Repair It!

Mama's toolkitAs I mentioned in Return It!:

“It’s this disposable mindset that we have slipped into that bothers me most. I find it expensive and wasteful…The clothes are such terrible quality, I can’t bear to use an item of clothing for a few months and then have to put it in a landfill like a used  kleenex or paper towel. Thus, I’ll  spend a little more for quality, so things can be used longer and hold up under reasonable use. And if they don’t, they are returned.”

I save a ton of money by repairing and maintaining the things we purchase. It allows us to use things longer and shop a lot less. We can then pass our gently used treasures on to another family who can also get use out of them. How much money can I really save repairing stuff? Well, you’d be amazed.

The problem with cheap

People get stuck in a vicious cycle by buying a lot of cheap, disposable (read plastic) merchandise. It is cheap because it is poorly made, so it tends to break very quickly. When it inevitably breaks, it is impossible to fix or so expensive that it’s “just cheaper to buy a new one.” So the consumer trots back to the store to  purchase the same item again, but in a new color or style, so they don’t really mind. Thus the vicious cycle continues. We buy cheap stuff, it breaks, we buy more cheap stuff…

Not only is the cycle incredibly wasteful, it encourages the worst kind of behavior. When I buy things I perceive as “cheap,” I do not value them as much. And when I don’t value something, I don’t take care of it. And when I don’t take care of things, they get lost, broken or destroyed. Now stop and think for a minute. How many items can you think of in your home RIGHT NOW that are lost, broken or damaged? A lot, I would imagine. And therein lies the problem.

This was not an accident, we have been manipulated to agree to purchase things over and over, but at this point, we have to admit we are willing participants. Because as wrong as it is that we are constantly replacing poorly made products, there is a perverse pleasure in “having” to go shopping all the time. And know that when you go back to Target to replace yet one more poorly made purchase, you are walking back out with four items. That’s why we are in debt up to our eyeballs and Target is positioned as the happiest place in the world.

Start by shopping mindfully

I take care of the things I have because I take a lot of time and patience to get what I need. For example, I needed a new purse a few years ago. I would never go for one of the expensive status bags that are all the rage, but I wanted something stylish and trendy, so I searched high and low for just the right giant purse. They all tended to be really ornate and/or bright and that’s just not me, so it took months to find the right purse. I purchased the bag for $80 (it was originally $300) and I’ve been using it for the last 3 years.

The purse has been looking a little ratty lately. The shoulder strap is showing signs of wear, but no way am I buying a new purse right now. So I did a little repair work. It’s not fixed, but it’s much better. Now I can use this purse for another year and don’t have to spend money on something we don’t need.  But more importantly, I’m such a visual person, every time I picked up the purse, my eyes were drawn to the damage and it got added (yet again) to the endless to-do list bouncing in my head. For me, the real reward is handling something properly and clearing more space in my head for the things that matter. And of course, it only took all of five minutes.

That’s just the beginning

These three items were recently repaired. The hamper was torn down three of the seams on the sides. Both the shopping bags were free and the green one has been in use for years. They, too, were ripped along the seams. Could I have replaced them? Hell yeah. Have you seen how cute some of the new sassy reusable shopping bags are? But these bags were in great shape and still had tons of use left. To replace these three items would have cost more than $30, plus, these would be thrown away as garbage. I can’t live with that sort of wastefulness, that’s not the example I want to set for my kids.

Instead, I asked my neighbor for help. She has a sewing machine and skills. She took care of it in one evening and wouldn’t let me repay her in any way, although I love to trade services and help. The hamper had been torn for years and it bugged me. I was so happy to see it back, good as new and ready for years of more action. It’s a good hamper and it matches the one in sisters room, I’m glad to not have to replace it.

A small sampling of things I have repaired

  1. Calvin Klein metal belt
  2. Candle wax off cd holder and various items of furniture
  3. Metallic silver jacket
  4. Expensive (for me) gold necklace from the Rack. I fixed it with needle nosed pliers in a matter of minutes.
  5. Le Sak purse has been repaired multiple times. I have had it twelve years and it still looks great.
  6. Shelves in pantry were lopsided (for years!)
  7. Stickers off train table and other pieces of furniture
  8. Crayons and marker off walls and other surfaces
  9. I am Bonita Applebum, Stain Master. I have removed sharpie and lipstick from carpet. I got ball point pen out of our DKNY bedspread and our dining room chairs. Wine and coffee are no match for me. I have removed stains from clothes that would shock and amaze you.
  10. Cheap frames from Ikea have been repaired and used for years despite the fact that they were TOTALLY designed for the dump. (Ikea = poor quality and not worth repairing so stop shopping there, thankyouverymuch)

Related Posts by Bonita Applebum

Return It!

Reuse It!

Holiday spending follow-up: The money hangover sets in

I’m the middle class who is being squeezed out. And I am pissed.

Would love to hear your favorite repair story!


