Don’t Throw It Out: 6 Things You Should Repair, Not Replace

repair shop
(Photo by Carsten/Three Lions/Getty Images)

Eventually, the stuff you own is going to break or wear out. When that happens, it’s easy to throw the old item in the trash and simply replace it with a new one. After all, we live in a toss-and-replace culture, where many items, from clothing to cell phones, aren’t built to last.

“Manufacturers make products unrepairable. They don’t sell parts because they don’t want people to repair their products,” Neil Seldman, the president of the Institute for Local Self Reliance, told Salon.

It wasn’t always that way. Your grandparents were probably on a first-name basis with their local cobbler, but today there are only 7,000 shoe repair shops in the United States, down from more than 100,000 in the 1930s. The Maytag Man is an endangered species, and television repair shops are all but extinct. But while paying someone to repair broken items may not be as common as it once was, you can still find people who will happily restore your stuff to like-new condition.

You probably don’t think twice about taking your car into the shop to fix a faulty taillight or squeaky brakes. Most people would think you were crazy for rushing out to buy a new vehicle rather than paying someone to address a minor problem. Yet many of us don’t take the same approach to other items we own, even when repairing something could save us money (not to mention reducing waste). Here are six things that you should think about repairing rather than replacing next time you notice a problem.

1. Shoes

cobbler repairing shoe
(Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Seeking out your local shoe repairman can save you big, especially if you invest in high-quality shoes. A good cobbler can fix worn-out heels and bring new life to scuffed leather. He may also be able to fit your shoes with new insoles, stretch them so they better fit your feet, or even dye them a new color.

“High quality men’s shoes can be resoled seven to 10 times. Men’s heels can be fixed ten to fifteen times,” according to Vanek’s Shoe Repair in Beaverton, Ore. “It is possible to get more than 20 years of life out of high-quality shoes that you choose to repair.”

That’s not all your cobbler can do. Your local shoe repair may also be able to repair leather belts (including adding new holes or fixing the buckle), fix damaged luggage, refresh an old leather jacket, or repair the strap on a briefcase.

2. Outdoor gear

Tents, backpacks, sleeping bags, and other outdoor gear doesn’t come cheap. When your adventuring equipment takes a beating, look into whether the items can be repaired. You can send your stuff to Rainy Pass Repair, a Seattle-based company that may be able to patch a hole in your tent, replace the fill in your sleeping bag, or fix the buckles or straps on your backpack. Patagonia encourages people to send in their products for repair, and The North Face also will also repair worn or damaged items. Many other equipment manufacturers offer lifetime warranties and will either fix your items for free or a small fee.

3. Clothing

tailoring tools
(Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)

A well-maintained wardrobe is a mark of a competent, adult man. When buttons go missing, a jacket lining gets torn, or the hem on your pants falls, head to a tailor rather than to the mall for a replacement.

“Men can have longevity with clothing and accessories,” Kevin Miscik, owner of Lapels, a men’s clothing store in Greensburg, Penn., told Trib Live. “Take a suit, for instance. The jacket and pants can be taken in or out depending on if he loses or gains weight. Men’s clothing doesn’t change as quickly as ladies apparel, so they can invest in a suit and do the necessary alterations, and then change it up with a new shirt and tie.”

Suits and dress shirts aren’t the only items in your wardrobe that can be fixed. Rainy Pass Repair can patch tears or replace broken zippers on your ski pants and other outdoor gear, while Denim Therapy will breathe new life into your favorite pair of perfectly broken-in jeans.

4. Furniture

Wobbly legs and torn upholstery don’t necessarily mean it’s time to put a piece of furniture out by the curb. While repairing a table from Ikea or a chest of drawers from Target usually isn’t worth it (the cost of fixing the items would be more than just replacing them), well-made furniture is often worth saving, especially if it has sentimental value or you still like the look of the piece.

The cost of furniture repairs varies widely. Most homeowners spent about $168 on furniture fixes, according to Home Advisor. More complicated jobs, like rehabbing a saggy, threadbare couch, could cost up to $1,200, according to Angie’s List, so you’ll need to contact a repairperson for a quote before deciding whether it’s worth trying to save an item.

5. Appliances

washing machine
(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

A new washer, dryer, stove, or refrigerator can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars to replace. If the item is still under warranty, having a repairperson come out to fix it is a no-brainer. But even if the warranty is expired, repairs can still be worth it, provided they aren’t more than half the cost of buying a new appliance, Celia Kuperszmid Lehrman, an editor for Consumer Reports, told the Wall Street Journal.

The typical homeowner spent $171 to repair a busted appliance, according to Home Advisor. Spending $200 to $300 to fix a broken door gasket on your front-loading washing machine is certainly more affordable than replacing the entire thing, which could cost as much as $1,000. And keep in mind that major appliances aren’t the only candidates for the workbench. Broken vacuum cleaners, microwaves, power tools, lawnmowers, and sewing machines may also be fixable.

6. Jewelry and watches

Fine jewelry and watches are heirloom items that can last for generations if properly cared for. If your wristwatch stops ticking, your wedding ring needs polishing, or the chain on your wife’s favorite necklace breaks, it’s worth it to find a jeweler or watch repair shop you trust to fix the problem.

R.F. Moeller, a Minneapolis jeweler, says most repairs cost between $25 and $200. Some items, like high-end watches, require regular maintenance, just like a car, and skimping on tune-ups could mean costly repairs later. Luxury watchmaker Piaget recommends taking your watch in for service every three years.

Follow Megan on Twitter @MeganE_CS

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