For decades, families learned to live on hand-me-downs and fixed things, such as radios, toasters, and cars themselves. Good meals came out of leftovers, and sewing was an art form that helped clothe family members with huge cost savings when money was short. People learned to do these things at very young ages by observing their family and friends tinkering with these skills over a life time. The real benefit was learning skills from this tinkering that were perfected from practice, and often led to careers and small business ownership.
Today, the trend is to throw it away and buy new or hire someone to fix it. Corporate America produces goods that rarely last, and if we do not know how to fix them, we buy a new one. The toaster received as a wedding gift in the 1960’s only needed replaced if it was olive green or mustard yellow, and the home décor had changed. An automobile may have run until it literally fell apart, and vacuum cleaners were hand me downs from a grandparent.
Even tech America has become a society of certified professionals for the latest trend in services and, most likely, these certifications will become obsolete during someone’s career. At a minimum, these services require yearly recertification for new and improved strategies for the same old results. These certified professionals do a fine job, but at a very high cost to the consumer and often without the years of “tinkering” experience that added cost saving ideas and a flavor of unique expertise. I know people who can sew a beautiful wedding dress, reupholster a couch, rewire a lamp or toaster, fix a broken flashlight or calculator, and change the breaks on my car. None of them made a career out of it, but they could have, in the past.
What was a neighbor’s talent, could often be bartered for your talent. Sewing a dress for a teenager’s first dance may have been repaid for some free auto repair. The value of this over time was huge for young families, and it gave some purpose in families spending time together learning a useful skill.
For me, it is not about saving the money as much as it is about saving the earth.
I would rather not add to the ever growing trash heap for things that are recyclable and repairable. As we continue to move into depleted resources, costly living expenses, and lost employment opportunities, we may want to consider returning to the art of tinkering, and learning from those who perfected it, while they are still with us. Not only is it informative, but it is a way for family and friends to pass on a valuable gift that may be a necessity in the future. It may even help grandpa feel important sharing his “tinkering” talent with his family.