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The difference between men and women with regard to do-it-yourself stuff is that men start out assuming (incorrectly) that they know what they're doing, while women assume (correctly) that they don't. So, men blunder around a lot, and women agonize. I'm not sure which is the steeper learning curve. Both are steep, but the men may wind with better retention as a result of the pain of blundering up against their ignorance, when their assumption of knowledge is proven wildly at odds with reality.

David Giacalone

I have (correctly) never assumed that I know how to do such repair stuff; and, I've known a lot of women who are far better at it than their husbands or boyfriends (my sister-in-law is in charge of anything requiring more than a screwdriver at my brother's house).

I've always admired people who were really good at a profession and had those fixer-upper, handy-person skills (which I think very often can be far more useful and satisfying than, for example, lawyering skills). So, I have always chided myself for not being willing to take the time to learn one or two practical skills for around the house, or the car.

For most of us, I think Voluntary Ignorance might be an appropriate term for the failure to learn such genuine skills -- with two varities, Sloth-Based and Snob-Based. And Feigned Helplessness might be used for situations where we just want someone else to do simple chores: such as old-fashioned husbands who have never mastered the very difficult science of using a washing machine, or otherwise intelligent wives who similarly appear to be flammoxed by re-setting the clock on the vcr.

Ann Byrne

About that air filter and the lawn mower containing it, use your computer skills to check out all the info you'll ever need about the mower or the air filter.

While you're surfing, check out some of the home improvement sites and gardening site. They give you tons of information on how to do stuff.

Almost all manufacturers have website now and they are full of information that can help you decide whether you want an electric whatever or a gas one. Don't forget to check out the .gov sites for energy star recommendations and other consumer tips. Stores like Home Depot, Lowes, etc have lots of information. Window shop on line and get educated about the stuff you need to buy.

About the sheer number and size of home-related projects, don't let them paralyze you! Make a list of ONLY the things that drive you nuts or that MUST be accomplished, either because your house will be damaged if you don't attend to it or because something's broken and must be replaced. After you make your list, assign a priority to each item. Do one a week (where the project lends itself to that kind of scheduling) or plan a time for doing or getting done the big headache projects. Maybe hire a neighborhood kid to do the lawn mowing so you can free up a bit more time for the project.

Forget the rest of the project and only add them to your list if and when they fit the drive you nuts, must be fixed, or leads to damage criteria outlined above. Sometimes it helps to think of these non-priority projects as stuff you'll do when _______ (you fill in the blank, recognizing that "hell freezes over" is an acceptable answer).

You are blessed with a terrific brain. Use it to master your projects and don't let your projects master you! There is nothing wrong with bartering with someone to get jobs done or to have someone teach you how to do a job. Swapping jobs with friends is another option.

Above all, don't get discouraged about it! Use some of the same techniques you describe using to stay on task at work to keep your projects under control.

Good luck from a lawyer with a 44-year-old home that has needed two roofs (10 years apart; don't get me started on how much I hate buying roofs!), that had a porch that got eaten by carpenter ants (courtesy of a blue spruce tree that provided the ants with transit onto the porch), that got new windows and new exterior doors, and that sits on a one acre plot that used to have two gargantuan willow trees that dropped limbs and branches whenever the wind blew . . . need I say more?

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