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. gherkinfiend
    Jan 31, 2010 @ 16:43:10

    I am obsessed by stain removal…I have an arsenal of hydrogen peroxide, sterilising fluid (like for babies’ bottles) and aspirin and they all cost next to nothing.

    Hydrogen peroxide doesn’t bleach like chlorine bleach, so is safe on all fabrics. It is also anti-bacterial so is particularly good at getting musty odours out of things while killing the bacteria that cause shoes to smell. Just put it in the wash with your detergent and that’s it.

    Sterlising fluid does containe chlorine bleach, but in safe amounts. It’s brilliant for cleaning a shower curtain. I haven’t had to replace mine for about 4 years now. It also perks up your whites wash brilliantly. If you have a white shirt with pit stains, mix some peroxide, sterilising fluid and crushed aspirin together to make a foamy paste and put it on the stain for about 10 minutes with an old toothbrush and then wash as normal. It works whether it’s sweat stain or anti-perspirant and prolong shirt life amazingly. Just leave out the sterilising fluid if the shirt is coloured…I used to run a vintage clothes business and using those 3 products, everything was fresh smelling and stain free.

    I am also a total geek on this subject!


    • Mia
      Feb 05, 2010 @ 16:42:45

      Oh my gosh, thank you for the sweat stain removal tips from the bottom of my heart! I have severe anxiety problems, which has meant horribly soaked armpits for the past few years. I had given up on ever wearing white or light colored clothing again. Yay!

      Now if I could only stop the excessive sweating. Oh well, one problem at a time. 🙂 Thanks again!


  2. Jessy
    Feb 01, 2010 @ 00:00:05

    I am a big fan of buying better quality items to decrease the quantity of crappy ones in my house. I started this with the purses, of all things. I used to buy one every once in awhile because it was cute or trendy, and when I realized how much money the purses I never used represented, I got rid of a bunch of them in a yard sale and then bought a beautiful Kate Spade bag from a sample sale, and never looked back. While I do have multiple bags (4, but 2 were gifts) since that initial purchase, the fact that the one nice bag was worth 5-6 throwaways keeps me from picking up the habit again. Why would I want to carry a cheap, disposable thing when I could be rocking my beautifully designed and tooled treasure? I used to have a concept of something being ‘too good to wear’ frequently, but if I’m going to spend X amount of money on it, I’m going to make sure it gets used!

    On a similar note, one of the things that I hate more than any other about college (even though I’m now a grad student) is seeing the dumpsters at apartment complexes and on campus completely full of perfectly usable items at the end of the school year, be it after graduation or move out. Many stores have come out with ‘dorm’ lines that are meant to get tossed and re-bought every year for four or five years to keep up with the ‘style’. I hate during apartment move-out seeing entire dining room sets, couches, coffee tables, etc be slated for the dump when they could be used by someone else, too. This kind of throwaway culture is absolutely natural to college students, and I find it rather upsetting that it’s “easier” and “cheaper” to buy things and throw them away than invest in nice items that can be kept for a lifetime, like when we move into our own apartments and houses and have our own lives outside of the familial abode.

    *steps off soapbox*

    I am also a ridiculous, ridiculous stain remover. ❤


  3. Jessy
    Feb 01, 2010 @ 00:01:40

    Oh, and one more thing– sometimes a cobbler or someone working in a saddle shop can re-stitch, re-tool, or make entirely new straps for a handbag. This came in handy for a friend who broke a purse strap, and then decided she wanted longer/thicker straps to start with. Definitely worth looking into!


  4. Dagney
    Feb 01, 2010 @ 00:12:46

    What an excellent way to justify buying a pair of Manolo Blahniks! They last longer! I NEED them! LOL…

    Seriously, this was an excellent post. We will spend an extra $20 on something if it means the item will last for 10 years instead of a few months. We bought a Champion Juicer about one year ago, which was about $50 over our tip top price range for such an item, however extensive research swayed our decision. We read so many reviews praising the longevity of the Champ, (and so many reviews panning the other brands for poor quality), we decided to splurge. This turned out to be a wonderful decision, as we are now cranking out healthy juices all the time.

    Speaking of red wine stains, have you ever used salt? Sprinkling salt on red wine that has been spilled on carpet will absorb the liquid immediately.


  5. Mandy
    Feb 09, 2010 @ 20:58:19

    Target…all show and no substance. Their clothes always fit me funny anyway.

    ITA on a quality handbag. One thing my husband will never understand, though he is trying too…Jessy I would love to know what style KS you have. I have a couple of hers (one secondhand) but they are both nylon. It seems like her leather bags would be really top-notch.
    Bought a vintage Dooney & Bourke about a year ago on eBay. The leather piping is split in places 😦 but MAN is it a solid purse. I don’t know if even Dooney makes ’em like that anymore. I like to say that when the end of the world comes, that is the one I’m going to take because it’ll hold up.

    I really, really hate throwing out clothes. This has made me a more mindful shopper, even at resale. At the very least I like to donate, but really, who knows where donation castoffs end up?


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