“The Lightbulb Isn’t Working: Call An Electrician!”: Has DIY Gone Out Of Fashion?

How long does it take to boil an egg? That presumably depends partly on how hard or soft you want it to be. However, a “Home Report” compiled by the British insurance company Aviva has indicated that one in four of millennials (anyone born between 1982 and 2004) isn’t capable of boiling an egg on their own and that 19% of those questioned have “admitted to thinking that an egg can be hard-boiled in less than two minutes”. The “Natural News” commentator, Jayson Veley has observed that “Sadly, the survey has shown that young people are losing the skills that their parents and grandparents possessed: 77% say the can’t fix a bicycle puncture and 68% that they can’t wire a plug”.

Uncertainty about how to cook eggs is not, of course, necessarily restricted to the millennial generation: The British author Tom Bower has claimed in his book “The Rebel Prince” that Queen Elizabeth’s eldest son insists on being presented at breakfast with seven boiled eggs, each cooked to various degrees of softness and lined up before him so he can choose his favourite. Prince Charles has adamantly rejected this “rumour” as a complete fabrication.

Veley quotes the view of Dr Sandi Mann, a senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Central Lancashire, that the problem is “Young people are no longer seeing the importance of being hands-on: They are brought up to be tech-savvy and their skill is in electronic manipulation” What would they do, asks Dr Mann, in a “survival situation” where there is no more government, no more power and no more internet? “They wouldn’t be able to do a Google search to find out how to boil an egg or change a wheel”. He does, though, acknowledge that the situation is reversed when older people have problems with their computers or smart phones and have to turn to the younger generation for help. Nevertheless, the Daily Express has pointed out that, according to Aviva’s survey, “A staggering 70% of millennials would have to summon a plumber to change a washer on a tap while 63% would incur a garage bill for fixing a flat tyre”.

The Daily Mail has noted that “surprisingly, newer technology leaves many of them stumped as well, with 23% not able to use a washing machine, connect a blue-ray player to a TV or (citing a Poundland investigation) hang a picture, decorate a room or iron a shirt or blouse. Its columnist, Alex Ward, has focused on statistics showing that “seven out of 10 young adults don’t know how to sew a button and so many of them often have to pay other people to do both this and other similar chores for them”. A generation that takes technology and the latest gadgets for granted is, he declares “not very good with practical matters.

This might explain why The Guardian newspaper has published a “How To Mend” series of articles, in one of which Lisa Comfort, founder of the “Sewing Cafe” has provided “easy step-by-step instructions” as to how to sew on a button. You are likely to need, she advises, “a tape measure, needle, thread, scissors and toothpick or matchstick” and you should begin by finding the correct position for the button.

The Daily Telegraph correspondent, Philip Johnston, has emphasised that the blame for the decline of “Do It Yourself” in Britain and hence the decision of the DIY giant, Homebase, to close down 25% of its stores by 2019 should not be attributed to either the millennials or their elders. Whereas he used to regularly visit Homebase for paint brushes, rollers, wallpaper, nails, screws and rawlplugs, he now employs someone else to do the work: “A hired decorator gets the material more cheaply and uses it more efficiently. The job is also far less likely to be botched”. Further more, some primary and secondary schools “have dropped traditional craft lessons because their teachers lack sufficient health and safety training to explain equipment such drills, lathes and saws” – which means the younger generation haven’t been instructed in the basic skills required for carrying out home improvements. Also: “Once we were able to open the bonnets of our cars and change the spark plugs or distributor cap. Now the sealed computerised engine is impossible to tinker with unless you have a degree in advanced mechanics”. Since the implementation of the Building Regulations 2005, “fixing a major electrical fault in your home has to be undertaken by a qualified electrician”: You’re no longer allowed to try to repair it yourself.

Meanwhile: Data published by YouGov.co.uk offers rather mixed conclusions about 18 – 24 year olds: Although many, it reveals, are still unsure as to how to replace a fuse in a plug (54%), read energy meters (43%), defrost a freezer (37%) or control a boiler (32%), almost all of them can make a cup of tea (97%), use a gas / electric cooker (96%) and operate a vacuum cleaner (98%). They also know how to do the washing up (98%), clean the kitchen (97%) and bathroom (94%) or change and make their bed (97%). However, it’s not specified how many of them are actually willing to carry out any of these duties.

Filed under: Society | Posted on June 12th, 2018 by Colin D Gordon

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