By Michelle Fisher
There’s a wave of decluttering happening, inspired by the ABC’s War on Waste and Marie Kondo’s Tidying Up program. The “Kon-Mari method” invites us to only keep possessions that bring us happiness, or that “spark joy”. This sentiment harks back to that famous 19th century quote of William Morris that still resonates today:
“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful,
As you go through your stuff, once you’ve sorted out the obvious junk, you may find that you still have things that you really love. They might be in disrepair or simply don’t work for some unknown reason. Or you might realise that you’ve rarely used the thing (other than giving it “room and board”), and resist getting rid of it. It’s still in great condition, after all, and it might come in handy one day!
Aside from throwing things out or donating them to Vinnies or the Salvos (which can itself create problems for councils and charity organisations), how else might you honour your cherished and useful goods, and even still be able to access to them when you need them?
Well, you’re in luck! You can take your broken goods and torn clothing down to your local repair café where volunteer fixers will show you how to mend them – for free! The Melbourne Repair Café (Inner West) was set up three years ago. At the time, it was the first repair café in Melbourne and one of only five in Australia! Now there are dozens in Australia which are part of an international movement that includes over 1700 repair cafes across 33 countries. The Melbourne Repair Café runs monthly repair sessions out of the Yarraville Community Centre. Check out the website to see when the next repair session is and how they run, or locate another repair café or fix-it initiative near you: http://melbournerepaircafe.org.
If you’re looking to move on useful goods that are still in really good nick, you can give them a second life by donating them to Sharing Shed Melbourne – a new initiative starting up in Melbourne’s Inner West that is working on setting up a “library of things”. The Sharing Shed will offer low-cost memberships to enable individuals and other community organisations to borrow infrequently-used but really handy items for holding events, trying out new recreational pursuits, doing home maintenance and more. If you want to donate your quality 2nd hand goods or otherwise get involved, head over to the Sharing Shed’s website at http://sharingshedmelbourne.org.au.
Michelle Fisher is the founder and coordinator of Melbourne Repair Café (Inner West) and co-founder and Chief Executive of Sharing Shed Melbourne. You can follow these initiatives on Facebook and Instagram – just search for “melbournerepaircafe” and “sharingshedmelbourne”.
This article also appeared in the February 2019 print edition of The Westsider newspaper.
By Jenny Lindsay
Let’s make a few bold predictions about the coming year. There’s a lot in store for those of us who are passionate about repairing goods and sharing skills.
Get a fresh start with good-as-new treasures
Playtime’s over and those new presents probably got a workout - are they needing a little TLC? Did you use the down-time over the festive period to do a clear out and found some old broken or damaged gear? Looking after those items that still “spark joy” is as easy as taking them to the next Repair Café session. A skilled volunteer fixer will help you restore life to your well-loved things, and you’ll pick up some handy fixing tips.
Thank you to all of our fans
We’re sure to see a number of fans needing some love after working hard through the heatwave.
With plenty more summertime to go, if you’ve got a fan that’s seen better days, bring it in for us to have a look and fix it if we can.
You can learn to repair your own appliance so you don’t get caught out in the heat.
Repair Café community continues to grow
With more Repair Cafes and Fix-it initiatives starting across Victoria, there’ll be opportunities for Repair Café tourism – check them all out here. Bring your friends over westside, or stop by to see a different session. People can learn to repair practically anywhere!
Some of our fixing folks already head over from Yarraville to St Kilda Repair Café on the same day! We love to hear how our fellow Repair Café crews are doing. Do pass on our regards when you visit.
Mend It Australia’s Karen and Danny are the experts at tinker travelling. We’re looking forward to their visit for our upcoming 3rd Anniversary session in March.
Repair, Share, Learn
The more you learn to repair, the more you’ll enjoy your treasured things for longer. There’ll be less need to throw things out when you’ve found a friendly Repair Café to help you maintain them. You might find you have some things you rarely use that you can share with others. Bring on the Sharing Shed. We’re creating a library of things – equipment, tools, small appliances, etc – which members of the Sharing Shed can borrow to get things done around the house, or create new experiences with recreational equipment. Learn more about this project on our brand new website and follow us on Facebook for updates
By Jenny Lindsay and Michelle Fisher
Surprise! The festive season is upon us. You might love it, or you might grin and bear it.
For some, it’s about the beach, barbecues, picnics, prawns and pav. For others, memories of hot, sweaty hours in the sweltering kitchen serving up a roast in the heat of an Aussie summer – wait, was that just my family?Or you might be relishing the time spent with family, or a chance to get away and reflect on the highs and lows of the year.
