) our healthcare system, our tax codes that seem to mainly benefit billionaire real estate magnates, our treatment of people who can’t defend themselves? Repair the 2nd Amendment that makes it ridiculously easy to get access to guns? Repair the gerrymandered voting districts? Repair our educational system (hint: it’s not going to be by vouchers).

Needless to say, I had professional handymen doing the work above, though I did buy a stepladder that allows me to get up on the roof to see what the neighbors and their infernal barking dogs are up to.

But who will be the handyperson to repair our democracy?


Yes, those are airplane models and ridiculously outsized wine bottles up there. Fixing the track lighting gave me a good opportunity to do my yearly dusting of the high ledge.
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