Repair, Don’t Replace

plumber drainWhat do you do when a pair of socks gets a hole in the heel? How about when a lamp stops working? What happens when your favorite pair of leather boots starts to lose it’s soul?

Many of us throw the broken or outdated item out. Few try to repair or get it repaired. I’m guilty as well. I used to darn my family’s socks, but now don’t. I give away perfectly good electronics because they are ‘out of date’ – they don’t work with new software.

I remember when there was a shoe repair shop on almost every corner. You could take your radio to the radio and TV repair shop down the street, but most things you could probably fix yourself.

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”.

Dad was a WWII generation kid who grew up on a farm in the Mid-west. In his world, if you couldn’t fix it yourself, you were pretty worthless – because you just couldn’t throw something out and get a new one.

He made his own electric lawnmower. He fixed his own car. He built his own garage. He was a trained radio and TV repairman, when those had tubes. I wish he was still around. I’ve got a lot of things that need fixing!

When did we become a throwaway society?

Do you keep things until no one else wants them? At garage sales, are you attracted to those still usable but slightly defective items that no one else wants? Do you enjoy making old things new again? If so, you are in the minority.

Remember when high school kids were required to take shop and/or home economics? Those classes taught usable skills. Remember when trade schools abounded and more folks went to them than to college? Do you even remember when most people cooked their own meals instead of going out to eat?

If so, the new fixer movement may be for you!

The Fixer Movement.

Folks are starting to gather and bring their broken items, to fix them, in what are called ‘Repair Cafes’ The movement started in the Netherlands, according to Fox News:

“The concept started several years ago in the Netherlands, where people would come together about once a month, meet over coffee and bring in items they would like to have repaired. Members would learn how to fix the items or watch other volunteers who are handy and know how.”

Watching someone else fix something helps you learn how, lets you know it is possible and provides on the spot availability for mentor-ship, It seems to be a substitute for the times when parents showed their kids how to repair things.

The AARP article Fix What’s Broken, For Less claims that there are multiple repair cafes in the USA now, including some in New York City, Seattle, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Detroit and elsewhere.

Why join this movement?

Actually repairing a broken item yourself will give you a nice sense of accomplishment. It will also save you money! Once you learn the skills, you can pass along your fix it attitude and ability to your kids.

You can take an active role in changing our throw away society to one that produces less waste, and reduces consumerism. Oh, and did I mention, you could save money?

How can you start your own repair cafe?

The actual term Repair Cafe is the trademark of a company called Stitching Repair Cafe which provides support for starting local cafes. The first actual Repair Cafe in America was started by Peter Skinner (a Silicon Valley CEO) in Palo Alto CA as a non profit organization.

Typically, the sponsoring organization arranges for a place to gather, a set of experts to be on hand, tools available for fixing things as well as the publicity and communication to the community to bring folks in with their items to be repaired. People gather, with their small items to repair and watch the experts to learn how to do it themselves. The experts are usually volunteers.

Have you heard of Repair Cafe? What other organizations do you know of that help people learn to repair their own broken items?


Repair, Don’t Replace — 19 Comments

  1. I love taking the chance of repairing it. If I think I can do it, I will. I think we have become a throw away society because it is much easier and most people don’t know how to fix things themselves. Also, there are many items that are truly cheap that it would be worthless to try to fix. Also, the mega marketing machine makes us think that we need to upgrade and toss the old (Apple anyone?).

  2. My grandpa was one of those guys who used to repair everything, even if it was just easier and cheaper to go out and buy a new thing. I think that’s why people don’t try to repair things, because often times things are made cheap an sold cheap, so why not go out and get a new one? I feel that way about something like DVD players. But I think a lot more about new purchases in general now and don’t always just rush out to get something.

  3. I’ve never heard of Repair Cafes, but it sounds like a good idea. Many things are now made to be throwaway and you can’t find parts to repair them. Other items, such as gas bbq grills are so costly to get parts that it’s much cheaper to get a new grill.

    And try finding a place to repair shoes, purses or luggage! We’ve had to throw away items that we’d gladly pay to repair, if we could find a place to have them repaired.

  4. My Dad is quite the fix it man. He was a pneumatic mechanic in the navy, a certified welder, Body shop mechanic, plumber, electrician, HVAC technician, Dental technician, and Truck Driver. He can fix just about anything under the sun, and I’m glad that he’s taught me as much as he has. We never have to replace anything in the house, because somehow we always find a way to fix it.

  5. I love the Repair Cafe idea. Around my house, we do try and repair broken items; usually ourselves (I should say Mr. LH), but recently we dropped off a computer monitor to a tv/monitor repair store (that was a little more complicated). I think we’ve become too much of a consumable throw-away culture not giving much thought to the waste we create by tossing perfectly good items. Maybe these new cafes will turn that around.

  6. I have been a huge “fixer=upper” for as long as I can remember! DIY seems to be my middle name. There’s very few things that I won’t tackle on my own. I do know my limitations though and will bring in a pro when necessary!

  7. The problem is some people don’t care or they don’t have time or they’d rather pay someone or buy a new one. But the idea is really good actually, meet with a group of people and do that. I’d really like to see it happening in our neighborhood.

  8. My bf is very hands-on, DIY, Mr. Fix-it, which works out great for me. I’ve been trying to take better care of my things so they’ll last longer or try to repair them before going out and buying a new one.

    One of my workout gloves had a hole in it, so I just sewed it up and saved myself $30!

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