Repair Night

Repairing things | Litterless

Entropy, man. It'll get ya. Things break, irritatingly, and no amount of hoping will put them back together. But a little work often can.

Trying to buy less, trying to move away from disposable products, trying not to make as much trash: all worthwhile endeavors, and all helped along by making the time to take care of the things that you already own, as well. If zero waste can be summed up as moving beyond "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" to the 5 Rs of "Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot," I'd like to posit a sixth: Repair.

When things break, we have two choices: give up on them, or try to fix them. The former is often a path directly to the landfill. If you don't want to try to fix your humidifier, chances are no one at the thrift store will want to either. The latter is a path to a more circular economy: taking something from unusable to useable means keeping it out of the landfill, and that you don't have to buy a brand new item, with all the additional natural resources that entails. A win, win.

It's one thing to conceptually understand why something is important; it's another thing to act on it. (And therein lies all of the challenge of zero waste). With repair, the hurdle I've run into is this: most repairs fall under the heading of "non-urgent."

Though I know as I should, it can be hard to set aside time to make those tiny tasks happen. More often, broken objects languish around the house. Perhaps, for the very organized, they're all grouped together in a box, awaiting a spare moment to be fixed. For me, broken items are perhaps simply stored alongside their functional brethren. A backpack with a broken buckle resides with all of the other backpacks. The upshot of this is that I tend to forget that the object is broken until I pull it out and need to use it. Every time I open the cabinet and see it, I feel a small twinge of guilt - oh yeah, I need to do that - before promptly forgetting about it as soon as the cabinet shuts. You, too?

Recently, we've been getting purposeful about making our repairs happen. For us, this has looked like setting aside a set time to deal with the broken objects we've identified. Last night, after dinner, I sat down in front of The Great British Baking Show with a needle in hand and sewed a patch on a pocket that had long been hole-y. My boyfriend cleaned his espresso machine to keep it running smoothly, and kindly spent some time unclogging two of my fountain pens (keeping fountain pens in working order is another story in itself. Oof).

It was satisfying to finish projects that have long been lurking around on the margins of my mind and to do list. Rather than repairing items as they break, which entails dropping everything to fix something quickly, I'm thinking I'll continue to corral tasks into repair nights every so often. Though last night's was just us and the TV, it would be fun to get a group of friends together over snacks and candles to chat and have a little repair bee. You could even swap tools or tasks: I could handle the sewing for a less dexterous friend, who could take over another task for me, in turn.

Later this week, I'll be back with another look into what I've been fixing up lately. Any tasks you've been letting languish that you just need a little push to get started on?

Previously in Repair: A few more thoughts.

Photograph of a tea strainer missing the chain that keeps it anchored to the top of a mug. Literally thirty seconds with a pliers, and it's back together again.