Before you read more of this post, please take your time trying to figure out what's going on in the photo above. You can probably tell that you're looking at the top of a dryer. Can you also see a barn door behind it? Notice the cross bar, above the bar on which the barn door hangs. That cross bar's mission is to provide a place to hang clothes that can't go into the dryer. (There's about a foot between the dryer and the shelves on the left, out of the photo.) The barn door, in this position, hangs in front of a wall. The door's raison d'etre is to move to the right, hiding the utility room from view of the bathroom/laundry room. Can you spot the problem? If so, skip to the next paragraph. If not, imagine yourself rolling the door to the right so that it can fulfil its life's mission. What happens? Now you see it, right? That roller's on the far left is going to crash into the bar. The door won't close.
After the builders did almost everything to complete our cabin in Maine, I asked if they could put in a drying bar in the bathroom, going over the barn door and the stacked washer and dryer. They did...And it's the only thing in the cabin on which they missed the boat.
Not to fear, I had some great ideas for how to fix this problem. We took out the screws that held this bar in place. This job was not easy, but we knew that no solution involved leaving the bar where it was. While we had the bar down, we needed to put the two hangers we'd been using to air-dry clothes out of our way, so we hung them from the bar to the right side of the barn door.
First, I thought that we could move the bar up by putting blocks of wood onto the door frame and the shelves (which support the bar on the other side). We didn't have anything to cut the right sized pieces of wood, so while waiting to get the right tools, I kept thinking.
Second, I thought we could skip the wood and use long screws with washers to hold the bar elevated from the ledge. I thought to screw the bar down but keep it suspended on the taller screws. This plan meant we wouldn't need to wait to find a way to cut the wood blocks to the right shape/size. Guess what Lowe's doesn't make? You're correct. Those long screws.
Third, I thought we could use the same screws, but put them in through the side openings on the bar so that they'd stick out farther. Unfortunately, there was no way to get the screws into the existing holes at the right angle. Metal, as it turns out, isn't all that flexible.
Fourth, I realized that we could avoid the screws all together by glueing up pieces of wood that had holes the diameter of the bar in them. The bar could slide in like a toilet-paper-holder rod, right into the hole in the wood. Of course, we'd need to return to Connecticut to find the right drill bit to make the holes in the wood...and would still need to cut the wood to the right size/shape.
And we almost went with option number four, until we stepped back a little. Just to the right of our project, we saw where we had casually set aside the hangers. There, they'd work perfectly to air dry clothes. When we want to close the door, we can take the hangers down and hide them in the closet. Most of the time, we have no need to hide the cabin's utilities. Who cares? Problem solved with zero dollars, minutes, or effort spent.
With all that time to think, we came up with a solution that works for us. Each new fix I came up with seemed like an engineering marvel, but the fix that made the most sense was to take a step back, look at the big picture, think more about what we needed and what we had, and do nothing.
Seems like quite a few good lessons rolled into one:
- Before buying or making something new, figure out what you need?
- Before buying or making something new, figure out what you already have?
- Don't focus on the details until you look at the big picture.
- Take your time.
- Don't use metal screws through metal unless you're sure.
There are probably more lessons rolled in, but I've got clothes to wash and projects to undo. Seriously, did you ever take your time with a project and come up with a solution completely different from and better than the one you originally planned? I would love for you to share any stories, questions, or thoughts in the comments.