“Dad, it’s dripping.” I looked towards the sink and witnessed a single drop of water form and fall from the kitchen faucet. “Maybe the handle isn’t all the way off,” I commented. I went to the sink and tapped both the hot and cold handles. They were already closed, but I was hopeful. A minute later, another drop was perched and ready to dive.
Our faucet had been replaced 10 years earlier when we did a partial remodel of the kitchen. I had long forgotten the faucet brand, or even where I purchased it. Also, I had no idea how to fix a leaky faucet, although cloudy images of washers and O-rings danced in my head. It was time to visit YouTube.
I quickly found several fix-it posts. Like most DIY videos, the process looked simple enough. “I can handle this,” I thought. Those of you who are regular readers of this blog may be thinking, “Why not call your contractor friend, Tom?” Dear reader, I am privileged to have a talented friend, but I don’t want to abuse his goodwill. Besides, I was already encouraged by my recent dishwasher repair. But as George Bernard Shaw said, “Beware of false knowledge, it is more dangerous than ignorance.”
Armed with a Phillips screwdriver and a pair of channel locks, I faced my foe. With a MacBook by my side, I played the first segment of the video. “Make sure that you turn off the water valves under the sink.” That sounded like a reasonable step. I reached into the chaotic mess in the cabinet below and blindly felt for the rough metal oval that functioned as the shutoff valve. Grunt! Grunt, grunt, swear… more swears….more grunts. The valve was frozen. Defeated within 5 minutes of starting! With my head hanging low, I pressed the FaceTime icon on my iPhone and then hit the button labeled “Gizmo” for my friend Tom. He answered, and I asked in earnest seriousness, “How can I close a frozen water valve? Can I hit it with a hammer or something?” “No, don’t do that; you could have a flooding disaster! Hold on, I’m coming over,” Tom replied.
Ten minutes later, Tom was at my front door, his toolbox at the ready. He reached under the sink and found the offending water valve. Tom was able to close the valve without difficulty. Dear reader, you have to understand that my hands have only had to grip objects like pens. My digital muscular strength was developed to accurately hit the keys on a computer. Tom has a definite advantage as his mitts frequently turn wrenches, carry heavy objects, and twist bolts. I can only feel so ashamed about my inferior gripping and twisting ability.
With water off, it was time to remove the faucet’s handle and replace the defective water flow cartridge. This involved releasing a special retaining nut. The nut was where my problems escalated. The thin metal was calcified by being subjected to years of Chicago’s hard water. When we tried to loosen it, the nut disintegrated. …more swearing ensued.
The planned obsolescence reality is that it is easy to buy a replacement faucet cartridge, but it is impossible to purchase its companion retaining nut. This latter fact was confirmed after visiting three different hardware stores and talking to two “plumbing experts.” My only option was to buy and install an entirely new faucet. Now I really needed Tom’s expertise.
I also had to tackle the mess in the space below the sink, and that cabinet is the central metaphor for today’s post. I apologize for my long preamble, but I needed to provide you with some context for today’s story.
The region under my kitchen sink has long been the equivalent of a junk drawer. A place where nearly empty bottles of cleaning chemicals live. A zone that collects never to reuse grocery bags. A region of specialty cleaners that I buy but then forget that I have. Four different granite cleaners and at least three different types of glass cooktop polishes were only two of many categories found.
The cabinet was bursting and chaotic because of its massive overflow. I found two brand new buckets of dishwasher packets even though I thought we were completely out. Three different glass cleaners were also located. There were enough unused sponges that, if “real,” they could have repopulated a small coral reef.
Confusion ruled. Empty products had equal status with unopened new containers. The space was so disorganized that it was easier to buy a new bottle of something rather than to look and see if one already existed.
The first category to be tossed was my massive collection of useless plastic grocery bags. I then categorized the other items. One pile became a mountain of sponges, another zone had powdered cleaners; still, another region was designated for granite products. Nearly empty items were discarded, as were those that had broken sprayers or cracked caps. I then organized the groups into plastic bins.
With a small amount of effort, years of disorder were transformed into a neatly organized and functional space. My life had instantly become simpler by applying a little time to the problem. Why did I wait so long?
In many ways, the lazy behavior that I exhibited was no different than other actions that have hampered me in my life. It was simpler to go with business as usual than to take a little time and change a bad habit. It was easier to maintain broken relationships than to admit that it was time to move on. Having to deal with life’s clutter made it impossible to enact simple solutions to make beneficial changes.
Just like cleaning my “junk” cabinet makes sense, it also makes sense to evaluate my life’s situations regularly. What should I keep? What should I get rid of? What should I reprioritize? Items that entered my cabinet with the promise of making a task simpler often just made things more complicated, and it made sense to recognize their false promise and rid myself of them. The same can be said of my life; some situations that promised benefit actually delivered the opposite. It is my personal responsibility to make sure that my life is uncluttered so I can see the forest for the trees.
Once I had emptied out the cabinet, it was simple for Tom to replace the errant faucet. Another lesson can be learned here. I probably could have completed the repair myself, but it would have taken me much longer, and the outcome may have been worse. Yes, you need to solve your own problems, but sometimes it makes sense to call on an expert to assist you. Their knowledge can turn a difficult job into a simple task.
Do you need to clean your metaphorical cabinet?