Packing Tips: Last Out, First In and the Bits and Bobs Box

Last Out First In 1 I have one last packing tip for you (and thanks to everyone who has contributed their own packing dos and don’ts). You already know when packing that you need to pack up the stuff you rarely use first, and as you get closer to moving day, you start packing up the more often-used items.  But what about the things you’re going to use on moving day?  For this, you need a Last Out, First In box.  This is the stuff that you need in order to actually unpack and move into your new home.  It’s the last box that leaves your old house and goes into the truck last because it’s the first box that enters your new home. A typical Last Out, First In box will probably include some of the following:

  • Cleaning Supplies
  • Toilet Paper & Hand Towels
  • Tools (Hammer, Screwdrivers, Allen Keys)
  • Box Cutter (more than one would be useful)
  • Documentation (Rental Agreement, Proof of Insurance, etc.)
  • Shower Curtain (there is never a shower curtain when you move into a new apartment, or the one that is there has seen better days)
  • Bedding (gotta sleep somewhere that first night)

And most importantly, your Last Out, First In box will include all the little pieces you carefully saved when you dismantled all your furniture before you moved: the casters from chairs, picture hooks, screws from your table … all those pieces.  I put all these things in separately labeled baggies in my Bits & Bobs Box.  I have done this for three moves now and it’s the smartest thing I have ever done.  Many people will just tape the screws or nuts and bolts or whatever to the actual furniture from which it came, but the number of times I’ve seen those come off and get messed around on the floor of the truck is just sad. So if you put them all in the same box, into your most important box, then you will know where they all are at any time. As I take apart my shelving and my tables and desks and whatnot, I put all the little pieces that hold them together in a baggie, label it, and shove it in this box. Last Out First In 2 If I grab little random pieces from around the house and don’t have a second to sort them properly, they go into this box-within-the-box so that I can sort them later and not worry about them getting lost in the interim. Last Out First In 3

The Leaky Faucet Gets the Love

Leaky Faucet
As I’ve said before, elementary plumbing is nothing to be afraid of, and knowing your way around your bathroom fixtures can save you a lot of money and time.

When the Pie and I first moved in together, we had a massive apartment in Ottawa’s Little Italy: fifteen hundred square feet.  Three bedrooms, each with its own sink, two bathrooms, and of course the kitchen sink.  And every single faucet dripped.  Not only was this loud and annoying, but a complete waste of water.

When confronted with this conundrum, my landlord, whose grasp of English was rudimentary at best, thought hard for a minute before telling me to “just-a turrrn eet reeeel a-hard.”

Not surprisingly, this rather simplistic solution had already occurred to me.  And of course simply turning the tap “reeeeel a-hard” did nothing.

Fixing a leaky faucet is probably one of the more simple things you can do yourself, however, so I was able to fix the six sinks myself in no time.

Faucets usually leak because the washer in the faucet needs to be tightened or replaced.  In most cases, a simple tightening will do.  Each tap handle has a little cap on it, usually the thing that tells you whether the tap is HOT or COLD.  Use a putty knife or other flat object to pry these caps off.
Leaky Faucet

Underneath you will see the screw that holds the washer in place.
Leaky Faucet

If the washer needs replacing you can just unscrew it and stick a new one in, but most of the time you just need to stick the screwdriver in and tighten the screw as far as it will go.
Leaky Faucet

Replace the caps, maybe after cleaning around the hole a bit first, and there you go.  No more leaky faucet.  Five minutes of love gives you so much peace.
Leaky Faucet

And speaking of getting the love, today is our second wedding anniversary.  Love you Pie!  Seven years along and still going strong …
Photo by Mike Andreyechen

Trouncing our Tempermental Toilet

We moved into our house in August 2008, and even then our toilet (at least forty years old to look at it, probably fifty) didn’t work.  It ran.  And ran.  And RAN.

There was much jiggling of handles and lifting and bending of wires.  And swearing.  And stamping of feet.  And turmoil.

I don’t know why we didn’t make an effort to fix it.  Well, there were several reasons.  One, we always figured our landlord would get around to it at some point.  Two, this isn’t our house, and we were terrified that in attempting to repair an antiquated toilet (of which the landlord is inordinately fond), we might break something.  So we didn’t.

