On a recent weekend, my wife and I were out shopping at one of the big-box home improvement stores in Ankeny and decided we would finally buy three items to take care of projects on our mutual “honey-do” list.
 
If you’re a homeowner, you know how it is; there are always those little things that would be nice to fix or replace, but they hadn’t quite yet risen to that level of nagging annoyance – the type that made George Bailey want to throw the loose bannister top in “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

We would soon find out that taking care of the little things gets harder when the products you buy haven’t been made with enough attention to the little things that will make them work right.

We have been gradually updating our 1973 brick ranch since we had moved in three years ago and had already made some big improvements, such as replacing the original front door, updating the bathrooms and replacing the back patio (all of which we wisely paid professionals to handle).  Those three little things still on our to-do list that my limited home-improvement skills could manage:

- Replace  an under-cabinet kitchen light (which finally broke after falling on the counter for the 56th time).
- Replace the doorbell button (little lighted thingy cracked in the middle since we moved in three years ago, and it had finally quit working altogether).
- Replace two remaining original air vent covers with less institutional-looking versions.

Putting in the new kitchen light went well, until I got to the last step, which was an option to shorten the cord to customize the length to just what was needed to reach the outlet.  But I had to take the light back with me to the store after finding that the little plug system that was supposed to make contact by piercing the cord wasn’t sharp enough to do the trick. The man at the store’s electrical department didn’t have any better luck. “I guess they hope not too many people try to shorten the cord,” he said. I ended up settling for an intact cord he pulled from another set.

Then it was on to the doorbell. No problems until I got to the point of loosening the screws to attach the two electrical leads, which unfortunately had been tightened down as if someone intended for them to never come loose. One finally yielded, but no matter which screwdriver I tried, I couldn’t budge that other screw, and I finally returned the whole thing and bought one at a different store.

And we found that the vent with the brushed brass look that cost about four times more than the simpler white metal version had a damper that wouldn’t quite stay open all the way (the cheaper white one we bought for another room did).

Despite bemoaning the fact that things just don’t seem to be made as well as they might have been in in ‘70s when we were growing up, we were both really happy that:

- We have a nice light for working in the kitchen.
- We again have a working doorbell.
- We have a new vent that looks great and lets most of the cool air through.

Like George, we’ll always be thankful for the little things.

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Joe Gargyasz
Senior Staff Writer, Business Record
@JoeGardyasz