Friday, March 18, 2011

MacGyver, Trainer of Househusbands

I watched a lot of MacGyver growing up and, like a lot of 14 year-old-boys, learned a lot about the dangers of guns and the ease of making explosive devices out of household items.  I can safely say, though, that I did NOT see my MacGyver-based education as preparation for being a househusband.  (Come to think of it, I actually didn't even see my high school practical arts class as preparation for being a househusband.)

But who can predict these things?  A househusband I am, and one ability that has come in handier than I thought it would is using things for purposes other than what they were designed for.  Thank you, MacGyver.  And now, in an attempt to pay it forward, I will share 5 of those creative re-appropriations with you.

I can't promise any of these out-of-the-box solutions will address any problems that you have.  Or that there are not better solutions than the ones I came up with.  Neither can I take any responsibility for any physical injury that may occur to your person while attempting to imitate the solutions that I have discovered and now share with you.  If you accept these conditions, read on...

What We Lacked: A sufficient number of trash cans.
What We Had: Two extra collection bins from old paper shredders that kicked the bucket on us.
What We Did: Take a deep breath, 'cause this is gonna blow your mind.  You know how trash cans are kind of like big round cups that you can put plastic bags in to collect trash?  So, it turns out, are the removable bins for paper shredders.  The transition from one to another was a two step process: First, we lined the bin with a plastic bag.  Second, instead of putting paper shreds in the bin (this is the pivotal step), we put regular old trash in it.
How Effective Has This Been?  Extremely.
Have There Been Any Drawbacks to this Solution?  Nope.
The Visual Evidence:

"This is a shredder basket!  How could one ever transform this into a trash can?"

"Oh, I see.  Brilliant, truly brilliant."

How Impressed Would MacGyver Be on a Scale of 1 to 5 Feathered-Back Mullets?  One (he MIGHT let me use the fish scaler on his Swiss army knife under close supervision).

What We Lacked: A way for our arthritic dog to walk up the stairs.  His paws slipped on the hardwood stairs, and he would panic, frozen and sprawled out over three stairs, until someone came to rescue him.
What We Had: A $20 area rug from Kmart and a some rubber pads to keep rugs from sliding on floors.
What We Did: I measured the depth of each step and width of our dog's stride, and figured out how many rectangles I could cut from the carpet-rug that I had purchased so that each stair could be covered, effectively creating a "walking dog lane" in our stair case.
How Effective Has This Been?  Very.
Have There Been Any Drawbacks to This Solution?  A couple.  To begin with, apparently Cutco kitchen scissors are actually MORE effective at cutting pennies than they are carpet.  They wow you with that penny cutting demonstration during the sales pitch, and you think you could cut your way out of Alcatraz.  Maybe you could, unless the bars were made of carpet.  Fortunately, our friends at Cutco were not very probing in determining why we thought our scissors needed replacing as per their lifetime warranty (though "cutting rectangles for dog stair-traction" was not given as a reason why the warranty would be voided, so it may not have mattered).  So Cutco is to knife warranties as Jansport is to backpack warranties.  Also, while the rectangles don't slide, they do sometimes flip when children or other dogs are not being overly concerned with disturbing the carpet rectangle placement.  Also, the non-professionally cut-but-not-bound edges of the rectangles tend to fray.
The Visual Evidence:

Imagine how sad this dog would look if he wasn't laying at the bottom of the stairs by choice, but by necessity.

How Impressed Would MacGyver Be on a Scale of 1 to 5 Feathered-Back Mullets?  Two (would probably not be embarrassed to introduce me to Jack as "a friend")

What We Lacked: A way to hang plastic bags from our recycling bins.
What We Had: Plastic Hangers.
What We Did: I got to use my all time favorite tool to cut away most of the non-hook part of the hanger.  Then I drilled a hole into the bin and threaded the hook through the hole from the inside out.
How Effective Has This Been?  Very.
Have There Been Any Drawbacks to This Solution?  No.  And did I mention I got to use my all time favorite tool?
The Visual Evidence:

How Impressed Would MacGyver Be on a Scale of 1 to 5 Feathered-Back Mullets?  3 (would recommend me for internship position at the Phoenix foundation).