Three years went by.

Also, we kind of hoped that when the Elizabethan explosion occurred some months ago, one of the nice plumbers would take the old toilet away and bring us a new one.  But of course that didn’t happen.

This winter, the rubber tank ball completely disintegrated.  The Pie fixed it all by himself (as I was in Ottawa) and we thought the problem was solved (a running toilet is a sign that there is not a complete seal around your tank ball).  Soon after my arrival back home, however, the toilet situation got worse.  The toilet still ran, only now you couldn’t jiggle the handle to get things to fall back in place.

With an impending houseful of guests and only one bathroom, this was a problem we couldn’t ignore any longer.

Here you can see that the lift wires for the handle, and the handle itself, are all corroded.  So even though the Pie replaced the tank ball, the corrosion on the wires makes them rub against each other and won’t allow them to slide smoothly up and down, which prevents the tank ball from sealing itself and means that the toilet will continue to run as it tries to fill the tank unsuccessfully.

So all we had to do was replace the handle and the lift wires and we were set. 

Really, plumbing is a very simple thing, especially when it comes to toilets.  Don’t be intimidated.  And all the stuff you get comes with instructions anyway.  I just want to show you how easy it actually is. 

Even Gren could do it.  Only his legs are a little too short.

First, you turn off your water.  That’s the little knob under your toilet somewhere. 

Then you flush the toilet so that it will drain, but with the water off, it can’t fill again.  Now you can work.

First you need to remove the old handle. 

It’s held to the toilet with a simple nut, but the Pie had to use some RoboGrips and some man-strength to get it to turn, as it was very corroded.

Then you stick the new handle in and screw it in place.

Now the lift wire has two parts: the first one screws into the tank ball and moves up through a little guide hole.

It connects to the other wire, which is bent to loop around the handle.

This is how the lift wire screws into the tank ball.  I showed you here because you can’t see it inside the tank so much.

Then it loops through this other one and bob’s your uncle, you’re set.

So you put the tank ball in place, loop the second wire through the first, and feed the first wire through the little guide (different on every toilet).  Screw it into the tank ball.

With a pair of pliers, bend the second wire so it will loop through one of the holes on the handle. 

You will need to cut the wire with a sturdy pair of wire cutters in order for it all to fit.

You may need to play around with the wires and which hole they go into on the handle so that everything works the way it should.

Then turn your water back on and test it out!

The novelty of having a flushing toilet at last has us almost giddy. We have vowed to never be intimidated by a toilet again.

Because our toilet is so horribly ancient and inefficient, we have also placed a bottle of water in our toilet tank to save water.  The water in the bottle displaces other water, convincing the toilet tank that it is fuller than it actually is.  You end up with less water in your toilet bowl, but in older toilets the amount there is really wasteful anyway.

Some Cool Things My Parents Do

I get a lot of my DIY-know-it-all from my parents, who have been renovating houses and cooking up a storm since before I was born.

They also know a lot of nifty shortcuts that make them look really crafty and smart while taking little to no effort on their parts.

Here are three of those shortcuts for your edification.

The first is the tablecloth curtain.  This one is in our “yellow” bathroom, which will be renovated shortly, and the tablecloth will go back to the second-hand store from whence it came.  My mother simply folded over one end for a café look and sewed on a series of tabs to hang it with.  Simple, easy, and really it makes a cozy little room.The second, also in the “yellow” bathroom (because it’s yellow, though who knows what colour they’ll paint it next), is the pot-lid holder magazine rack.  Perfect for a small space, the pot-lid holders (which you can purchase from IKEA or Lee Valley) are strong enough to hold several books and magazines for your bathroom entertainment.And the third, while we’re on the yellow theme, is the fancy dish detergent bottle.  This was an old bottle of wine my parents picked up when we were living in BC, and you used to be able to just buy refill bags of dish soap so it cut down on packaging.  Pour in the coloured dish detergent of your choice and pop in a bartender’s stopper and you’re good to go.More ideas to come.