The Solder Marauder, or, How I Celebrated 6 Months of Buying Nothing New — Buy Nothing New for a Year!


No, this is not my 50-years-too-late attempt at a working title for a Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon…this is a regaling tale of bravery amidst uncertain fate. Imagine a world…broken, on the brink of apocalypse. One man’s quest to fix the family garage, brandishing little more than a soldering iron, and a crippling inability to purchase new things.

The funny thing is, the garage at our house has been broken for about 2 years now, but for some reason this

What was left of our right hand sensor after a tense battle with the garage door years ago.

What was left of our right hand sensor after a tense battle with the garage door years ago.

weekend it really started to dig at me. We have literally been lifting our garage door up and pulling it down by hand for the last 2 years. What is this, 1953? Realizing it was the 6 month anniversary of our New Year’s Resolution, I decided there was no better way to mark the occasion then by defeating all odds, staying firmly away from the hardware store (regardless of our “home improvement exemption”) and tackling this problem by myself, using absolutely nothing more than what I had on hand:

Broken Garage Door Sensor (wires firmly ripped from it’s body in a fit of rage)

A soldering iron which may or may not work, don’t know.

Solder, which may or may not be of the right type (there are different types for different uses, right?)

Electrical tape and Swiss Army Knife, because I am from the Clan MacGuyver.

Yes, my workbench is a plastic bag full of stuffed animals. Don't judge me.

Yes, my workbench is a plastic bag full of stuffed animals. Don’t judge me.

First things first…please understand that the last time I used a soldering iron was in 7th grade technology class (they had just renamed “shop class” a few years prior), and trust me, it was not for soldering wires onto circuit boards. Come to think of it, I have no idea what we used the soldering irons for in that class. However, I have seen simple circuitry done on TV shows, so how hard could it be? Also, I should not skip the part where I thought I might be able to easily open up the sensor box and just reattach the wires to the inside via screws. Anyone picking up on my level of novice, yet?


Step one: Remove the circuit board from the sensor box.

Step two: Remove the old wires from the circuit board melting the solder in place and pulling them out with a pair of needle nose pliers.

Step three: Place new wires into circuit board and melt solder on top of them until the power light comes on.

The connections I soldered were the two on the bottom...don't pretend you can't tell.

The connections I soldered were the two on the bottom…don’t pretend you can’t tell.

Steps one thru three take a mere 10 minutes, 7 of which was waiting for the iron to heat up.

Step four: (45 minutes) realign sensors until the garage door can close tight, free from the fear that it is crashing down upon some (in)animate object.

There you have it. Somehow, some way, I managed to complete this project correctly the first time. I did not buy anything new (the former owners of our house left a TON of stuff behind, some of which was a soldering iron and solder), did not do any research, did not “phone a friend…” just used some good ‘ol fashioned American intuition, and a rainy Sunday afternoon.

I’ve always said that the humans are a resilient species, and it has been amazing to witness our own resilience in a set of uncomfortable, albeit self-created, circumstances. While we haven’t learned much more about ourselves since we reported on our progress at 3 months, every day certainly brings about new challenges, particularly in the home improvement category. So here’s to 6 months down, and 6 months to go of buying nothing new for a year…we can and we will finish this challenge!


  1. Lisa says:

    I miss your posts! What’s been happening over the summer? Is the buy-nothing-new plan still going strong? Hope all is well!

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