DEB’S DAY OUT – Fix It, Don’t Throw It!

by Deborah Roger –

It’s not all glamorous gigs! I’m heading in a different direction for my Day Out this month. A reader invited me to try the newly launched North Saanich Repair Café: the answer to a question that one of the volunteer organizers, Marlyn, posed herself at a Zero Waste workshop: What can I do to make a positive impact?

Forewarned, I came prepared for my visit at St John’s United Church with an item that needed fixing. I knew that there would be someone with a sewing machine, someone who could investigate small electrical appliances, and some general “fixers” who could tackle almost anything.

Most people’s houses are cluttered with items that we don’t know what to do with any more, with one small part that needs fixing but we don’t have the tools, skills or sometimes just the patience to sort it out ourselves. I found a waterproof jacket with a broken zipper, an electric lawn mower that wouldn’t charge, a wooden chair with a broken strut and a blind with a broken mechanism. I decided to take the blind along as it seemed the thing that would be most expensive to replace (it was custom cut for the window and is part of a matching pair) and to be honest, it’s been broken for a long time – clearly I wasn’t about to fix it myself!

At check in, a helpful (masked) volunteer outlined what “customers” can expect, and had me complete a short form detailing the repair needed. I was directed to take my broken blind to Carol, who is a dab hand at general repairs. She’s volunteered at other Repair Cafés, and had an array of glues and tools at her station ready to tackle anything. She’s motivated by a love of problem solving, but also by frustration at the system that makes so many things disposable or seemingly cheaper to replace than repair. I’m with Carol on that; it feels like a swindle to throw out my whole blind (and in fact probably two as they are a set) for the sake of a small, broken … well, whatever it is! Optimism turned to disappointment however when Carol couldn’t make the winding mechanism move.

Did we give up and throw that blind out? No, of course not! At the next table was Kurt. He also admitted to having no specific qualifications other than a love of tinkering with things and years of experience in his own home. Kurt took another look. We looked at the winder together. We tutted and sighed at the construction, and I prepared myself to write a slightly boring article about failing to get something repaired at the Repair Café. And then, ta-dah, Kurt had done it! I had looked away at the critical moment but apparently a little poking with a pair of long-nose pliers and the winder was winding again!

On the adrenaline scale I admit this is low stakes, but there was a wave of energy and enthusiasm in the room when the fix was confirmed. At a station nearby someone was having an electric toaster repaired and outside a happy “customer” had a tuned-up bike. Everyone I spoke with felt very well looked after. I felt the same. Such a small thing really, but something was fixed; connections were made, one more thing was kept out of the landfill. I’ll be back for sure. Keep an eye out on community notice boards for details of the next event or email

What do you want to see Deb do next? Email with your ideas or an invitation!
Photo by Janis Jean Photography

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