My sandals have new soles—and it took a village!

I can’t thank my local shoe repair man. How he pays the rent is a mystery, when each time I offer him a pair of shoes to fix, he sneers at me and thrusts them back, yelling (he doesn’t hear well) “No! No good!”

My well-loved and well-worn Mexican sandals are the most recent shoes he spurned. They were too cheap; I could buy three new pairs for the price he’d charge me; I should throw them away; etc, etc. But then I came to Holden Village.

If you’ve ever visited this Lutheran retreat center tucked in the mountains of central Washington, you know that it’s a place that values creative re-use. Clothing, furniture, and books shift endlessly from use to use, owner to owner. From the boxes of extra, free men’s, women’s and children’s clothing, a friend fished a pair of flip flops. He detached the soles, used glue and clamps to attach them to my sandals, and now I am walking with the confidence of a woman who knows her next step won’t be her shoes’ last.

Remember the mantra, “reduce, reuse, recycle?” Reducing—making and buying less—is straightforward if unpopular. Recycling is getting easier as more businesses and communities go “green.” But when a man trained to repair shoes won’t do so, you know that fixing, repurposing, or sharing things is a lost art.

Let’s try to change this. Check your closet for an item that needs hemming, or a new button, or a new sole, or a new plug. Fix it yourself, or find someone who can help you. For creative inspiration, get a copy of the hip do-it-yourself magazine, Ready Made.

Stand up for reuse, that forgotten second “R!”