Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom ~ To Fix or Not to Fix

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Cindy

Unless I’ve lost track, which is possible, this article from Wired magazine on the need to fix things, rather than just tossing them out, has not been included in a Friday post. I’ll wait while you read it.

One of the things that I love and appreciate about my husband is that he can fix almost anything. Sometimes his care in fixing an item makes it better than when it started out. Recently, he fixed a bag dryer that we’ve used for a decade. (See a photo of a bag dryer here.) Years of use had finally caused the glue to completely give up and the base to fall off, so I was using it balanced in a short drinking glass. Dan took the entire thing apart, sanded it, waxed it, and reassembled it. Quite frankly, it was better than new and will surely last another decade. I think some people would have been tempted to either use it in its broken down state or maybe fixed it but without all the extra fuss. Most people, I fear, would have tossed it and purchased new. After all, they’re only about $20, and that one lasted a decade – good enough, right?

After reading the article in Wired, my Aunt Eileen commented that she had heard that you can judge a society by how it treats its broken. “Broken” here referred to people, but it made her wonder if we could also judge a society by how it treats its broken things.

That really got me thinking about all the things that Dan has fixed in the many years we’ve been together: shoes, a play baby buggy, computers and electronic items, jewelry, and (my favorite) a stick from the yard that one of the girls broke when she just had to have it. Yes, my husband fixed a stick.

Your money will go further, and so will your pride, when you fix up something and keep using it.

But for clutterers, the challenge and thrill of potentially fixing something can be a real trap. Do you have items in your house that have been broken for more than a year? Items that you do not know how to fix? Items that you could fix – maybe – but still wouldn’t use? Do you pick up broken items during bulky trash because you’re sure you can fix them up and use or resell them, even though you don’t have the time, money, tools or know-how? Stop! This is a trap for clutterers, and you don’t need to get sucked into it.

Like an never (or partially) started craft or a gadget that you used for just one project, it’s time to let those broken things go. Offer it free to someone who can fix them, or break it down for recycling, or just put it out on the curb with a “free but broken” sign on it and see what happens. If you can fix it, do. And soon. If you can’t, it’s time to say good-bye.

Today’s Mini Mission

Identify and declutter an item that has remained in your home out of habit. Something that has so far escaped your notice just because it has been around for so long and has literally just become a piece of the furniture.

Eco Tip For The Day

Return hangers back to the dry cleaners to be reused. Every little thing recycling effort helps!

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow


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Comments

  1. Cindy, I have seen that Wired article before and I wish we could see something like that started in various areas of our city. There are so many people who can’t fix something so it is thrown out and a new one bought. In many cases it can be fixed but we dont’ know where to take it because we no longer have fixit shops. My father was a good fixit man like your Dan. He taught me a lot so I still fix a lot of things but there are some things I have to get help with. Thankfully, I have a could of guys at church who will help me out.

    You are right that things needing fixing can be a trap. I know a guy who is always buying things at garage sales or picking them out of trash so he can fix them and resell them. The issue is that he never gets around to fixing them. So they have taking over the garage and you can barely walk through it. Maybe he is waiting for the day he retires. HA! Whatever his reasons it isn’t working and he has a fire trap on his hands.

    • We were just talking the other day about how wood working shop and metal working shop, even home economics, are no longer taught in most high schools. Really, that’s a shame and a loss.

  2. That is a great point Cindy! Broken items can be a real trap. My husband and I had a brand new blu ray player that we received as a gift that we discovered was broken when we went to hook it up. I immediately contacted the giver (my mom) and let her know because I was hoping that she would be able to return it or send the receipt to us to return. Unfortunately she had purchased it over a year before, so the time was up on being able to return it. For a few weeks the broken player sat in our extra bedroom while I tried to figure out what to do with it. I called a repair shop and learned it would cost more to repair it than to get a new one and there were no guarantees he’d be able to repair it. We ended up donating it to Goodwill with a note on it that it was broken. We don’t tend to keep broken items so this isn’t a trap for us, but I know it can be for many people.

    • I imagine someone at Goodwill could fix it, too. Nice of you to label it as broken so no one else had to figure that out for themselves.

  3. Cindy – good article – I was fascinated with the bag dryer! Have never seen one of these. You know how as your decluttering goes along you end up with a stack of empty storage bins? Well right now I have a pile of empty re-seal bags (or zip lock bags) that are in this box as we emptied stuff and just in general over the last year. I thought I’d put them in this small box, so rather than buy more I’d use these up etc. The first flaw with the plan was that I already had an almost brand new box of large, medium (which was a box of 100 rather than my usual 30 box) and only a couple left in the box of small size bags. But I figured, hey, they must get used look how many are returning to Mother Ship with my decluttering at least I won’t have to buy any for a year. Fast forward a year, the brand new boxes remain full and the box of ’empties’ is brimming over. Dayna commented on this recently and said why don’t we get rid of them, list on freecycle or offer to a family member. And then came the golden question – “what did you do in the old days, mum, before there were zip lock bags?”. Well, we wrapped the dinosaur meat in clingwrap!
    Anyway, I have come to the realisation that I don’t actually use/need zip lock bags any more and possibly this is because my kids are older but a year of the new boxes from the store still full – and unfortunately another unopened box surfaced elsewhere in the house – sitting in the drawer, yes I think Dayna is right we should offer this bag of used once bags to someone else.

