On Shoddy Workmanship


An engraving by William Morris. Note the skunk proofing.

You’re in a hurry. You’re frustrated and impatient. You say to yourself, “I don’t really need to secure this skunk proofing, my vegetables will be fine.” You might call it shoddy workmanship. I call it half-ass-itis. I’d say it’s the number one sin of the DIYer and I always know when I’m doing it.

There are those whose personality tends towards careful and elegant craftsmanship. You’ve probably met such a person. They craft their own musical instruments and win the blue ribbon at the county fair for their perfectly textured quince jam. I’m not that person (I’m more like this NSFW video). But we have freedom of choice. That’s what makes us human. We can change.

I had a rude reminder of my shoddy workmanship the other night when skunks breached poorly secured bird netting that protected a newly planted bed of vegetables. But at least I can do a better job of securing my skunk proofing as a start. Step by step, I vow to pay more attention to details. Otherwise they’ll be no home grown vegetables this winter.

Craftsmanship is not to be confused with perfectionism. A craftsperson is not afraid to make mistakes, to fail and to learn from setbacks. But to cut corners and know you’re taking an easy shortcut is to fall into halfassitis mode.

William Morris said, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” Morris’ craftsmanship was a reaction to the newly industrialized world. I can’t think of a better role model for countering halfassitis thinking.

Do you suffer from halfassitis or are you a detail person? Comments!

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  1. In my case, age has solved this problem.
    I know that I will be unhappy if I do a less-than-my-best job. I will be consumed with thinking about it. I will wake at night with my sloppiness on my mind. I have learned that the easiest way is to do a good job the first time. When I was younger and always in a hurry, it was hard to discipline myself, but it has gotten easier over time. Now, I rarely give it a second thought.

    As with you, perfection is not the goal; depending on the job, I have limited skills (power tool use, for example), but I still try to do the best my abilities will allow. I find it’s easier to live with myself.

  2. Shoddy workmanship is something I cannot stand. I don’t accept it from myself unless the job is just way beyond my skills and I really don’t know what I am doing or just plain not strong enough. My parents never did anything shoddy, so I suppose I get it from my upbringing. If I am deliberately doing shoddy work when I can do better, I am really ashamed of myself and unhappy.

    What really annoys me is when I need a friend to do something, something he can do well and I know it. One guy did a sloppy job and said, “That is good enough for you.” I gave him the evil eye, walked away to go into the house. He redid his mess and apologized.

    I am turning down sewing projects that sound like fun because I know I cannot do my best right now!

  3. According to the Kabbalah, the ability to focus — to see as deeply as possible into any reality — is called daas and it’s a supernal power touching the highest level of Godliness.

    Not only that, it’s the #1 challenge, lacking, and test of our generation. So c’mon, kids, grab your tools and focus!

  4. Well theres the thing my husband is King of the half-arsist attitude and it drives me nuts because everything I do is carefully thought out to the last detail.
    Its the one thing that we might argue over because it drives me a little crazy I just dont understand it particularly if its proven to be a bad idea he repeats the halfarsing over and over again like the neverending lost eyeglasses I may be exaggerating here but it feels like hundreds of them! the stolen bike….if you love that bike why would you not lock it properly??? the dishes that need rewashing the clothes that need to be rehung on the line the doors and windows that need to be rechecked before leaving the house. The list of halfarsist acts that goes on and on 🙁

    Ahhh that felt so good to get off my chest sorry it was so detailed but I am a person of detail and not one to be half arsed about it. 🙂

  5. If I do anything in a ‘half-assed’ way, it’s to cut corners, especially financial ones. If one looks up the cost of hardware mesh, it’s easy to see why people would go with far cheaper chicken wire simply stapled on. However when I think of the worst possible case scenario of raccoon easily ripping off wire or reaching in and killing my pet chickens, or dogs busting easily through flimsily built fencing, I think of doing it right the first time.Same goes for shoddy trellising, or lazy vegetable pruning, or cheap tomato cages. It’s an investment, and you do get what you paid for. And I’ve learned over time, that the greater time investment more than pays off in the future and is greatly satisfying.

  6. I have a related problem though I won’t say opposite. I am frozen by perfection. It is only in the last decade I’ve finally accepted it is better to do something than not start in case it’s not perfect. I’m working on some pieces now that I decided would not be precious and yet almost froze and stopped because I liked them. I was able to push on as I firmly told myself I can make more.

  7. As a side-note – I am missing the skunk-proofing in the illustration. Are you describing the little wood fence, and how does that skunk-proof the garden?

  8. Pingback: On Shoddy Workmanship | Root Simple | Josh's Brain Food

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