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Being resourceful

The Road to Resilience

Whether we’re in a dangerous situation or simply inconvenienced, it is our level of resourcefulness that determines if and how quickly we resolve the situation.  We in the developed world really don’t need to know much about the places we inhabit or the things we need or use.  As long as we earn money, we can find somebody to provide whatever it is we need.  With a smart phone, we have command of much of the knowledge and resources in the world, yet we can end up as dumb as rocks.  Exercising our intelligence requires the use of logic and analytical thinking.  It requires some working knowledge of the things around us.

We live in a world where technology has far outstripped the average person’s knowledge and understanding.  If your car breaks down, do you know why?  Can you fix it?  How about your cell phone?  I’ll wager that few of us have a clue about these things, yet we utterly depend on them every day.  We generally have two choices:  we spend the money to fix or replace it, or we do without.  

Fortunately, the things that are really important—food, water, shelter, and community—are not high tech, and we can provide these for ourselves with not so without such extensive knowledge and expertise.  There are readily understood principals for securing these things, so we can increase our resilience immeasurably if we spend some time to learn these.  Learn how to grow, process, and prepare food, become familiar with tools and materials, and learn how to use them to make and repair the things that you need.   Not only will you save money, you will gain a deep sense of security that you are better equipped to take care of yourself no matter what may come down.  

Basic survival and living well are at opposite ends of a spectrum.  The degree to which you live well on your own resources depends on refining and honing your skills and knowledge through experience and learning from others.  In my mind, there is nothing more satisfying than achieving some level of refinement in your lifestyle directly through your own effort.  If your friends and neighbors lack the information you need, there is a huge wealth of how-to information on YouTube.  As long as the net is up and working, we might as well take advantage of it.  You can find tutorials on building or repairing just about anything on YouTube.

I’ve been an all-around-build-it-and-fixit guy all my life, so I understand that we create mental blocks that prevent us from having the confidence to operate in unfamiliar territory.  I also know that it often takes little time, especially with hands on instruction, to turn the mysterious into the familiar.  This may not work for your cell phone, but quite a few of your electrical appliances are understandable with a modicum of electrical knowledge and patient observation.

There is definitely a craft and sometimes an art to making things functional again.  A basic repair might only involve finding the faulty part and sending for and installing the replacement.  We may, however, realize that we can find a cheaper, readily available substitute or, even better, fashion our own replacement.   It is the last option that calls us to enter the world of art.  Your replacement may be whimsical, humorous, beautiful, or it may require a routine a little more involved but not difficult or onerous.  You find these sorts of fixes at old farmsteads, where the occupants are more likely to be proficient in a number of skills, and there are a lot of odds and ends lying around.

In the hopes of making us all a bit more resourceful, less wasteful, and maybe provide a bit of fun and entertainment, the Vashon Tool Library, King County, and perhaps some other sponsors are putting together a “repair café,” where confident fixers and not-so-confident fixers can bring their nonfunctioning items.  Together we will figure out what is wrong, decide whether and how it can be repaired, and, if possible, do it on the spot or send you home with instructions.  You will gain knowledge and perhaps a repaired item.  We hope to have people there that can do electrical repairs, wood repairs (furniture), clothing repairs, and who knows what else.  (If you have a skill or knowledge that you are willing to share, please let me know at the email address below.)  You will learn how to analyze a problem and understand the solution. I have done furniture repair for 25 years, and I can tell you that there are definite do’s and don’ts in making a successful repair.  

If the repair café is popular, we will do it as often as there is a need.  Too often, a perfectly serviceable item ends up in the landfill because of a failure to see and make a simple repair.  Save money, spare the Earth, and enjoy the feeling of accomplishment! I’ll let you know more as this develops.

Comments or willing repair person?