To Do or Not To Do It Myself

“Give me the things we can both do, so you can do the things only you can do.”
—Denita Willis, GMAC Insurance,  administrative assistant

“I should stop doing those things others can do, so I can do those things only I can do.”
—Grover’s interpretation of  Denita’s advice

Denita Willis was a super administrative assistant, who worked for me when I was at General Motors/GMAC. She sometimes caught me doing something she could do, and scolded me for it. I would say it would take her twice as much time as I was spending to get it done, to which she would reply “Give it to me so you can do the things only you can do.” It took a few times, but I finally got it.

I have always been a do-it-yourself kind of person. I was raised in a small town in Kansas, long before big-box stores and online ordering. My father had his own business and wasn’t around the house much, so as the oldest boy, I was often the handyman. I usually built or repaired what was needed with the resources I had. Rarely was something replaced.

Now that I can find an online video to show me how to do almost anything, I have been inclined to attempt to fix or do anything and everything around our house.

I like to tinker with things and love to learn new things. I tend to be persistent. (I assume most of you who are reading this have this tendency.) I have a long string of successes doing things that I had never done before, from new tasks in the insurance and actuarial profession to installing a dishwasher and a stovetop. I used to change the oil in my automobile, but once I realized I could do it, the challenge was gone and so was the desire to do it. Also the fact that it was messy and dirty helped me decide to pay someone else to do it.

It has taken me a long time, but I am finally admitting I cannot do everything. More importantly, there are a lot of things I should not do.

For instance, I found a clothes dryer repair video on how to replace a failed part. The part was only $31 on the web, and the expert on the video changed it in under 10 minutes. Simple, right? After analyzing the situation, I then figured that it would take me all day to replace this part. So, we called the repairman.

When a woodpecker “remodeled” the wood near the top of our chimney, we decided that someone else can get 35 feet off the ground to replace the board that was all chewed up.

You may recall from my last column, that my wife and I hired our grandchildren to help with some tasks. They did some yardwork that got done a lot faster, much to my wife’s delight. It was a win-win, with the grands learning some lessons about chores and my wife and I freed up to do other things.

After all my “research,” I came up with a set of new rules for whether to do or not to do it myself, as follows:

If it’s an easy fix, do it myself. Sometimes, it’s a quick and easy fix. But I also realize that the time it will take me to fix something is often worth more than the cost of a new one — in those cases I just buy a new one.

If the previous work done by a professional is below my standards and my skills are proficient, do it myself. I am re-staining the deck this summer for just that reason. And, I have to add that, because of time constraints, we couldn’t get anyone out to stain the deck. So, the task fell to me because we want to enjoy the deck this summer.

If I don’t have the required skills or if it is dangerous or if I don’t have the equipment or tools, hire someone to do it. When we wanted to change the outdoor light fixtures that are on the second floor, we hired an electrician. I can do wiring, but I won’t do it on an extension ladder. It’s not hard for me to determine that I’m not going to give my house a new roof, even though it has happened several times following a hailstorm. But what about an appliance repair? See above.

If I am short on time or have too much “on my plate,” hire someone to do it. How soon does it need to be done? If I need it done quickly, then find someone to do the task. If I am overwhelmed with my to do list, I need to hire others to pare that list down. There is one caveat, however: In today’s COVID environment, it is difficult to get others to do things soon.

If the task is fun, do it myself. If the task is more likely to be enjoyable, I’ll do it. If there is a better use of my time than to do the task in question, I will let someone else do it. I recently organized the garage with my grandchildren, and the time spent with them was priceless.

Finally, sometimes I just have too much to do. Hiring someone who can do something, like we did with the grandchildren, gets things done and me back on schedule. One way of coping with the all the extra work presented by the COVID situation is to hire out some of the tasks I could otherwise handle under a “normal” schedule.