The Fix Is In

Today’s guest post is from Linda in St. Paul.

I’ve never gone to college, because I’ve never been sure what kind of degree I should work toward in this way-too-modern world we live in. If I could design my own course of study, I might choose to pursue a degree in The Almost-Lost Art of Fixing Things.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve been an avid fan of the Fix-It clinics in the Twin Cities metro area. Volunteers gather in a community meeting place and invite residents to bring in stuff that needs fixing. In a spirit of helpfulness, these volunteers bring an amazing array of tools and expertise to bear on the problems of our lives – the once-useful, now broken, torn, malfunctioning things that are one step away from becoming junk. Whatever you have that has one foot in the landfill, there is someone there with a sewing machine or soldering iron at the ready, just waiting for you.

The salvaged saucepan, simmering.
The salvaged saucepan, simmering.

As I write this, I have some rice simmering in a favorite saucepan that was salvaged not once, but twice. I fished it out of a “FREE” box at a garage sale years ago and mended its broken handle. Last month the handle gave way again, and this time the old bolt that had been holding it in place was so rusted I couldn’t remove it to replace it. The saucepan became a candidate for Fix-It attention.

All zipped up.
All zipped up.

At the Longfellow Park Rec Center, a volunteer named Gary supplied a center punch and a metal-cutting drill bit that dispatched the offending bolt. It was just a matter of replacing the hardware, and my saucepan was back in business. At the same clinic, volunteer Corey helped me take apart a moribund TV remote and clean the battery connections to bring it back to life. At past Fix-It events, I’ve had help reviving a recalcitrant smoothie mixer, a worn extension cord, a wobbly gazing ball stand, a noisy oscillating fan, and a non-responsive leaf vac. Not to mention the chainsaw that was adjusted and several wonky zippers put right.

No one makes any money off these repairs, but there is a satisfaction payoff that can’t be adequately quantified. A job well done doesn’t necessarily have a price tag.

What lost arts would you like to revive?

87 thoughts on “The Fix Is In”

  1. Good morning. Nice post on the fix-it clinics, Linda. I have heard of them and haven’t made use of them. I should.

    Seed saving is a lost art that I know about which should be revived. There has been an effort to revive seed saving that got a big boost with the formation of the Seed Savers Exchange more than 30 years ago. However, seed saving is still more or less one of the lost arts which is still not widely practiced. I have been able to help a few people get involved with seed saving and have found that many others who i thought might enjoy seed saving are not interested in becoming seed savers.

    For me, seed saving is a basic part of gardening. Seed saving became a lost art with the advent of industrialized gardening and farming. Gardeners and farmers have become dependent on companies that produce the seeds they use and have tuned away from producing any of their own seeds. I buy some of my seeds from seed companies and I am glad i can do this. Never-the -less, as I see it, gardeners should raise some of their own seeds as well as buying seeds because they loose too much by leaving seed production completely in the hands of seed companies.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I’d love to learn seed saving, once I’ve really learned gardening itself. I’m still at the “throw seeds in the ground and be astonished they grow!” stage.

      Liked by 2 people

        1. And then there’s the anticipation of seeing the envelope, turning it over, opening it up and slipping out the missive, just for you!

          Liked by 3 people

    1. I had the exact same thought when I first read the question. The art of the “thank you” note is easy to master and always appreciated. Sad that it is a dying art.

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    1. I’d like to volunteer the next time there’s a clinic in St. Paul, but I’m not sure how helpful I can be. Part of it is having the knowledge and spatial skills, but it’s also about having the right tools.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I have to say my first lost art is the one you have written about, Linda.

    Love fixing things, but it does take time and tranquility sometimes. Both things I am short on.

    I’d like to think the fine art of getting a meal on the table “from scratch” is not a lost art, but along with rewiring a lamp, it has become more of a folk art, something you learn from family, or pay to take up as hobby.

