Repairing broken things

I do believe that the act of repairing fits into the ethos of my blog which is all about second-hand living. I posted previously about picking up a second-hand breadmaker for a tenner (which is still serving us very well). I think this dovetails with the idea of repairing things that have been broken because both acts extend the lifetime of a product.Instead of throwing away a damaged product  to go into landfill we should spend some time working out whether these things can be repaired. While I know it’s harder in the age of built-in, or planned, obsolesence to repair some appliances I do believe we have a choice. We can choose to be consumers or repairers.

In our household we have recently experienced three of our appliances breaking down (well they say things always come in threes!).  A few months ago I managed to break the bobbin case in my sewing machine. This meant I couldn’t place the bobbin in the machine and so couldn’t sew. However after a brief search on Amazon I found a replacement bobbin case, ordered it and managed to replace it myself:


So I am now back to sewing (although the new bobbin case hasn’t improved my sewing skills!).

Then a couple of weeks ago the oven stopped working. I called out a repairman who told me it was something to do with the thermostat (or something like that). I could order a replacement part and he could fit it but it would cost £162 in total (to include labour and VAT). His attitude was one that is so prevalent: it would be more economical to buy a new cooker. Really? After a very quick search on the web the cheapest first-hand cooker I could find was over £400. While we were tied financially to taking the cheaper option to repair the oven, ethically this is what I believe we would have done even if we were flush with cash. The repairman duly came back to fit the part. He was a little surprised that we had decided to repair rather than consume but said that the part should now last for another six years.

The repaired oven which now bakes far better cakes!

The repaired oven which now bakes far better cakes!

And can you believe that in the same week that the oven broke the washing machine stopped working too!  Now I know that washing machines are not meant to last that long and we live in a very hard water area. Our machine is about eight years old and is the hardest working large appliance in our house. It washes clothes for a family of five on a near daily basis and, when the girls were young, also had the onerous task of washing a LOT of cloth nappies. I have a brilliant contact who repairs washing machines and dishwashers and when he last paid a visit to look at the machine a couple of years ago he did warn the drum had a limited lifespan. So I was expecting this to be the end. However he replaced the brush and for the cost of £69.50 the machine is now working fine! Thank you Mr Bath Washco! [Udate Feb 2015: the washing machine is still working!]

The washing machine in action

The washing machine in action

Now I am not professing to be an excellent repairer, nor can I say that I have never thrown away things and replaced them with new just because they are broken. I also believe there is another separate post to be written on how we place broken things on freecycle to ease our conscience when we buy new, rather than repairing.  Our recent experiences in mending broken things has given me a little boost and allowed me to feel good at taking control over whether I choose to replace and consume, or repair instead.

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