Fix Your Stuff: Repair Cafes, Fix-It Collectives, and Free Online Repair Manuals

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These days when you inquire about repairing something, you’re often confronted with a $50-$100 minimum diagnostic charge with no guarantee that it’ll be fixed. Combine this with carefully planned obsolescence by the manufacturers, and it’s no wonder that people tend to throw things away rather than fix them.

I was reading an AARP magazine article (yes, I read AARP magazine) about a growing chain of Repair Cafes in Amsterdam, where volunteers gather and help you repair your things from appliances to furniture to mending clothing. I think it’s a great idea for people to share their skills and help each other out in the community. Also profiled recently in the NY Times. My skilled 4-Her wife mends my clothing all the time, albeit reluctantly as she’d rather me look like I fell out of a J. Crew catalog…

I was also happy to find out that there are some local groups in the US doing similar things. It might be cool to volunteer at one, even if just to learn how to fix various things.

There are also many online guides to fixing your own stuff. Check out, their Self-Repair Manifesto, and their goal to make a free repair manual for every device out there from cars to iPhones.


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  1. Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager says:

    You can also find great how to videos on YouTube.

  2. I love this idea! You have me thinking about starting a “mend it” clinic teaching people how to mend their clothes. People throw away clothing much too quickly – our thrift stores and third world countries are inundated with piles of clothes. Teaching people a few simple mending techniques could dramatically reduce this wasteful habit. Thanks so much for the idea!


  3. The toughest part is DIY repair is usually the beginning due to fear. But wow, once you get past that and actually learn, the reward (knowledge + saving) is tremendous.

    Recently, I spent the time following a guide on how to tear apart my vehicle and, in the process, I discovered how to remove/replace something that literally costs $1,000 (that’s just labor *alone*) if I went to a dealership. For something that takes 30 minutes to do.

    So the benefit to learning DIY repair is there. If only things such as ‘Repair Cafes’ were more common, I’m sure much more of the populace would become involved.

  4. You are my HERO!!! I always try to fix things first. Thanks for the info on what’s available onlie! The idea of sharing skills (I’m a 4-Her too!) is awesome. I may look into forming a collective to repair stuff. One thought; is it possible that the “digital” motor, button, dial etc could be programed to insert a virus at a certain point to render the item useless? Think about it…..

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