The 4th R

I would like to propose a 4th “R” in our trio of Reduce-Reuse-Recycle.


Too often when things break, we toss ’em. The reason is that we just don’t want to fix it, we don’t know how to fix it, or we don’t care to fix it. Fixing it takes work! The other reason is that we like shopping. Our thought process goes something like this:

“Broken, no problem, I can get a new one. I actually wanted a new one anyway, because I can get the one with this added feature and that added feature that my old one did not have. In fact, now that I think about it, I am kind of glad that it broke, since now I have an excuse to go shopping.”

Well I am about 2 weeks into a 3-month shopping ban, so that kind of logic is not going fly. So I have to either get it fixed, or live without.

As it turns out, I have fixed 4 things this weekend alone, all toys. Mama’s toy repair shop is going strong. Here is a sampling of my work:

Here we have a ballerina whose left leg was smashed to smithereens, a dollar-store crocodile whose leg snapped off as I was trying to cram it into a toy drawer, a Gormiti named Fiery Angel whose fiery wing had broken off, and finally, Tinkerbelle’s dainty slipper that had lost its pom-pom.  It is quite the assortment, yes.  Like I have said before, we have way too many toys in our house.  For this motley crew, I just added a little glue here and a little glue there, and they were good to go.

I know, I know, these are relatively easy fixes (except for little miss ballerina, this was a multi-stage process over several days, as there were so many pieces to put back together).  But what happens when the dishwasher breaks, or my cell phone?  Well if we don’t know how to repair it ourselves, then we will get someone who does.  My husband’s cell phone is in the repair shop as we speak!  Mending clothes instead of buying new ones, replacing component parts of a vacuum cleaner instead of getting a new one, getting a garden hose kit to fix the leak… these are things that our grandparents did all the time, our parents even.  Yet we don’t.  It is easier to replace. 

Some of it is not our fault, as many products have built in obsolescence.  The suppliers are depending on the probability that if it breaks, we will buy it again.  Sometimes the cost of replacing it is even less than fixing it.  So they are also to blame in this equation.  It seems like our whole culture is programmed to value disposal over retention, as Tyler from Intercon so eloquently points out. 

So how does this sound? Reduce-Repair-Reuse-Recycle.

Can you think of any other Rs? 


Better yet – Refuse?


6 thoughts on “The 4th R

  1. Our society thrives on consumerism and to keep the rate of buying high, products are not made well, certainly not made well enough to withstand children! I love the idea of repairing when possible, and not necessarily replacing if not. Our finances and the environment will thank us for it!

    • Yes, consumerism is a drug we just can’t get off. But does the stuff actually make us happy? I feel good at the time, looking at it, considering it, buying it. But then I get it home and I have to find a home for it, and then am left with the bag, the packaging… I quickly forget that I even bought it and move on to the next… What is the point?

  2. I’m getting better about mending. Although I don’t particularly enjoy it, if I lay out all my sewing stuff and put on a movie, I can usually plow through a couple hems, buttons, and patches by the time the movie’s over.

    I like ‘refuse.’ And how about ‘rethink’? If I really want something, I’ll go home and wait a few days, and if I still want it enough to go to the bother of returning to the store (which is fairly rare, actually), I’ll get it.

    • Yes, it is good to batch process, I agree. Today I noticed a small hole in the sock I was wearing. So I took the pair off and put another pair on. Another small hole. I took them off too. Then I held the four socks in my hand and considered… do I just throw these four socks in the garbage? Normally I would just totally toss them. Then I thought… what about darning these small holes? Darning! Is that crazy? I have never darned a sock in my LIFE.

  3. What fantastic points you made. I especially like your last suggestion of Refuse.

    There really is that problem, though, that so many things simply CANNOT be repaired because of the way they are built. And also it is getting harder and harder for us to find people who know how to repair (no appliance repairmen anymore where we are, no parts available to fix a 3 year old washing machine, computer chips in coffeemakers of all things.

    And how many of us put off our repairing chores because of not having a good space in which to do it? For instance, right now, because of energy issues, there are 3 humans and 2 shar-peis living in my living room and kitchen. Sleeping, eating, schoolwork, research, artwork, bread-baking, weaving… It is CROWDED! and I just keep putting off trying to drag out my sewing/mending as well!

    Personally, I think that a well organized and accessible work area that does not have to be completely put away would help a lot of us to be better repairers. I know it would help me.

    I want to start using tools that don’t break down rather than machines that do. I think that would go a long way toward decreasing the problems with repairs. But good tools can be harder for us to find than cheap machines. Can’t remember the time I saw a decent percolater. But a $20.00 coffee maker? Everywhere!

    Love your idea of a 3 month shopping ban ( I assume that excludes groceries?) Gerry and I have a no shopping month planned for February that does include groceries and animal feed. Hope we can!

  4. I like to DIY home improvements and do repairs around the house but when it comes to geek stuff, I am lost.

    The user manual is hardly useful for troubleshooting. And the staff at service centers are almost pushing you to buy a new product due to their lack of technical knowledge, spare parts or ridiculous quotes for repair.

    Your slogan of Reduce-Repair-Reuse-Recycle strikes a chord in me, it will go a long way towards a more environmentally friendly planet but the conglomerates are not going to like it. They prefer us to be disposing things and creating tons and tons of waste annually.

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