TikTok's Smart Tip Will Save You Time On Future Repairs Around The House

The next time you're driving to Home Depot for a $0.67 PVC elbow or a $1.50 slip-joint washer, just remember one thing — Smitty was right. TikTokker @smittysworld2015 invested a full 15 seconds in telling us about a life hack that is almost as easy to do as it is to ignore: When you're buying something you'll need again and again, or even just something that's dirt cheap, buy a couple and throw the spares in a box for the next time. It's a brilliant habit, and sooner or later it will save you a lot of time dealing with the next plumbing or irrigation problem.

This practice might freak out some minimalists, but minimalists don't ever seem to be making the Home Depot run for you so that you can stay home and make sure no one tries to use the bathroom sink. Besides, let's be honest — if you do any work on water or drain lines with any regularity, you already have a box of spares and leftover parts somewhere in your garage. And while this idea isn't limited to plumbing supplies, you also don't want to get carried away. If you don't already have some spares in a box -– outlet plate covers and screws, say, or those screwy gas fittings for your grill -– you might not need spares in that particular category.

The arcane wisdom of buying one too many

So how do you decide what extras to buy when you find yourself in the hardware store unexpectedly? One good question to ask yourself is: Just how unexpected was it, really? Can you ever reasonably expect to need the part you're buying again? What would you have said two days ago? @smittysworld2015 uses the example of sprinkler heads — items that are notorious for breaking. Those would be natural items to duplicate. But if a squirrel darted in and stole the retaining clip for your lawn mower wheel, you might safely assume that won't happen again. This brings us to the next question: How much does the thing cost? If the retaining clip is cheap enough, buy a spare anyway. Squirrels are nothing if not unpredictable.

Another good question is whether this sort of DIY work is something you'll do regularly, or if you'd normally be looking for a handyman if it weren't a holiday weekend. There's no sense in buying extras for the plumber's future visit; plumbers already have a ton of spares on their trucks. On the other hand, if you're building a sunroom with a handwashing sink and a few outlets, there's a pretty good chance you'll someday be installing an outdoor kitchen as well, or something else pretty involved. In that case, you're a great candidate for buying spares. Of course, keep in mind that there are some plumbing (and other) projects you shouldn't attempt unless you're a professional.

Some good choices for the plumbing bucket

Did you catch that? We switched from a box of spares to a bucket. That's because one thing you'll need on hand for plumbing projects is a bucket, so why not keep your water line treasures in one? In addition to the usual consumables — Teflon tape, plumber's putty, disposable (nitrile) gloves, PVC primer and cement, etc. — you'll want spares of a few other types. This includes parts that wear out or get lost, like washer kits; elbows, 45s, caps, and T-connectors; and a few of those flexible rubber couplings that come with clamps for drain/waste/vent pipes. Maybe you'll even want a stick of every common size of PVC pipe you might need, at least for drain lines, or even spare kits for installing bathroom or kitchen sink drains.

You can even get a little adventurous with your philosophy. For example, it's a reasonable idea to keep some pex pipe around because it's easy to work with and can be handy in an emergency — which also means you should have a few Shark Bite or similar adapters that will help you connect pex to copper or standard pipe threading. Another variation that sounds excessive, but is fairly common: If you're not sure exactly what you need, buy one of everything that you possibly might, and store the leftovers. Finally, be community-focused. Even if you don't end up needing the spare, someone you know might, and you could get a reputation as the person to ask.