Throwing Money at Some Problems or Fixing Them Myself?

I generally enjoy grocery shopping. But for some reason I generally find unpacking and putting away my groceries to be a daunting task.

I went grocery shopping on Monday, and quite a large and expensive one, and within an hour or two of getting home all my perishables were put away in the fridge and freezer. The dry goods, I must confess, were still out on Wednesday though. The house a mess, I was overwhelmed, and sapped of all energy. And I noticed that the fridge wasn't as cold as it should have been. It was still cool but felt off. And then I noticed that something that I made on Friday was growing mold in my fridge, and that was quite quick for that to be happening. Then my son came home from school and told me that the cottage cheese sandwich I sent with him spoiled. That confirmed it. The fridge was definitely not cooling enough.
I checked the freezer and everything was frozen solid. So that confirmed that the cooling unit was working but it wasn't managing to get the cool air into the fridge.

I knew immediately what the problem most likely was. There must have been frozen ice blocking the opening between the two compartments. I dealt with this repeatedly with my last freezer but never had this issue before with this one, only four years old.

I was dreading the solution. I knew it entailed emptying out the fridge and the freezer to be able to access the inner workings of the unit but I had so little energy. Beyond no energy. I confessed to my friend that I had such little desire to do that that I was even contemplating if spending over a thousand dollars on a new fridge was worth it. Why not just pay a repairman? Because even if I paid a repairman I'd still have to do the emptying and filling of the fridge /freezer and the actual fixing was the easy part, and it would be throwing away money.

But I thought about it. The fact that this issue was so daunting for me that I'd be willing to throw large sums of money at the problem to fix it. So I thought if there was a way to throw less money at the problem and take some of the stress off my shoulders.

I got Ike to put away the rest of the dry groceries, and then asked him if he'd like a paid job. His ears perked up at the sound of money and he inquired what it was. I told him I'd be willing to pay him to empty out the freezer and asked him if he'd take $15 dollars for that. He agreed.

Once the freezer was emptied he told me that $15 was way too much money for the amount of work that it was, and asked if I was ok paying $6 instead. I agreed, and then tried to see about fixing the freezer.

On my old freezer in order to fix it, I had to remove some screws on the back and on the bottom to remove a section covering the inner workings. Once I removed those, I was able to access the inside. With the freezer emptied out, I was looking for similar screws, all over the back and bottom, but didn't find anything to remove. I called over my eldest son, Lee, to help, as he's good with this type of thing, and he suggested to see if there were maybe caps covering where screws would be, and of course he was right. I found two small caps to pop off, and then unscrewed two screws. With that, I was able to pull out the lining of the freezer in the back.

From that point, I was able to have access to some of the inner workings of the fridge, but I still couldn't see anything iced over that I would be able to defrost, and wondered if maybe there was another section that I forgot to remove. Lee suggested that maybe we remove what we see here as well, and I tried pulling it out but didn't see any way to do it- it was stuck. 

This was what I saw once I removed the first layer.
The screw was deep inside the hole to the left and bottom of the fan

Then I noticed that deep inside there was one more screw holding that section in, and then around the edges there were clips holding that section inside. Once I removed the screw and unclipped each side I finally got to the meat of the project. 

The part of the freezer that freezes and the place where the cold air was supposed to move into the fridge to cool it off. I saw that my guess about the problem with the freezer was correct- there was a solid layer of ice blocking the entire thing. 

See the solid block at the bottom? That's what was
stopping the cold air from coming down into the fridge.

Because of this, I asked Ike if he'd be willing to also empty out the refrigerator because the freezer job was so small, and he agreed to, and didn't want any extra cash.

Once the fridge was emptied out, I then poured boiling water over the ice block to melt it and clear the path into the fridge. Some people use blow dryers for this but the repairman I've used in the past used boiling water for this so that's what I do since it goes quicker.

It was annoying and tedious but eventually it was all melted, and then while we were at it, we washed out the entire fridge including the shelves. I paid another kid for cleaning off the shelves.

Ice is all gone. Whew!

Finally, I put the freezer back together, put in the shelves of the fridge, and refilled it with my kids' help, organizing both this one and my spare freezer simultaneously since it was easiest if one was already empty.

I wasn't sure at first if the fix would work (it wasn't something I could feel immediately), so I didn't post this the first day I did it, but already the next morning I saw that the food in the fridge was nice and cool (and some stuff accidentally froze since I had lowered the temperature of the fridge too much) and by now I can reassure you that that was the fix.

So while I was so overwhelmed by the job of fixing the fridge that I considered buying a new one for a thousand dollars, in the end the solution was to pay my kids to help me with the tedious aspects of it, and then I was able to fix it on my own. If my kids hadn't been available, I would have paid someone else to do the fridge/freezer as well, but I'm glad I was able to ask my kids.

Do you ever get overwhelmed by tasks you need to do, to the extent that you'd rather spend lots of money instead of doing it yourself? Do you generally just spend the money and not do it, do it yourself, or find a middle ground to pay someone to do part of it and then do the rest yourself? What were those situations? What would you have done in mine?

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. What a fantastic solution. A bargain at that price for you, and a bonus for the kids plus everyone feeling like their contributions are valuable and help the family function. Win-win!
    Sometimes I think if I mentally spend the money, then I'm willing to back up the truck and find a middle ground. It's like giving myself permission to feel totally desperate, then I become more willing to work the problem and look for alternate solutions.

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