Let's talk: do you still repair broken things?

repair or throw away?

Once upon a time, we were loathe to throw anything away. You’d sew buttons back on dresses, spend hours repairing toys or appliances, and call in a repairman for anything that was out of your depth. In today’s throwaway society however, it’s out with the old and in with the new as soon as things go wrong.

Is it laziness, a lack of skills or an easy-come-easy-go attitude to stuff that has filtered up through the generations causing landfill to pile up?

To be fair, it’s not always our fault broken things need to be retired to the great rubbish heap in the sky. I bought a $70 printer once (I didn’t make the mistake twice) and exactly three days after the 12-month warranty ran out, the thing broke down. Being the frugal type I hunted around for a repair person to fix the machine, to no avail. Eventually I rang Hewlett Packard, manufacturers of the printer, and asked for a preferred repair person. I noted the incredulous tone of the voice at the other end of the line.

“You want to repair a $70 printer? You know you could just buy a new one?”

I insisted this was the case and a week later received a quote from an electronics repair person for $170 to repair my $70 printer. I bought a new one (a much more expensive one with a two-year warranty that lasted a whopping three years).

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How I wished I was a handy type of person who understood the workings of a printer. Or a bicycle for that matter. But I don’t and it seems those that do are few and far between.

In the Bellville News Democrat, a local newspaper in Illinois, 58-year-old Don Stover is described as a “miracle man” for his ability to repair broken things. “It just breaks my heart when I can’t fix something,” says Don. A clock from the 1830s, a guitar amplifier, radio, cameras – you name it, Don can fix it.

“We were very slow to throw things away (when I was a kid),” says one of his customers. “My mom grew up in the Depression, and she could squeeze a nickel until it sang.”

Meanwhile, in Holland and now in the UK, you can take your broken toasters and ghettoblasters to a repair cafe where wisdom – and tools – are shared across the ages. How wonderful it would be to see something like that here in Australia.

Surely there’s no one, at any age, who thinks it’s okay to buy an appliance, run it until it breaks and then cart it off to the tip? But this is exactly how our “throwaway” culture operates and the waste is piling up.

So today we want to know: do you still repair broken things when you can? Or do you find yourself throwing more away?