The Important Lesson I Learned Fixing My Fridge’s Door
I find that one of the best ways to learn a concept or understand its importance is through stories. The story below is very short (I promise), and quite amusing (I hope). It will help illustrate how powerful a simplicity-oriented mindset can be.
In the past few weeks, my fridge’s door simply wouldn’t stay closed.
We tried closing it with force, holding the door closed before leaving it, even placing a chair to block it from opening, alas, the door persisted in its quest for freedom. Moreover, the fridge also started to leak, since it couldn’t maintain its temperature well enough.
Now, what would you do in this case?
Well, there are two main options:
- Try and fix the problem on your own.
- Call a fridge technician and hope they don’t charge you too much.
As a software engineer, I am by no means qualified to fix fridges. However, I do have this common urge to try and solve problems by myself, so I went ahead and did what every good software engineer would do — I googled it. My goal was to try and figure out whether that is something that’s realistic to solve by myself, or whether I should outsource it to the professionals.
What came up was mainly articles about replacing the fridge’s gaskets, a not so complicated task, but one that does require some technical know-how.
Also, it meant I needed to purchase replacement gaskets, which is quite tricky since my fridge was pretty old.
Thinking about my options, I remembered that the door started malfunctioning in the winter, and it tends to get quite dry in the winter, a phenomenon that I know all too well, as it wreaks havoc on my skin.
And then I remembered reading something about rubber drying out in the winter, which could explain the fact that they couldn’t keep the fridge sealed.
So I searched some more, and EUREKA! I stumbled upon a video that shows how applying Vaseline to your fridge’s gaskets (after cleaning them a little), can help revive them and bring back their sealing powers.
I went ahead and did just that, using Aquaphor, a close relative of Vaseline that wasn’t too kind to my skin but was terrific for my fridge’s gaskets.
It worked like magic. The door that refused to stay closed even when being held by a chair, was almost hard to open.
What I’ve learned
I think what strikes me the most in this short story, was how simple the solution was. I could have spent so much more time trying to look for replacement gaskets, attempting to replace them, etc. I could have also called a technician, which would most likely opt for a replacement gasket as well, in addition to the repair costs. (Although truth be told, if they would have opted for the same solution — rubbing vaseline on the gaskets themselves, that would probably make a better story).
Luckily, I dared to simplify. I looked for a simple solution, instead of complicating things unnecessarily. That’s something I strive to do every day working as a software engineer at NEXT, but that’s the first time I saw the importance of that value outside of work.
I think more often than not, simplicity is frowned upon. We feel that if we can easily explain something, it must be obvious, and have little value. It’s one of the reasons why academic articles are often a terrible read, they must use complex jargon in order to appear clever. However, in my opinion, simple solutions are an indication that you figured out what’s really going on “under the hood”.
“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
—Attributed to Albert Einstein, though I think it sounds more like Richard Feynman
So next time you’re faced with a problem, whether it be integrating a new 3rd party at work, or fixing your fridge, look for the simple solution, dare to simplify.