On Repair


If we're to live in a finite world (we do) and still need / want to use objects in our lives (we do), the way we care for our objects matters. I'm very far from doing this perfectly, but as part of striving for zero waste I also try to be a really good steward of my objects. Almost all of the objects in my home are completely and easily replaceable, but when one of them breaks I try to turn to fixing it rather than turning to purchasing a new one.

Repair can take so many forms, and I get a secret thrill from the ingenuity needed to bring something broken back to life. That can mean fixing something myself, bringing it to a local repair shop, or emailing the company to ask for help or suggestions. I haven't done this option, but I imagine it could also mean turning to the Internet to ask people to crowdsource a fix.

If you know how something could be repaired, but don't have the skills (sewing, darning, woodworking, whatever!) yourself, perhaps you could teach yourself using an online tutorial or offer to swap skills or tasks with a friend (for example, not to get too gendered about this, but I sew back on my boyfriend's buttons and he fixes my clogged kitchen sink, because those just happen to be two of the skills we have and need!). You could also see if there's a Repair Cafe near you, which offers tools and materials you might need, often for free! (You can read more about them in this New York Times article).

And part of this ethic, of course, means trying to purchase things that can be repaired in the first place. This can look like seeking out companies with circular missions and lifetime guarantees, spending a little more on something higher quality, or perhaps owning fewer things so that you have the time and energy to devote to caring for each one.

A few of the repairs I've undertaken of late: wool socks get their life extended a few years by sewing a felt patch over a worn spot. About once a year I take a few pairs of well-loved shoes to a local cobbler for re-soling. When my humidifier broke a few weeks ago, I emailed the company to ask if they could help me troubleshoot it, and they ended up sending over a single part (for free!) that made it work again. The object I'm holding in the photograph above started its life as this bracelet, and when it snapped in half I reached out to the company to ask if they offered a repair program (and they do - not free, but still appreciated). I popped the bracelet halves in a re-used mailer and into the mail, and I'm looking forward to having my bracelet back again.

What have you fixed, and what do you wish you could have? I'd love to hear!