Wherever your festive journey takes you, the Repair Café along with 2nd hand and sharing organisations will help you navigate through the gift-giving season.
#1: If your kids have literally loved their new toys to death before the family lunch, don’t despair. Bring your broken toys to the first Melbourne Repair Café session in the new year (details TBA in our next newsletter and on our Facebook page - or find a repair cafe in your 'hood). We can do our best to fix your items, but sorry, can’t help mend your child’s broken heart.
#2: Better still, why buy when you can borrow? Visit your local toy library to add some variety to your play options. Then you can swap the toys over after the novelty has worn off! It’s a sure-fire way to reduce your holiday spend. (Click the map below to find a toy library near you.)
#3: Woo-hoo! Upgrade! After running around impressing your friends, the neighbours and their dogs with your new device, consider what you’ll do with the old one. Can you pass it on to someone else to use? Is it suitable for some other purpose, or can it be upcycled or refashioned? Give your old device or item a new life with someone who could use it or could remake it. Try your local Good Karma Network or Buy Nothing New group, or Gumtree. And of course there are a number of charities who accept clothing and other goods. Or, if it’s destined for the bin, then be sure to take it to an e-waste depot for responsible disposal – lots of valuable materials can be retrieved and diverted from landfill. Your local library often has a drop-off facility near the door, or check out your check out your local council's clothing and electrical drop off hub - see here, for Maribyrnong City Council residents. Before tossing, though, think about creative uses - like this mobile phone Christmas installation:
#4: Instead of replacing a broken or torn item, give your loved one a "Gift of Repair" gift card. We've designed one which you can download and print. We hope to have some printed cards in time for our next Repair Cafe session at Yarraville and will leave some stacks around town. If you can help distribute these, please get in touch through the Contact page or by email.
And #5: Have fun doing your shopping at 2nd hand and op-shops this year. Pick up great bargains, with a zero waste benefit - the more we reuse and upcycle, the more we save from being thrown away to landfill. Besides vintage vinyls and 2nd hand bookstores, you can head out to heaps of op-shops around Melbourne - check out I Love to Op Shop, OpShop.Org, and Urban List's top op shops.
Enjoy finding unique pieces. So that second-hand jacket needs mending? The vintage bag you’ve scored has a broken clip? That bargain gadget has a loose connection? Bring it into the Repair Cafe for help to bring new life to old treasures.
Wishing all of our volunteers, visitors and supporters an enjoyable festive season. Hope to see you back in the new year refreshed and ready to get repairing!
By Jenny Lindsay
We love mixing and mingling with our visitors every month at the Melbourne Repair Cafe. It’s what we’re all about. The need to repair something brings people in to find a fixer, and the enjoyment of connecting with a fun and friendly bunch keeps people around for a coffee and a chat.
We wanted to help our visitors feel welcome, to know who to ask for advice among a busy crowd. And you know, after a month has passed, it can be hard to remember who was who when you come back for a second visit.
You wanna go where everybody knows your name!
Well done Maddie and team! We’re absolutely thrilled with our new badges!
By Jenny Lindsay
It’s such a pain to organise repairs, isn’t it? Just looking at the tool that just died, or the torn bag, or vacuum that no longer sucks – well, it all just sucks!
Many of us just have no idea where to start, other than Googling a repairer or the manufacturer, and the cost is just not something we want to deal with right now. Alternatives take time to search for. So, that thing gets pushed back into the cupboard for one day when you’ve got time to tackle that job.
“If only I knew someone who could take a look at this for me.”
The solution might be right next door
Your local Repair Café could be the solution you’re after. And yet, it’s a mysterious adventure for visitors who are experiencing the operation for the first time.
“Um, I saw you guys were open, I’ve just brought this in, not sure if you could do anything about it…”
Well, you never know, we’ll take a look at it and see what we can do!
We recently celebrated International Repair Café Week with the Footscray Community Bike Shed as our guest fixers.
All of a sudden our volunteers realised this was a golden opportunity.
Fiona said “I’ve been meaning to get someone to look at my bike”
Our Fearless Leader (Founder and Coordinator) Michelle said “I’ve got this thing on my bike I need to get looked at…”
How lucky to have bike repairer Dave to the rescue. He clearly didn’t know what he was in for when he offered to join our session!
It’s the conversations at the desk that can prompt a friendly offer from a neighbouring fixer. Or even another visitor!
During one memorable session, a sewing machine in for repair caught the eye of one of our visitors. She’d initially brought in a home appliance for repair. A keen sewer herself, she offered to take a look at the sewing machine that was on the fritz. That was one way to make best use of her time while her item was being fixed.
