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Ditching Minor Annoyances

posted Jul 9, 2014, 5:42 PM by Christopher Ellison
One of my over-arching goals this year has been to eliminate as many minor annoyances from my life as possible.  I'm talking about things that just waste my time and annoy me but can be eliminated fairly readily with five bucks and five minutes' work.  I got started on this track when, at the end of last year, I was listening to a few podcasts at work.  Hopefully I'm remembering this all correctly, as it was more than six months ago, but I remember sitting at work and registering Jimmy Pardo mentioning how he would get rid of his entire collection of socks periodically and just buy new ones, saving time matching and sorting through pairs.  The very next podcast that came on my playlist was Adam Carolla's, where he was exhorting his listeners to just buy a ton of nail clippers and sprinkle them liberally through the house, as it's not worth wasting time searching forever for something that costs two bucks.

I'd kind of registered both of these comments as interesting, and when I was looking over my notes for the day, I connected the two ideas.  Both comedians were really just talking about simple cost-benefit problems, something I have to deal with just about every day.  More importantly, both were smart enough to include the annoyance cost on the negative side of the ledger.  I let that bounce around in the back of my head a little bit as I started making my list of goals for the new year.

When I'd compiled that list, I'd identified a few of my own minor annoyances that I just didn't want to deal with any longer.  A little background helps here:  I live in a relatively new three-story condo.  Since it's fairly new and built fairly well, it rarely requires significant work, but there are always little things to deal with - clearing a clogged drain, tightening drawer handles and toilet seats, and even just basic housecleaning.  I'd often find myself needing some really basic tools and a flashlight, but I'd have to run down into the garage to get them.  Of course the flashlight batteries would be dead half the time, meaning I'd need to find another set and throw the spent ones in the charger (or the recycling bin, if they were shot).  I decided that I'd start with those little problems and slowly work my way through other little annoyance I identified during the year, but the major goal was to deal with this stuff right away and not let it sit.

I started by buying a bunch of Command hooks and 3M heavy-duty velcro strips.  I wasn't hanging anything particularly heavy, and everything was going to be out of sight, so I didn't need to worry too much about aesthetics.  I then found some pretty inexpensive crank flashlights and bought a bunch of them.  A little velcro and I now had flashlights mounted under all of the cabinets, right where I needed them 90% of the time.

Some are velcroed up like this; others are hung by their carabiners


While I was at it, I bought some cheap containers to hold basic bandages and gauze.  I stuffed one of those under a cabinet on each floor, too.  That put everyone at most a room away from a Band-Aid so I no longer had to worry groping for a wad of paper towels and running upstairs if I cut myself on a knife hiding in the dishwasher.  I stuck a cheap screwdriver and bit set next to each of the first aid kits.  No more running up and down two flights of stairs when I find a loose screw on a drawer handle.

The first aid kit was cheap and easy to hang, but I had to stuff an eye hook into the screwdriver case because of the recessed back that was too thick for the velcro


The last annoyance I patched up immediately involved flyswatters.  Since I live in the Pacific Northwest, most of the houses don't have air conditioning; mine is no exception.  In the summer, it gets hot enough for a few weeks that I need the windows open and fans going, but that means the occasional fly getting into the house.  There's not much that's more annoying than chasing a fly around the house for twenty minutes while you're wondering where the hell you put something, anything, that can kill that annoying bugger.  So I bought flyswatters and hung them up out of the way so that I always know where they are without having them in the way.

Like this one, by the refrigerator

I'm working on some other things like this during the year as well.  I've carefully labelled my tool chest, re-stacked and labelled fastener containers in the garage, and bought a big assortment of earthquake-safe picture hangers and furniture for the whole house.  I bought some museum putty and stuck all our standing pictures and other knickknacks to the bookshelves, partly so they don't fall over in a quake, but mostly so I can dust around them more easily without knocking everything all over the place.  As I see more little things like that, I do my best to fix it right away.  If I don't have a fix in mind, I write it down in the pocket notebook I carry with me everywhere and plan out how to fix it when I'm going over the day's notes every night.  So far, this strategy has really worked well for me, but it might not be for everyone.  The basic advice should hold, though.  Get those little annoyances fixed and behind you right away.  It's just not worth the time living your entire life annoyed.
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