    I hear a good bit about how we are no longer an agrarian society, so maybe the school year does not need to be scheduled around planting and harvest, but we are still an eating society, and I do wish there was some expectation that food must be prepared as well as consumed.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I grew up farming this way. There were wonderful things about it, but the effort was long. I debated at exactly age 25 trying to raise my family that way. While the way my parents farmed was old-fashioned then, and in 1970 you could reduce the effort with more modern machinery and technique, it would still have been much work. Still today it would. So to do it I would have had to still teach (teaching would be a good job to have to raise your own food), but I would have had to work as hard as an adult as I did as a child while still teaching. Every time I thought it through it came back to that. And I had an infant son at age 25. I asked how hard I would expect him to work and if I would be as impatient a father as my father had been, which I would have been.
      Now I could have raised much less of our food than did my parents, but not on the North Shore. If I were going to do it to any degree, I would have had to move us to some place with better soil and better weather and better access to farming equipment, etc. To leave the shore was too hard.
      So I backed off. Considering how bad Sandy’s health became, it was a lucky decision. She could have not have helped with anything and no matter what I would have done, I would have increased her workload and now I would have been teacher, farmer, and to some degree farm wife.
      Does anyone have a fix-it for vertigo?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. But, yes that whole way of life is almost lost. Part of that way of life is always running a fix-it clinic. you have to be able to do everything: mechanical, carpentry, wiring, leather work, rope work, fencing, and on and on. I did learn almost all those skills and used them through my life to fix so much of our things. But farming that way means adding fix-it work to what you do everyday.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. My mom had really bad vertigo once on a trip to visit us. After a half a day in the hospital, a doctor came in, made her lay down w/ her head over the edge of the bed and moved her head and neck around, said something about “dislodged cones” and then left. My mom said it was like a miracle.

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        1. Interesting. My whole spine is very bad; my neck is delicate. So no way am I trying that. This is an ear issue it seems to me, inner ear. Appt. at 10

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        2. I asked my doctor about it; he named it. But he like everyone says we do the least we can to strain my neck. He did some maneuvers to see if he could induce the vertigo, lying funny and twisting my head around to the side, but told me to stop him if my neck hurt. We could not do it.
          I may go to PT and they will do some things, maybe that, but they are more afraid of my neck than my doctor is.

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      3. Raising everything would be really tough and take more land than we have (and would probably also necessitate going back to eating meat here in the northland).

        I’m not a great gardener, but I do love getting at least something out of the yard (for those of you who remember the Good Friday potato planting, I squirrelled out the first Yukon Golds this week- they were in fact, that good). I also live in a vegetable gardening neighborhood, this is simply what one does, or at least it used to be.

        I guess I was more referring to the current mode of life that does not assume that there must be time to PREPARE a meal, eat it at the table, then clean up afterwards with time to actually sit and do an activity of your choice before calling it a day. There is no time during regular waking hours that is not fair game for “scheduling”. (Our church has sort of solved this by serving a meal on Wednesdays, when all the choir practices and a lot of meetings take place-no one has time to PREPARE the meal, so it is hired in).

        I’m sure some Baboons do have this time in their lives and I congratulate you.

        I do my utmost to actually make the food we eat from raw materials, not just reheat, add water or dish up, partly because the food budget does not allow a lot of “prepared” food or eating out, partly because I have this idea that preparing food is something one ought to be able to do for oneself. I make ahead and freeze, I crockpot, I leave the dishes unwashed at night.

        It would be “easier” and tidier if we just used the drive-though on our way and ate in the car, but I just can’t do it (and really, drive-thru vegetarian fare? How many veggie burgers at the 2 places that serve them can you eat in a week?)

        Liked by 2 people

        1. oddly, and maybe this is because my generation remembers this fondly or because of the economy, or because the time line between fully independent and, well, dead, is getting longer (more than one answer may be correct), I see multi-generational communities coming back. 3 generation households, parents moving to be closer to adult children, or in our case, informal adoption by an older neighbor.

          it is, as they say, a good thing.

          Liked by 3 people

        2. My CA grandson lives with mother, father, grandmother, and an aunt. He is in constant contact with many cousins of various ethnic mixes, another aunt, a great aunt and uncle (babysiters where he plays with coiusins and others), two distant cousins, and two very close family friends.

