I can be a bit of a cheapskate, especially when it comes to replacing stuff that’s broken, particularly pricey but uninteresting things like computer charging cables or a lamp. But money aside, it pains me to see my trashcan fill up with bulky items that I’m throwing away just because they don’t work right anymore, and they’re not recyclable. So in an effort to both save money and reduce our household waste, my husband and I have taken to trying to fix broken things around the house, rather than simply throwing them out and buying a newer version.
There’s something super-gratifying about fixing nonworking electronics, getting a piece of furniture back to a sturdier state, or making a garment look like-new again. An added advantage is that once you’ve channeled your inner fixer-upper by repairing broken items around the house, you can shop thrift stores with aplomb, knowing that anything that’s in disrepair can probably be restored by your deft hands. And we all know that thrifting is one of the greenest ways of shopping, since you’re extending the life of products, thereby reducing the need to make new ones.
Here are some of the many types of items you can easily fix yourself instead of replacing:
1. Chargers and other electrical cords. When my cat took a liking to chewing on charging cables, my husband got pretty good at repairing the cords. Indeed, it only took a soldering gun and a little electrical tape to get them working again. Instructions can show you exactly how to fix many degrees of frayed and broken cables. And his new skill paid off when I snatched a pair of lamps set out with a neighbor’s trash. When I got them home I discovered the cord had been cut on one of them, but Chip was able to fix it in about 15 minutes! Just make sure whatever you’re fixing is unplugged before you begin!
2. Inflatables. Whether you have a pricey inflatable stand-up paddleboard, an air mattress, or one of those new air couches, there’s nothing more disappointing than when they develop a leak. Many of these items come with a patch kit, which often gets thrown away or lost. But even if you’ve lost the patch that came with your inflatable, you can buy vinyl repair patches readily. Just find the leak by inflating your item and running your hand along the surface until you feel the air escaping. Then clean the area around the leak well with rubbing alcohol and apply the patch.
3. Refrigerators and other large appliances. Many appliances, including refrigerators or dishwashers, are not too difficult to repair with a little search online for step-by-step instructions or a YouTube video. We’ve repaired our icemaker feature and fixed other refrigerator issues, saving on service calls and ultimately extending the life of our appliance.
4. Furniture. Becoming an expert at repairing furniture will benefit you for years to come — and it’s often a no-brainer. Tightening some screws or dabbing some wood glue to reconnect a broken piece can resolve many furniture issues. Cosmetic issues can be fixed with slipcovers, upholstery changes, or a coat of paint. And again, knowing how to fix up a broken piece of furniture means that you’ll be able to find some bargains at thrift stores or antique markets.
5. Lamps and light fixtures. It might seem intimidating to work with electrical items, but don’t let that deter you if your favorite lamp stops working. A rewiring kit from the hardware store and a set of good instructions will help you get that lamp back to a useable state. And if it’s more of an aesthetic problem, often a new lampshade is all you need to make a lamp lovely again.
6. Broken zippers. A nonworking zipper on a jacket, a suitcase, or a handbag often comes with enough frustration to want to throw it in the trash. Luckily, most zipper problems can easily be repaired. Sometimes it’s as easy as cleaning or lubing the zipper tracks so the zipper will glide easily, while other times the pull might need to be replaced. Either way, knowing how to fix a zipper is a handy skill indeed.
7. Bicycles. Bikes are a super-green mode of transportation, but they’ve been known to break down at the worst possible times. Knowing how to fix most basic bicycle problems ensures you’ll be able to keep your bike in good working order, keeping you on the streets in a more sustainable way than if you’re behind the wheel of a car.
Next time something breaks around the house, take a stab at fixing it before trashing it. You’ll enjoy a sense of accomplishment, you’ll save money, and you’ll be helping the environment.