Then, two of our visitors who were handy with a needle and thread, soon moved to the other side of the desk to lend their skills. That was a life-saver as we had more sewing repairs than we could handle that day.
By becoming fixers and helping out other visitors, the visitors, too, had the chance to connect and chat with others who had come in for a bit of help to rescue some broken, worn or torn gear.
Have those conversations with your neighbours – you never know what superpower they’re hiding. Something truly special happens in the exchange of skills, experience and goodwill at our local Repair Café.
By Jenny Lindsay
It’s time to get that old broken “thing” out of the back of the cupboard or shed or wherever you’ve stashed it. We’ve got the best reason to take action, because 13-21 October 2018 is International Repair Café Week.
An experience becomes a movement
“On Thursday 18 October it was nine years ago that Martine Postma organised the very first Repair Café. On this day in 2009, dozens of residents brought their broken items to a theatre in Amsterdam. Now there are over 1,600 Repair Cafés in 33 countries, spread across six continents.” - International Repair Café Foundation
Martine might be surprised at how the Repair Café movement has taken off. Her commitment to sustainability at a local level inspired a model for bringing communities together to enjoy all the benefits of the Repair Café experience.
Learn while reclaiming lost items
The volunteer “fixers” who attend the Repair Café bring a wealth of knowledge to share with visitors. Some come from mechanical engineering or trades backgrounds, textiles expertise or trained jewellery-makers, for example. Yet others have accumulated years of practice in trouble-shooting and repairing their own things. They have a curious nature and love the sense of achievement when that niggling fault has been found and fixed.
While practising their skills, they love to show and teach others about the fixing process, from testing all the “likely suspects” of a fault, to pulling things completely apart.
One of our favourite fixes was from a visitor who’d scored a classic record turntable second-hand, but the needle was playing up. Taking the item apart revealed the previous owner, a DJ, had modified the needle arm with a bit of sticky tape. Problem solved - which was music to our visitor’s ears!
Share the experience with others in your community
We are thrilled to get enthusiastic feedback, like:
“Loved the chats with other attendees while I was in the queue!”
One of the powerful impacts of the Repair Café in the community is bringing people together. We’re proud to promote the International Repair Café Foundation goal:
“The Repair Café Foundation wants to make repair a part of the local community once again. It aims to maintain and spread repair expertise, and to promote social cohesion by bringing together neighbours from all walks of life and sets of motivations in the form of inspiring and accessible meetings.”
When visitors hang around for a while, observing other fixes after theirs is finished, we know we have something more than a repair service. It’s not just about reclaiming useful or much-loved items - it’s making connections with neighbours that keeps visitors coming back.
Find a Repair Café near you during this International Repair Café Week 13-21 October and check out what all the fixing fuss is about.
The next session of Melbourne Repair Café (Inner West) is Sunday 14 October 2018. Come along and join us to mark International Repair Cafe Week!
(We run the second Sunday of each month from 10am – 1pm at the Yarraville Community Centre, 59 Francis St Yarraville)
By Jenny Lindsay
I have to admit, I was a bit daunted, attending the Zero Waste Festival in Brunswick on 5 August. I’m so far from zero on my waste reduction journey, it’s not funny, and I only started making a dent in Plastic-Free July. But what a high-energy, positive crowd it was. Participants were generous with their ideas for how to consume more responsibly.
The event promised practical solutions to fight the war on waste, that could be taken into everyday lives, and did not disappoint. Even as I was just learning what the battlefields were, there were a lot of people around who were keen to share their tools for tackling this problem.
Changing the products we use/buy
Coffee lovers unite! If you’re concerned about millions of coffee pods going to landfill each day, then reusable coffee pods will be a welcome revelation. Along with keep cups, reusable water bottles and cloth nappies, it’s possible to keep doing what we’re doing in a more sustainable way. Changing the nature of the items we buy, from disposables to reusables, which are thoughtfully designed and high quality, will ensure they last longer, reduce waste, and in the long term save us money. Hooray!
Keeping things circulating in the community
Thanks to the convenience of cheap products in discount stores, we’re throwing things out at an amazing rate. If things break, who has the time or skill these days to repair them? Manufacturer servicing is expensive, may as well get a new one. So community Repair Cafés are valuable initiatives, sharing skills to keep the repair knowledge alive, and saving waste from landfill. Even more than saving money, volunteer fixers are reclaiming valuable treasures held onto for generations. The panel discussion by regional Repair Cafe Coordinators revealed great insight into the challenges and rewards of establishing a Repair Cafe in their communities. With the support of local community centres or neighbourhood houses providing a venue, setting up a repair centre can be relatively easy.
