November Challenge: Repair
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I have a pile. You might too. It’s a sort of purgatory of things that could use a little TLC, but aren’t a high priority, and are just waiting for the blessed occasion when I will have the time, energy, materials, and know-how to get them back in fighting form. I recently had a shirt that needed a hole stitched waiting for . . . a year? The repair took all of four minutes while I watched TV.
I’ve written about repair before, and I’d encourage you to revisit that post for a refresher, because this month we’re getting to work. We’re going to tackle that pile, and maybe lavish some attention on other things that quietly bother us, creating a little psychic noise in our lives.
But it’s not just about eliminating the negative. Mending something can be a source of pride and pleasure too. I asked my friend Sarah Joy, an excellent fixer, what value she finds in the act of repair. She told me:
There is something enormously satisfying about repairing and mending! You can’t help but feel pretty pleased with yourself after you’ve given something a new lease on life with your own skills, and there’s the additional glow of knowing you’ve both saved cash and saved something from the landfill. There is a real pride to be had in it.
There is also a warm, almost nurturing feeling that goes along with it. When you are fixing up your trusted bicycle, darning a wool sweater, or revoicing a keyboard, you feel a more satisfying relationship with the objects that surround you. I’ve mended and patched my daughter’s most precious stuffed toy about seven times so far, and it’s like he becomes more real each time (very “Velveteen Rabbit”). Likewise, when I repaired the lining and pockets of my grandmother’s old wool coat, not only did I gain a winter coat, I got to feel close to her again, both when I was sewing it and every time I put it on.
I love that Sarah Joy has stressed not only the joy of reclaiming competence and honing a skill, but the fact that we’re in relationship with our objects and, as with our fellow humans, those relationships flourish with care and attention.
I want to requote Sandra Goldmark, author of Fixation, who came up the last time we talked about repair, because her words still resonate:
Repair is about really understanding what we have, how it is designed, who makes it, and under what conditions. In short, it’s about rethinking what we value. We live in a society that drastically undervalues care of all kinds, from repairing toasters to maintaining subways to caring for children. . . . Fixing stuff is actually part of a much larger and much-needed shift towards really seeing and caring for the incredible blessings all around us, from toasters to each other all the way up to our shared planet.
For too long we’ve lived in a throwaway world, and a repair mindset is vital in the bigger planetary project ahead of us. We need to clearly see the damage, we need to care to change it, accept responsibility, and then get to work.
Ready? Here’s the mission of the month:
Maybe you don’t consider yourself very handy and would struggle to thread a needle, let alone patch up jeans. But have you met . . . the internet? There’s a whole category of videos out there, often languishing in triple-digit views, that are nevertheless helpful and often quite charming, filmed by a generation of people who spent most of their lives before the invention of self-facing cameras.
I’ll be attempting to darn some wool socks and also handwash my living room rug, which has started to look like I’ve been cleaning chimneys with it. (A deep, thorough cleaning is also an act of repair!)
If you really don’t have the skills or tools necessary for the repair at hand, by all means hire a professional. I recently helped a friend find a vacuum repair shop and was happy to discover there were many to choose from.
Post your before-and-after shots in our Facebook group to get bonus positive reinforcement. Also tell us: how did repairing it make you feel?
Fix it forward.
If you have a particular knack for repairing certain things, post in an online community group and offer up your skills. Even if you’re only helping one person, you’re making a connection and doing a good deed, both of which science says make us happier. You’ve made something just a little bit better in this often-rotten world. Savour that feeling.
Wins of the Week
“I have no creative use for guilt, yours or my own. Guilt is only another way of avoiding informed action, of buying time out of the pressing need to make clear choices.” — Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider
Seeing this team’s positive actions is like a small act of repair for my often rundown eco spirit. This week, shout-outs to:
Natalie, who is organizing a phone zap to protest the 413 Highway extension, which will cut across farmland, waterways, and protected Greenbelt areas and is opposed by the communities it is supposed to benefit. This “sprawl-spreading boondoggle” would save drivers about 30 seconds at enormous cost to the natural world. (And FMFP readers know adding or expanding roads generally makes congestion worse, not better.) If you’re in Ontario and have half an hour to spare to call your elected officials, we’ll do it together, so let me know you’re interested!
Susannah, who is cleaning up on Too Good to Go, preventing food waste and getting a mind-boggling number of meals in the meantime. (More on the huge importance of avoiding food waste here.) Check out her $4.99 haul from one bakery (though sadly they’re not all so bountiful!):
Kerry, who went to the thrifts and picked up some plates to use for outdoor park meals with friends so they could avoid disposables. (If you’re in Toronto, you can also borrow plates and other party supplies for free from PlateShare.ca. One set is hosted by yours truly!)
Have you put some restorative stitches in the planet or social fabric lately? Please let me know! And don’t forget to share your repair on our FB group, even if it’s imperfect — the lovely spirit of the thing will always shine through.
P.S. I know I’m always pressuring you to pound the pavement for climate action, and this week, on Saturday, November 6, you could join global demonstrations around COP 26, the international climate conference taking place in Glasgow. If we want our leaders to make ambitious moves, we need to show them they’re widely supported. In Toronto, we’ll be gathering at 1 p.m. at Queen’s Park. Others can find their local action here. You can also take 10 seconds to sign the emergency petition put forward by Greta Thunberg and her fellow youth climate champions to get governments around the world to take urgent and appropriate action.
Five Minutes for Planet is written by me, Jen Knoch, and edited by Crissy Calhoun. Opening photo by Pixabay. Audio editing by Jordan Venn at Albany Garden Studio.