My Week 218: MacGyvering

Like a lot of people, I’m pretty good at MacGyvering—that is to say that I can solve complicated household problems with very common household items. I come by this skill honestly—my father was a machine shop teacher and toolmaker by trade. He can make a tool to fix just about anything out of an Allen key, and there were always several things in our house held together with contact cement. Me, I prefer Gorilla Glue, but same concept. Last month, the gingerbreading on our Victorian screen door broke, and there was no way to screw or nail it back together, so I just glued it. Worked like a sticky charm. I have a utility drawer in both my condo and at home which contain the only 4 actual tools I’ve ever needed. 1) One of the many hammers I own 2) needle nose pliers 3) a multi-screwdriver 4) a staple gun.

It’s a thing of beauty.

Everything else is assorted flotsam that I can use to MacGyver, including:

a) Cardboard: This is handy for folding up and putting under a table leg or whatnot to stabilize it. Also, our house is very old and tilty, so sometimes cupboard doors will just swing open. There’s nothing like a cardboard wedge to keep them in place. Neatly hidden of course—who wants to see cardboard?

You can barely see it.

b) Plastic food containers: I recently put the empty tub from a very delicious garlic spread upside down in a plant pot in order to raise my Thanksgiving chrysanthemum up high enough that it could be seen. I could have used a smaller plant pot, but hey—I had a tub.

c) Paper clips: These are a multi-use invention that I have rarely used on paper. Zipper pull on your boot broken? Paper clip. Screen on your hair dryer clogged? Paper clip. Feel like poking a hole in something? Paper clip. Bored at work? Paper clip. Enough said.

d) Toothpicks: These handy little gadgets are terrific for repairing reading glasses. One leg is ALWAYS going to fall off and the screw is going to disappear into a space/time void. What better item to use to fix it than a toothpick? Just shove one through the screw holes and snap it off. No one will ever know. Also, if you have 17 jar candles that are burned down really far, and trying to light them with a match burns your fingers, make a longer match with a bunch of toothpicks taped together.

e) You can hang a picture on a pushpin if it’s not too heavy. You can move any piece of furniture across a smooth surface by putting a towel under it and dragging it. You can wrap duct tape around your hand, sticky side out, and use it as a clothes lint remover. SOS pads are the only thing I use to clean old, dirty wood before I refinish it.

And so on. But this week, I had my most MacGyver-y challenge yet. My most recent roommate, who is a vegan, messaged me to tell me that she had broken her toilet. “I went to see the concierge,” she wrote, “but he said you would have to hire a private contractor.”

“What part of the toilet is broken?” I asked. She sent a picture of the chain.

Private contractor? Hah! I thought to myself, putting three paper clips into my purse to take back to the condo. “Don’t worry,” I told her. “I’ll take care of it.”

Now, the only thing the girl eats is fruit, so I don’t know WHY she was flushing the toilet hard enough to break the chain, but I don’t eat a lot of roughage either and I recently broke a toilet in the train station. I didn’t tell the station attendant, who is always extremely rude to me–I just got on the train and fled, leaving behind a complete f*cking disaster that I refer to as “her karma”. So who am I to judge? At any rate, I got back to the condo, went straight to my roommate’s bathroom and examined the toilet. I knew enough to drain it first, then I pulled out the chain. Turns out that it wasn’t the chain itself that had broken—the thing on the flapper that the chain was attached to had been ripped off. Well, the flapper was rubber and I had a paper clip, which is always handy for poking holes into stuff. All I needed to do was pierce the flapper with the paper clip and then attach the paper clip to the chain.

Toilet Repair Kit

Unfortunately, the rubber was too thick and all I managed to do was pierce my own thumb. Once I was finished swearing, I thought for a minute, and went to my utility drawer. Eureka! I had a push pin. A yellow push pin to be exact. I pushed it into the rubber flapper without sympathy (revenge for my thumb) and hooked a paper clip around it, which I then twisted around the chain. I filled the tank back up and gave it a flush. Perfect. “Flush away!” I told her. “It’s all fixed.”

The next morning, I was at work when I got another text message. “I’m so sorry,” it read. “I must have flushed too hard—the chain came off again.” Then I remembered that she had had a large meal of pumpkin and pineapple the night before—perhaps that was the culprit. Then came the second message: “And the pushpin went down the pipe.” I felt more than a little defeated at the thought that all my MacGyvering had amounted to nothing. It was time to watch Youtube videos and buy actual parts. Which I did after work. I bought three different flappers, not knowing which one would work the best. Luckily, the first one seemed to do the trick, so after draining the toilet, installing it, and practicing a few good flushes, it seemed good as new. “Just be gentle with it,” I made her promise. “And you owe me a new pushpin.”


52 thoughts on “My Week 218: MacGyvering

  1. I like this. At least your friends know who to call when they need an odd job done right.

    I’ve lived alone now for about 6 years, and slowly, I’ve begun learning how to wing it when it comes to fixing things. It’s usually quicker than calling someone about it. Having a cat around now has led to an awful lot of opportunities to think up ways to cat-proof the house on the spur of the moment.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “Odd job” is certainly the accurate term for it! I normally call Ken for the big stuff, like changing a faucet, but it makes me feel very handy when I can do the little things myself instead of paying someone else!


