No Domestic Backup

I have never lived on my own. Mr. FP and I went directly from the sophomore dorm to our first apartment, the summer we were all of 19 years old. As I recall, we had camping chairs for furniture and a National Geographic map thumb-tacked to our living room wall for decoration.

At first, giddy teenagers in love, we did all the things together. Grocery shopping. Laundry. As the years went on and our domestic responsibilities increased and increased some more, we began to specialize. Laundry was all me. During times we had a yard, that was all him. He set up all the utilities, I arranged all the repairmen.

Well, he doesn’t live here anymore, and I’ve had to learn some new skills. Here’s how it’s shaking out.

Cutting the cat’s claws

Kitty Paragon in repose.

Kitty Paragon in repose.

Difficulty: Low

Time involved: 5 minutes

Potential for mishap: Medium

Result: Satisfactory

I seem to have been left with Kitty Paragon. She is a nice cat and a devoted user of her scratching post, but nail-trimming was never my job. She cooperated reasonably well and only ran away once. However, when I first went to do the task earlier in the day, I couldn’t find her. Still don’t know where she was (she is strictly an indoor feline). I just waited until she turned up, after the tots were in bed.

Plunging the toilet

Difficulty: Medium

Time involved: 5 minutes

Potential for mishap: High

Result: Satisfactory

I had perhaps trimmed the cat three or four times in the years she has lived with us. Plunging a toilet, never. I am not proud of this, but the one time I attempted it, I became so distressed that I, umm, cried until Mr. FP came and did it. (Let the record show that I do not, EVER, personally clog toilets, but small children are luxuriantly profligate with toilet paper.)

Well, I’m not exactly sure what I did. I wrapped a towel around my person for protection, plunged ineffectually a few times, and eventually it seemed to get better even though I’m pretty sure I wasn’t doing it right.

Using the trimmer

Resplendent weeds. Sorry I do not have a picture of it freshly trimmed. I am procrastinating.

Resplendent weeds. Sorry I do not have a picture of it freshly trimmed. I am procrastinating.

Difficulty: High

Time involved: 3o  minutes

Potential for mishap: Very high

Result: Unsatisfactory

The actual lawnmower I don’t mind. Our yard is small and mostly dead and we have one of those manual push mowers, so there was no gasoline involved. But I made a hash of the trimming. I invariably either exposed bare dirt or failed to actually trim anything. Mr. FP’s instructions consisted solely of “cut the grass, not yourself” and the few YouTube videos I watched were not very illuminating.

Vacuuming

Goodwill vacuum now working.

Goodwill vacuum now working.

Difficulty: Low

Time involved: 3o  minutes

Potential for mishap: Low

Result: Acceptable

Our marital vacuum was a Hoover Runabout that we had owned since 1999 and had never even needed to replace a belt. They don’t make Runabouts any more. I was sad, but it seemed fair for Mr. FP to have it since in our sixteen years of cohabitation, I vacuumed perhaps eight and a half times. I went to Goodwill and researched the models on offer there. For ten dollars, I bought a well-reviewed one that was, at that particular moment, running but not actually sucking anything.

It just needed a new belt (which was entirely missing) and filters. I wonder how many vacuums wind up at Goodwill just for lack of routine maintenance? At any rate, I got it working with a little help from Amazon Prime, but vacuuming does not come naturally to me. I can never figure out what places I’ve already vacuumed and I run into things and get the cord stuck and just generally flail around ineffectually. The carpets looked like they had been vacuumed, however ineptly, and I suppose I will improve with practice.

Well, so far, so good for the most part. I have not had to outsource any tasks that Mr. FP customarily performed, and I feel like a more completely rounded adult human. I can do All The Things. (Incidentally, I’m sure Mr. FP is having many of the same experiences but with different tasks. The children always seem to be wearing freshly laundered clothes, for instance.) In the future, should I be in a relationship again, I won’t have to do All The Things, but it will be nice to know that I have the capabilities.

What tasks have you taken on? How did it go?

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About frugalparagon

I'm a part-time librarian and mom to two small boys. I blog about striving for the long-term goal of financial independence while running a tight ship at home.

8 responses to “No Domestic Backup”

  1. Mrs PoP says :

    When Mr PoP was out of town earlier this month, I fixed the toilet flushing mechanism, and was quite proud of myself! That is, until it broke again a week later from me over tightening it. =P. But I did the repair again, even though Mr PoP was home by then and so far it’s holding. Lesson learned – pay attention to the directions when they read “DO NOT OVERTIGHTEN” in all caps like that.

    • frugalparagon says :

      At least you know you have killer grip strength! I do not usually have an over-tightening problem :-). But hey, these things take practice. Can’t get everything right the first time!

  2. Sue says :

    Re trimming – I do the yard work at our house and I hate the sound of electric trimmers (and to be honest, could never really figure out how to use one properly, either!) – so now I use a nice modern version of old-fashioned hand clippers which get the job done quite easily, give me some exercise, and require a very small learning curve.

  3. ChooseBetterLife says :

    This is so important! My husband and I each lived on our own for several years, so we’re both capable of doing All The Things, and now we appreciate that we can ‘specialize’ (whine and look pitiful until the other person does what we hate to do).
    FP, you’re gaining new skills and are even more of a bad-a$$ than ever. You might even find that you like vacuuming. It’s a good way to zone out and it’s loud enough that you can’t talk at the same time, so you get a little time to yourself.

  4. Em says :

    My biggest win- EVER- was repairing our old dryer. I changed a gas dryer solenoid and replaced the dryer belt. Both required educating myself via YouTube videos and then getting another person to help hold various parts.
    I will give you a tip on toilet plunging that I learned at my first job (yeah work had to teach me how to plunge a toilet). The trick to toilet plunging is to let it “sit” for an hour or so and then get your plunger to the ready, flush the toilet and as the water is trying to be sucked down, then cover the hole with the plunger as tightly as you can and start pushing up and down. You need the toilet to be “sucking” to help your plunger motion. That will typically dislodge the clog. If it doesn’t you need a toilet snake. Which is effective, but yucky.
    Hope that makes sense.
    You will likely need to learn to do it well even in an apartment since you probably don’t want to be dependent on the landlord to fix.

    • frugalparagon says :

      Wow, dryer belts = rock star in my book and I don’t even know what a solenoid is! Yeah, with only 1 toilet between the three of us, ASAP resolution will be key :-). So thanks for the tip! Will try next time!

  5. Leah says :

    All these definitely get better with time — especially vacuuming! Just remember to vacuum often, especially since you have a pet.

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