Repair instead of buying new

With the month of October fast approaching, as a buy-nothing-new-month “celebrated” in other countries too, when I saw this post on my timeline this morning, I remembered that I saw some Repair Cafés in Germany recently.

I wasn’t really surprised to find out that the Repair Café was initiated by the Dutch Martine Postma in 2007 in Amsterdam, and that it has been a great success since. Martine started the Repair Café Foundation in 2009, a non-profit organisation, “that provided professional support to local groups in the Netherlands and other countries wishing to start their own Repair Café”, and she even wrote a  book about it (in Dutch).

On the site you can find out where to find the closest Repair Café in your area:

And if there is none, they have a great guideline about how you can start one, after all, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel…:
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This step-by-step manual is based on our years of experience, and guides you through all the different stages of setting up your own Repair Café: from finding local repair experts and a suitable location, to collecting the right tools, creating publicity, finding funds for your initiative etc.




What I like about this idea is not only the fact that we get the chance to learn how to repair items even if we are not a professional – we can get help at those Cafés! – but it’s the mindset. Why throw away if you can repair it? Many times we choose to buy new because repairing is way too expensive, and I admit that I did it several times in the past. But many items can actually be fixed with less expense. There are shops that have spare parts – one has only to find them… In these Repair Cafés you can ask people about that and maybe you’re lucky and find even someone who has an idea how to repair it.
Repairing is to give things a new chance – and sometimes purpose. I like this idea because it is one of the things I want my children to learn: that we can fix things, that items can be repaired. I want them to grow up with what I call the repairing-mindset (I’ll explain it more in another post soon), because it will help them to be more conscientious and respectful for things they/we own.

Not throwing away things, but trying to fix them is in line with the buy-nothing-new-month movement, a “global movement for collective, conscientious consumption” and the idea started in Melbourne and spread to the Netherlands and the USA.

Since I wrote about this buy-nothing-new-month a few years ago, in our family we tend to expand this month over the whole year. It’s not about not buying anything at all – we all need food and items for our household that we still need to buy. It’s more about reflecting on what we “need” and what we “want”, and if the things we want are really so indispensable – and if they really need to be bought new…

I personally like the idea of knowing how to fix things, to reuse them, maybe by giving them another purpose; and I like the idea of my non-needed/wanted items to find a new home and make someone else happy.

– What are the items you repair? Do you throw away the items you no longer use or need, or do you give them away?

7 replies »

  1. I love this post! I want to try it as well! Just had a pair of boots re-heeled. Perhaps that was a bit of foreshadowing for me reading your post. There’s also zero trash competition coming up. So many possibilities!

    • Kristin, that is great! I’m trying to do the same. Shoes can be repaired, things reused, given another purpose. I rarely buy new things for myself – except books… that I can’t resist… – and for my children we have the rule that if there is something new that they need (or really really really want and are looking forward to having), something “old” needs to go, preferably to Kringloopwinkel or to some charity. There are no “quick buys” in our house anymore, not for “things”, only for food or drinks or for outings.
      Zero trash would be great, but I’m far from it… My next challenge is to reduce cleaning products and try to do some myself – but still adding some nice smells (as we already tried some home made things that are not so pleasant 😉 ).

  2. This is EXACTLY the conservationist, innovative, problem – solving mindset with which I was raised in Colorado by Mexican immigrant parents. Turns out, THIS is a big piece of the foundation for future entrepreneurship, invention, patents and sustainable business creation. Here are the first ten case studies I’ve published in this five-time award-winning book/eBook. I’m writing second book now for publication in 15 months.

    • Graciela, I would love to read your book and would be happy to write a review about it, here or elsewhere, just let me know if you would be interested. I’m very interested in solutions that support sustainability: clothes (affordable ones! i.e. big retailers need to get on board: how can this be done?) etc.

      • Ute, What a wonderful idea. Let’s see… It’s available in Kindle format and in print via Amazon (publisher seller is Gracefully Global Group.) If you order one of the latter, I’ll be sure they ship two SIGNED copies to you. If you have a different idea, please email me. Thanks Ute. I can’t wait to share these inspirational, hopeful stories with you!

    • Thank you, Mary, for pointing this out. Repair shops are very important and “en vogue” in many cities. Can you maybe share how this works in your shop? I know of cafés where people meet for a coffee and repair things, brining the tools with them, all this for free or for a cup of coffee (and sometimes a meal).

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