Let’s talk: do you still repair broken things? 11



View Profile

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).

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? 

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. My husband believes if it’s broken fix it and only replace it if it can’t be fixed

    1 REPLY
    • Mine too Joy. All our friends and neighbours bring him broken appliances, mobile phones etc., and he just loves having a go.

  2. Yes, everything it is possible to fix. Sometimes it costs nothing, sometimes it costs as much as a new one. The difference is satisfaction

  3. My husband and I run a recyclw centre at the locl tip and it is amazing what people throw away but even more amazing is the things people can male. Hubby pulled old fridges apart leaving only the body. They now are at home on theiir backs on a couple of pallettes as raised garden beds. As we are in our 60s they are ideal height to work at.

  4. I am frugal if needs be but I know a person who is so into fixing or pulling apart stuff that he had to bring 2, heavy as hell, old computers which were probably from early 1980s, plus the key boards, over 1000 km into another state. Asked why and the simple answer is there are valuable components in these obsolete, cannot connect to the internet, cumbersome items. By the time he pulls them apart and salvages the components he wants, he will be too old to remember what he brought them for, but hell, they and a whole lot of other pull apart and fixable gadgets needed to make the journey. Got to love a man who is handy with screwdrivers, hammers and saws as well as power tools, which I have been told with great authority that a man can never have enough of.

  5. When we can fix something up we do. But these days many items are made so they are not fixable at all.

  6. Fix anything I can I’m a pensioner, besides my parents always taught me ‘waste not, want not’.

  7. It’s not just about money saving it’s also about waste. I’m so cross with the throw away world. In Victoria we have hard rubbish days, you place on the nature strip the household stuff you don’t want, the amount of good goods is amazing. We picked up a very clean washing machine it needed a pump we got one for free and are using it still.

  8. It’s a matter of economics; if it can be fixed readily, I fix it. If it can be fixed at a cost, I determine if the cost would be better spent on a new widget. Sometimes the cost of repair far exceeds the cost of a new widget. If it can’t be fixed, I despatch it to the rubbish bin.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *