Repairing stuff – reducing waste

Fix-It Clinics celebrate 5 years

Fix-It Clinics celebrate 5 years

Jim and Beatrice Voss watched as Fix-It Clinic volunteer Dave Blackburn unscrewed their rattling fan and peered into its insides.

With more than 100 hours of Fix-It Clinic volunteer work under his belt, Blackburn was up to the challenge of repairing it.

“It's about taking apart things, daring to fix them and staring until you see something wrong," he said.

The Voss family was among the group of people who got free, guided help repairing their household items at a recent Fix-It Clinic at Hennepin County Library - Southdale.

This September marked the five-year anniversary of the clinics, which teach repair skills, build community connections and reduce the amount of repairable objects thrown in the trash. Since 2012, the events have diverted more than 28,000 pounds of waste.

Volunteers devote more than 5,100 hours

Across the room, volunteers gathered around a table to bring Nori Un’s clock back to life.

“I’m a nurse. I fix people, not things,” Un said, laughing.

Un explained that she was grateful for the guidance of volunteers who are more technologically inclined than she is.

Since the events began, volunteers have fixed more than 4,000 items, or 78 percent of the items residents have brought to the clinics.

Hennepin County waste reduction and recycling specialist Nancy Lo coordinates the program. Hennepin County Master Recycler/Composter Greta Rittenhouse often assists to keep things running smoothly, doing everything from announcing each person and their broken item as they come in to helping clean up after each event. Lo was inspired to begin this program at Hennepin County after reading a story about repair cafes in Amsterdam.

She credits the success of the events to supportive supervisors and the numerous volunteers who help residents disassemble, troubleshoot and fix stuff.

“It is the volunteers who make this clinic what it is. People come with their broken stuff, some of it cherished family heirlooms, and they are delighted when they find out their stuff can be fixed. They also learn how to fix their stuff, which is both fun and empowering,” Lo said.

Anyone welcome at the free clinics

People of all ages are encouraged to attend Hennepin County Fix-It Clinics – and invite their friends and family to take part.

Learn more and view full event listings at