Keep it Simple

“Genius is the ability to reduce the complicated to the simple.” — C.W. Ceram

Am I the only one who has trouble comprehending instructions for Do-it-Yourself projects?

You know the ones I’m talking about — bookcases, drawers, office chairs, kids toys, and so forth.

It was hard enough when instruction manuals went on for pages detailing how to assemble stuff. Elaborate written instructions accompanied 3-D drawings telling a buyer which screw went into which hole. They never were as easy as the box promised, but they were doable.

(I still shudder remembering the fire truck I assembled at the Eleventh Hour for little Domer one Christmas!)

But I guess “technical writers,” who earn an average of 50-grand a year in the U.S., decided they can no longer convey step-by-step instructions using words. Now they give you pictures only.

Fun, especially when you see their line drawings.

A while back, I bought a spare desk but omitted the final step. I figured a sliding shelf for a computer keyboard wasn’t a necessity since I use a laptop. But the desk is a tad high, so I changed my mind.

After the Easter Egg hunt for parts and hardware, I opened the instructions (a skinny, one-page piece of paper with chicken tracks running across it). They seemed to indicate I was to insert A with screw number 4 into C while bypassing B, but don’t worry, we’ll get back to B after Step 6 (if I still had fingernails and hadn’t pulled out all my hair!)

Who knew you had to be ambidextrous to put together a simple desk? At one point, I was practically standing on my head, trying to force a teeny screw into an opening with something called an L-shaped tool. Seconds later, I realized I’d put the entire thing on backward and had to start all over again.

Domer, bless his heart, likes challenges of this sort. In fact, he’s so good at them that he’d have finished in ten minutes what took me the better part of an hour.

Even Darling Doggie Dallas grew weary of watching (and listening to!) me grumble and drifted off to sleep.

I ask you: Shouldn’t a person making 50-grand a year be able to write clearly and concisely so the rest of us can understand directions, without having to hop aboard the Struggle Bus?

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25 thoughts on “Keep it Simple

    • Maybe this is a right-brain, left-brain sort of thing? Domer finds it incredibly easy to know exactly what the designers mean, while I sit there for the longest time, just staring at the instruction/diagram and wondering where to start!

  1. Imagine trying to assemble the Struggle Bus! I’ve spent many years assembling toys and it wasn’t pretty, or easy. Maybe they get paid more by the picture? The worst are the directions in 5 point font! They should come with bi-focals.

    • You, too, huh? I thought it was just me, sitting too long in front of a computer screen! Glad to hear I’m not the only one. Those kiddy toys are the worst — perhaps stores should hire somebody full time to simply put things together for parents?!

    • Ah, Kim, you KNOW you’re blessed to have Mr. L. around! I’m glad Domer is past the point of wanting kiddy toys (but he’s gonna be a super-dad one day because he likes that sort of challenge, heh heh!!)

  2. The only thing better is something that comes from a non-English speaking country, with translated instructions. I suppose the trade off is that, even though you can’t put the danged thing together, you can laugh at the crazy phrasing.

    The worst I’ve ever tackled? Two cabinets from Taiwan. The best? Some teak desks, bookcases and such from Denmark. Those Danes know how to write instructions!

  3. Actually, Linda, I’ve always been sort of stumped at visualization (great for a web designer, huh?!). Some people have a knack for looking at patterns and instinctively knowing, for example, what a dress might look like. Not me. I must have been standing in another line when that gift was being handed out! Next time, upon your recommendation, I’ll have to look for a project from Denmark!

  4. “Am I the only one who has trouble comprehending instructions for Do-it-Yourself projects?”

    No, you’re not, Debbie, because I’m the same way. I actually find it easier when putting something together (like a computer desk) to NOT read the manual of how-to . But rather just look at all the parts and figure it out for myself. I actually like putting stuff together, but not doing it by reading the instructions. I know this sounds strange, but I like doing it by using my intuition.

    Hope you had a super Thursday, my friend!
    X

    • It doesn’t sound strange at all, Ron. In fact, I think Domer uses his intuition when doing projects like this as well. He glances over the instructions, then immediately gets to work; I, on the other hand, try to logically figure it out and go step by step. I’d never knock something that obviously works for y’all!

      Glad to know others don’t like these projects, too. Gee, wonder why nobody’s thought to set up their own business doing projects for others?? You’d think there’d be a market for it!!

      Happy rest-of-the-week, dear!

    • Their chicken-scratch diagram rather looked like a foreign language, Professor! As for Domer, shortly after he acquired this dumb firetruck, he was playing with the little ladder while I was trying to write. The next thing I knew, he’d toppled off the sofa and hit the back of his head on the coffee table! I rushed him to the emergency room, where he got two stitches to his head (and still has the scar to show for it). Made me feel like Bad Mommy, for sure!

  5. I actually enjoyed reading this because now I know it’s not just me who has an issue with following the diagrams/poorly written instructions. It makes me feel really inadequate when I can’t even follow the pictures :)

    • I’ve found the pictures much worse than the written directions, Janna! They don’t convey anything at all to me. Nothing. I sit and look at them from every angle, but it’s like reading Greek or something. Usually, it’s easier to wait until Domer comes home and let him wrangle with them!

  6. Yes, I think they should definitely give you a proper instruction sheet. Between you and me…I prefer the method of dumping and trying until it looks right. Smiles. Hasn’t failed me yet, but it can take a while longer. I have trouble processing what I read into action, so I work better with trial and error. Then give me fifteen and each time I’ll get faster at it and find better way to produce more on the assembly line. Ha. Show me once and I’ll never forget and that’s with just about everything.

    • Perhaps that’s why instruction sheets need to be written as well as drawn — we all learn differently. Now if they’d included a how-to video, well, that would have been ideal. My son Domer tends to go on intuition, too. He takes a look at the picture on the box, lays out all the parts and such, then starts to work. Maybe next time I’ll try intuition — can’t be any more frustrating than sitting around trying to figure things out. Thanks for dropping by, Audrey!

  7. Hehe I just found your blog and giggled as I thought about the difficulties I have with following directions for putting anything together – like the portable fan I got as a present. I am sure the manufacturers just like to watch us squirm :)

    • Glad you found me, Christy! Yes, I imagine they sit around and dream up ways to make putting stuff together next-to-impossible for the average person. Perhaps they should hire Average Person as their guinea pig and watch him scramble — then, maybe they could rewrite their instructions properly!

  8. IKea is not our friend. I’m not sure who writes the directions or draws the pictures but they are my enemy. Even Cole who can put together just about anything cries out in pain when he reads most directions and heads to Youtube for the video. Good for you for persevering and getting it done – I hoped you roared “I am invincible” when it was done.

    • Rather than roaring anything, I sort of slunk off into my Happy Place, glad the whole ordeal was finished! Guess I should’ve thought to try YouTube — that sounds like something Domer would have done (had he not been able to figure it out intuitively). Misery loves company, though — others share my pain — and frustration!

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