The unappreciated gift of maintenance

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Ask most homeowners whether it's more fun to add a new deck or restain an old one, install a new kitchen or revamp the outdated one one, lay down new carpet or shampoo the old, buy a new car or pay for a 50k mile checkup, and the answer will nearly always be the first one.. rarely the second.

The "new" captivates us, engages our imagination, incites feelings of discovery and opportunities. It gives us a chance to step back, take a deep breath, and plunge into something different and exciting. Maybe we need that to recalibrate ourselves, to try harder the second (or third, or fourth) time around.

It's also in part a false hope - a fool's hope - that none of the "old" concerns will ever plague us again. We'll stain the deck every year so it doesn't rot, wash the car every day so it doesn't rust, and wipe down the kitchen every day so it looks as fresh as the day it was installed. We're dreamers.

But we know deep down that every new home will become old, every kitchen outdated, every car rusted, and we will find ourselves once again in the (boring, drab, but oh so vital) role of maintainer. Or are we just scared or too impatient to slow down and take stock of what we have, what already works, and admit that it's worth keeping around in some shape or form.

Maintenance is...

  • appreciating a thing for what it is, but seeing potential in it too
  • recognizing a thing was (and is) good, and worthy of improvement
  • accepting that some work is important, even if it rarely earns praise
  • acknowledging the years of (physical and mental) effort poured into a thing
  • realizing the old can be sinewy and strong in need a good polishing, while the new might be shiny plating over something that will crumble

I find myself in the position of maintainer often, and have for many years - whether my house, my car, or the decades-old applications I've worked on for various companies. If you haven't yet, you will too. Sometimes we get the opportunity to tackle a novel problem or a new task, and that's a great feeling.

But the next time we put on the hat of the maintainer, let's try to keep in mind that it's the role that requires (and creates) appreciation and wisdom, as well as a discerning eye and a clever mind. It's where a deeper growth occurs.


Grant Winney

I write when I've got something to share - a personal project, a solution to a difficult problem, or just an idea. We learn by doing and sharing. We've all got something to contribute.

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