What’s Your ‘Home Maintenance’ Style?
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What’s Your ‘Home Maintenance’ Style?

Finding your place on the Fixer/Non-Fixer spectrum.

By Kris Frieswick
Mon, Nov 22, 2021Grey Clock 4 min

Since ancient times, humans have believed that the world is divided into two types of people: those who perform timely routine maintenance and repair on their homes, and those who don’t.

Fixers take great pride in their understanding of the complications and quirks of their home and how to keep it all working. They possess many tools and manuals. A stud finder. Soldering gun. Extra copper piping in the cellar. A toilet snake. They sometimes won’t stop talking about gutters.

Non-Fixers are overwhelmed, uninterested or too busy to learn the basics of maintenance and routine household repair. They’re terrified that if they try, they’ll start breaking stuff that worked perfectly well. Or they very reasonably believe that if they learn to do one maintenance thing and demonstrate any proficiency in it, they will be on the hook for learning and doing all the other maintenancey things their home requires. Many pay others to do the work. Some Non-Fixers just ignore their house maintenance and repair needs thinking they will go away. Actually, many Non-Fixers do this. Others could be Fixers, but their life is filled with other things they would prefer to do, such as drink martinis on the couch and watch ‘Full House’ reruns.

Conventional wisdom holds that we are assigned a Fixer or Non-Fixer designation at birth and that it is an immutable trait that cannot be altered during our lifetimes, like eye colour or a hatred of cilantro. Alternatively, some fervently believe that our maintenance style is a choice, and that we can simply decide which type of person we wish to be. The extremists among this group also believe that being a Fixer is the only proper, moral choice, and that Non-Fixers are broken, bad humans.

I suggest a third option: We are all on a “maintenance spectrum.” We each have a bit of Fixer and a bit of Non-Fixer and the percentages ebb and flow and shift back and forth as circumstances in our lives and homeownership change.

Take the Late-Life Fixer. This is a person who was always too busy with family and job to learn and perform routine maintenance or repairs. They hired somebody to do these things for them. The math worked: the Non-Fixer’s job paid more money hourly than whatever they paid the professional. They reserved their weekends for friends and family, not Fixing stuff.

Then, they retire. Suddenly, not only does their fixed income require them to learn and perform household maintenance, they actually want to. They are bored with their new, endless hours of free time, which they have because they never developed a real hobby. Fixing stuff also creates a sense of purpose and control that is sorely lacking since they lost their minions and bosses.

Conversely, some lifelong Fixers approach retirement age too tired and broken down by a lifetime of diligent maintenance to continue tackling their perpetual to-do list. So they convert, at an astonishing speed, to a Non-Fixer: They buy a condo, hire out every single interior maintenance and repair project, and if they can’t find someone to do it, they call one of their kids to come over and do it. They begin to drink martinis on the couch while watching reruns of ‘Full House.’

Some Non-Fixers realize that they are Fixers when they purchase a home. After several unsatisfactory encounters with paid professional Fixers who take months to arrive and overcharge by a factor of four, they decide to learn to do it themselves. They venture slowly into this terrain, but thanks to the Font of All Fixer Knowledge (YouTube), they begin exploring projects of which they never could have conceived: fixing garbage disposals, cleaning gutters, changing water filters, even rewiring lamps. They like the sense of self-sufficiency and freedom. They enthusiastically embrace their Fixer identity, including joining a plumbing repair Facebook page and going to electrical-wiring Meetups.

Some people are Maintenance Fluid: A Fixer one day when the stopper/floating-ball mechanism on the toilet stops working; a Non-Fixer the next when the ceiling fan starts making a sound like it’s chewing ground glass.

Of course, there are some who are so far on one end of the spectrum or the other, so wedded to their maintenance identity, they will never move either way. This phenomenon is most common among The Obsessive-Compulsive Fixers, who view maintenance of their home as a battle against entropy and chaos that they simply cannot stop fighting, and the Sloth Non-Fixers, who don’t even know how to work the oven, let alone fix the pilot light. These people never question their identity one way or the other, often due to local cultural norms, family pressure or fear of bullying. On the rare occasions when these people do explore alternatives, they are likely to swing so far to the other side of the spectrum that they become almost unrecognizable to their family and friends, who may ostracize them, especially when a new Fixer convert renders the dishwasher inoperable, or a fledgling Non-Fixer refuses to change out the remote control batteries.

The most important thing, regardless of where on the maintenance spectrum you or your loved ones fall, is to accept that there is no right answer. We must learn to respect and honor people who occupy all points on the Fixer continuum and allow them to explore and experiment with their desires to maintain and repair the siding, gutters, water filters and rotting wood on the deck—or not. Most importantly, remember this: There is no room for hate in household maintenance. Only room for improvement.

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