Saturday, January 11, 2014

De-cluttering - What about the old philosophies? - #2

Old philosophy #2: If it is broken, you should keep it until you can find a way to fix it.

I once read something like this, "Throw away all the broken toys and other broken items in your home." Do what??  I thought it was heresy or something. (I've since changed my mind a bit.) 

My husband and I were both brought up with the philosophy that "if it's broken, you fix it". If you don't have the skills to fix it, you pay someone else to fix it. Or, you save it until you can learn how to fix it, or until you can get the parts you need to fix it. Or you keep it until it magically fixes itself. (Yes, I added that last part just this moment, tongue in cheek.)

I once splurged and bought a really nice watch. It wasn't overly expensive, but it cost me more than I usually spent for a watch. It stopped working, so I took it to the jewelry shop where I had bought it. When I came back to pick it up, they said, "That will be $$." I don't remember the amount, but I was in shock! If I remember right, it was considerably more than I had paid for the watch.  I asked them why they hadn't given me an estimate, and they said that if they went into the watch to find out what was wrong with it, that was about as much labor as fixing it, and that my bringing it in was my permission for them to fix it. That day I learned a lesson in communication. I also learned that sometimes, it's cheaper not to fix something. 

I no longer think you should fix everything. I think what we repair - or pay someone else to repair - is different for each of us. My husband and I pay someone to fix our cars. My current car is 11 years old. My former car, an American minivan, made almost 200,000 miles before it finally became irreparable. My husband's Jeep has way over 200,000 miles. We have other places we would rather put our money than newer cars; but that's not a decision for everyone.

How do we know whether to keep something, so we can fix it, or whether to just give it up?  I think the best way to figure that out is to consider value, enjoyment, and "likelihood".  

How much money and/or time will it cost to repair it? How long will it last after it's been repaired? Is it worth it? During our last move, a piece of wood near the bottom of my china cabinet broke, making it unusable. I thought it was all over (the cabinet, not my life, but I was pretty sad). But my husband found a strong glue, and he glued the piece back together, and it's been good ever since. 

Another question related to value might be, is it something essential, and we can't afford to get a new one right now? Would it be cheaper to have it repaired than to replace it? 

Or, does it have strong sentimental value?...which brings me to my next criteria. How much enjoyment will we get from the item if we repair it?  Is it something that brings us joy? Will it continue to bring us joy in its repaired state? 

And lastly, what is the likelihood that we really will get it repaired? If we haven't fixed something for months, or perhaps years, when do we think we are going to begin? Is there something that will help us to get started, or it it time to be honest with ourselves? 

If you know me, you might know that I like "fixing" clothing items...repairing, re-purposing, changing out the buttons, etc. I enjoy figuring out how to save something, and I enjoy hand-sewing, so together they constitute a hobby that brings me a lot of enjoyment. My dad once got free lumber and nails in exchange for taking down a building, and he used them to build a house. Cheap housing was a necessity for him at the time; but building was also his hobby. 

If it's our hobby, by all means, let's fix it. If not, we might want to consider whether it's worth it, how much we will enjoy it, and the likelihood that we will actually get around to it. Otherwise, we might want to get it - whatever it might be - out of the house. 

Is there anything special that you've "saved" that was worth it, or that you really enjoyed fixing? 

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