Paper plates as dustpans, quarters as screwdrivers, and duct tape for everything – everyday items can serve a dual purpose! When things go according to plan, the perfect tool can make a job easier. But life often doesn’t go according to plan. Being able to improvise using what’s available is a skill worth cultivating.
Some of us naturally view each day as a puzzle to be solved. When a problem arises, our minds are quick to look for possible solutions. For others of us, a problem stops us dead in our tracks if we don’t have exactly what we would need to fix it if we lived in an ideal world. It may always be a stretch to envision doing things in a unique way, but anyone can do it with some practice.
Conserve your energy.
Fear, panic, and flailing about use energy that can otherwise be spent on problem solving. It is normal to feel anxious or scared sometimes. It is normal to feel overwhelmed or inadequate sometimes.
Register the feelings and set them aside for a moment if you’re in a critical situation. Otherwise try sitting with the feelings until you feel them dissipate, then return to the task.
Observe the environment.
The solution to a problem will become apparent more quickly when you make a habit of observing your environment. Keeping a mental visual map of your surroundings will reduce search time you might otherwise incur when an issue arises.
As a short person, I’m always looking for a way to reach something. I have been known to use a bread knife to tilt a plastic cup on a high shelf until it falls off into my hand. That may not be the ideal second purpose for a knife, but it works!
I also have some inexpensive metal tongs that I use to grab spices off the top shelf. It’s easy to apply enough pressure to pick up the small jars and it works beautifully.
An item serving a dual purpose may not look or feel like the original. The most important thing is that the replacement function similarly enough to accomplish the task without creating further complications.
Everything seems bigger and harder when you think about it. A sink full of dishes feels like it will take forever to wash until you start. The key is getting started. Once you jump in and begin, much of your anxiety will subside and everything will seem easier. Knowing that, you can practice thinking about projects differently.
I so this all of the time. If I see on the news that a bridge collapsed and cars drove into the water, I mentally develop a plan for what I would do in that situation. Would I roll down my window? How far? Would I leave my seat belt hooked? What could I use to cut it if it were stuck….
Here’s how the process goes: Pretend X happens. Break down what you will do first, second, third, etc. into simple steps. You’ll probably want to begin with diagnosing the issue to be fixed. Then you may want to explore the possible causes of the problem. From there, list possible remedies. That will take you to the point that you can determine the tools you need.
Remember, this is just a mental exercise for now. There is no failing. Each new idea you have is a success even if it feels improbable as you think of it.
If this seems pointless, remember that you’re developing a new grove for thinking patterns. The reward will come when a problem arises and you’re able to solve it more quickly and easily.
Exaggerate your solutions. Get the kids involved. Think of the most outrageous fix you can and explore that. What if there were no gravity? How would that change your plan?
So often, we fail to see the solutions right in front of us because we have one particular vision of what they should look like. The truth is, there are many ways to approach a problem.
Understanding how many workable options surround us at any given moment opens the world to much greater possibility and so many things to being dual purpose. It can also enhance a feeling of competency and accomplishment.
And it can put many a rarely used object to use as you discover that it has a dual purpose.