          Liked by 2 people

  3. Our throw-away attitude is one of our worst cultural features. Nothing is fixed and things are made not to be fixed so you will go buy a new one.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. We see this in refrigerators. They don’t allow you to clean the elements anymore. They don’t even make it possible! They bury them in back or in some inaccessible place.
        So if you never clean them it’s not going to last 20 years like they used too.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. i suggest we begin a deposit type of program. the old coke bottle mentality. when the bottles had a deposit associated there was a value and they were returned 90% of the time. they did away with the deposit and the bottle recycling by morals went into effect and out the window. if in order to get a new toaster you needed to bring in the old one or pay a 25 dollar deposit it would be good. they do it with batteries. cr parts cars, appliances but if you need a new hair dryer or curling iron computer or skill saw, no one ever asks for the old one which could be repaired in two seconds by the likes of lindas mentors at the clinics. thses items could go to the world of those who understand the cvalue of squeezing every last drop of life out of the circle of life rsther than throwing in the towel and heading for wal mart for another widget. is it 25% or 40% of all food gets thrown out? how many times have you been to a meeting where they have way too much food and it sits ther for 4 hours until the meeting is over and the remains go into the trash because it sat outr for 4 hours. it would be so easy to have a worthy destination lined up.
      we could fix potholes in front of our own house and take a tax deduction we should tax the abusers of resources wasted or irrevocably polluted.
      if you thought about fixing it up and were put in a position to pay higher duty on throw out crap than on finely tooled refurbishable merchandise we could reintroduce the concept of craftsmanship vs cheap junk throw away society with landfills overflowing with memorabilia trinkets and knock knacks

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Rise and Repair Baboons!

    I love this post, Linda–as the ‘boons who posted replies before me, I also rue the throw away attitude we all now display.

    Meanwhile, my lost arts are the family mealtime, ala MIG, as well as canning. I have not revived canning and preserving, because I just never stopped doing it. I have been canning tomatoes, tomato soup, and making jam from local fruit and wild fruit since various wise old ladies taught me these things.

    My great aunts used to go wild morel hunting, too. That they talked about, but they never got around to training me. Man do I regret that one!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Weirdly, I’m intrigued by flax spinning and linen weaving. There’s been a big revival of wool spinning in the last decade, but flax is even more time-consuming than wool to prepare, and a lot of land is required for the fiber for even one shirt. Flax spinning is. of course, an heirloom skill (all the spinning wheels and distaffs in fairy tales? Used for processing flax), and it’s a vegan-friendly fiber art. Flax is also sacred to Frigg and Holda, and weaving to Athena, for what it’s worth.

    I’ve mentioned before that I’m a big fan of The Archdruid Report and John Michael Greer’s writing. He strongly advocates re-learning old skills–very big on repair, btw, as well as organic gardening and home brewing (he is a Druid, after all!)–and passing them on. “Learn one thing, give up one thing, save one thing” is his mantra: http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2012/06/collapse-now-and-avoid-rush.html.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yes, I’ve come to dread all elections, especially the presidential ones. Election day itself is quite energizing and fun. But oh, those long, long months leading up to it.

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  6. In my lifetime I have been the confused, sad witness to this trend toward disposing of things rather than repairing them. I was born in a time when objects had value and were often repaired: watches, fountain pens, shoes, radios. It still jolts me now to see how five-year-old computers and television sets are chucked in the trash. That’s not the way I was raised.

    I think this tendency to throw things away and replace them when they are imperfect is affecting our human relations. When something goes wrong with a relationship, it is often easier to dispose of it and hope to replace it with one that is newer and presumably better. I’m old fashioned enough to think a broken relationship should be repaired whenever possible. Broken relationships, if healed, can be stronger than new ones.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. then again once you realize you bought the wrong car/pair of shoes or line of bs it is better to cut bait and move on. a relationship or appliance beyond repair should be recycled and a new course set for the new horizons to be reached out to. keep the dusenberg trash the yugo is my motto

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  7. Lots of depth today. Thank you all.
    I think a big lost art is generalism–we have specialized everything. We do not appreciate generalists.
    Nor do we much appreciate the value of handcraft by others or doing it ourselves. It was an odd person in my youth who did not have a craft. I am not saying they were all masters, nor did they always expect themselves to be. But they DID SOMETHING for the sake of DOING SOMETHING.
    The idle hand is the devil’s playground, or maybe today our idle hands are a tool of the powerful and super-rich. The idle mind is the the American voter.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d love to revive the lost art of listening. Really listening – without interrupting – and actually paying attention to what is being said. Seems to be practiced by fewer and fewer people these days.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. I used to teach listening skills as a Christian skill, listening to your neighbor. A part of the process is to suspend judgment, at least temporarily, which a few attendees objected to vehemently. But a few people have honed and practiced the skill. Maybe I will do a blog on the topic of teaching listening.

