Measure Twice, Cut Once - Live Like a Mensch
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Live Like a Mensch

Measure Twice, Cut Once


Photo courtesy of Silar

My father was an accomplished amateur woodworker, and I'm pleased to have several pieces of his handiwork throughout our house. I grew up watching This Old House, The New Yankee Workshop, and The Woodwright's Shop with Roy Underhill, among others. (The Woodwright's Shop was pretty hilarious to watch, since Roy refused to edit out mishaps. I imagine I was not the only viewer who watched in hopes of seeing some sort of minor disaster, a la Dan Ackroyd as Julia Child).

This background of course means that I have the phrase "measure twice, cut once" all but embroidered on a throw pillow.

But I think there is a much larger lesson in there than just the obvious avoidance of woodworking (and sewing and cooking, etc) waste.

Measure twice, cut once is another way of saying "look before you leap" or "take the time to decide if the purchase you're about to make is really something you need or something that will in some way improve your life before you lay out the cash since you'll have wasted your time, money, energy, and space in your home if you end up having to throw it out or give it to Goodwill." (That's a saying, right?)

Basically, I think of this piece of woodworking wisdom as an excellent reminder that I need to think twice about what I buy/bring into my home/accept into my life. Because cutting may be more fun than measuring, and buying on impulse may be much more fun than thinking twice and keeping money in your wallet--but avoiding the waste of perfectly good and improperly cut wood, or the waste of money, is its own reward.

I'm reminded of this every time I make an impulsive purchase (a certain sofa of marital strife comes to mind). There has never been a time that I regretted taking my time about a decision or process, but rushing in where angels fear to tread has more than once made me wonder what the heck is wrong with me.

It does help, however, to remember that the wisdom from Bob Vila, Norm Abrams, Roy Underhill, and dear old Dad, was itself hard-won. I'm certain that each one of them made the cutting-without-adequate-measuring mistake at least once, and learned an expensive (or at least frustrating) lesson from it.

Because learning to measure twice before getting to the fun stuff is the sort of life lesson that most of us have to learn on our own.

When have you ever failed to "measure twice" and lived to regret your impulsiveness? Did you end up with a sawzalled couch because of it? (Or is that just me?)


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