Monday, April 4, 2011


This is obviously a posting theme for 2011.

In January I got around to self-cleaning the oven. In March (for February and March) I threw out half the stuff in the shed; donated half my clothes to Goodwill; threw out the dud pens in the pen drawer; threw out all the extra medicine and toiletries in two cabinets, a chest, and a hamper; and re-painted the rusted refrigerator.

It's now April, and I have patched the holes in the plaster in the living room (still to do: plaster holes over the shower, which are at an angle that's much trickier to fill. But I now have all the supplies I need to do it correctly, so my victory is inevitable). I also notified my landlord about the structural oddity next to the bathtub, so that will be addressed. To do: check all the outlets in the house; pack all the stationery supplies; pack my winter clothes; tap into some local sources for boxes; put all the mini-blinds back up; and clean the candle smoke off the bathroom walls with TSP. But yesterday I accomplished something next to which all these other items pale.

About a year or two ago our toilet stopped flushing for some unknown reason. My husband tinkered with the flushing mechanism and it resumed flushing. However, we now had to hold down the handle through about 60% of the flushing time, or it wouldn't flush completely. I became accustomed to this little ritual, and I now forget about the problem until we have a party and half the guests can't figure it out. (I always mean to put a little explanation up and I always forget. But it's kind of ghetto to have an explanation next to your toilet anyway.) Now that I'm thinking about leaving our house, though, I realize that we can't hand it over to someone else without this problem fixed.

Now, I like to be a little bit handy - I can saw wood, and nail pieces of wood together, and I even pre-drill pilot holes sometimes, and I learned to use shop tools at one point, and I can patch plaster and my painting skills are OK (my spray-painting is still pretty remedial, though). But I just do not fix toilets. I was unwilling to call a plumber, though, so I had to be brave.

First I googled and learned all about what causes toilets to behave in this way (possibilities: chain too long; floater worn out). Then I peered into the tank to see whether I could find all the parts they were referring to (some, but not all). Then I went to the home improvement store to see whether an examination of the parts themselves would clear up the remaining mysteries. It did, and I brought one home. But I realized (before I ripped the package open, fortunately) that its fitting was slightly too small for our probably decades-old toilet.

So I brought it back and peered through all the flappers and found one with the same design as ours (a more variable fitting), for a whole dollar more: $5.67, I think. I brought it home. I turned off the water to the toilet (if you have to play with knobs or water lines, that constitutes Serious Toilet Repair, in my book). I removed the old flapper with no casualties. I got the new flapper to attach. I hooked up the chain from the new flapper. I then perceived - all by myself! - that the chain was too long and would interfere with a proper flush. I adjusted the chain several times to achieve the right amount of slack. I turned the water back on. And it flushed properly.

I'm not sure this brief narration conveys how serious an event this is. I have a couple of diplomas from college and law school. Apparently they thought that existing in one place for several consecutive years and showing up for class was some kind of big deal, and I should have some parchment and calligraphy in commemoration thereof. But this - this is an achievement. There should be some sort of serious recognition for an accomplishment like this. No more will I live at the mercy of dark powers, cowering in fear lest the devices on whose mysterious workings I depend should betray me.

I can fix my own toilet.

Continuing my tribute:

"You're whistling up the wrong neck of the woods."


  1. Wow - just wow! I'm so very impressed!!! Seriously, this requires some mad skills and a lot of gumption! Nice work!!!!

  2. This is hilarious! Good for you!! :-D

  3. That is so awesome! I am really proud of you. I know what you mean when I fix something in my house that has been unfixable for a long time I feel so proud of myself and it is more of an achievement than the college degree I have. Good for you and you have inspired me to do some cleaning out myself.

  4. I'm in awe! Heck, I was in awe when you talked about cleaning the oven and patching the plaster the toilet repair basically blew my mind. You're my new hero.

  5. Congratulations!! And you are SO right...if you have to turn the water off, it IS Serious Toilet Repair. Nice job!

  6. Hurrah!!


    My grandfather was a plumber (though his heart really was in carpentry) and the day I fixed our own toilet that was doing the weird flushing thing I felt positively giddy.
    It was like, I WAS my pop...
    though clearly I wasn't...or I'd look like Elvis and you a man...


  7. I am in awe :). At first, during our home study when the social worker asked me what legacy my father left to me that I would like to pass to my children, I was at a loss for anything positive at all to say. Then, I realized that my father did make sure (through hard labor during my childhood) that all of his kids knew how to handle a hammer and a paintbrush, and most of us knew how to shingle a roof, hang drywall, and lay down tile. To be able to make small (or even large) repairs around your own home is a serious skill!
    You should be very proud of yourself :).

  8. Impressive!! I didn't even know that problem was fixable. My parents' house has a toilet with that same issue so I grew up thinking that it was normal--or at least it was just how that particular (old) toilet was designed. I'm not sure I've be brave enough to try to tackle it though. ;)

  9. I am so impressed, so VERY impressed. Wow....

  10. You are amazing!!!! I'm fairly handy, but I've never tackled a real toilet repair like you!!!

  11. wow, that is AWESOME!! i am so impressed- i always leave the toilet fixing to hubby.

    and also, liquor stores are great resources for really good boxes- they have to make sure the bottles don't break, after all!!

  12. Shall I send you my address so you can fix mine as well?? Impressive! I've temporarily fixed ours a few times, but never with complete success, so please hop on over here :)