Image courtesy of Nick Johnson on Flickr

How many of us fix our old stuff when they break? It used to be common practice to sew on a new button, patch up a hole in old jeans, glue down a broken corner, reattaching a chair leg, or changing out the stuffing in Mr. Bear. But it seems like we’ve forgotten how to fix things these days, and that’s extremely alarming.

One of the reasons, of course, is that we’ve become far too adept at manufacturing cheap stuff. It breaks easily and fixing it always seems like too much effort for what we paid—so instead we buy more cheap stuff, exacerbating the situation. But while that may leave our homes looking nice, it’s quickly filling up landfills and using up tons of resources like water, minerals, metals, timber, petroleum, and all the other things that go into manufacturing. Products and packaging account for nearly half of the global warming emissions in the U.S. So maybe it’s time we remembered how to fix stuff.

Some repairs may seem less important if they’re not causing us to throw away something. But that doesn’t mean they should remain unfixed—they still waste resources. Leaks can have to do with energy as well. We waste an inordinate amount of energy heating and cooling each year because homes are not well insulated or because thermostats are set unnecessarily low or high. Electronics and appliances also waste energy even when they are off, unless they are unplugged or connected to a surge protector that is turned to “off.”

Renters who have the benefit of landlords and handymen on staff should always use that resource—homeowners have to do it themselves or hire their own handyman. For example, NYCHA board members John Rhea and Cecil House recently announced plans to eliminate the backlog of repairs at NYCHA developments all over NYC. This will help residents keep their homes energy efficient and structurally sound.

Some things are easier to fix than others, and they don’t always require a handyman. We can easily fix clothes, home goods, accessories, etc. on our own. Fairly inexpensive repair shops can also be found for more complex things like stereo systems and shoes in need of new soles. And with a little practice, we can even learn to keep our cars in top shape, changing the battery, oil, fan belts, spark plugs, and more without having to take it to the shop. Furniture can be easily reupholstered or fitted for a slipcover. The list goes on.