What We Lacked: A way to hold our shower curtain rod in front of our sliding shower doors.  It seems most people who have sliding glass shower doors don't feel the need to have a curtain hanging in front of those doors.  And the frame that holds the sliding doors does NOT lend itself to supporting or having-attached-to-itself-a-way-of-supporting a shower curtain rod.  So most people with sliding doors probably just get used to watching themselves shower in the large mirror on the other side of the bathroom.  Then there's us (foreshadowing!).
What We Had: A wire shelf with strong wires that would not compromise their shape under pressure, but that COULD be bent when subjected to the proper force.
What We Did: I got to use my all time favorite tool, and cut what was essentially a 3-inch wide wire shelf from the several-foot wide shelf that we had.  Then I did a lot of bending--probably more wire-shelf bending than most folks do in their whole lifetime.  But the end result was a shower curtain rod holder that was strong enough not to bend over time, but did not compromise the sliding door frame with screws that would likely rust and/or loosen over time.
How Effective Has This Been?  Very.
Have There Been Any Drawbacks to This Solution?  It could probably look a little nicer, and the ends of the wires that I cut have rusted since they were no longer protected by the plastic coating on the rest of the shelf.  But it's been about a year and the curtain has not demonstrated significant sagging.
The Visual Evidence:

This unsuspecting shelf used to be three inches longer before it met up with my all time favorite tool

How Impressed Would MacGyver Be on a Scale of 1 to 5 Feathered-Back Mullets? 4 (he would not hesitate to turn me loose on Murdoc).

What We Lacked: An easy way to wrap our many headphones and hands-free units for phones and ipods.
What We Had: Energy drink bottles.
What We Did: I drilled a couple of holes in the bottle, threaded the headphone cord through one of them, wrapped the cord around the bottle, and then tucked the end of the cord into the other hole.
How Effective Has This Been?  TBD, but I'm optimistic.
Have There Been Any Drawbacks to This Solution?  Also TBD.  I will say that the edges of the holes that I drilled were a little sharper and more frayed than I anticipated they would be, so I had to file and/or trim them down a little.
The Visual Evidence:

This is actually not staged.  I reached into our bin of headphones and this is what came out.

I'm sure you're wondering, "How does he find the energy to plan and execute such massive undertakings?"  My little secret...

A skeptical reader may think, "Oh, I didn't know that was a dictionary site.  'Cause this seems to be the definition of 'more trouble than it's worth'.  Boo-yah!"  I see where you're coming from, skeptical reader.  But through the years, I have slowly become aware of how rare it is to find a good, small, effective, and easy-to-use cord wrapper.  Some headphones even come with their own wrappers.  I have found these to be flimsy and hard-to-use.  And a plain old cylinder--like a pen or a cylinder that you would find a the cylinder store--are hard to tuck both ends of the headphones into in a such a way that they don't come unwound AND don't get tangled.  The long and the short of it is that in MY experience, a headphone wrapper is what the classic mouse trap would be if it was never invented.  So the energy bottle cord wrapper may just be that metaphorical mousetrap.  The transformation was pretty easy: Drill a couple of holes.  And the usage?  Since still pictures don't capture the ease of use, here is a video.  The background music really captures the essence of what background music should be.  And keep in mind that once you initially thread the pluggy part of the cord through the bottle, you probably won't have to do that again, and that threading step, you'll see, is clearly the most time consuming part of the process.  So, without further ado:

How Impressed Would MacGyver Be on a Scale of 1 to 5 Feathered-Back Mullets? 5 (he would look me straight in the eye and tell me, "From now on, I want you to call me 'Angus'.")

And remember: Don't thank me.  Thank MacGyver.


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