Something Old, Something New, Something mended…

If you have dipped in and out of this blog over the past couple of years you will no doubt have come across my (endless) posts on broken appliances (!). So far we have:

– had a broken cooker which was mended here

– a tatty sofa which I had rather badly mended here

– hoovers which had been repaired, replaced with second-hand, then finally bought new last Christmas

and not forgetting the second-hand breadmakers (two) and my post about Living with Broken Appliances

We were fortunate enough to receive some money the other month and, at the same time, three of our appliances died on us:

The Cooker

After fifteen years of service and a professional repair two years ago the cooker finally gave up the ghost two weeks ago. By the time of its demise both ovens had stopped working effectively, the gas ignition had died long ago and only two gas hobs actually worked! So we decided the time had come to buy a brand new one.



The Washing Machine

The washing machine has been with us for about ten years and with three children it has had its fair share of use (especially when the girls were in cloth nappies). I have a fantastic contact in Bath who has come out on many an occasion to fix it when it stops working. Two years ago he replaced the brushes and said he thought the time would soon come to replace the machine. However it has carried on working (despite getting ever louder and starting to move about in its old age). Last week, after our big camping trip, it stopped draining but my handy washing machine man came and replaced the pump…and it’s working again….!

something old, something new, something mended..

The Hoover

What a saga! We have mended two hoovers, lived with a rubbish (cheap) one and, last month our new hoover broke  and needed a new belt and brush. I’m sure we are cursed by vacuum cleaners (or maybe we live in a dirty house that tests the endurance of even the most powerful machine!). Anyway a call to the manufacturer has resulted in a new supplies of belts (we had to pay) and a free brush. So, fingers crossed, a quick mend will result in it working again.

something old, something new

Running a regular Repair Cafe at my work I see the amount of (electrical) appliances that come in that are so easily fixed. Vacuum cleaners are definitely one of the most popular ones.  WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) undertook a study of one thousands consumers in England and Wales in 2012/13 to assess what people understood about the lifespan of electrical appliances, and if this was important to them. From the study it showed that consumers expected:

-vacuum cleaners to last five years

– washing machines to last six years

– fridges to last eight years

There’s also an interesting BBC article here about the decline in the lifespan of white goods in the UK. Apparently washing machines used to last for ten years and now, on average, they last for seven.

So how are your household appliances doing?

Five ways to make do (without replacing your appliances)

Five ways to make do without replacing your appliances

When I look around our house I realise there are quite a few things that are broken, or have developed some quirk that only we know how to operate.  I’m sure we are not alone in having appliances that don’t quite work how they should do, or have given up the ghost completely.

One of the mantras of minimalism/frugal living/being environmentally aware is to do without those things we think we need. They cost our hard-earned pennies, use precious resources to make, clutter our cupboards, and require time (and money) to clean and maintain.

I think it’s a combination of this philosophy (plus a smattering of ‘can’t be bothered/don’t have the time’) that explains why we have learned to do without certain appliances in our home.

Instead of rushing out to the store to buy a brand new replacement we have tried to make do. From personal experience these are the five things I have learned about making do with troublesome equipment – or managing without:

1) Adjust to its quirks

I wrote here about our broken-down oven. To summarise it stopped working and when I called out the engineer he suggested replacing it with a brand new one rather than paying for a replacement part. I chose to go with the latter and, nearly two years later, it is still working. However it is not very warm. So I have learned to adjust to this by automatically increasing the gas mark temperature by one (GM4 becomes GM5 etc) and also being generous with the cooking time. Also the gas hobs only work by using a separate lighter or matches to ingite. Until we move house/have money to buy a new one this is how we are cooking and it, sort of, works.

Solution: we all have temperamental appliances. If you have visitors who need to use the equipment (ie babysitters) write down instructions for them – but make sure the appliances can be used in a safe way.

2) Is there an alternative that I can use?

Do I already own something – or can I purchase something smaller and cheaper – that would do a similar job? We have struggled for many years with second-hand  vacuum cleaners that haven’t been quite up to the job. Bea from Zero Waste Home manages without a vacuum and relies on a broom. She believes it saves time (no plugging, unplugging and carrying the hoover from room to room). I’ve now got into the habit of using a brush to sweep our hardwood floors although this isn’t a solution for carpets. My parents, however, keep a simple, old fashioned carpet sweeper upstairs to clean their bedroom floors as it saves carrying a heavy vacuum up the stairs.

Recently we had a (brief) power cut which made me dig out our camping kettle to use on the gas stove (ignited with a match remember!). The electricity came back on but the kettle is staying in our kitchen as our electric one is playing up.

Solution: check around your house to see if you have an alternative. Do you own a travel iron or hairdryer that could be used to do the same job? After all what’s the point of buying something that is only used for a couple of weeks every year? Make these ‘holiday’ appliances work for their money!

3) Can I live without it?

Two years ago our (second-hand) dishwasher stopped working. We have been hand washing dishes ever since and it works for us. I believe that, from an environmental standpoint, a modern and efficient dishwasher would be better. However washing dishes by hand has many benefits. It involves the whole family (the children learn to wash and wipe up). We also had saucepans that couldn’t be put in the dishwasher anyway and now, when we need a utensil, we can wash it up straight away rather than waiting to fill the machine.

Making do with what yo have: washing up by hand

Solution: why don’t you try living without the appliance for a while? Some people use the ‘frozen credit card’ system (literally credit card frozen in ice) to help them delay making a purchase. If your car has broken down can you try using your bus service for a while, or book online deliveries? Can you enlist the help of family and friends to undertake tasks ie getting the kids to wash up.

