April 18, 2018

Repair Cafe: Can We Fix It?

The worst case of planned obsolescence I have heard of concerns computer printers that have a "pre-programmed failure date" that shuts the device down after so many copies, or when a competitors ink cartridge is used.

Worst case, that is, until hearing that a popular cell phone company intentionally slowed their old phones down so that people would think they needed a new handset. Many people replaced their phones not knowing that all they needed was a new battery.

There is a rising swell of people that are sick and tired of the intentional throw-away economy. They want quality things that can be repaired, and that will last a long time.

A proactive response to all the cheap, made-to-fail crap is The Repair Café. Its objectives are to reduce waste, maintain repair skills, and strengthen social cohesion.

It was initiated by Martine Postma when she organized the first Repair Café in Amsterdam, on October 18, 2009. Fast forward to today, and there are over 1500 repair cafes around the world.

The following is from the Repair Cafe International website:

Repair Cafés are free meeting places and they’re all about repairing things (together). In the place where a Repair Café is located, you’ll find tools and materials to help you make any repairs you need, on clothes, furniture, electrical appliances, bicycles, crockery, appliances, toys, et cetera. 
You’ll also find expert volunteers, with repair skills in all kinds of fields. 
Visitors bring their broken items from home. Together with the specialists they start making their repairs in the Repair Café. It’s an ongoing learning process. 
If you have nothing to repair, you can enjoy a cup of tea or coffee. Or you can lend a hand with someone else’s repair job. 
You can also get inspired at the reading table – by leafing through books on repairs and DIY.

Any time something breaks, the first question should be, "Can we fix it?" Too often companies do not sell replacement parts, or give owners access to repair manuals, making repairs difficult.

The Right To Repair Movement is actively taking on this form of forced obsolescence, and demanding that rules change so that owners can fix the things they have paid for without corporate malfeasance.

Repair Cafes encourage people to "Fix It" before carelessly throwing out and buying new replacements. Not repairing when we can means perpetuating the cycle of disposability while supporting unscrupulous manufacturers.

Is there a Repair Cafe near you. Check the map here.

Or perhaps you would like to initiate a Repair Cafe in your own community. See here.

Welcome to the Repair Revolution. Fix it, don't nix it.


  1. Yes! Yes! Yes! Any time something breaks, my first question is "How can I fix this?" Sometimes though when something breaks really bad, I get this sinking feeling because I'm pretty sure it can't be fixed. Next is go to how can this be used for something else I need. The answers don't always come immediately, but the question does. Love the idea of Repair Cafe. Perfect. Thanks for linking it. There aren't any real close to me, but not all that far either. If I am in those towns, I will stop in. Starting one would be cool. I'll keep this in mind.

    PS Grrrr, those home printers are indeed designed to quit after a certain amount of usage. I am sure of it. They are designed to waste a lot of ink too. They won't work unless you replace the cartiridge even though it is still printing just find. And you have to replace a color that is out according to them out of ink or the printer won't work. It doesn't matter that you are not using the color that is out, the printer won't work at all unless you buy the ink they want you to buy. This is my biggest pet peeve. I do have a home printer for now. It was a gift. There is a reason for me to have one. But there will come a day when I will not own one.

    1. Terri,

      While researching printer kill chips I also learned about ink warning messages. It was found that in some cases there can still be 2/3 of the ink left, and an empty ink warning can still come up. That sounds like theft to me.

      If we ever need to print things out (which we have found is rare), we go to the public library.

