Whose turn is it to fix stuff?

Whose turn is it to fix stuff?

One of the problems luxuries of having a spouse who is also a mechanical engineer is that we are both completely capable of fixing stuff around the house. Moreover, DrWife and I both enjoy fixing stuff around the house, something that I don’t think should be taken for granted. Recently, we just bought a new house which has left us with numerous evening tasks and weekend fun like: re-tiling the bathroom, installing new outlets and lights, painting, re-screening screens, assembling furniture (see picture), and general unpacking. And now that we’ve established what we need to do, now all we need to figure out is who’s going to do it??!?!

It turns out, answering this question isn’t always so simple. DrWife and I end up arguing more about this than just about anything else (I guess that’s a good thing?!??). For the small stuff, it tends to work (after arguing) by splitting the job. I’ll install the lights, DrWife will re-screen the screens. Whoever gets to that piece of furniture first can put it together. This works for about 90% of the things we do. However, sometimes we reach a point where we’ve said “enough” and I’m not doing this anymore. There’s very few times that we leave something completely for the other person but it does happen.

It turns out that my breaking point is painting. After spending 3 hours on a step ladder with a detail brush no wider than my thumb, re-edging the wall-ceiling interface in our entrance room, I snapped. I’ve decided I’m done painting. All of the rooms can get painted (and some needed it), but I will not be the one doing it.

DrWife’s breaking point isn’t as clean. Her kryptonite is vacuuming. It’s not that she’ll never vacuum, but she would rather leave that to me because I have no qualms about vacuuming. Something about the noise or something, maybe that’s why she doesn’t listen to me…. ( 😀 )


Fixing things around the house and getting settled turns out to be a lot harder when you have a little one. Although, yesterday I was assembling our futon and a table and NanoGEARS was getting screws out of the bag and handing them to me. She’s turning out to be quite the little (nano-)engineer.

So when it comes to stuff around your house? Whose turn is it to fix stuff? Do you split things equally? Are there particular tasks that you love/loathe to do?



Our division of labor seems to have naturally worked out. My wife is a sweetheart and she overlooks my many faults. She is a Medical Technologist and I am a former Designer of Medical Electronic equipment. I have more time than she so I do my laundry, grocery shop, cook dinner and whatever covered dish we need for social events. Since I am handy, I do the home remodeling/maintenance, car upkeep (this does not include washing), and lawn mowing. She does her laundry, arranges our social calendar, keeps up with my appointments (I have no time sense), and vacuums (I have no patience with our vacuum. There is a small plastic piece that locks it in the upright position, that is broken. This piece costs $25 to purchase and ship. I can buy a new vacuum for $50. I just want to throw it every time I use it ). She is also the social person in our relationship. I am shy and an introvert (Meyres-Briggs INTJ), so I am content with a lot of alone time. I also take out the trash and try to keep up with the dishes.

I also have a Mechanical Engineer as a spouse. As a Chemical Engineer, I value the diversity, but I understand your situation.

We tend to do things together. The only problem is deciding who is the senior carpenter and who is the helper? Who is the electrician and who is the helper? Those decisions are never made explicitly. Maybe that is the problem.

The plumber situation is a bit simpler. But after spending weeks fixing bad solder joints in the crawlspace, I still don’t get a lot of respect in that field. No competition, just no respect.

Though this isnt the same,but with my dad and me(Hes an EE since ~30years and I’m one in college) who both love to work with hand tools and are classic engineers(mindset wise),I face exactly the same issue with him each time. I end up being the helper most times.Most exasperating.

I fix everything around the house. And when I’m fed up, I pay someone else to do it. Now that I’m in China and labour is cheap, I even pay someone to change my light bulbs. It’s ~$0.50 in labour and they bring their own stepladder. 🙂

My wife’s not an engineer, but as a computer programmer she feels very logical and thus assumes the role of project manager / boss. It’s up to me to most of the physical work, except she’ll jump in if there is something artistic involved. Generally I’ll tolerate it, but I do get annoyed when she tries to manage me doing a project that she doesn’t understand. Too much getting steps out of order, or not understanding what’s taking so long or why something doesn’t cooperate. But we muddle through.

I have learned that some things need to be farmed out to a professional. I might be able to figure something out, but I may not come up with the best (or even adequate) solution. Or I may not be able to achieve the final fit or finish that I desire. It can be hard for an engineer to admit, but we just can’t do it all.

But it’s great to try, and learn from mistakes. Eventually you’ll learn where your limits are, and when to call in help. You also find handymen who don’t mind when you watch and pester them with questions. I can end a project just as satisfied if I watch somebody else do it, learn how and why they did what they did, and maybe feel more confident to do it myself next time – or know to call a professional before I waste too much time and resources.

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