GenXers, Millenials – do they repair things like their parents’ generation did?

My parents are of a generation where one repaired things that were broken. Things like articles of clothing, shoes, small appliances or toys.

I cannot tell you how many times  my mom would mend socks, replace zippers, sew on buttons or fix rips on various clothing around the house.

My father too used to fix things we broke as kids. He’d find a way to get a little bit more life out of an old cassette player, and knew how to make repairs to furniture, bikes or small appliances.

Buying new things was expensive not to mention wasteful if the original, broken piece was not yet beyond repair. Back in those days, shopping was not considered a hobby like it is today to so many people. Nor did we have big box stores full of mass-produced, made-in-China products…

Today, few people take time to mend or fix things. It’s much easier to drop into the local Walmart or Target and just get another one.

We’re the disposable generation.

I struggle with this.

I own a pair of boots which are more fashionable than practical. I bought them on sale one year at the end of boots-wearing season. They function well in a semi-dress-up environment where you want a little bit of a heel and aren’t too concerned with practicalities like dog walking, or errand running. They were not expensive, only had upper-leather, and I knew instinctively they would only last me a couple of seasons, maybe three at most. They’re just not that type of boot you expect to last long-term through Canadian winters.

I love these boots. 🙂

One day I was wearing my boots while at a social event at a rink, and I suddenly tripped. I looked down: Did I miss a step? Did I trip on a hockey stick?

It was the left boot. The rubber part of the bottom of the heel came loose somehow.

I analyzed the boot and noticed just how cheaply they were made. The inside of the heel was hollow, not solid. The rubber part of the heel that came loose had plastic screws to keep it in place, which were now bent.

My internal communication went something like this:

Should I bother getting them fixed? How much will it cost? How long will it take? Who does this kind of work? Wouldn’t it be easier, quicker to just go shop for new boots?

I decided to take a more practical approach: I will attempt to fix the heel myself.

Once at home I removed the bottom rubber part of the heel and, using a hammer, punched the bent screw back into place. They needed to be at a perpendicular (90 degree) angle, not at a 45 degree angle. A hammer seemed like the correct tool to use for this job.

Long story short, I managed to fix the heel, and I continued to wear the boots for a little while longer…but I doubt they’ll last another season.

I realize that I am taking after my parents somewhat…how many people would have gone to the little bit of trouble to fix that boot’s heel like I did? I don’t know too many…

Asking the question whether it’s worth it to invest time and money into something relatively disposable wears on me. Especially because so many things today are cheaply made and, here’s that word again, disposable.

It gets trickier with electronics. My old blackberry phone that ended up in water one time was dried out in a container of rice but it never quite came back to its optimal functions. The old Samsung smartphone went to the then 11 year old with a new battery in place, and he managed to get about a year of life out of it before it died. The tablets…don’t get me started. We have our own mini-landfill of electronic devices that were mostly gifted to the kids over the years which were kept ‘to try and fix’, something that requires time, money, and patience.

All of those things are in short supply around here.

At the same time, it’s key to role-model behaviour to our offspring. On the one hand, we try to teach them that the effort to fix something repairable is worth it. On the other, allowing them to go without a replacement for a time, until the money is saved up for example, is just as valuable a lesson.

Frankly, if it was me, I’d choose go without more often than the other option. I am known as the Queen of the Purge around here, after all. 🙂

How do you approach the many items collecting around your house which need to either be fixed, or replaced?


40 thoughts on “GenXers, Millenials – do they repair things like their parents’ generation did?

  1. You’ve hit on a favourite gripe of mine, we throw in the trash what my two war generation Grandfathers would have mended or cannibalised! I buy ready meals of what my two Grandmothers would have prepared from scratch using free food from Grandfather’s allotments. They were driven individuals at 80 purely because the war taught them to be motivated and beat Germany. Great post and you’ve given me an idea. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Loved this post! As for me – I will try to use something until I can no longer use it and then I’ll buy something to replace it (secondhand if in good condition and maybe new). I can sew on a button but that’s as far as my sewing skills go. I think the education system has given kids like me (I guess I’d be a millennial *crinch* even though I’m in my mid 30’s) a disservice by taking away classes like Home Economics.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading! I found Home Economics useless back in my day. We learned how to make pancakes from a box (add water)…no one showed us how to boil and egg (well, my mom did, but not the teacher). That kind of thing. What kids today need is basics (cooking, fixing things, making do with less), and also money management. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. If it is at all possible, I fix what is broken. But as a tail-end of the baby boom generation, I have to admit that I am much more willing to throw away things than my parents were, and my grandparents (having lived through the Great Depression) threw nothing away.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m gen x, but received my fix-it gene from my grandfather. The man could fix anything! No really. 😉 My parents tend to either hire out a repair or replace. Tomorrow I will be picking up some wood glue and more sandpaper. My almost antique dresser was damaged in our last move, so I will be repairing it and it’s time to refinish it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. oh now i remember. I found out my bad cholesterol is at 208. Now I have no choice. I”m working out every day and have to be very choosy about what I eat until that number comes down. Blech. lol
    On a positive note, prunes have no fat in them whatsoever. I can have as many prunes as i want.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. But I also don’t keep much that isn’t getting used. If it’s not getting used, it goes to Good Will. Sometimes if something just needs new batteries but we don’t use it – it goes to good will too. We live in a small town where you can also put things out back and people will pick them up if they are interested in them.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Claudette, I’m like you. And if you ever need to read up on vacuum cleaners i bought a repair manual for them lol!!!!!!!!!!! I can mail it to you to borrow!!!! Girl after my own heart!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I repair everything I can. Unless it’s a particularly busy time and I’ve got piles of To Do Repairs piling up and it’s causing me stress. In which case,I have learned to toss them for the good of my (literal) sanity and wellbeing. It kills me to do it. Because I was influenced by depression survivor grandparents and because I hate to waste anything! Energy, time, efficiency, material objects! Money! But I have learned to make concessions for my stress levels.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. We can never get over this where we live – people buy everything new all the time. When our kids were little, we learned very quickly to accept donated toys, clothes, and whatever else. We weren’t precious at all, and our kids looked forward to sorting through a parcel of clothes that were new to them.

