In an age of experts and specialization most of us surrender to the complexity of a new problem and pay to have a professional repair the issue for us. However, there is something about living small and striving for simplicity that has changed my perspective and given me a sense of empowerment. Experts call this improved “self-efficacy”, which means, you have greater confidence in your ability to understand problems. When I run into a problem now I try simplify it and make it easier to understand the parts that make up the whole. Recently I have noticed that many tiny house dwellers share a similar do-it-yourself (DIY) ethos. Some people go so far as to build their own homes without any construction experience. In this article I want to share a recent DIY success I had and describe the limits I see to the DIY ethos.
I will be the first to admit that I use complex technology that I don’t fully understand daily. I do prefer tools that I understand for obvious reasons, if it breaks I can fix it. Recently, I had a tragedy occur to one of my favorite tools. I broke the glass touch-screen of my iPhone. After getting over my feelings of clumsy ineptitude I realized I could learn how to repair my phone. After all, the glass is only one part and parts can be replaced so how difficult could it be?
Even only twenty years ago it would have been difficult to accomplish a similar task because of the lack of information. What tools are needed for repair? Where do you order these tools and parts for the repair? How do you perform the repair? Experts were experts because they had more information than others on a topic. With the advent of the internet information age, combined with the altruistic nature of other people documenting their knowledge in blog posts and YouTube videos, anyone can address their ignorance. With the help of DIY websites called ifixit.com and powerbookmedic.com I was able to order used parts and tools and learn how to fix my own device. Further, I used my new skill and tools to repair my teenage cousin’s phone and teach her what I learned.
The success of my DIY project was fun to share with my cousin, however, it begs one big caveat: What are the limits to DIY projects? When learning a new skill I try to imagine the risks of a mistake. If I damage my iPhone during the repair, I can correct it with minimal consequence. However, if I repair the brakes on my car and the repair fails, it may be fatal. You can certainly learn how to perform complex tasks with greater risk, but I would advise getting an experienced teacher to help check your work and lower your risk of harm.
My simple and smaller living philosophy doesn’t mean I have to grow every bit of food or repair every tool that breaks. It means I enjoy living deliberately. By becoming smarter about my ignorance I can help others and obtain more meaning from my contributions to my community. In this way I can worry less about my personal value being tied to my financial spending power. I believe my greatest contribution to society is not the money that I spend but how I spend my time.