Thursday, June 11, 2009

Repair, Reuse, Recycle, Repurpose

Not sure when the turning point came, I guess it snuck up on us while we labored away trying to make ends meet. There once was a time when quality and workmanship were important, that time has come and gone. There are still some examples out there of quality and workmanship but they are becoming harder and harder to find. Everyone who reads this has a relative that had that refrigerator or TV for 20 years or more, you know the one that never needed any repairs done to it. Things were built to last when my parents and their parents were growing up, now there is planned obsolescence designed into most things we buy or consume. Things are meant to be discarded and tossed into the landfill to sit there for eternity, “Oh, it will cost you more to repair it…just go buy a new one."

I say baloney.

Part of the issue is the fact that most people, especially kids these days don’t take care of their things. We bombard them with endless amounts of stuff so they place no value on it. Why should Jr. give a hoot about that XBOX he has when you are buying him an XBOX 360 in six months (You just don’t know it yet). Why should he care if he trashes his iPod when Steve Jobs over at Apple upgrades them faster than you can whistle Dixie. When I was growing up I treated everything I had with respect, I kept my toys/stuff clean and put them away when I was done playing with them. My parents weren’t Donald Trump, whatever I got I treasured. This has carried over into my adult years and I try my best to take care of everything I own. Parents need to instill this at a young age otherwise their kids are “doomed to consume.” (Wow I just made that up...nice)

What I suggest is when you think you have an item that needs to be replaced, take a moment to consider the possibility you could be throwing money away. Consider this example, my in-laws have a vacuum cleaner they purchased in the 80’s but it was a quality model when they bought it. The vacuum has worked great for all these years, one day it stopped working. Rather than run to the store and spend $200-$300 on a new vacuum, my father-in-law took it to a vacuum repair shop (they exist – look in the phone book). They replaced a switch and for $18 bucks the vacuum was as good as new, the guy even cleaned it up real good for them. This is why I say baloney to the person that throws things out and immediately buys a new one without any consideration or thought.

When something is truly beyond repair, I would scavenge what I could from it and possibly repurpose it. One example of repurposing something is a shower curtain. No matter how much cleaning you do eventually the shower curtain will get skuzzy or rip. Instead of throwing it out, use it as a tarp, tent foot print or even use it to line the trunk of your vehicle when you run to the store and pick up something messy like bags of dirt or mulch. Another great example of repurposing something would be tires. Use them to plant flowers or vegetables in raised beds rather than sending them to a landfill.

If you remember one thing from this post let it be this; when you do need to get rid of something, dispose of it in the proper manner. You cannot just throw out computer equipment for example. Computers and computer peripherals contain lead and other hazardous materials and must be disposed of properly. Never throw out batteries, motor oil, used cooking oil, paper, plastic, magazines, cardboard, aluminum cans or anything else that is recyclable. Most town have recycling centers where you can dispose of these items. Many gas stations and auto parts stores will take your used motor oil. You should always try and do your part to help the environment if you can. I am certainly not one of those environ-nuts, who will stop progress of mankind because the two-fingered, bow legged, polka-dotted sap sucker’s habitat will be infringed upon, but I do care about the planet. If everyone did their small part to fix the problem the difference would be HUGE.

If you toss aluminum cans out you are crazy because many states will give you cash refund for returning them, and most recycling places pay for aluminum by the pound. I recently purchased the Easy Pull Can Crusher which I installed in my garage. I have to say it has made the job of crushing the cans considerably easier on my feet. My wife and I store the cans in our garage in contractor bags and once a year visit the recycler. The price we get depends on the price of aluminum per pound at the time but it requires very little effort on our part and is found money as far as I am concerned.

I store our used motor oil, cooking oil, paper and cardboard in the garage until I have a decent amount and then I drive it over to the recycling center and in 15 minutes I have disposed of all my stuff in an environment friendly manner. Most recycling centers also take lawn debris, construction debris and old appliances so check with your local authorities to find out what they accept and where.