    It’s really disappointing when you are looking to get rid of things the kids have grown out of though – and discover that so few other families are like us. We took five perfectly good bicycles to the rubbish tip a year ago, because we couldn’t even give them away…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Exactly, Jonathan! I took a box of outgrown clothes to a neighbor once (and only that once!) because she was very obviously offended!!! And or just a snob. I would never turn down a box of free clothes! omg! That was a new one on me.
      My other neighbor however … she has a boy older than my youngest…and another one younger than my middle…. lol so we swap clothes back and forth multiple times!!!!! I send Josh’s stuff for henry, they get handed down to his brother, and then they come back here to my Alex!
      It’s the life! We didn’t have to start buying new clothes for Alex til just this year when both Wilie and the son of one of his dad’s friends got too skinny and we had to start shopping for alex’s sizes.That took seven years to get to that point!

      Liked by 2 people

  10. My parents used to be Frugal Fix Its. I think I may have reacted against that a bit when I was younger and been more wasteful, but the genes have risen to the surface now and I hate throwing away until something is well and truly done. I agree it feels bad to get rid of appliances. My partner is massively practical and can fix most things but eventually we have to get rid. I think it’s about being aware, passing on the frugal, fix it message to the kids and being thoughtful as to how we dispose of waste as best we can. Easier said than done, but that’s life!

    Liked by 2 people

  11. All these BIFL comments are exactly how I feel. Ironically my dishwasher just died and repair is like 500$ and while it looks great I realize it is 8+ years old I think. So will replace instead.
    We are taught daily to consume, replace perfectly good items with the latest and improved TVs, phones, computers via advertising. Apparently the Japanese culture is even more focused on new, and our newish stereos, furniture etc they would discard; there are no second hand stores in Japan.
    I believe each successive generation loses sight of lessons our grandparents learned in depression years.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I like to repair clothing or more likely send it to a seamstress as I am a terrible seamstress. My husband is very handy to fix things and I thank someone all the time that he can fix my computer; and the appliances. If not, we just buy but I like less, like LA.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. This is a tough one. I love the idea of fixing broken items, but honestly, the repair is often so costly…my dishwasher finally kicked off. I looked into repairing it…seriously…costs more than a new dishwasher and will take two weeks longer. I hate the idea of dumping things….but……I am a purger as well, and I try to donate as much of my stuff as possible, but still….sometimes my junk isn’t someone’s else’s treasure…sometimes it’s just junk. My main goal is to buy less….

    Liked by 3 people

  14. I’ve been looking at this from a similar perspective over the last few years. There are too many reasons to elaborate why, but the end result is more of a buy-it-for-life (BIFL) mentality. I can’t apply that mentality to half of my clothes, because my job/lifestyle chews them up and spits them back out, and I also like some variety in my wardrobe.

    However, I can apply the BIFL mentality to most of the rest of my life. My boots were fairly well researched before I chose them for their durability & repairability. Reddit has a forum (r/goodyearwelt) for shoes & boots made to last and I read the buying guide & many discussions to arrive at my choices of Chippewa & Bates.
    As we’ve been building a house that will require far more stuffs (mostly kitchen things: pots, pans, bakeware, flatware, dishes, etcetera), I’ve been diving into reddit’s r/BuyItForLife forum to choose kitchenware that is well made, functional, and durable.

    I’m sick of filling landfills with a bunch of Asian made plastic carp that will never biodegrade, it will only photodegrade and fill the bellies of future animals that think the bits of plastic might be food.

    I’ve noticed a number of young, hip people are starting to think in terms of buying it for life. I think the younger generation gets that we have got to stop the madness and save the planet, and we’re seeing them adopt things like stainless steel tumblers with stainless steel straws instead of using disposable paper or plastic cups every time they get thirsty

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I like this concept BIFL…. quality is key. The whole buy local movement plays into that.

      I love hand-me-downs for the kids. Makes something last longer, especially when it comes from a shopping loving family…I know their daughter probably didn’t wear it often, so it’s almost new. And I don’t have to shop, so double bonus! 🙃

      Liked by 2 people

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