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Before You Throw it Out, Take it Apart

Last week, my foot somehow got tangled in my computer mouse cable and it came crashing to the ground.  When I picked it up, the left-click button was stiff, and the right-click button did not function at all.  I was able to do some work with it, but I really do need my right click button.

Eventually I asked my son if we had a replacement mouse somewhere in the house, and sure enough, he showed up with an old ball mouse.  My husband dropped the broken mouse into the garbage can, my son installed the replacement, and back to work I went.  This replacement mouse was very old and tired, and could hardly drag the cursor anywhere, but at least the right click worked.  I muddled on a bit and then went to bed in frustration, determined to buy a new mouse the next day.

Early the next morning I was up, with a blog post ready to write and a review to work on.  However, I could not get my work done with this old mouse. I tried moving the cursor with the arrow keys, but even that was painfully slow.  The stores would not open for hours.  Arghh!  What to do?

I pulled the broken mouse from the garbage can and looked at it closely.  There was a screw.  What if I opened the thing?  I could hardly break it any worse.  So I removed the screw.  Then I had to tug gently to pull the top and bottom of the mouse apart, but since it was broken already, what did I have to lose?  I looked at it, cleaned it a bit, poked at the buttons from the inside, and tried to see where it was broken. 

Then I discovered something that was not symmetric.  From my physics days I know symmetry is often very important.  So I wiggled the plastic until something clicked and the mouse looked symmetric on the inside.  Suddenly both the right-click and left-click buttons were back in their normal places.  When I plugged the mouse back in, it worked!  In five minutes I had rescued several hours of work time and the price of a new mouse! 

Moral of the story:  If something is broken enough to throw out, take it apart and try to fix it even if you don’t know what to do.  There are library books with instructions for fixing common household items and much information is also available online.  In fact, often a basic cleaning will show what is causing the problem. 

Perhaps you’ll be able to fix your broken item.  Perhaps not, but the chances of fixing it by taking it apart are infinitely higher than if you leave it in the garbage can.  Of course, you do need to follow basic safety precautions, especially with electrical equipment.  And any product under warranty is best opened only by an expert, but you wouldn’t throw those in the garbage anyhow, right?

For more common sense frugal hints, you can visit Tuesday’s Tip Jar or my new Tightwad Tuesday meme.  More great tips are available at Works For Me WednesdayThrifty Thursday, and Frugal Friday.


  1. Stacy's Page says:

    Way to go! That is a great tip!

  2. Carmen says:

    We’ve had to do mouse surgery countless times. 🙂 I have a handiman husband with electronics training who is also dutch so nothing gets thrown out without some effort to revive it.

    1. Leah Witmond says:

      What are you doing with my husband, Carmen? 😉

      Seriously, mine is the same. And Dutch too. And isn’t it good to have a geeky husband around? I honestly wouldn’t know what I’d do without him. Not in the computer department, anyway.

  3. Mel says:

    Oh yes,

    We’ve taken our mouse apart in the past, to find out, the roller had a dust bunny in it and therefore would not work. It happens……

    I’m the frugal one in our house, do not like to trash things without investigating first.

    Thanks for the tip, (may just save me a trip to staples) for a new mouse since ours seems to only work when it wants to……

  4. Kaye says:

    Great tip and congrats on the fix!

  5. Suzanne says:

    How true! if you’re going to throw it away anyway, what’s the worst that could happen? Might as well try!

    Good reminder!

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