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Senior Correspondent

A small article in the September AARP Bulletin sent me to a web site to find out more. To quote from the article, "Wouldn't it be great to get your busted stuff–everything from toasters to clothing–fixed for free?"

The story is all about Repair Cafés. Fix-it volunteers either repair something or teach the person how to do the work themselves using the tools and materials provided. Instead of tossing that toaster on the junk heap, it is fixed. The broken desk lamp just need a new switch…a simple repair.

What a great idea!  Instead of filling our landfills with household items that still have a lot of life left in them, someone at the Repair Café makes it work again for free. Since the types of things repaired at these Cafés are not the type fixed by professionals, these volunteers are not taking jobs away from others. They are simply using their knowledge and talents to prevent waste and save folks some money.

Where do you find a Repair Café? At the moment I'm afraid you have to live in Holland or Germany. Why this idea hasn't caught on in other countries I haven't a clue. For retirees, something like this would be a a perfect match up of skills, volunteering, and saving money.

In America our consumer products are designed to become obsolete. Our economy requires that we buy new products on a regular basis. Even relatively expensive things like Blu-ray DVD players or computers are often  cheaper to simply toss and replace. Recently my daughter faced the choice of a $350 repair on an eleven year old laptop or $600 for a new one. Her decision was obvious.

But, if we could take that coffee maker than won't start brewing, the chair that has a split leg in need of repair, or the dress that has a broken zipper to a place where a volunteer will help fix it up, wouldn't we?  Click on the link above for more information about this tremendously simple yet elegant idea from the Dutch.

In the last post about readers suggestions of blogs for me to read, several were about simple living, a more frugal lifestyle, and making do with what we have. The Repair Café idea would seem to be a perfect match.

This is a short post with a simple idea that might spark your thinking. Could motivated retirees and others start a similar service in the States? Of course! All it would take is some organization and publicity and a desire to help others.

What do you think? Is there a seed of a great idea here? Could you, or someone you know, open a free fix-it shop for folks who just want to repair something rather than throw it away?

I'd love to hear your thoughts!

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