How To Control Your Life

Part 35

If you want to control your life in your home - or if you feel that you’re losing control over your life in the home - have you considered the infrastructure?

In the workplace, particularly if you’re in charge of a large project of some kind, the issue of the infrastructure comes up pretty much at the outset. Are the telecommunications in place? Is there sufficient cabling? What about waste disposal? And so on - and on.

If you’re moving house, you do consider the infrastructure (after location, the type of house or flat or whatever, how much you can manage to spend, and all that sort of thing). How much needs doing to the plumbing? Is there broadband? When was the electricity cabling last upgraded and the boiler serviced? (Or maybe you’re so smitten with the location and the homely, welcoming atmosphere of the place that you take all this on chance - if your conveyancing solicitor and/or bank manager will let you…?)

But when it comes down to controlling your everyday life in the home, you do need to give more than passing heed to the infrastructure. If the infrastructure is out of control, you’re out of control of the home.

Try these questions:

♦ Where is the water stopcock for the mains water into the house? Do you know if you can physically turn it off?
♦ Can you turn off the power to the sockets in your master bedroom without turning off the power to the whole house?
♦ Do you know where the inspection chamber for your drain is located on your property?
♦ Do you have fibre broadband, ADSL or dial-up? Do you know what’s available to you?
♦ Do you know where your nearest telephone exchange is (and/or the one which is actually dealing with your line?)
♦ If you do know which exchange handles your line, do you know your cabinet number within that exchange?

OK, enough - this could go on, and on, and on.

If any one of those questions made you feel uneasy, inadequate or generally helpless, you’re not alone. Even if you could answer all the questions, you might have been getting uneasy because there are other similar questions to which you have a nasty feeling you might not know the answers.

It’s this sort of thing which can give you an underlying sense of being out of control of your home. Add to this the fact that someone else might actually have taken control - or been given it (a partner or spouse, a landlord, an odd job/goto person, or even a variety of people (plumber, electrician, carpenter, neighbour who knows everything about telephones/computers/drains etc.)), and it all becomes very difficult to control. Actually it becomes nearly impossible to control if you’re forever in the hands of other people who may or may not be available and willing when you’ve got an emergency.

You don’t need to know it all - but actually knowing most of what you need to know, or at least having the information available in a form you can understand and to hand (not just somewhere on the Internet or in a handy book you bought several years ago (Everything You Need To Know About Your Plumbing or The Layperson’s Guide To Electricity in the Home or An Idiot’s Guide to Computers)), is the key. The key to taking back control of your life in the home.

There’s only one way to have that information to hand when you need it, in a form which you can understand when you’re stressed because you’re in the middle of a flooded house and it’s the middle of the night, or your computer has just died on you and the friend Who Knows Everything About Computers has just gone away to visit an old schoolfriend in Australia for six weeks - and that’s to do it for yourself. Find the information, explain it to yourself (in writing), and then put the information somewhere easily accessible.

We’re back, of course, at the household database. This is another invaluable use of the household database and yet one more sound reason to set one up. And a database can have scheduling built into it (very easy indeed if the database is a digital one, on a computer of some sort), so that things like putting silicone lubricant on stopcocks to ensure that they don’t become stuck fast can be scheduled for once a year.

A database is a collection of data - so if you’re (still) frightened by the idea of using the computer for more than the odd e-mail or watching a cat-related video on YouTube, then put your data into another format, one with which you’re more comfortable. A few concertina files, for example, or some card indexes (and lots of diary notes for scheduling). You can even use an old-fashioned filing cabinet, if you’ve got the room and are that committed to spending a healthy amount of your life in the home filing. Whatever form it takes, a household database is an invaluable tool for getting and keeping control over your life in the home.

So, returning to the questions above: the water stopcock. Probably one person in your household knows where it is (or at least your plumber does)? Perhaps it’s you, you do know where it’s located - but have you told everyone else in the household? Or, if you live alone, do you tell whoever it is who housesits for you when you’re away? When you’re giving them the key, and instructions about the plants or the cat/dog/gerbil/monitor lizard, do you tell them (or remind them) where the stopcock is located?

When you have a piece of information (in this case that the stopcock is in the cupboard under the stairs, under the tennis rackets and that inflatable boat you got in the sale six years back), don’t let it slip away. Pin it down, anchor it, so that it’s right there when anyone needs it. Put it into the household database.

And you might just want to put it in more than one note in the household database. It may well go under ‘Plumbing’, for example), but also under ‘Emergency Information’ and in ‘Notes for Housesitters’.

Does your neighbour - the one who’s holding a spare front door key for you - know where to find things in your database? Or do they have a standby set of instructions which you’ve printed off from the database? If you’re away for a week and there’s a sudden freeze and communications are down in various places (we’re talking the UK here - one cold snap and everything comes to a halt…) so you can’t telephone, can that neighbour go straight into your house and turn off the water?

In your household database there should also be things like a full list of the trip switches in your electricity/meter cabinet, in two forms, and the switches should be clearly numbered or lettered. So one list should be along the lines:

and the other list:

Printouts of these lists should also be in the cupboard with the switch box itself (either stuck on the back of the cupboard doors, or laminated, and/or in a folder).

The thing about having a household database is that you only need to find out something once. Then put it into the database. Everyone in the household will then know. And then, when you need to know which switch turns off the overhead lights in the living room because the bath is overflowing in the bathroom above, and you can’t remember because you’re panicking and this is no time to test your memory recall, you don’t need to test it. You need to turn off the lights, and the information is right there. It’s OK - you can turn the rest of the electricity back on so you can telephone and get the house warm again and see to find the plumber’s number…

Don’t let it all get out of control. Sort yourself out a household database, put in all the information you know about the house and it’s infrastructure - and then find out the rest and put that in as well.

Because if the infrastructure is under your control, the house will be on a sound footing and so will your control of your life in the home.

Twitter: @MaryonJeane

Part 1 — http://tinyurl.com/k8e4jv6
Part 2 — http://tinyurl.com/k2qtplb
Part 3 — http://tinyurl.com/lndykl3
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Part 30 — http://tinyurl.com/pycqggu
Part 31 — http://tinyurl.com/o742mfk
Part 32 — http://tinyurl.com/q4wqz4g
Part 33 — http://tinyurl.com/
Part 34 — http://tinyurl.com/o8g5g6m

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