Saturday, June 28, 2014

Fixin' Things

I'm a big fan of fixing things.


As I look around my house, there are really more things that have been fixed than things that haven't. Just looking around at my desk there are a pile of fixed things.

I've had this little lamp since high school, but a few years ago its clamp broke. So I drilled a hole and stuck a bolt through it to hold it to the shelf, and it works like a charm.



The headpiece on my nifty cordless headset that I use for long chats with CatMan broke years ago, so I fixed it with my glue gun. It's no longer adjustable, but that's OK... I don't anticipate my head changing size any time soon!


And just a few days ago this antenna (that I got on FreeCycle) fell off the shelf and broke, so I super glued it back together... you can't actually see the repair since the glued part is inside... but it works great!


I'm not quite sure why I'm such a fix-it fanatic. I suppose it's partially because I don't like to spend money... At $8 a piece, patching bike tubes saves me real money over the long haul...


And it's partially to keep things out of landfills. The shade sail that I use for my deck awning still works perfectly even with this hole patched... after someone, ahem, got it tangled with the lawnmower blade and tore it.


And of course, there's the obvious sense of accomplishment. I'm no quilter, but recently I was able to patch a hole in this quilt that a friend made for me 20 years ago.



Then, there's the more, um... neurotic side of my fix-it tendencies. I just have a really, REALLY hard time letting go.


These cutoffs were once my favorite jeans. But after both knees wore out and got patched several times, I turned them into shorts.


But the rear end started to go a few summers ago, so I started adding patches. You can't really tell the degree of my patching craziness until you turn the things inside out:


I know I should probably just let them go... but they're soooo comfy and hey... they still work!

Of course... some things are just beyond repair, or at least they should be! This is a close-up shot of the wheel hub on the new-to-me 16 year old mountain bike that I bought on Craigslist.


Apparently some water got into the bearings and rusted them out. I probably should have just trashed it, but I managed to get it cleaned and re-greased to the point that it's still serviceable. I can probably get a few more years out of the thing before it absolutely has to be replaced.

On some level I think my fixing fanaticism is sort of crazy. I mean really... a whole new wheel for that bike would only cost $25 - I probably spent that much on just the tools to repair it, let alone my time... but now I know how to do it, so I can rebuild the hubs whenever I want to.

Plus... I dunno. The older I get, the more obvious it becomes to me that everything in this world of ours is temporary. Just take a look at my beloved 20 year old Birkenstocks... yup, they've seen better days.


But I just couldn't bear to get rid of them, so I bought some Shoe Goo and voila! I've got my birks back!



I know this will sound a little bit crazy, but every time I fix something, I feel a little bit like I've breathed new life into the world.

Like these fake Birkenstock sandals that I bought 20 years ago, but never wore much because they didn't quite fit right. I was on the verge of taking them off to the thrift store, when I finally realized that only real problem was that the straps were too loose. So I got out my drill and added some new holes so I could buckle them tighter, and now they fit perfectly!


Somehow, it's like with every patch that I sew, and every broken thing that I glue back together, I feel a bit like I am cheating death.  So take that, grim reaper!



So tell me, does anybody else out there get a charge out of fixing things? What have you repaired lately?




27 comments :

  1. I initially thought that I don't really mend stuff...but actually a few recent examples came to mind quite easily...
    Firstly, the fence- not entirely sure this counts, as we essentially bought two new panels, but the fence is repaired! (It was disintegrating because certain cats kept jumping on it to get onto the roof..the old remains of the old panels are still in situ, as the neighbours had stuff growing up them.) I must confess that I didn't do much actual work on the fence, my role was to drop gentle hints until my bf did it ;)
    My wooden comb recently developed a split- that's been superglued back together.
    I also have a pair of sandals which regularly need one of the soles glueing back together..and I had my black boots resoled by the cobbler this year. (Not really my own repair, but not expensive to get done, and I like to support the business!)
    I think that until fairly recently I have had several versions of things (especially clothes and shoes) so nothing has really worn out..this may change now I have decluttered more, and I may need to repair more things!

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    1. I think the fence definitely counts... even if your principle role was as "nagger in chief!" And I'm impressed that you actually still have cobblers there. CatMan has issues with shoes because of a nerve injury in his ankle, so when he finds a pair of shoes that work for him, he hangs on for dear life! Anyhow, he's tried to find someone to work on his shoes, but the prices are always just outrageous (like a few hundred dollars for the alteration, let alone the cost of the shoes!)

