Make Do And Mend

In the modern world, what we usually do when things break is throw them out and replace them with something new. It’s unsurprising that we’ve developed this attitude, since these days, things quickly become obsolete. For example, manufacturers purposely build things which don’t last, making them difficult to fix so that people will replace them instead. And the availability of cheap products on the Internet often makes it more financially viable to replace something than to repair it.

Understandable though it may be, this attitude isn’t a sustainable one. Many resources are finite; we can’t keep pulling them out of the planet and manufacturing things forever. Meanwhile, huge quantities of defunct products are piling up in landfill sites worldwide, where they’ll likely sit for decades or even centuries. This simply can’t continue.

What’s needed is a change in the way we think about our possessions. Rather than asking “Which brand shall I get this time?”, perhaps we ought to be asking “Do I really need to replace that?”

This is especially true of things which are nice to have but ultimately unnecessary, like fancy kitchen gadgets. For example, if your electric mixer breaks, you might realise you can manage just fine with a fork – especially if you don’t cook much.

I’m a big fan of making do with things which are old or battered. For me, this is particularly applicable to technology – in this day and age, we’re very quick to replace gadgets which are seen as outdated, even if they still function perfectly well.

My phone, for instance, is about five years old. It has a tiny screen which makes typing somewhat difficult, along with several chips from being dropped so many times over the years! But it still functions well, and I have no intention of replacing it anytime soon.

Over the past few months, I’ve made the decision not to buy any new clothes for the foreseeable future, and instead to make do with the ones I already have. It just makes sense; I really don’t need any more! By buying less, I’ll save space and money, and help the environment too.

Mending things is harder for me, since I don’t feel as if I have the necessary skills. Having said that, I do sew up my clothes when they rip, and my airer is currently held together with sticky tape! The latter may not be a viable long-term solution, but it has at least extended the airer’s lifespan somewhat. There’s always the option to pay to get things repaired, of course, or call in a skilled friend or family member.

If you can’t or aren’t prepared to make do with what you have, consider getting something second-hand if possible. Ask friends and family, check Freecycle, visit charity shops or use eBay. You might even end up saving something from the tip.

Also, dispose of unwanted possessions responsibly – try to give them away, sell them, recycle them or make them into something new.

Making do with what you have is a lot like using the bus rather than owning a car; it may be less convenient and less glamourous, but it’s far better for the environment and much cheaper too. Though this lifestyle may take some getting used to, it ultimately feels really good to tread more lightly on the Earth – especially when you realise you also have more money in your pocket.

There’s a reason people lived this way during the war; they knew the resources they had were finite. We ought to recognise that this is still true today – it’s just less obvious.

Do you make do with any old or worn possessions? Or maybe you mend things to make them last longer? If so, I’d love to hear about it!

9 comments / Add your comment below

  1. One of my co-workers recently had her two-year-old front-loading washing machine start making loud noises. She had a repair person come to look at it, and what she told me about her experience made me really angry!

    Apparently, there is nothing in her machine’s owner manual about how much soap to use in the machine, and there is a “maximum” soap indicator on the machine itself. So she would just fill to the “maximum’ line, thinking all was well.

    It turns out that she should only have been using two tablespoons of soap, maximum, in the machine. But the “maximum” line far exceeded that! And apparently, using too much soap damages some of the bearings in the machine, so that the drum comes loose and can even fall off.

    So, that’s bad enough. It seems really awful to me that the manufacturer didn’t make very, very clear how much soap to use if using too much causes so much damage!

    What makes things worse is that the cost to repair the machine is about what it would be to purchase a new one!

    Now, if it were me, I would have told the repair person to go ahead and fix it, because if it can be repaired, it should be. However, my co-worker has opted to buy a new one. So now not only does she have to pay for a new one, but she has to pay to have someone take away the old one–to sit in a landfill somewhere, no doubt–and to also have a new one delivered because it won’t fit in her vehicle.

    You are so right in saying this just isn’t sustainable. I remember the days when I could take a toaster or other small appliance in to have it fixed. Now, nobody does small appliance repair or if they do, they tell you it’s so expensive you might as well just buy a new one. We can’t go on like this. I prefer to just fix things wherever possible.

    Thanks for the post!




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  2. I always try and mend something before no longer using it. My sewing skills are limited, so far I have only fixed small holes, buttons, and patches.




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  3. I got my 12 year old casual winter coat professionally stitched when the lining tore badly as sewing is not my skill. I do basic button sewing and small rips.




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  4. hey bethany!

    i’m reading your post at a perfect time, because i also wrote about how people quickly put their things to waste. as you, i only ditch my stuff when i can’t find other uses for them.

    i don’t know how to sew either. but it’s no my things to learn list.

    i’d love if you’d stop by my blog, as i write about simple living as well. (:




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