I have a love-hate relationship with laundry, or maybe its an obsession? All I know is as much as I hate doing it, I start to get antsy if I don’t run my washing machine at least once a day. For the past couple of years, the door-lock has been intermittently stubborn about doing it’s job. So I’d open the door, close the door. Open the door again and close it with a slight upward pressure. Open it, pray, stand on one foot and close it again.
Eventually it always locked. Until Sunday, when it didn’t. When you no longer hear the little motor or whatever that makes the door lock even trying to lock, you know it’s pooched. Being perpetually tight on cash, I did a Google search and the repair looked pretty simple, at least for my Frigidaire Affinity washing machine. Except it was Sunday, and there were no parts stores open.
So I went to the laundromat and forked over my two bucks in quarters for every load. Six of them, and that was just my weekend laundry, minus bedding. Thank God for the clothesline so I didn’t have to pay to dry everything!
Monday I called around and ordered the part. When you figure the price of a front-load washing machine and the two bucks a load at the laundromat, $83 plus tax seemed like a fair price for the part. I’m positive it would only take me a week or two to spend that at the laundromat.
Today the part came in, so once I got it home I first spent a ridiculous amount of time getting my washing machine clean enough to photograph and air on the internet. For something that washes our clothing, it gets ridiculously dirty, never mind the mud spatter and dog hair from the dogs that were lurking in, around and on it.
Then I took a deep breath and got started. In the interests of Do What I Say, not What I Did, unplug your washing machine first.
The first step was removing this wire ring from around the gasket. It’s what holds it in place on my Frigidaire Affinity washing machine.
Then I removed the two screws holding the locking mechanism in place.
The gasket was easy to pull away so I could reach behind for the mechanism.
This was about where I realized I should have unplugged the machine first. But I took each plug from the old mechanism and plugged it into the new one. From there, all I had to do was reverse the process, put the screws back in, the gasket back in place and finesse the wire ring over the gasket.
Easy Peasey! The best part is not having to hop on one foot while praying for the door to just latch dammit please anymore.
I was chatting with a co-worker the other day who had just moved into her first house. She was telling me about getting a new toilet installed and I mentioned that I’ve replaced my own and pulled it off the floor another time to remove the raw potato my darlings flushed. We had a laugh about the potato clog, but she also mentioned that she probably didn’t own the right tools to do a job like that herself. Which makes me wonder how many households are lacking basic tools?
Last fall I gathered together a small toolbox of what I consider essential tools. The toolbox is for in the house because in the winter when the days are short and it’s too hard to find anything in my powerless unlit shed. These are the tools that usually stay in the house close at hand, and if I were just starting out these are the tools I would buy first.
Whatever you do, don’t buy a hammer at the dollar store unless it’s a brand-name, you don’t want off-brands of dubious origins. Store brands are fine – Mastercraft is Canadian Tire’s brand, Craftsman is Sears, I’m sure every hardware store has their own. I don’t care which brand you choose, but choose one that you’ve heard of.
If you only have one hammer, you want a 16 ounce claw hammer. It will have some weight to it which helps to drive a nail home. A lighter hammer just bounces off the nail. Look for a grip that fits comfortably in your hand, because most likely your hand is smaller than your dad’s or your brother’s hand. Old style wood handles have gone the way of the cassette player, most are fiberglass now.
A Set of Screwdrivers
At minimum you need the following screwdrivers:
Robertson – the two most common sizes are referred to as a Red Robbie and a Green Robbie. These are the square bits, and hands down the easiest to use. Screws sit nicely on the bit while you’re trying to drive your screw in
Phillips – you’ll rarely need the largest sizes, with the #2 being most common, followed by the #1. These are the cross or x-shaped bits.
Slotted or flat-head – these are the hardest ones to use and in most cases if I can, I’ll swap out that screw for a Robertson (first choice) or a Phillips. On a slotted screw there is nothing to prevent the screwdriver bit from slipping right out of the screw, and when you’re putting all of your strength into turning the screw there’s very little control left to keep the bit in place.
