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10 Tools for the Non-Handy Person’s Toolbox

10 Tools for the Non-Handy Person’s Toolbox

10 Tools for the Non-Handy Person's Toolbox

    I’m not handy. I wish I were, sometimes – I’d love to craft a bookcase, patio bench, or computer hutch with my hands, or even fix a busted electrical outlet. But I can’t – somewhere along the line I missed out on developing that talent, and at this point in my life learning to be more handy is simply too far down on my list of priorities to be very likely.

    Still, work must get done. It’s neither practical nor even possible to call in a specialist every time I need something done – not to mention the cost! Most of the time, I can figure things out given enough time and the room to make a few mistakes – whether it’s a toilet that runs all the time or a set of shelves that need mounting on the wall.

    Having a broad set of tools helps. If you’re not particularly handy and rely more on trial-and-error than on know-how to get things done, having a bunch of different tools can be helpful simply in suggesting things that might work. And of course, that one tool that you might never guess you’d need might well save the day!

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    Below are some of the tools I have in my tool chest. They’re the “extra” tools – that is, not the basics that everyone should have. If you don’t have any tools, you’re going to want a decent hammer, at least two screwdrivers (one each, Phillips head and flat head), an adjustable crescent wrench, a handsaw, and a couple pairs of pliers (needle-nose and adjustable). Once you have those, look into adding these to your collection. They’re listed roughly in order of usefulness – but of course, that’s subjective.

    1. Power drill

    Mine’s a Black and Decker 18-Volt rechargeable drill, and it rocks. It’s easily the most useful and more often used tool I own. It cost less than $50 and runs for quite a while on a single charge.  It came with a handful of accessories – a few bits and some screwdriver heads – but I also picked up a huge set of accessories for around $20: a range of drill bits but also concrete bits, torx and hex screwdriver heads, socket wrenches, and so on. I’ve used it to install shelves, build a work surface into a walk-in closet, hang curtains, and replace a smashed rear view mirror, among other tasks. Once you have a power drill, you’ll start looking for tasks to do with it – there’s nothing more satisfying!

    2. Laser level

    Laser Level and Stud Finder

      Another tool I use all the time – far more often than I would have expected, is my laser level. Mine’s the Black and Decker pictured here – it’s actually a combination laser level and stud finder, but I rarely use the stud finder. The laser level is awesome, though – it comes with a pair of pins you push through the center hole to hand the unit on the wall, allowing gravity to pull the lasers level; twin lasers come out of either side and trace a line along the wall (and around corners for a short distance). Then you just hammer your nail, drive your screw, or measure out your mark along the laser lines. It’s so fun, it almost feels like a toy!

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      3. Dremel rotary tool

      A Dremel is a rotary tool that relies on speed to cut, grind, drill, and polish (unlike a standard drill, which relies on power to do it’s thing). I’m not proud of how I decided to get one – I saw one of those late-night infomercials singing its praises and went to a Wal-Mart the next weekend and bought one. But I’m glad I did – I’ve used it to trim closet rods, cut too-long nails or screws down to size, de-rust tools, sand the inside edge of holes, and cut drywall. One quirk I’ve found is that, because the head is spinning so fast, it’s almost impossible to cut in a straight line; my cuts always veer in the direction of the spin. But for tight jobs and a whole range of sanding and polishing jobs, it’s really the best. Some people even use them to cut their dogs’ nails! This is another one that once you own it, you’ll find yourself seeking ways to use it.

      4. J-B Weld

      Dangerous. Powerful. Toxic. Messy. What could be better than J-B Weld? J-B Weld is an epoxy adhesive that comes in two tubes – you have to mix it together to activate it, and then it dries as solid as steel. It’s awesome – it bonds to just about everything and hardens water- gas-, and oil-proof.

      5. Socket wrench set

      A good solid socket wrench set will save your life. That’s in the Bible!* You can likely share all the wrench and screwdriver heads with your drill, but a socket wrench fits places that are totally impractical for a power drill, like tight corners of your car’s engine compartment. Very useful to get leverage on a stubborn bolt that’s too stuck for your power drill’s motor, too.

      * Not actually in the Bible.

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      6. Leatherman Multitool

      Although a Swiss Army Knife takes pride of place in my pocket, I have three or four Leatherman Multitools – one in the kitchen drawer, one in my tool chest, one in my car’s glove compartment, and one in my desk drawer. Two are knock-offs, and one is one of the baby ones, but the concept is the same – sturdy, solid tools folded into a portable form. This way I have some basic tools handy when I’m feeling too lazy to take down my big tool box and dig around for something.

      7. Tape

      Duct tape, of course, but also electrical tape (for quick and dirty wire splices), plumbing tape (which isn’t really tape, but a kind of plastic gauze that goes around a pipe fitting’s threads to create a leak-free barrier), painting tape (for masking off areas you don’t want to get oil or WD-40 or anything else on), and whatever other kind of tape you see around. Tape is cheap, and you’ll almost always find at least one job that you can take care of with whatever kind of tape you’ve wisely stocked up.

      8. Putty Knife

      Putty Knife

        Intended, as the name suggests, to spread putty (for example, while sealing a bathtub), putty knives come in various shapes and sizes. I like to keep one or two handy for things as random as spreading spackling over a screw hole in the drywall to scraping stickers off of glass. They’re cheap, so grab a couple.

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        9. Precision screwdriver set

        A set of tiny screwdrivers (like this one) is a must-have accessory for geeks, who often must remove dozens of itsy-bitsy screws while changing a hard drive, opening a PDA, or swapping RAM into a laptop. They’re also super-useful for tightening screws on glasses!

        10. Silver marker

        And finally, folks, the silver marker. Not just for teachers, teenage girls, and scrapbookers! In fact, the silver marker is perhaps the single most important piece of equipment available to today’s Homo technologicus for one simple yet vital reason: AC adapters are almost always black. And they’re almost never marked in any useful way to show you which one goes with what gadget! Silver marker shows up on black, and is permanent, which means you can mark each and every wall wart, power convertor, and adapter with the name of the gadget it goes to. I also mark the top side of black USB cables so I can tell which side goes “up” when I plug something in. I’m sure there are dozens of other uses for silver markers – throw a pair in your toolbox and just see how many uses you come up with!

        So those are the 10 tools that round out my tool box. What tools do you rely on?

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        The Gentle Art of Saying No

        The Gentle Art of Saying No

        No!

        It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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        But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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        What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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        But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

        1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
        2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
        3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
        4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
        5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
        6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
        7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
        8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
        9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
        10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

        Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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