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    2. Wow, that's pricey! Here there are a few chain stores that do basic shoe repairs like resoleing, but I prefer going to the independent shoe repair man.. He's put new zips in boots for me, plus put numerous new soles on things! He always seems to try and match the original style, too. I think the last pair of soles was about £14- so maybe $25.
      Not sure if my town is typical for the UK in terms of cobbler availability- I am increasingly thinking that we live about twenty years in the past!

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    3. Fascinating. I looked into having my Birkenstocks re-corked and re-soled, but it would have cost nearly $100... but since a brand new pair was only about $120, it just didn't make much sense to me. I even did some research into custom made bike shoes for CatMan and get this... a pair of custom made bike shoes costs well over $1000!!! I couldn't believe it!

      I dunno... aside from auto mechanics and people who work on houses it seems like repairmen and craftsmen in general have all but disappeared from the American workforce. Maybe it's just that the cost of labor is so high (or more likely, the cost of Chinese labor is so cheap) that people just can't make a living at it anymore.

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    4. When I wear out my current shoes I'm planning to buy shoes from here: http://www.greenshoes.co.uk/index.php as they are custom fitted, and handmade- as well as not being too expensive!
      I'm not sure why we still have some repair people/makers of things when the US doesn't- I can't imagine the UK has smaller labour costs than the US, considering we have national minimum wage (£6.31/hour for over 21s). Maybe there is just more demand for it, so businesses have been able to survive/skills have been passed on.

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    5. My guess is that the UK probably hasn't been taken over by WalMart culture to the extent that the US has. The emphasis here is always on cheap goods, which are essentially viewed as "disposable." The concept of paying more for something that's well made is a bit foreign here. I think the assumption is that things will only last a short time and when it breaks or wears out it's a good excuse to go shopping!

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  2. I find great satisfaction in figuring out how to fix things and if I can breathe new life into comfortable clothes, that's the best. However, I don't think my drill and glue get as much use as yours do. :)

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    1. It's funny, but learning to fix clothes is sort of a recent thing for me. Perhaps it's because the person I learned much of my fix-it stuff from is my dad, and clothes are not exactly his thing!

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  3. I had a pair of Birkenstock shoes resoled. It cost me $50. The shoes were about 15 years old and cost me $200 new(this is Canada) so if I get another 15 years wear I've done well.
    We are both fixers, me with my needlework and my husband with everything else...usually at my request:)
    I think when you are a fixer you are able to handle items less that perfect....a patch that shows or an odd coloured button because you couldn't find a match.
    A lot of folk want perfect. The rallying cry for fixers is "it look fine"

    Marie

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    1. Wow... that's a great price. I think part of the problem was that I couldn't find anyone to do it locally, so I would have had to ship them across the country. Plus, I always buy my birks on eBay so they're much cheaper than if I was willing to shell out real money to get them in a store.

      Anyhow, I'm in agreement about the "it looks fine" thing. I think that in general I'm much more concerned with function than form!

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  4. I really don't like fix-it jobs, but it does save money. Mending is something I put off as long as possible, but I still do it--it's cheaper to patch my kid's school coats (why don't they make coats for children sturdier?) than to buy new. I'm famous for using a black sharpie to disguise the scuff marks on black shoes. I get more of a charge out of figuring out ways to decorate on a shoestring. I made 2 window cornices out of foam core board, batting, and a tablecloth on clearance from Target which I cut up (loved the fabric and I couldn't beat the price) this past winter. They turned out looking sharp. I have used bandanas as window toppers in my son's cowboy-themed bedroom and placemats with clips as window toppers in my bathroom (no, you can't tell unless I point it out). Maybe I just have a window decorating fetish? Regardless, I understand the thrill you get out of accomplishing something by using wits and ingenuity. It's a sense of satisfaction that you get--going out and buying the item or paying someone to do it for you doesn't give the same sense of accomplishment.

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    1. See... now, my house could really use some attention from someone like you. I fear I tend to be practical to a fault, and it's REALLY hard for me to work up the energy to do much of anything "just for pretty."

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  5. I don't like fixing things. It doesn't feel fun, and I don't look forward to it. But philosophically, I think fixing things is the best way. So, I'll put things off...

    Which means when I occasionally do fix something, I feel like the queen of the world or something. I will dance around the house celebrating my awesomeness.

    And nowadays with the internet, it's so easy to at least look for ideas on fixing things. I'm still best with textiles (Mom taught me to embroider when I was a wee thing), but occasionally I do something like figure out a part to order to fix my washer and then switch it out.