        Liked by 7 people

  8. My father was a master rope-worker. He could not only splice and tie all kinds of knots, but he could make things like halters.It was a wonderful skill to have as a farmer. I would have asked him to teach me, but that would not have gone well. But thing of the useful and fun applications you could generate from those skills.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. My dad was a master rope worker as well, Clyde. A lot of sailors were (perhaps they still are?). I still have a trivet he made. Back in the late sixties early seventies, macrame was all the rage, and I learned to appreciate all the useful stuff you could make out of twine and rope. I’ll grant you that a lot of pretty awful stuff was made too, and I’ll have to confess that I contributed to that category as well.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Agreed, Clyde. I’ve only learned a few knots, and yet knowing just a few can be surprisingly pleasing. My dad taught me the bowline. “There’s a hole by the base of a tree. The rabbit grazes his way behind the tree. Along comes a hound. The rabbit hops down the hole.” What an elegant, useful knot!

      Liked by 1 person

    3. There is this. Some things cannot be learned from some parents.

      I can teach/expose the s&h to literature, history, film, long division. We enjoy this.

      Hand work is tougher. Part interest lack on his side, part perfectionism on mine-then there is the lefthand/righthand disconnect.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We required very little work of our children, for a variety of reasons, such as my son is allergic to curt grass and because I had trouble over making them do simple chores, which seemed so insignificant compared to my childhood. The result is that our two children are workaholics. Genetics or watching their workaholic parents?

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      2. You just gave me an idea for a guest blog, mig.

        I’ve been pleasantly surprised at our ability to sustain TB without our Dear Leader carrying such a burden (although his continued cooperation is critical to the enterprise, as we all know). I feel my best guest blogs were those I offered up years ago. And that’s a danger. My new conviction is that it is worthwhile to sustain the health of TB, even if I have to write some daily blogs that are less than wonderful.

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  9. The lost art of sewing. They don’t really teach kids how to sew in school, except maybe a straight seam. I do see that moms today don’t have time to sew. As several have pointed out, they barely have time to make dinner.

    Thanks to Linda, I have gone to a few Fix-it clinics – we even took my mom’s electronic piano in to see if they could un-stick some of the keys. The young man’s comment was: “Wow, I haven’t seen one of these since the late 90s!” Took him a while, but he was able to improve it.
    I see that the July 11 Clinic is right here in Robbinsdale. Busy day here, but I’ll try and re-arrange the schedule.

    It is a totally different mindset than kids are growing up with today. I’d like to have a program for school age kids that would show them how many things can be fixed instead of tossed. Wait, I’ll put that on my list of things to do when I run out of things to do.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I recently added a ruffle to the bottom of a dress for Daughter and made a pinafore/apron to match the ruffle (for a “pioneer/one-room-schoolhouse” day camp Daughter attended a couple weeks back). I was surprised by the number of folks who thought this was an amazing or unusual feat. It was just a bit of sewing…

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Liam asked, “Grampy, why do you sit in that chair that has a hole in it?” I told him I need to have the chair fixed, but it isn’t an easy thing to find the right fixer. When I do this, I hope to help him understand that while it might be cheaper to replace the chair, that isn’t necessarily better than fixing it.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. The art of goofing off. In our hurry-up and have-every-minute planned culture, we lose track of the joys of doing nothing. Sitting and watching the clouds pass. Being bored. Making up a game because “there isn’t anything to do.” It’s a status symbol to be “too busy.” Bah. A pox on it I say. Take a nap. Ignore the weeds and read a book. Spend an hour staring at a lake with your feet in the water. I have told Daughter more than once that I refuse to put too many things in her calendar, that being bored from time to time is good for the imagination and the soul. I have a colleague who admires that I take days off from work to “do nothing” – not take a trip, not go anywhere, sit at home and “do nothing” (though he can’t quite bring himself to do the same). As working adults we say we will relax when we are retired…well, I’m not waiting until then. Goofing off a bit every week is good for you, I say. It’s a craft and a discipline – you can’t allow yourself to fret about what isn’t “getting done” or the goofing off doesn’t quite work. Go forth and spend a day where if someone asks you’re going “nowhere” and doing “nothing.”

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Here’s my problem with this-there are too many books in tbe library and I can’t take reading seriously as doing “nothing”.

      And as you may all recall, I am a chronic list maker almost never without a book.

      On the up side, I cannot remember the last time I was bored.

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  12. Thank you, Linda — I have never heard of a Fix-It Clinic, but what a wonderful service! Luckily, I married a sort of fix-it guy, as Jim likes to mess with stuff and take things apart. I can’t get him to do dishes or clean when I ask, but all I have to do is mention something isn’t working or a drawer is stuck and he’s on the case. While cleaning our townhome recently for son’s graduation party, Jim finally parted with loads of old electronics, circuit boards, cables, cell phones, junk, etc., that’s he held on to for decades. He found a place nearby where he could safely recycle most of these items and even get money for them. In order to get paid for circuit boards, they have to be freed from the plastic casing it’s in. He’s currently unemployed, so he took the time and had most of the right tools to get the naked circuit boards out of whatever device they were in.