  2. You forgot the the most fun part of paperclipping. Unfold one section so it points straight out. Wrap the rest of it around your finger. Now scrape shoes across carpet to build up static electricity and touch the tip to a close friend. KeeeRACK the static discharge is a hoot? Ok maybe just to the one winter the clip.

    Have fun Ms MacGuyver!!!

    Liked by 4 people

  3. See? Another kindred soul moment. Except, my cure-all is super glue. It was my first request when I arrived in Australia. (I had packed my own, but it had dried up in route, which is one of its tragic flaws…that and the whole ‘fingers sticking together’ thing). Fortunately, ‘Australia’ had several bottles at the ready.
    I lasted about 3 days, maybe 4, after arriving in Canada before requesting a bottle from my very gracious host. (I should have snagged one of “Australia’s’ bottles…consolation for the heartbreak… which could be another potential candidate to experiment with, although that could get very messy…way more room for error than just one’s fingers sticking together.).
    Anyway, to my point, I have used my new bottle of super glue 3 times in the past 2 days. The bead that fell off my necklace, fixed. The stone that fell out of my bracelet, not going anywhere. My nail that broke so far down the quick, I thought it would have to be amputated, no further damage to date.
    I’m just saying…super glue is your friend.
    But I fear you might have overlooked one more staple item that could change your life.

    I’ll leave you with this link to inspire your inner Macgyver. ;o)

    Liked by 2 people

      • I feel like that was a staple in ‘E’ and I’s house (late 1800s, renovated the whole thing…. always on the verge of falling apart). But I feel like it might be too agressive for more delicate matters such as beads and fingernails. But maybe I am mistaken and confusing it with wood or cement glue or one of the other 50 tubes of anything that might keep the house intact.
        But I will reconsider if you so advise…you seem to know your shit (or at least how to fix the toilet when you do). 😉

        Liked by 2 people

  4. And they said flappers went out of fashion in the ‘20’s…
    Your MacGyvering is really admirable. I’m often intimidated by even small household projects since so many things I touch turn to Mr. Bean episodes. But now I think I can tackle more things if I just try Gorilla glue and paperclips.
    The latter are also great for making small wire sculptures to decorate your office.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Oh the toothpick match is genius! The most badass MacGyverish thing I’ve done in recent years was to tow our golf cart out of the brush in our back yard. Got it out with my trusty Honda Pilot -not going to lie I felt a bit invincible that day. We use our golf cart as a snow plow and a leaf collector. I married an engineer. Really I just say that whenever people come over and see some weird random contraption – “I married an engineer” – covers a lot of territory.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I use cardboard outside the side door of the garage as a rain mat for the dogs, and paperclips are perfect for cleaning the burner holes on the BBQ to get that blowtorch flame I crave. I have broken down toothpicks and shoved them into stripped screw holes to reclaim that secure grip. I used gorilla tape to repair my blow-up bed during my one-week evacuation from the fires. I recently repaired my wife’s dresser and my desk with gorilla glue when the molding strips went flappy. Yes, flappy.

    I may not be the MacGyver that you are, my friend, but I do understand the necessity of simple household items. And I always want to spell MacGyver as McGuyver, and I don’t know why.

    Have a Happy 219th Week!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Hi Suzanne, here’s yet another trick for those handy-dandy toothpicks. If you have a door that is hanging loose because the screw holding it to the hinge is stripped. You just put a couple of toothpicks in the hole and cut them off flush to the hinge and put the screw back int and the door no longer droops! This is a temporary fix though, but come to think of it the door headed from my living room to the garage hasn’t drooped since I MacGyvered it back in February, so who knows? Just thought I’d share, adding to your toothpick hacks.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. The reference to MacGyver is not something I’m familiar with, but I definitely feel I’ve earned my stripes MacGyvering. Obviously I can’t think of a single bloody example, but I’m an ex-Girl Guide and quite resourceful. We get catalogues through the door of the most amazingly useful, who’d-a-thought-it gadgets. My first thought is always; ooh, if only I had the money and the space. My second thought is; or you could use……. Excellent skills and life hacks there Suzanne.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Good idea there. I am never without cardboard in the house as I use it to scoop up unwanted creatures with eight legs. Taramosalata and humous pots help keep ’em on the cardboard til they are introduced to their new home.. ahem… outdoors.

    I used to make 12th scale miniatures and paperclips made great door and cupboard handles.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Is there anything you CAN’T do? No. No there isn’t. In addition to your mechanical aptitude, you receive a gold star for extra effort–you made a house call to fix a toilet? There just aren’t many people on planet Earth who would. Last school year I played at game show host for one of our professional development days, our game show titled McGyver! I’ll never not feel happy to hear or read McGyver used as a verb.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I don’t think we ever got MacGyver over here, like Lockwood Echo I had to ask Mr Google for the reference. Paperclips also make adequate curtain rail hooks in the event of a guest needing to sleep on the sofabed in the middle of summer (too bright for most of the night otherwise). They have lasted about three years so far, although admittedly, we don’t draw the curtains much ourselves. One day we may get round to decorating….


  12. Come to think of it, MacGyver does seem considerably less impressive in the era of YouTube. Kind of like the way a kid today might watch a Knight Rider rerun and not for a minute understand how they based an entire TV show around a car that had GPS, voice-user interface, and could park itself. But in 1984, that was hardcore sci-fi, man!

    Liked by 1 person

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