caring, repairing, replacing

Springtime. Sunshine, and time to get things fixed.

Last week I brought my bicycle to the repair shop nearby because I was too lazy to find and put on a new headlight, and I didn’t feel confident about tightening the chain myself (gear hub and badly rusted screws … I used to know how to put the gear hub of my old bike back on, but always did the repairs together with my dad). Today I could take it home, and a few minutes ago I got a call that my camera is good to go already as well – I took it to a shop for a sensor cleaning only yesterday!

It’s the first time I’m spending a lot of money on things I already own, but it makes me happy that there are possibilities to care for things so they will last, instead of just wearing them out and then throwing them away. The bike I use is really my mother’s (we swapped our bikes some years ago, because the frame of my old one didn’t fit my proportions – my legs are a little shorter than hers, I guess), and I bought the DSLR from a person I know. So both items are not new, both have their flaws and limits, but both are worth caring for them.

I try to expand the repair mentality to many concepts, but it is really hard to find shoes that will last longer than their soles. Today I decided to replace my slippers after having worn them nearly daily for more years than I can remember. Five? Seven? Sadly I can’t have them repaired, because they are completely worn out and one has broken to the point of tripping me every few days. The only thing still intact are the straps and buckles. I hope that my ankle boots will survive many years though so I’ll be able to take them to a shoemaker instead of buying new ones all the time, as I chose them specifically to be easy to maintain by classical measures.

Aside from that I really should learn how to mend clothes properly (right now two of my favourite pairs of tights are waiting for some new yarn), but most of my torn items are beyond hope, I fear. Especially my “sportswear”.

Last week I bought the first “new” pair of sweatpants since I moved out from my parents’ (nearly six years … and the sweatpants are even older) even though the old pair is still in a somewhat wearable condition, at least according to my definition. So I won’t throw away the old sweatpants immediately, despite the fact that they are starting to show the usual wear and tear, which looks really grubby on what used to be bright orange. I just don’t want to wear them around other people anymore, especially when said people wear crisp white abadás or at least somewhat decent gym clothes. The black pair I wear now will be more neutral in different settings, and more forgiving when it comes to ageing, I hope. Bonus: I got it for cheap at the second-hand store. I own another pair of older black sweatpants, but I don’t think that mending would salvage them, and I’ll put them away soon.

My usual gym shirt (a cotton band shirt I inherited years and years ago from a person I can’t remember) is so old and worn that it’s just a few holes shy of being more suitable for a rag. At least this way I don’t have to care about what happens to it when rolling around on the floor or whatever. But now that I try to put more efforts into my play the baggy shirt has become more of a nuisance and I switched to a double-layer of old black tops I found in the back of our closet. So I’m stuck with a shabby shirt I’m very attached to, and snug tops that are too short. At least I feel more confident in my newly assembled snug, black attire, and less like a total loser trying to keep up with the cool kids.

First lesson I take home from this … it’s important to repair things, to care for what I own, but at some point I’ll have to decide whether I want to be enslaved by my own rules, or whether I grant myself the freedom to replace something before it falls apart. Ask yourself if you need the new thing. If it’s a valid need, it doesn’t really matter whether it’s emotional or physical. I’m not talking about binge shopping to overcome depression, mind you, and neither would I dare comparing emotional needs to bare essentials like food for starving people! But if a young child wished for a plush alligator instead of grandma’s creepy old doll to protect them from monsters at night and it’s the only thing that will help them sleep, is this a less valid need than a new set of coloured pencils for the older sibling who is in school already? If someone is left by the love of their life, wouldn’t they feel the urge to replace the dishes that person bought for them after a while, because of the emotional weight of these everyday items? If a pair of sweatpants is what keeps me from seeing myself as the weird loser girl no one in their right mind would want to teach new moves, this investment is more justified than upgrading from a bar-style cell phone to a smartphone just because it’s soooo important to have good hardware when I don’t need one (yep, I still don’t own a smartphone. Maybe I’m a weird hippie with weird priorities.) I don’t have to buy new tank tops right away, because the ones I own are borderline comfortable and will (hopefully) do their job until I either decide to join a club and get their garb, or move to a different city. Ask yourself if it is a good thing to replace an item before its time, and take some time to come to an honest answer.

Speaking of replacing … I’d rather fix our laundry rack with glue and a chopstick than replace it with a new one I feel I’ll hate. I hate being “forced” to replace things. I want THIS laundry rack. I didn’t want to replace the cheap pair of kitchen scissors that was merely three years old, but it was next to impossible to fix them, which made me angry. Hi, my name is Starfish, I’m stubborn and very attached to random household items.

Second lesson: When replacing old stuff, buy sturdy things, if possible with exchangeable parts. Choose items of a quality that will make them survive the strongest or clumsiest person frequenting your living space, no matter whether that’s yourself, your spouse, random friends, or even the toddler or cat you want to add to your household in a few years from now. Buy neutral things in a style you really like – if you buy quality and intend to keep something for years, you shouldn’t follow currents trends, because otherwise you might be very angry with  yourself when next season that hot pink leather couch with lime green applications or the anatomically correct heart-shaped coffee table made from oakwood will be out of fashion.

Third lesson … I need to write shorter posts. This one started out as two short paragraphs, but then my mind began to wander.

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