On the Mend - the repair revolution and how it can help reduce clutter in your home
Updated: Apr 4
Why would a professional Declutterer & Home Organiser, be encouraging you to repair and hold on to things? For a couple of reasons:
Clutter - the first one is that more broken items than you could ever imagine are currently cluttering up our homes. Often when things stop working, or become worn out, we're not decluttering them. Instead we're replacing them, but still keeping the old one anyway, even though it's of no use!
What are you holding on to thinking "One day I'll get round to fixing it?" Not wanting to part with it, because "it's always been your favourite" or "it's always useful to have a spare that could be fixed..."
No, unless the things in your house are fit for purpose and usable right now, they are clutter!
Waste - the second reason is because I don't like waste. There is no waste in nature, think about for a second, read it again, let it sink in.
There is no waste in nature, yet we humans are responsible for so much waste. Our vacuum cleaner stops working, we replace it with a new one, the zip breaks on our jeans, we buy a new pair. It's cheap for us to replace these things and in recent years there has been very little help or incentive, or the skills and parts required, to get things repaired.
Built in obsolescence - did you know that manufacturers deliberately stopped making products that would last? They did this on the basis that if an item lasted too long, or if clothing was of such good quality that it didn't wear out, the consumer wouldn't be back spending more money anytime soon.
Companies began to design in obsolescence. They purposely designed products, that after a certain amount of time would fail, or wear out. I visited the Waste Age exhibition at The Design Museum and discovered that when the electric kettle was first launched, it had a price tag of £225 and had an expected lifetime of forty years. Now you can buy a kettle for as little as £2 and it has an expected lifetime of just two years.
Peak stuff - fortunately signs are emerging that we have reached "peak stuff". Society is once more starting to place value on making things last, in order to reduce waste. In response to this growing demand, designers are beginning reuse, repair and adapt what already exists. In the future manufacturing companies will be required to make consumer repairs possible, just as they were in the past. In 2021 Apple announced Self Service Repair, allowing customers access to Apple genuine parts and tools.
New initiatives - the emergence of the local repair cafe is an exciting community led initiative. These are often staffed by volunteers who give their time freely in return for a "mending challenge" and a donation. I took my troubled Dyson along to Repair Cafe Maidenhead. Having thought that I was going to have to replace it for a newer model, within minutes the problem was solved and it was fully functioning again! The Cycle Hub, offering low cost bike repair and servicing is another great example of a community run, mending service.
Repairing stuff - the idea of repairing our stuff is by no means a new one, Timpson has been part of the UK high street since 1865 and now repairs not just shoes, but phones, tablets, keys and more.
Zip Yard is a more recent addition, founded in 2005 and driven by "the frustration at having to wait weeks to get clothes altered and the desire to reduce waste by extending the life of clothes through repair and reuse."
There's good news for prolonging the life of high end items too. The Restory, based at Selfridges London (but also offering a collection and delivery service), works restoration magic on expensive hand bags, shoes and accessories. Smaller companies such a Nearly New Cashmere take pride in mending and giving much loved sweaters, a new lease of life.
DIY menders - I recently asked the question on my Instagram story "Do you mend your clothes?" and an encouraging 83% said "Yes". We're definitely seeing a revival in DIY sewing and mending skills.
When the zip broke on my jeans recently, I was able to watch a tutorial on YouTube and have it repaired in minutes. The only requirement was a pair of pliers and a "can do" attitude!
Previously I would have tended towards thinking that they probably weren't worth the cost of paying for a new zip to be fitted, yet the sense of achievement from fixing it myself was priceless (and long lasting).
For the keen to give it a go, but not so bold Repair What You Wear offer online mending tutorials, supporting everyone from the mending beginner, to those with their sights set on acquiring more advanced sewing skills.
Repairing and the clutter free home - the options for repair are definitely out there, but how can we make sure that the items waiting to be mended don't build up as clutter in the home?
My advice is to make repairing things an active part of your life and not just a 'nice idea' for some time in the unspecified future.
Keep a "To Mend" list, set aside a designated drawer, shelf in a cupboard or box in your house and put the things there that need repairing. Go through this at least once a month and make the appointment to take it to your local repair cafe, your local cobbler to be re healed or equip yourself with the necessary skills to do it yourself.
Set a time limit for taking action on your items and if you don't do it within that time frame, pass it on to someone who will fix it, or at the very least dismantle it and make use of the constituent parts.
Involve your kids in the repair process and the reasons why it's so important. Lead by example so that the next generation know how things work and consider being able to carry out simple repairs, the norm.
If something is taking up valuable space to in your house, make sure it's "earning its keep". If you have a use for it, make sure it can be used for its intended purpose.
Anything that can't be used in its current state, is worthless clutter and worthless clutter in turn becomes waste.
Jo Hall is a Berkshire based Declutterer & Organiser
If you would love to have a really good sort out but don't know where to start, or maybe you've made a great start with it, but have since lost your way, Jo can help!
Jo works with clients in person (locally) 🏠 and remotely 👩💻 anywhere in the World, on all types of decluttering & organising projects, as well as having DIY online resources available. Please do get in touch to fix up a no obligation chat: Less Is More