    I love the other Baboon’s ideas above for seed saving, gardening, cooking, sewing, listening, etc. It’s just a shame that fulltime jobs are sooo time-consuming and get in the way of what I would really like to do!

    I agree our throw-away culture is such a shame, although i am guilty of the same myself. Although manufacturers do not make it easy. Jim had bought a cheap little coffeepot from WalMart. After a month, it stopped working, so he tried to fix it. One tiny, cheap electronic part had burned out. He bought a replacement part for about a buck and it was shipped from China or something. So he bought another cheap coffeepot so he could have coffee while waiting for the part to arrive in a couple weeks from China. So now we have 2 cheap coffeepots — sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t.

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  13. I’d like to revive my piano playing, especially because I have a white baby grand facing the lake. Buying it was, as Roseanne once said, my “grand Prozac moment”. I’d been on the med for many years, then decided I didn’t need it any longer and simply stopped taking it. What came next was a brief, manic state in which I felt as though I could do anything at all.

    I took out our life savings to go buy a better used car. On the way, I passed a Schmidt music store and turned around. I’d always wanted a white baby grand, so I walked in, pointed at one, and said, “I’ll buy it!”
    In this manic state, I truly believed that plenty of money would be coming my way to replace the cost of the piano.

    To this day, I’m reminded daily that going cold turkey off a medication cost me $7500 twenty years ago.

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  14. On fixing technique:
    My oldest younger brother and I are excellent fixers. We love getting something back in good working order and have both had careers where that ability has served us well, as waiting for the actual repair person would have been costly in time and money.

    We get this from my mother’s father, I am convinced, even though we never met him. He was a mechanic and had the local sawmill and threshing crew.

    A paternal aunt remarked that she would not even consider taking apart a sink and redoing it (I had recently done so) as she simply had no gift fot that sort of thing, even though her dad was always fixing and building.

    He was a farmer. He did it of necessity and did it to get it done, and if you looked at things on the farm, you could see that. Sturdy, stable and done. Brother and I take a more craftsmanly approach and will research how to “really” fix something.

    It isn’t a superior position by any means (see:things I need to get to in the basement), just how we’re wired.

    My brother does not have the pileup I do in his workshop, but that is due to factors beyond this discussion.

    One of my paternal

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  15. A plethora of homey ideas, ‘boons! I visited a fixit clinic once and they un-jammed my printer. It had become jammed when I attempted to recycle a not-entirely-flat piece of paper. It was a sweet experience. Everyone was so nice and you got to ring a bell as you left if the fixer was successful.
    O.T. I’m back from BelovedCamp (blog post is brewing) and now I’m off to company HQ in SC to help convert 20 year old software to something more contemporary. One of my far-less-than-stellar colleagues made a huge mistake last Friday and there was some danger that it would put the whole thing off. Since my retirement hinges on a successful conversion, I was worried. This week will be both terrifying and boring (though I will use all skills available to avoid boredom.

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  16. The Pioneer Press has had quite a discussion lately in its Bulletin Board column about darning socks. Although there are those who sew and embroider and knit, almost no one darns socks anymore. I do have a book, though, in which the author shows how to mend a hole in a sock with a crochet stitch. She says it’s stretchier and more comfortable than a traditional darned patch. I’m thinking I may have to learn to crochet.

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    1. the art of conversation. it is dying. the young people of today dont get it. they sort of understand the concept but it is like trying to teach a blind man to weld. its hard when the main componats dont line up. the tools are not familiar and the culture of the times offers little or no insight on how it works. movies and tv shows tend to be seasame street 30 second attention span based where action jackson is jumping this way and that and conversations are slam bam thank you ma’am
      discussing without preaching listening without an agenda sharing thoughts and opinions working through a set of factors to come to an educated conclusion. what a concept of the era gone by.
      i used to feel bad for my sons and their friends who thought quoting lines form a movie was like having a conversation until i realized that they really thought this and then i got incensed instead of sad. how can a whole generation miss out on the art of conversation. they talk at you or to you not with you.
      nice topic linda.well done.
      shudder to think of how many hours of repair i have in my repair pool at the warehouse on things i saved to fix ne of these days rather than trashing it out. hope i ge to it one of these days. its good therapy but tough to squeeze intot he program these days.

      Liked by 1 person

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