I’m a bit of a connoisseur of how-to and DIY books (previous jobs had me editing and reviewing them often), and Safe and Sound: A Renter-Friendly Guide to Home Repair by Mercury Stardust stands out. First, it’s written for someone who is renting. Second, it not only gives great advice for folks who are just starting to live on their own, but it also talks about the emotions that can come when things break or don’t work. It’s that second part that feels truly unique in the world of home improvement: it’s OK to feel things. Fixing things, and fixing up things, can be an emotional rollercoaster. Acknowledging and understanding those emotions is an important part of being successful when tackling repairs in the place you live.
The idea that a renter would shoulder some of the burden of maintaining a home they don’t own may seem like a bad idea. I’m here to say, wholeheartedly, it’s not. We should all at least have an understanding of how buildings work. How to paint, how to repair a hole in a wall, and how to unclog a drain are all worthwhile skills to have. Taking care of the place you call home when you aren’t on the mortgage or the owner, is still important to making a place feel like home.
With house prices the way they are, folks are going to be renting for longer than generations past. As much as home ownership has historically been an indicator of success in the United States, there’s more to life than indicators of success. And, having been a renter for the majority of my adult life, sometimes it feels better to fix something more quickly (or more thoroughly) than a landlord would. Plus, because I learned some of these skills renting, taking care of my current home is less daunting. Not to mention, leaving a place in good shape when you move out means you get your security deposit back.
Mercury does a fantastic job being thorough and helpful without causing a reader to be overwhelmed. This book is not a quick read, but if you’re a new renter (or even a new homeowner), reading it front to back will give you a fantastic primer on the small things we should all know how to do. The vast majority of these tasks aren’t complicated, and you’re more than capable of taking them on.
Moreover, Mercury starts at the beginning - what to look for in a rental, how to move, safety, security - even tips for having tradespeople in your home. If there’s a new renter (or homeowner) in your life, or you’d like to brush up on skills that’ll make your place better and likely save you money and hassle, grab a copy. You won’t regret it.