Most sets will offer these main 5 and then some. Look for chubbier handles that are easy to grip which helps to compensate for our lesser hand strength.
You actually need two sets of these – one SAE and one metric. These are what you use when you’re putting together a futon or a bookshelf. They’re also used a lot for bicycle assembly and repair.
Vice Grips/Locking Pliers
Vice grips definitely fall under my can’t live without category. Vice grips can supply leverage when I don’t have enough hand strength to get the job done. If I’ve got a screw that won’t budge, I lock them around the shaft of the screwdriver for leverage. They let me focus my strength on keeping the bit in the screw while using the vice grips to turn it. The stubby nosed ones are more multi-purpose but sometimes you can get a good deal on a set of three.
This is a tool where you want to look and pay for quality. Cheap ones will just frustrate you. They will either be difficult to adjust or the bolt that keeps the two halves of the tool joined will constantly come loose, allowing the tool to slip. Channel locks have a series of grooves on one half and a ridge on the other. When they are open all the way you can jump from one groove to another to adjust them. They are indispensable for plumbing repairs. Even ones as simple as changing a shower faucet – or a toilet.
I recommend two pairs – a needle nose pair and a stubby pair. Needle nose pliers are perfect for pulling clogs out of vacuum wands, snub nose pliers usually give a stronger grip.
I don’t like these at all, but I have a full set of wrenches at my disposal. I find they don’t hold a tight fit – they have a thumb wheel you use to adjust them – and slip while being used. Either that or I’m still holding a grudge over the time I dropped them on my toe and split it open. If I don’t have the correct sized wrench, I prefer to use vice-grips or channellocks.
Side cutters are for cutting wire. Perfect for trimming wire coat hangers to the right length for toasting marshmallows. They won’t cut clothesline cable – when I find something that does I’ll let you know.
A Tape Measure
A tape measure is always helpful.
Utility Knives and extra blades are worth buying in multiples when you see a deal.
When you’re ready to move on from just hand tools and add a power tool, a good cordless drill is without a doubt the first thing I would buy. I’m partial to my Bosch, but there are plenty of other good brands out there. Mine came with two batteries and a quick charge charger. I’ve been happy with it for a long time.
It’s no big secret that when you live in small house your best space-saving asset is your walls, so when I was creating a functional workspace for myself and needed it to have a small footprint, shelving was my first go to.
Whether it’s the Brady Bunch feel of them, or the infinite possibilities, my favorite shelving is the metal standards and brackets with melamine shelves. I’ve installed them in both of the boy’s bedrooms.
I added it to this room for some over the bed storage, originally for DVD’s and Video Games.
This room ended up with a little nook, it was either that or dead space between the walls. At various times the shelves have functioned as a display area, a TV stand, and even a desk. Knowing I was going to install the shelving in advance, my dad ensured there would be properly placed studs. As long as the standards are securely anchored, these shelves can take the weight, right now my son has an enormous TV in this nook.
The standards come in different lengths, and the shelves are also available in different lengths and widths. Aside from the typical white, there are usually a couple of other finishes – I have some in a birch finish and others in an espresso finish.
Determine the length of your standards, they are typically offered in 1 foot increments. For whatever reason, sometimes the very bottom slots are difficult to get a bracket into so you want to try to have a little extra at the bottom. How many standards you will need depends on how long your shelves are and how much weight you will be putting on them. A four-foot shelf is usually okay with two standards, for a six-foot shelf you need three.
Next decide how long and how deep you want your shelves. Shelves are usually in 1 foot increments for the length and 2 inch increments for the depth. For each size of shelf there is a corresponding bracket – you will need one bracket per standard per shelf.
You will also need a corresponding number of screws and wall anchors for each standard. Sometimes you can find them in a matching finish but if not, the staff at your hardware store will help you choose something suitable. Remember the Robertson heads are easiest to work with.