    • Moni, I have to comment on this one. My mother is the queen of reusing ziploc bags. She uses them over and over and over and over and over… So the other day I asked her why we have so many both used and new and she told me that it was because she found another box. Sounds just like your story. This is another place where I don’t think we need the bags so much. There are so many things like that and the Ziploc containers that I would probably get rid of if I were alone.

      • Deb J – I’m actually scratching my head to remember what we used them for because zip lock bags made it onto my standard grocery shopping list ie something I didn’t want to be caught short without. I’ve been scratching my head on this one.

        • I know what you mean. Mom uses them for everything but doesn’t need to. She also has all of those containers and could use them rather than the bags. I don’t like using the plastic stuff. Good luck figuring out what you used them for. Grin.

          • I mostly use little plastic containers for the kids’ lunches, etc., but occasionally those just won’t do the trick. Then I use a baggie. Unless it has meat or peanut butter in it, I was them for reuse. I definitely don’t use a box a year either.

  4. Hi Cindy, that was a great post Cindy. I did link to that article the Friday before last. It was excellent and now that I know I am staying here I am going to investigate if there is one in my area. And yes I have one item in my home, which takes up a chunk of space, which I am determined to find someone to fix. It has been broken for nearly six years. It is a synthesising keyboard that belongs to Liam. His cousin, not knowing better, plugged it into a 240v socket when it is only meant for 110v and blow something out in it. I phoned around to find someone to fix it and they said it wouldn’t be worth fixing. I don’t believe that for a minute. The thing is I don’t want to pay a fortune for the repair either. I promise I will make a concerted effort to find the solution as soon as we are settled in our new home. If it can’t be done it will have to go because we won’t have the space for it.

    I love that bag drying device. I used to wash and reuse snap lock bags and dry them by hanging them upside down on my fridge with a magnet. These days I use them so little that a device like yours would no longer be very useful to me but one would have been great back when I did.

    You are so right the wanting to rescue broken things is a trap. I often see these things and old furniture that would look great if painted and reupholstered for a fresh new look, but I know I down have the time or skill to do that so I walk away. I does seem such a shame to see these things going to waste.

    • Colleen – by cosmic coincidence my uncle has just immigrated to Australia last week and that has been his business for many years here in NZ repairing electric instruments, I can get you his e-mail address if you like. I think he’s in Brisbane though but he should be able to get you an honest opinion on the viability of repairing it.

  5. Here is a message with something amazing sent to me by Christine. I can imagine so many uses for this product. So many fixes and improvements that could be made. If you can’t imagine that then google Sucru and see what you discover.
    *************************************************************
    I have one word for you: Sugru. It’s 21st Century ducktape. I love it for fixing stuff. It’s wonderful. If you or your husband hasn’t yet heard of it, you must Google it and try it. It’s a wonder.
    Christine

  6. I was cracking up reading this entry as I am the queen of unfinished projects. Periodically I manage to convince myself that finishing the project/repairing the item/taking in or out the clothing will not happen and shed some — and then start the cycle all over again, accumulating more projects. It has gotten to the point where I expect — and get — applause from my husband when I come home, tell him about the new project I considered but that I decided against it, at least for awhile!

    • You do deserve kudos for leaving behind an unfinished project, and more for getting rid of one as well!

  7. Oh my… I fear I often fall into the “but it could be fixed…” trap. Which is closely related to the “but it could be useful somehow…” trap. And the “it could be salvaged for parts…” trap. Not to be outdone by the “If I only had the time and energy I could up-cycle this into an xyz…” trap. Lately I’m trying to reserve my fixing for things that I actually do use and would have to replace if they weren’t fixed.

    The realization that I have more than enough stuff to last pretty much the rest of my lifetime has helped. At this point if I break a dish or a glass, I sorta see it as cause for celebration. Whoppie! One less thing to try to cram into the cupboard, and no guilt associated with getting rid of it! 🙂

  8. I agree completly with you, ecocatlady. If something gets broken and I don’t like it, it will be one more item going out of the door. It is actually a great excuse to get rid of gifts to (although I never break something intentional, I have to admit that I’m quite clumsy).

    Right now, I have a few projects lining up, which I hope to finish in August. I already started on a wooden bowl, which I sanded, microwaved (to kill germs) and washed. At the moment, it is drying and I only have to oil it, which I’m going to do tonight. I can’t imagine why I postponed this project for four days while it only took 5(!) minutes.

  9. Well, yesterday morning I started to pull pictures, pot rack, etc. off the kitchen wall in anticipation of being able to paint yesterday afternoon. Hubby called to say the surgeon has him on the schedule for back surgery today!! Oh, the best laid plans. So I’ll be out of touch for a few days. I feel like I’m missing some good comments here, but will try to catch up. You all behave and happy decluttering/fixing!! 🙂

  10. loved that article from wired. when I was growing up in ny in thrE late 70s/early 80s there was a tiny shop in our town that repaired anything. I can still remember every square inch of space covered in bits and pieces, we”d bring everything that broke and I never remember having the “not worth fixing” conversation. it was always worth fixing.

    similarly, we had a shoemaker – or so we called him – who repaired our shoes. when we bought shoes we usually brought them there first to have life-preserving rubber soles added. now it is so costly to have these jobs done.