    I'm also good at brainstorming ways to fix things with my boyfriend who is much more into fixing things. I don't know why I think brainstorming is fun, but the rest isn't.

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    1. Well... I think for me, my attitude about fixing things depends greatly on the scope and importance of the project. Generally speaking, if it's something that would just get tossed anyway, I'll dive in with great abandon to fix it. It feels like I've got nothing to lose.

      BUT, if it's something that really NEEDS to be fixed one way or another, then I start to get nervous about it and I put it off... like, for example, replacing the screen on the back door that the cats have poked a bunch of holes in.

      I went out and bought the pet-proof screening, and the little rubber spline to hold it in place, and all of the tools... and I've watched a pile of YouTube videos on how to do it... but the knot in my stomach is rather large on this one. I'm hoping there will be a happy dance for me at the end of the project, rather than an ill-fitting screen and an escaped kitty!

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  6. I read your post thinking, "Yes, this is so me!" but then when you asked, I couldn't actually think of anything I've fixed recently. Maybe I'm more of a, "Put up with things being broken," sort of a person.

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    1. Ha! Well, I think I've got a fair amount of "put up with things being broken" in me too. :-)

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  7. Agreed! Good enough is my mantra. I try to buy durable things so I can stretch out the time before repairs or replacing is necessary. My mom helps by fixing a lot of things that require sewing because she has a sewing machine, but I can do simple things myself in a pinch. My husband's the best with glue repairs (which I take advantage of often since I'm clumsy).

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    1. I'm not great with the sewing machine either... so I do most of my mending by hand. It feels much more like playing than work that way!

      I do usually leave the electronic stuff to CatMan though, since he's the expert there!

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  8. Oooh that reminded me that I have Gorilla Super Glue in my bag from camp that I bought home to fix some shoes. Thanks lady!

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  9. I love your shorts! You know me, I fix everything possible. I hate to toss anything out. Part of my obsession comes from how I was raised. My grandparents who lived through the depression raised me and taught me there was no away and everything had another purpose. I was also taught to buy things that were repairable so as not to waste money or resources. My grandfather had an obsession with mens leather house shoes, a brand called Roman's. when he wore down the soles he took them to re resoled, it was a way of life.

    Of course there are those moments I wish I could just buy new. One specific situation involved the front door of a mobile home I owned. It was a cheap door built with two pieces of sheet metal and filled with cardboard for insulation, talk about not doing the job. The bottom of the door rotted and the cardboard would fall out. I made the comment I was heading the the store to price doors to replace it, one that would be more energy efficient. My grandfather grabbed his tools and showed up at my door to fix it. When done he informed me it was good to go for another 20 years at least. I so wanted a real door, but lived with that one instead preferring that to his wrath at my wasting resources.

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    1. Oh yes, there is a fine line between when it makes more sense to repair or replace... especially when the item in question uses energy. A few years ago the track broke on my sliding glass door, so I took the opportunity to replace it. I'm sure I could have fixed it, but it was single pane glass with an aluminum frame and you could just feel the cold air pouring in during the winter. The new door made such a HUGE difference in the comfort and energy efficiency of the house that I wished I'd done it years earlier!

      Anyhow, my dad grew up in poverty and fixing things is just second nature for him. I think that's where I got much of my fix-it fixation!

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  10. Hooray for repairing instead of replacing!

    Your pictures of jeans reminded me of an NPR story I heard on Japanese patch-clothing...

    http://www.pri.org/stories/2014-06-26/some-japanese-will-pay-4500-old-missouri-prisoner-uniform-me-i-collect-japanese

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    1. Ha! Maybe 100 years from now someone will be doing an NPR story on my jeans! :-)

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  11. Did you check directly with the manufacturer about your Birks? My husband claims that they resole/recork for a nominal fee. Never explored that option though.

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    1. Hmmm... well, perhaps I should have tried harder - and it may depend on your definition of "nominal." I looked around on the web and determined that they were so far gone that they needed more than resole & recork... the leather footbed was shot too, so basically everything but the straps needed to be replaced. Anyhow, all of the prices I found ranged from $70-$100 when you included postage so I figured it was hardly worth it. I could probably replace them for that amount if I'm patient and wait for something on eBay.

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  12. WOW, you probably saved quite a bit with all those fixes. I like to fix stuff too, save the environment, but even more important, it save you money.

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