  2. As long as nearly everything made/sold today comes from a publicly traded company whose investors demand increased profits every quarter this will never stop. People can complain all they want, but their voices fall on deaf ears. Our whole existence on earth now is to consume if we want to stay in the mainstream. Every company has a multi decade plan that ensures their future; don't like that your tech stuff has a built in time clock - then don't use it. Don't like DisgraceBook identifying you by your face and following you around the world? Then get off social media. Pissed off that Yahoo joined forces with AOL and another company and want you to sign "ACCEPT" that they can read your emails and follow what you're doing all day and then share it with other companies - then return to writing letters on paper, calling friends instead of emailing.
    NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. The technoization began decades ago with one goal in mind: make the human race not only dependent on technology, make them addicted to it. And, here we are. There is only one way for people to put the kibosh on this extremely sad and devastating path to destruction and that's to turn back the clock and start doing what people did BEFORE computers hit the mainstream. Anyone willing? No more emails, no more neck pain from walking and sitting around all day hunched over smart phones, no checking in on what your friends are doing and saying on social media, no texting, no using machinery and gadgets that have built in time clocks before they destruct. I don't know. You have to be a really tough individual and I'm not sure most people have it in them. I'm not on any social media, but I like Youtube (great for diversion when I'm on the treadmill). I don't have a smart phone, but I like texting my kids and knowing that they and my grandchild can get in touch with me at any time. I don't watch TV, but I love the internet - it's like instant college and I don't have to take a drive to the library and talk to someone in the research department or look through encyclopedias. We don't have a copier at home,but we use one in our office all the time.
    We've been snookered and there might not be a way back.

    1. Anonymous4/20/2018

      Very well-said, Deva. I left FB years ago, then returned to it about 10 months ago. I am able to see what friends are up to, but am skeptical of the value this adds to my days. I do not enjoy the feeling of being reachable during all my waking hours; it adds a low-level anxiety to the mix that I'd rather do without. Placing the phone in a drawer on weekends and not taking it with me on every errand is helpful for this. -Erin

    2. Deva,

      You bet - we are willingly going into something that has a very seedy underbelly. Just like radio and TV were co-opted for private profit, so with all the new technologies. The goal is profit, not the betterment of humanity. That should raise red flags.

      Linda and I do love the "instant college" aspect of the internet. We are very curious people that like to learn.

      I think you are right, though - Not Going To Happen. Most people will unable to resist the massive manipulation. It will be interesting to see how it all turns out.

    3. Erin,

      Low level anxiety is a killer. And we do need to ask some serious questions about the "value" added to our lives by new technology. How does knowing what my friends had for supper add value to my life? Our total distraction is beneficial to someone.

  3. Anonymous4/20/2018

    My husband refills the printer when the ink runs out.

    Recently we put new zippers in a portable greenhouse....it was a big job,took us a day and a half but now it's as good as new (almost)

    I fix the fabric stuff and he does everything else.My sons also fix stuff...though I still get their fabric stuff to fix.
    I like the idea of repair cafes, to teach people how to fix their belongings.Unfortunately there are none close to me.


    1. Marieann,

      It sounds like your home IS a Repair Cafe.

  4. My 'repair cafes' consist of my father and stepfather and mother, all of whom are incredibly handy in various skills that I've spent my life learning from. Between them and my now deceased grandparents, I've been blessed to gain lots of hands on knowledge of how to make, fix and up cycle things. I also agree with the comments above though regarding planned obsolesce and questioning what people/society are willing to give up. I suspect not much but I am cynical and would love to be proved wrong. Meanwhile I keep plodding on, in my semi luddite fashion, trying to keep at least some of the old ways going. I'm teaching our children the same skills and I do have a number of friends who are also well versed in repair etc. Perhaps all is not lost :)

    1. Anonymous4/21/2018

      Hi Karen
      I think people give up because there does not seem to be any way to make a change.

      Most of the products made today will not last and are difficult to repair, even when one has the skills, plastic parts can't be fixed.

      I try to buy older appliances at thrift stores or yard sales,and that won't be a solution for the majority. Learning to do without, another of my strategys, is also not a solution for most.

      I don't know where that leaves us semi-luddites.....just to keep going I guess.


    2. Karen,

      Yes! Another Home Repair Cafe.

      Moving forward we will have to make choices about what we are willing to give up. Repair skills will be very handy to have as we learn to cut our consumption.


      Learning to do without is my favourite strategy. I find it to be an enjoyable and challenging pursuit.

      Semi-Luddites time will come, perhaps sooner than we think.


Comments will be printed after moderation to eliminate spam. We are proudly a no buying, no selling website.

We enjoy reading all comments, and respond when time permits.

If you put a name to your comment we can all recognize you for your contribution.

Thank you for visiting and commenting.