About two years ago, my husband and I had finally scraped together all of our extra cash and somehow bought our first home. Like many millennials, we have our fair share of student loan debt, so our home, while bright, cozy, and in a safe neighborhood, is older and a bit humble.
Our little house has its charm, and it has become home, but the darn thing requires quite a bit of work to keep it in decent shape.
Neither my husband or I had any idea about the amount of work it would take to keep a home running. After having rented for so long, when anything broke, we’d call the landlord. Now, we are the landlords. Neither of us grew up doing many hands-on projects around the house, so our “handy” skills were pretty limited the day we signed the title to our home.
We can’t afford to call a professional for every little thing that breaks, or rush out to buy new stuff when something wears out, and honestly, we don’t really want to. Sure, it’s easier to replace rather than repair, but there’s a certain satisfaction that comes from using your hands to take good care of your things. I’m interested in keeping things running with my own labor and stewarding what we already have well.
So, if you want to preserve everything you’ve been given and learn to take good care of your things, start here!
Scour the internet
Sure, almost anybody knows how to Google something, but don’t stop at the search engines if you’re looking for something specific. Reddit has a great DIY thread where someone may have had the same question as you. And if the answer isn’t there, don’t be afraid to post your question. Plenty of users are willing to offer up their handyman knowledge for free—all you have to do is ask. Not sure where to get materials for your next project? Check Amazon, and then diligently read the reviews—many users leave detailed notes on installation and repairs in their product reviews. Here’s an example: An outdoor screen product page has numerous reviews on how people installed and used it in their own homes. Don’t be afraid to glean knowledge from the most obscure corners of the internet. The Family Handyman, This Old House, DIY Network, and more have tons of useful tips.
YouTube is your friend
In a league of its own is the massive website YouTube. Great for cat videos and movie trailers, it also holds an incredible wealth of DIY tutorials. It has everything from car repair videos (my husband used a few just this weekend to fix our family minivan, saving us $400!) to appliance repair and yard clean-up instructions. Don’t know where to start? Try Scotty Kilmer’s auto repair channel where he gives specific tutorials and tips on general car maintenance or HouseImprovements, which has a plethora of—you guessed it—home improvement tutorials. No job is too small or too large for YouTube—and as always, read those comments. There is often helpful advice from others who’ve watched the video and completed similar repairs.
Shadow a pro
Anytime you do need specialized work done, and have to hire a professional, stick around while they work. Watch the technician carefully and ask questions. Many professionals are happy to share their knowledge and can give excellent, in-person advice on how to prevent future issues, or what to do should they arise again. They often have years of experience that have taught them all kinds of hacks and shortcuts that you may not find from an online tutorial.
Head to the hardware store
Lots of hardware and supply stores offer free classes to help teach people how to build and repair things in your home. Home Depot and Lowe’s both offer workshops that spotlight different skills each weekend. There’s everything from building a birdhouse to preparing your lawn for summer. All it takes is an hour or so and you have someone there to show you the ropes, all for FREE. Got a quick question, but not an entire Saturday morning to spend learning how to complete a project? Don’t be afraid to ask someone working at the hardware store—they’re often a wealth of knowledge and get lots of questions each day.
Originally published on April 10, 2018.