One final point I would like to drive home in this repair, reuse, recycle and repurpose post is to buy quality, even if it costs more money up front. You will save money on the back end in repairs because things that are made well usually last longer. I don’t know how many times I have seen someone buy the cheap version for $100 bucks for example, and then go back and have to buy the $300 version anyway because the cheaper one was unusable or broke. Does that make sense? To buy something that costs $300 for $400 because you were trying to “save” money? No of course it doesn’t, so don’t do it. Buy quality the FIRST time and save yourself money and headaches.

...that is all.

 Subscribe to Be A Survivor and Follow me on Twitter

Buy Be A Survivor stuff! ~ Donate to Be A Survivor! ~ Join "The Survivalists"!


  1. My BIL found a washing machine on the side of the road, brought it home, fixed the (then) $10 timer and they used it for 20 years.

    Check your local landfill - in Corpus Christi, TX, the landfill mulches all tree and shrub waste and its yours for free, you simply fill your own truckbed. We didn't have a truck, so took large trunk-size plastic containers we used for our camping equipment, and filled them.

  2. You remind me of the Boy Scout Law: "A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, THRIFTY, brave, clean and reverent."

    What you've said here is clearly thrifty and an admirable quality that is sorely lacking these days.

    It's the disposable and entitlement mentality that's partly to blame for getting America to the state it's in now, in my opinion.

    To model the "try to fix it instead of replace it" philosophy teaches resourcefulness, builds character, and does help people learn to respect and take care of what they have.

    A year or so ago, one of my sons and one of my stepsons broke each of their GameBoy video games. Instead of going out and buying them new ones, we made them work and save up their own money to pay to have them repaired. It cost each boy $60. You better believe that those boys are a lot more careful with their things now.

  3. all makes sense to me! Most of my relatives that were country folks would be considered to be pack rats by todays standards, but they could dig around in the stuff they had saved and usually come up with something to use as a spare part or a replacement for a fix!

    Good post and a valuable lesson for everyone!

  4. Walk your neighborhood. Found a brand new boys bike recently that the store stickers had not even rubbed off. Back tire was flat. It was so new looking I went and knocked on the door to see if it was really in the trash although it was obviously piled up to take it away. Guy said he did not have any way to fix the flat tire (i.e. air...) so he went and bought a new one. On another walk I found 5 semi used gas cans. all in great shape just needed to be cleaned. Owner had used them for cooking oil and that was it. I have no issue with pillaging my neighbors trash for stuff....obviously they must be much better off than I am :P

  5. Anon,

    Sounds like a good deal to 50 cents a year good ;)


    What you did is what a lot of parents fail at miserably. TEACH THEIR KIDS THE MEANING OF A BUCK. Good job! I am sure your kids now cherish those GamesBoys.


    You and I know it but apparently the rest of the consumers out there haven't gotten the memo!

    Daddy Sloane,

    That is funny, no air...goes and buys a new bike...actually it is sad and a perfect example of the sad state of affairs with the American consumer. I have no problems pillaging the trash in my neighborhood either. Good stuff to be had!

  6. We reuse our motorcycle oil, mixing it with 1 part gas in our weed eaters. We use old refrigerators for grain bins, and so on and so forth.

  7. Great post Flea. You're right if everyone did their part we'd be a lot better off.

    Kentucky Preppers Network

  8. Phelan: I'd avoid doing that,as there is a lot of garbage in used oil...unless you want to blow up your weedeater!
    I admit to being a pack rat...I keep that broken shovel,thinking I'll buy a new handle for it,but,a new one is cheaper,so..Same with the hoe and the rake,and the.......
    Dean in az

  9. I bought my GMC 3/4 ton 4x4 pickup new in 1976.
    Good truck. It is my 4x4 survival kit.

  10. My grandparents would send money to be split between us every time they had extra money. Sometimes if my mother knew we didn't need the money for something in particular, she'd decide what we needed from my grandparent's money, so next thing I knew, I had a fairly expensive washer and dryer (I had been using the laundrymat). I was surprised at how much they cost, almost double what could have been bought new at the time. But she said they were the sturdiest washer/dryer made.

    I'm still using the dryer 25 years later. I line dry them until they're half-dry, then finish them in the dryer to get rid of wrinkles. I still have the washer too, but hubby needs to fix it (again).