Tools and Supplies
Once you have purchased your supplies, you will need the following:
Drill with correct sized drill bit and screwdriver bit, I used #2 screws with a Green Robertson bit and a 1/4 inch drill bit for the anchors.
Measure and mark where the standards will go. You want them 12″ in from the ends of shelf. There should also be no more than a 2 foot span between standards.
Using your level, align it to the first mark and use it to draw a line up the wall. Repeat for each standard you plan to install. Notice that at one end of the standard there is a large gap with no slots. I treat this as the bottom and make sure all the standards are facing the same direction.
Hold the standard in place along your line and mark each screw hole with a pencil. If you are lucky enough to have a stud where you need it, skip the next two steps.
Drill a hole at each pencil mark.
Using a hammer, lightly tap each an anchor into each hole.
Once all the anchors are in place, use your screws to attach the standard to the wall. I like to get each screw just started, so I can see what I’m doing and then tighten them all at once.
Place a bracket in the attached standard, and one in the same slot of your next standard. Make sure both brackets are firmly snapped into place. Lay your level over the two brackets. Use your pencil line to make sure the bracket is level vertically and your level on the brackets to make sure the shelves will be level horizontally. Once you find the correct place, mark all of your screw holes with your pencil again and use the same method as above to attach the standard.
Once all the standards are in place, start adding your brackets and shelves. Make sure the brackets are fully seated in their slots, and if your shelves are free-floating on the wall, use your level along side one of the ends to make sure they are all one on top of the other neatly. Now you can accessorize your shelves any way you want. I’m using a wide one for a desk.
I went a little crazy with the blue spray paint. The bulletin board, organizers and my desk light all got a fresh cheerful dose of it. I love my Anthurium in it’s pretty glazed pot and the vacation pictures from six years ago that hangs beside my bulletin board. Now I just need to paint in the fall and install some flooring.
There’s still a lot to organize, but even with a smaller work surface the space feels much less confined than it did before. I’ve also removed the headboard of my bed – it was far too tall for my bedroom with its low ceiling. Instead I’m using the much shorter footboard as my headboard, but eventually I would like to make an upholstered headboard.
You should check your tire pressure. The weather is getting cooler, which means your previously perfectly inflated tires, might need some air added. Because you know stuff shrinks when it gets cold right? And tires that aren’t kept properly inflated don’t last as long and replacements aren’t cheap. There are other ways to do it, but I prefer to use my little air compressor to check mine in the relative privacy of my driveway. Then if they’re low, I can just fill them at the same time.
Get yourself a decent air compressor – one of the ones that plugs into a cigarette lighter – and keep it in your trunk. You will be glad you have it when all the kids in the neighborhood start bringing you their bikes and basketballs so you can pump them up.
This one is mine – it even has a nice light at the front. Expect to pay around $50, anything cheaper will be a waste of your money. You want something decent you can count on and have for a long time, and a good one can outlive a couple of cars.
How To Check Your Tire Pressure and Add Air
Open your driver’s side door and look for a sticker that looks something like the one below.
It’s an important sticker. It tells you what size tires you need for your vehicle and the recommended tire pressure. Don’t go by what the tires say – the sticker is the correct safe tire pressure for your vehicle.
Plug your compressor into the cigarette lighter and then pick a starting tire. Unscrew the plastic cap from the valve stem and do NOT let that little cap out of your hand until it’s back on the tire.
Attach the hose end to the valve. Mine happens to screw on to the valve. Some are just pushed on and then you flip a toggle down to lock it into place.
Use the gauge on the compressor to check your tire pressure. If the tire pressure is correct remove the hose, replace the cap and move on to the next tire.
If it isn’t turn on the compressor and make it happen. Once the tire is at the correct pressure – use the gauge and do NOT over-inflate – remove the hose and replace the cap. Don’t worry about the small amount of air that escapes while removing the cap.
Do all four tires and if they were low, I bet you’ll feel the difference the next time you drive somewhere.