By now you have probably heard of Fix-It Clinics. It is a great idea. Take something broken and learn how to fix it. Or, at least, know you tried before tossing it. It is perfect for kids, too. Kids love to explore and take things apart to see how they work. You might as well make that tendency useful and get some help fixing household items.
“Fix-It Clinics offer free, guided assistance from volunteers with repair skills to disassemble, troubleshoot, and (hopefully) fix small household appliances, clothing, electronics, mobile devices and more”
What to Bring to Fix-It Clinics
You need to be able to carry anything you bring to a Fix-It Clinic – Sorry no appliances, dehumidifiers or cars. Bring your own tools if you have them so you can learn on your own equipment, but the experts will have tools on hand, also. The following is a non-exhaustive list of things that Ramsey County suggests bringing in instead of tossing:
- Antique radio.
- Camping lantern.
- Clothing and other soft goods to mend or alter.
- Dremel tool.
- DVD player.
- Electric hot water kettle.
- Hair dryer.
- Paper shredder.
- Remote control.
- Sewing machine.
- Steam mop.
- Telephone headset.
- Toaster oven.
What Happens if You Can’t Fix the Item?
Not everything will be repairable. Know that you are responsible for disposing of any items that can’t be fixed – of course you were responsible for that before you tried.
5 Benefits of Fix-It Clinics, Even When You Can’t Fix It.
We were asked by a commenter why families should bother to do this if the clinics can’t guarantee an item can be fixed. To be honest, saving the item was more of a bonus for us, we see so much family fun in fix-it clinics.
- An interesting and engaging family outing. Maybe you’ll find a new hobby, maybe you won’t, but at least it is free with no long-term commitment to try.
- Hands-on STEM experience. Taking something apart is how you learn how it works.
- Inter-generational interaction. One-on-one clinics are a great time for kids to practice speaking with adults.
- New Toys? Sometimes you find really cool things inside non-repairable items. We once took apart an old television. It was amazing how many “toys” we made out of the parts, plus I got a mirror out of the deal.
- Easier Disposal. I find that its easier to dispose of something once its taken apart. If a part needs to be recycled, it has been separated from the larger item and the parts that can’t be recycled can now fit in a garbage bin.
Some Good Insider Advice for Attending
In 2014, I had a chance to chat on Facebook with Nancy Lo, the coordinator of the Hennepin Fix-It Clinic program and she let me in on a little secret: Don’t get to the Fix-It Clinic’s early. Sleep in, eat breakfast, go grocery shopping. Show up to the Fix-It Clinic about midway through its drop in hours. The second half is much less crowded than the first. If you show up at the midway point, you’ll still have time to work with an expert, but you won’t have to wait in line as long.
Where to Find Fix-It Clinics
Six counties in the Twin Cities Metro have a Fix-It Clinic program. Events are offered at rotating sites. Most are drop-in events and do not require proof of residency to participate. Follow the links to find the next fix-it clinic near you and more information on acceptable items and what to expect. While we try to keep up with these dates on our calendar, we recommend signing up for email updates with your home county.
Anoka County does qualify that these events are intended for residents. These clinics also offer paper shredding – up to three bankers boxes. Bring along replacement parts if you have them.
Three items per visit allowed. Carver County asks participants to pre-register so volunteers can assess the reparability of your item prior to the event. If none of the current volunteers are able to help, they will contact you. They offer information on repair shops and proper disposal if necessary. Questions: Call 952-361-1800.
This link also includes some Fix-It at Home Videos for common repairs – Lamps, vacuum cleaners, sewing machines and how to solder and how to find more repair videos online.
Rotating monthly clinics are held on the second Saturday from noon to 4pm and are first-come, first served.
Live, in-person clinics are still on hold as of summer 2022. But, find Ramsey County’s repair video series here. Learn to patch jeans, fix a broken belt loop, replace a button, fix a torn seam, replace a power cord on a lamp, replace a vacuum belt, clean and maintain an oscillating fan and replace a lamp socket.
Find How To Videos here. No live in-person events at this time.
Do It Yourself Tips:
Hennepin County suggested more tips for DIYers who prefer to give household repairs a try on their own. This could make for a really interesting Saturday family day!
- Go ahead and take it apart. Don’t be afraid; it’s already broken.
- Give it a good cleaning. Sometimes an item that isn’t working properly just needs to be cleaned.
- Gather your tools and maybe watch a few videos. While you need some tools and knowledge to fix things, you often don’t need many specialty tools – a basic toolset can go a long way. When you do need special tools, look for tool rental shops (we like Heights Rental) or consider joining the Minneapolis Tool Library.
- Look for replacement parts. Many items stop working due to one broken part that is relatively inexpensive to replace.
- Buy quality. Investing in better-quality items can save you money and hassle. They tend to last longer and are often made to be repairable (some cheap items are made to be used up and tossed out). Consider reparability when factoring the value of an item to buy. Can you take the item apart? How well-made are the components?
- Dispose properly of items not worth fixing. Some things that are broken may not be worth fixing. Make sure to properly dispose of these items. Search the Hennepin County Green Disposal Guide for options.
Beyond Fix-It Clinics
Love getting busy with these practical building skills with your kids? We also recommend Home Depot Kids Workshops to build things together. Tech Take Apart Days at The Works presents kids with the chance to take things apart to see how they work; and Leonardo’s Basement has all sorts of fun, creative building classes and camps.
It the words, of the beloved Bob the Builder series: “Can we fix it?” We hope you have fun getting to “Yes We Can” together. We would love to see your successes (and amusing failures), leave us a comment and share your story.
6 thoughts on “Fix-It Clinics”
What if I have missed the fix it clinic in my area but need somethings fixed asap
I would check with the MN Tool Library or your local library. They may know of events or people who can help you. This month, in particular, there are quite a few fix-it style events happening in honor of Earth Day.
Most items need a replacement part to work. I know you don’t have every replacement part for every brand of everything. So why do this? Most people will end up throwing things away anyway. The only things you can fix are easy to fix things.
That is a good question, Julie. Participants are encouraged to do a little research and bring replacement parts with them. If not, these experts might be able to point them in the right direction. As a family fun site, we see the added benefit of letting kids get a chance to see how everyday items work. But, if it is not your thing, than absolutely do something else with your time. We have 500 Ideas for Things to Do in Minneapolis and St. Paul with Kids Here..
Hi Julie, A few days have passed, but I thought I would chime in. As a regular volunteer for Fix-It Clinics, I carry a supply of common replacement parts which I share. Several of us do the same. The counties also provide supplies and routine replacement parts. As a result, we successfully repair more than 75% of the items people bring. It is pretty exciting.
Things are only easy to fix after we know how they work and why they stopped working. Many kids and adults alike seem fascinated with the troubleshooting and repair process. We go out of our way to engage them. We want to encourage people to consider repair before replacing and recycling. In Hennepin Co alone, with only 7 clinics last year, we diverted 662 items (3,745 pounds) from the landfill. That is great, but the downstream benefits of education to the community and environment are immeasurable. That is why we do it.
Wow! Thank you for this information Howard. It is so cool to know that you can fix such a high percentage of items.