"In Conversation with the Growing Repair Movement" panel discussion at the Zero Waste Festival (Left to right: Marie Beale, Ringwood Repair Café; Elsie L’Huillier, Bendigo Repair Cafe; Sarah Race, Southern Peninsula Repair Cafe; David Clarey, Seymour Repair Café; Michelle Fisher, Melbourne Repair Café; Erin Rhoads, Zero Waste Victoria)
Tool libraries and toy libraries enable people to access things on a loan basis that they would otherwise need to buy and then are left under-utilised, cluttering the home. Clothes swaps are a wonderful way of re-using what we have. (The unclaimed clothes on the day went on to do more good at Fitted for Work, an organisation helping women with pre- and post-employment programs).
Moving on from this idea of keeping things circulating in the community instead of more purchasing, Sharing Shed Melbourne aims to share a library of things (tools, toys, recreation equipment, home appliances etc) plus sharing skills and knowledge through workshops. Watch this space for progress on planning for this initiative. Community support is welcomed - people and organisations who might be able to contribute skills, materials or other resources can reach out to the team here.
Upcycling, recycling, and more “closing the loop” ideas
“Everything old is new again” didn’t make sense to me until looking into upcycling activities. Rescuing items before they’re sent to landfill, and making something new, is an amazing skill that I appreciate all the more because I don’t have it. Our friends at Boomerang Bags do, taking fabric scraps and creating striking new reusable bags – brightening my day with happy colours, plus saving me from that awful dilemma of what to do at the grocers or supermarket checkout! Using food leftovers was also covered at the festival, although I wish I’d taken more time to learn these tips. I’m alarmed at how much I throw out sometimes, and I’d love some creative ideas for how to up-cycle bits and pieces into new meals at the end of the week’s groceries! Next time, . .
For those paying attention, there are countless ways to improve our consumption habits, whether changing our purchasing choices or using what we have differently. Adopting some changes one at a time can end up saving money and the planet. And that’s a Zero Waste target worth fighting for.
These were my highlights, and information about all the Zero Waste exhibitors can be found here: http://zerowastevictoria.org/zero-waste-festival/
If you are in a position to support Zero Waste Victoria's endeavours to tackle waste through education, workshops and advocacy, get in touch with the team at http://zerowastevictoria.org or join the discussion on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/ZeroWasteVictoria/.
By Jenny Lindsay
Game Changers Conversation, VU Footscray University Town, VU@MetroWest on 20 June 2018
Waste is everywhere. But so are the opportunities to prevent it.
That’s right, prevent it – not just deal with it. When we think about waste management, we often think of dirty, smelly tips, landfills or dumps. We ask how do we deal with the waste that’s currently created? Better recycling programs to divert waste from landfill? Partly, yes. There are definitely ways to improve our community’s recycling habits.
Imagine if we had less waste to deal with in the first place? Reducing the burden of waste management needs to be a priority for our community.
Better design for utility and long life
Some of the reasons for throwing things out included that they just didn’t work in the way they were expected. For example, who’s had a water bottle that leaks, or a cup that drips its contents down your front? It might look great, but removing barriers to use needs to be a focus for producers.
Ben Young, CEO & Founder of Frank Green, directed his energies to bringing good design to the drink bottle and keep cup scene. Building quality items that work well and are made to last is a sure-fire way to keep consumption to a minimum. Ben involved baristas in the design process and incorporated features for added customer assurance, like extra turns to ensure the seal was secure.
Buying something just once that you’ll actually use, and use a lot, beats wasting the millions of disposable and poorly constructed items in the world today.
Donavan Marney, Industry Support and Outreach Scientist at the Australian Synchrotron, noted that we ARE innovating, but research funding comes in waves. While Council are activating waste management programs, there needs to be longer term policy and leadership at higher levels to enable research and development to identify solutions.
The work being done now is around how to process waste, by identifying the properties of the materials. We already know disposal of micro plastics is a particular problem. The processing of waste material is decided at the time of disposal.
A better scenario is to decide earlier – does this item need to be produced/purchased/discarded?
Let’s walk this journey together
For our consumption and habits to change, let’s walk this journey together. It’s important to recognise that not everyone has the same values. For example, our lifestyles are often heavily reliant on cars, which are entirely synthetic. A war on waste does not mean war on all plastic.
In an environment where we decide how to manage our waste problem at the time of disposal, can we decide earlier? Do we need the latest model? Is it unrepairable? Can we find it elsewhere?