4) Is there a free or cheaper substitute?

I have posted here and here about our second-hand bread makers, purchased for a small amount from the charity shop’s electrical appliances store. However if we’d been unable to find our second replacement we could have tried baking by hand. Like many people we’ve also been able to pick up appliances for free from Freecyle or Facebook sites (and in turn offered our unwanted goods).

Making do with what you have: second-hand appliances

Solution: Can I pick up a free substitute by putting a request on freecycle? Is there a free part I could pick up that could be used to mend my broken appliance? 

5) Can I borrow another one?

As I mentioned in my recent post about lending and borrowing we plan to borrow a tent from neighbours when we go camping this summer. We don’t have the budget to buy a new tent and as we are only camping for a couple of nights it doesn’t affect their holiday plans. It also means we don’t have to find space to store a five-person tent permanently.

Making do.. without buying a new tent

Solution:try borrowing websites such as Streetbank or  ecomodo . Don’t be afraid to ask friends or family if you can borow an item; there may be something you can lend out in return.

..but sometimes you have to bite the bullet and buy a new one. For years we struggled without a heating control device. Instead we manually switched the heating on and off from the boiler which was ineffective and led to a very cold house when we were away. We finally bought a new control pad and our house is heated so much more efficiently now. It’s just a matter of deciding what does need replacing, and what you can manage without…


Breadmaker Part Two

About eighteen months ago I blogged here about our new second-hand breadmaker that we had bought for £10 from the local Dorothy House electrical shop. The breadmaker was an unusual make (Bellini) and came without instructions but made a decent simple loaf.

However a couple of months ago it stopped working and we were unable to fix it. I had just started to get fed up with eating store-bought bread again when my mum picked up this fantastic second-hand Breville breadmaker for £15.



It came from the British Heart Foundation electrical store in Chippenham and, this time, it has an instruction book. This model seems more sophisticated than the Bellini as we can make different size loaves. So far we’ve baked some simple bread but I hope to be tackling Italian bread and fruit loaves soon.

I love these electrical appliances shops and I think they’re a great tip for finding second-hand kitchen accessories, such as coffee makersand food processors. All the electrical items are PAT tested and my breadmaker came with a six month warranty. Not bad.

Swept away by a second-hand hoover


Last year I was very excited by our purchase of a second-hand breadmaker here. We had picked it up from the fantastic Dorothy House Furniture and Electrical Shop in Chippenham. Over a year later it’s still going strong and we’re making about 3-4 loaves a week in it. Not bad for a £10 purchase!

Today we returned to the shop to pick up a Dyson hoover. We have a long history with broken vacuum cleaners. We originally had a Dyson which, through being overworked in a house of three small children, gave up the ghost a few years ago. We then picked up a broken one from Freecycle which my my very handy Dad was able to mend. However through more abuse from our messy house this one died too. I then resorted to buying a cheap one from Tesco two years ago and have been struggling with vacuuming ever since. For the past six months the only way I can remotely get my carpets clean is by getting down on my hands and knees and using the hose!

But we received a little extra money in our pay packet this month and husband and I rushed off to the two household and electrical shops in Chippenham to see if we could find a second-hand replacement. These shops appeared a couple of years ago in town and, since then, I have noticed more appear in the area. They are a great way of picking up cheap furniture and electrical appliances, and also a good place to donate these items when many charity shops can’t take them. If you want an iron, food mixer, radio or even record player, you should be able to pick one up. All electrical items are PAT tested as well. There’s also a good choice of furniture – a sort of 1970s version of Ikea (some of the items reminded us both of our grandparents’ houses).

The Dyson cost £80 (over £200 brand new, although newer models). I have already been hoovering furiously to make up for lost years and the amount of fluff coming off our carpets is quite frightening!


(PS the only annoying thing about buying the Dyson was the plastic bag the tools came in. As you know I’m trying to give up single use plastic this month).


Our new (to us) Breadmaker!

I always thought that you couldn’t donate electrical goods to Charity Shops. However I have recently discovered the Dorothy House Furniture and Electrical shop in Chippenham, and the British Heart Foundation shop across the road. Both shops stock donated furniture (sofas, beds, desks, wardrobes etc) and electrical items. All electrical goods have been PAT tested and are in good condition.

For a while we have been thinking of buying a breadmaker because as a family of five we seem to get through the stuff SO quickly. After a quick trip to Chippenham and browse through both shops (kettles for £8, a Dyson hoover for £40!) we picked up a Bellini Breadmaker from Dorothy House for £10. Although it was without instructions I have been following a very easy recipe from the web and, after a couple of weeks’ use, it has proved indispensable to our family.

our new (to us) breadmaker

our new (to us) breadmaker


I really like the idea of extending the life of electrical appliances by finding new homes for them. There were a lot of gadgets, such as coffee machines and food processors, on the shelves at both shops. I wonder if some of them had been barely-used presents or bought on a whim and then never used. According to a recent survey (okay it’s by Direct Line insurance company who probably had a publicity motive) the least used kitchen appliances are toasted sandwich maker, food processor and slow cooker. (Although we get a lot of use from our toastie maker and slow cooker). Apparently 10 % of kitchen gadgets are never used. Although this is a sad reflection of our consumer society if the appliances are donated to charity shops, or freecycled, then a second – or third- life means that someone’s loss is another person’s gain.

Tomorrow we have a visit from both a washing machine engineer AND a repairman to look at our gas cooker. Both appliances are on the blink but I am very reluctant to replace or buy new. We may be taking another trip to the Dorothy House Homeware shop very soon….