Tinkering. Being handy. Repair manuals. The town repairman. Valuing well-made belongings. These classic values and skills suffered in rise of the “cheap and disposable” culture. People forgot how to tinker, and even lost the urge to fix. But it’s making a big comeback! Read on to find out the joys and importance of fixing things.
We bet you have your own reason(s) for wanting to repair things. Here are some reasons we love fixing.
- Fixing supports what you care about. Such as keeping boots that fit you perfectly. Supporting local businesses. Conserving natural resources. Whether it “costs” more to fix something depends on what you value.
- Fixing is fun and rewarding. If you haven’t tried it, you just don’t know how great it feels when you repair something yourself. Not only will you feel pretty darn good about yourself, you may also be surprised to find that you feel more attached to the lamp, or toaster, or laptop. And we bet you’ll be looking forward to your next fix.
- Fixing and reuse are sustainable consumption. Fixing things is a way to push back against disposable culture and over-consumption. If we can satisfy even a portion of our needs by fixing and reusing things we already have rather than buying new things, then we move towards consuming sustainably. Check out ifixit.org to find out more about the benefits of fixing.
- Fixing creates jobs. The state’s repair, reuse, and rental sector includes 45,500 direct jobs, and 32,000 more indirect jobs to support the sector's businesses. For comparison, Minnesota’s mining sector adds about 28,000 jobs.
- Fixing is frugal. “When we needed a new computer, we decided to go with a refurbished computer instead of a new one. It has worked as well as any new item I’ve ever purchased but was quite a bit cheaper." – Cheryl Savtaski
- Fixing builds community and is intergenerational. One visitor to a fix-it clinic said: “Thanks so much! It is wonderful to have an item you like be fixed rather than thrown away. You are the greatest!"
- Things fall apart. Plan for that. Over time, things weaken, break, and wear out. So it’s important that when you do buy something, you ask up front about its repairability.
How to fix?
Have someone else fix it
If you just want it fixed, the great repair shops of Minnesota are here to help. There are too many repair shops to mention, so before you throw something out, check online to see if there’s a repair option near you.
You can find shoe/leather repair, seamstresses, electronic repair, small engine and outdoor gear repair stores – strollers, tents, coats, boots, and more. There are wicker repair shops, furniture repair and reupholstery shops, and lamp repair shops.
Often places that sell goods have a repair arm as well. Hardware stores often repair window screens and sharpen knives, scissors and skates. REI and Best Buy offer some repair services. Many other national brands, like Patagonia, LL Bean, and others will repair items they manufactured for a fee.
Have someone teach you
What if there was a place where 70-85% of the broken things that came in, left fixed, with no labor charges? There is! In the last few years, Fix-it Clinics have taken off.
Several counties now offer free community events, where helpful volunteer fixers work with you to diagnose and fix your “small enough to carry” items. Small electronics, appliances, textiles are all generally allowed. Think vacuum cleaners, radios, toasters, microwaves, lamps, ceramics, coats, pants, drapes, jewelry, etc.
"I brought in a lamp that my mother-in-law bought 50 years ago—used," said Dick Borchert, who came to a Coon Rapids fix-it clinic.
"I didn't know how to fix it. But in a half hour, Gary got it working."
“It’s not just drop it off like at a repair shop, and then you have no idea what happened. The idea is that you take ownership of your stuff and learn how to take stuff apart, troubleshoot it and then, hopefully, learn how to fix it,” said Nancy Lo, Hennepin County Fix-it Clinic Coordinator.
Do it yourself
If you’re handy, you can fix things yourself. The internet is chock full of on-line tutorials, open source how-to manuals, and videos that will walk you through the process.
There are store and online spaces for parts for just about anything, including your dad’s turntable you’d love to have working again. Or you can ask for advice: “When I told the woman at the sewing and craft store I was trying to patch my kids’ pants, she explained just what I’d need and showed me how to do it," said Madalyn Cioci.
Ifixit.com is an example of an open source community of free online repair guides. People have documented how they fixed things, and shared that information with pictures and instructions.
Find out more, and start repairing