If you can imagine a tap left running, do you constantly mop up the floor, or turn off the tap?
Let’s see where we can reduce consumption, minimise waste, and eliminate the need for items at the source wherever we can.
By Jenny Lindsay
I’ll go to great lengths to get a fix.
I guess I didn’t really think it through when I volunteered to head over to another Repair Café across town. They were short an electrician, and I decided to tag along with James to share ideas and bring back some tips around what others do at their sessions. So, we found ourselves road-tripping across Melbourne to participate in Ringwood's Repair Café session. After the recent pop-up in Williamstown and our regular session in Yarraville, we were going for a hat-trick.
Feeling every bit a part of a community, we experienced a familiar buzz of activity among friendly faces. Marie and Tim were fabulous hosts. Marie recently had a video made about the Repair Café, just posted it online the day before, and already it had heaps of likes. Accordingly, the session was inundated with new fans – I mean, visitors – bringing all manner of items for fixing.
The “fixers” at Ringwood Repair Café were kept busy throughout the session, with plenty of gems:
Ringwood Repair Café was a place where neighbourhood connections were growing. Having just started in November last year, there was already a thriving community of fixers and visitors, and some folks even stopping by for a coffee and a chat. (We have coffee machine envy at Yarraville!)
I became involved in the Melbourne Repair Café (Inner West) to help my local community group. Now I feel more part of a movement.
I’ve seen how the “other side” (of Melbourne) mends. It’s with the same sense of energy around helping each other, sharing our skills, saving waste from landfill, and building awareness around sustainability. And I love it!
*puts cappuccino machine on Santa’s list at Yarraville*
By Jenny Lindsay
What better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than supporting community-led sustainability efforts in my area. I joined the crew of the Melbourne Repair Café (Inner West) for a pop-up repair session at the Hobsons Bay City Council’s World Environment Day Community Festival in Williamstown last weekend.
Some folk came along prepared with their broken household items, while others were pleased to learn what a Repair Café does.
Brain-busting troubleshooting tested the skills of our fixers on an array of broken and tired appliances and tools. There was an eager queue awaiting their turn and all the visitors were good sports about taking their place in a busy line-up. We took on a surprising amount of fixes in the 2-hour session.
One terrific piece was a 1970’s era desktop fan, which had been no more than a table ornament for over 30 years, according to its owner. It turned out the switch mechanism was in need of some repair which was swiftly fixed. Then, although a little sluggish after decades unused, the fan came back to life. Hurrah! Another fix, another item saved from landfill, and a treasured family piece with a second life.
Photos by Michelle Fisher
Often, the items we see at the Repair Café are designed not to be opened. They’re either glued together or have proprietary screw heads for expensive manufacturer’s servicing only. So, having a kettle that came apart easily was a bonus. The screws were all a standard type and were easily located. All parts were accessible. It was fairly straightforward then to discover the pesky problem and clear out the pipe to the steam switch so that it could be brought back into use, saved from a trip to landfill and avoiding expensive replacement.
We were delighted to take up Hobson’s Bay City Council’s invitation to co-locate with the World Environment Day Community Festival. Visitors enjoyed the festival before or after stopping by our pop-up Repair Café. When you visit us at the Yarraville Community Centre, there’s also plenty to see. During a busy session, the small wait for a fixer to be available gives you time for a coffee or tea and to check out the (small, but growing) Really Really Free Market. You can watch the other repairs underway, then take a seat, because the fun of a Repair Café session is learning how to repair or pull your item apart and trouble-shoot for next time.
Many visitors were fascinated to see a Repair Café in operation, among many cries of “I’ll have to bring in all my broken things”. It’s clear so many of us hang on to items which might be saved, but we’re not ready to find a fix or bid farewell to it either way. A Repair Café run by skilled volunteers is a handy solution, then, and we’re anticipating a lot more visitors next session.
A job well done, said one of our fixers: “We made people happy and got paid in mandarins.”
If you’re keen to get your “fix”, check out the next Melbourne Repair Café session on our website: http://www.melbournerepaircafe.org/
and follow us at:
Michelle Fisher is the founder and coordinator of the Melbourne Repair Cafe (Inner West). She is more comfortable wielding pens than tools and welcomes contributions from those who can wield one or the other or both! Please send submissions to the Melbourne Repair Cafe's email address..
Jenny Lindsay is a seeker of sustainable lifestyle solutions who regularly helps out on the Repair Café registration desk. Jenny is the founder of Connectjen virtual assistant which offers copywriting, marketing and admin support for businesses committed to challenging the status quo.