According to the 'Seize the DIY Report' recently commissioned by TV channel Home, although 80 of Brits believe that a monkey wrench is a tool used by zookeepers during the primate-mating season and 14 of over 54s claiming they can confidently complete simple DIY tasks themselves compared to just 12% of under 35s. So is it that our generation: a) is despicably lazy; b) has never been taught; or c) is it more complicated than that? I'm going for option c).
The expectation today is that when something practical needs doing, there's probably someone out there who could do it for us. We have the blessing and the curse of the internet, so not only do we suspect the existence of these people, they're now easily found and just a few clicks away. And as we are all so busy being busy it's easy to convince ourselves that we're unable to fit in doing anything other than either the strictly necessary – ie our paid jobs and hopefully basic personal hygiene – or, frankly something a little bit more fun than fitting a toilet roll holder.
There's a definite sense of entitlement in my generation to our limited leisure time being filled with pleasurable activities thank you very much, as opposed to chores. Life today is about making things easier for ourselves – and why not? We Brits work longer hours than any other nationality in Europe, which is no doubt why we have people to deliver our groceries, people who come and collect our old white goods and take them to the tip for us and why we employ cleaners for our one and two bedroom flats. My 90-year-old nana is still out in all weathers (at her house, not mine I hasten to add) raking leaves and weeding. Maybe it's because she has more time on her hands than she knows what to do with, but fundamentally I think it's more that it just wouldn't occur to her to pay someone else to do something that she was more than capable of doing herself.
Another thing I know that I for one am guilty of is "achievement by proxy" syndrome. I get great satisfaction watching Jamie Oliver knock up a lovely fresh salad on tv, but I don't then go off and make one myself – he's done it for me...somehow. Same goes for property programmes. But of course none of us likes to admit that although we love to observe and keep up to date with the theory of worthy activities like home improvement and cooking from scratch, we're unlikely ever to get stuck in ourselves - so we all have the kit, poised and ready for action. It's just that we lack the experience and therefore the confidence to risk the integrity of our precious homes by actually using any of it.
But that lack of experience must be because our parents failed to pass on what skills they acquired from the necessarily more hands-on generation above them, right? Either that, or they tried and we refused to listen. Or they tried, we listened and learned, but because these days it takes us all so long to get on the property ladder, by the time we're in a position to 'do it ourselves', our knowledge (and bottle) has gone. Whatever the reasons, one thing's for sure - there's a palpable tension in my house whenever a DIY task, no matter how minor, presents itself.
As I write this I'm looking at two holes in the frame of my newly painted (by someone else) patio door, where the handle used to be – a casualty of recent building work at our house. I say recent – it's been like that for five months. I've now got as far as buying a replacement handle, but it's anyone's guess how long it will be before either my husband or I actually grasps the nettle and attempts to fit it. He did take it out of the box last weekend, but then muttered something about how much did I pay for "this thing" as he thinks it might be broken as he can't seem to see how to fit it...mutter mutter, back in the box. It may or may not be broken. He may or may not be nervous about the risk that he'll mess up our nice newly-painted door.
Which leads me on to the gender issue. I married a thoroughly modern man – he cooks, he washes up, he irons his own shirts – the lot: but he is, like most of the men I know, quite primitively territorial when it comes to DIY. Granted, I don't fight too hard ("Oh darling, please can't I have a go at unblocking the sink?") but maybe I should. It is sometimes hard to stand back and support his manly efforts when I see him about to "smooth" over a damp patch on the bedroom ceiling with a paint brush so irredeemably stiff and wiry that he may as well have picked up a garden rake to tackle the job.
The bottom line is that we can all do it if we put our minds to it – and if we choose to spend our free time as opposed to our free money that way. Who knows, it might even be fun.
For find out more about the Seize the DIY campaign, including a series of step-by-step online tutorials and guides about Do It Yourself tasks around the home, visit lovehome.co.uk
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