Cat McClintock

I bought a house.

I didn't tell anyone I was going to do it. I didn't run it by my friends. I didn't get anybody's thoughts on the matter--not even my boyfriend or my Dad. I just went to the bank, called a realtor, found a property, and bought it. It was gutsy. I am gutsy.

Here's why that might have been a bad idea.

Everybody knows that the landlord is a 60-ish guy with white paint in his hair. He drives a mini-truck with a metal ladder and six kinds of caulk rolling around in the back. And when you tell him your refrigerator is broken, he replaces it with a model older than you are.

I'm not that guy. I drive a small SUV, I'm all about energy efficiency, and I get disoriented climbing a step stool. Plus I have never in real life fixed anything. I've never had to--for most home problems I prefer to practice Acceptance.

Deadbolt on the front door stuck? Use the back door. Garbage disposal making painful noises? Scrape the dishes into the trash.

It occurred to me, just as I signed the closing papers, that I couldn't ask a tenant to practice my nonjudgmental approach to living among things broken. It occurred to me, the house would need work. And it occurred to me I was going to have to fix it myself. Sure, I might have enlisted my boyfriend. But let's try that on for a moment:

"Guess what? I bought a rental property today! Yep. Just went out and bought it because I thought it was an excellent investment can you grab your tools and fix it for me?" See how that last bit sabotages the fierce independence of the overall statement?

So, I did the next best thing. I enlisted YouTube.

PlumberX from Texas became my mentor. His videos taught me how to replace that groaning garbage disposal. Then he showed me how to fix the wobbly toilet by repairing the old flange, installing a new wax ring, and cutting down the anchor bolts with a hack saw. Yes, I'm saying I cut right through metal.

To my surprise, I found repairing the house at this level deeply empowering and rewarding. And more Mensa than I ever expected.

Say you need to shut off a circuit in the kitchen from the basement fuse box; see if you can figure out how to minimize your trips upstairs by logically shutting off half the circuits, then one fourth, and so on.

Do you know that, in a pinch, plumber's putty works as a temporary adhesive?

Fixing a broken stove door? What's the smartest way to find the springs without taking apart the whole appliance piece by sharp metal piece?

I make it sound like it's fun. And that's my point. It has been fun.

My house is rented; it's somebody else's home now. I truly miss going by to work on it.

But the good news is that my banker and realtor assure me that with time, appreciation, and creative financing, I can get another. I'm thinking a fixer upper.

Cat McClintock is Bismarck-based freelance writer specializing in technology and product development.