James, who is more often on breakfast duty than I am, has been wanting to invest in a larger toaster since Calder started gumming bread in the morning, which was, notably, not yesterday. These days she’s not just scarfing up her dad’s sourdough, she’s buttering it herself. Sometimes it takes me awhile to come around to the idea of investing in new things. And sometimes I literally trip over them.
This new-to-us 4-slice toaster appeared, as if by magic, on a sidewalk around the corner from our apartment two weeks after I read Fixation by Sandra Goldmark. Maybe it was fate, maybe it was just a deep interest in stuff and fixing it, but when I found the toaster, cord clipped, one night when walking back home after dark, I hoisted it up like the worse-for-wear treasure that it was and carried it home, determined to find a fix for whatever ailed it.
In the introduction to her book, Sandra Goldmark explains that her own heightened interest in fixing came after a spate of broken items in her home when she was a new mother with an infant child. She writes:
I lay awake at night, yearning for rest, terrified about climate change, and thinking about my damn vacuum.
I began to connect the dots. I thought about how the vacuum, and desk lamp, and backpack, and toaster are part of a much bigger economic system of large-scale extraction of resources, poor design, rapid manufacture, global distribution, early obsolescence, and disposal. I thought about what it means to raise kids in a culture where we place almost no value on longevity, maintenance, durability—on care.”
Having just read these words, I clearly had no choice but to try to care for this abandoned toaster. Dualit toasters have been made in the UK since 1945 and they’re often touted as being some of the most durable—and repairable—toasters on the market. They’re also a real financial investment so finding one in relatively good shape on the sidewalk was a stroke of incredible luck. I knew this when I found the toaster, but I wasn’t sure how I would actually go about fixing it or finding someone else to, so I decided to reach out to Dualit directly.* They explained that each Dualit Classic Toaster is hand built by the same person from start to finish in their West Sussex factory with parts that are fully repairable or replaceable.
Folks in the UK can order spare parts and repair services through the company directly, and for US customers, the company partners with a repair shop in New Jersey called Electra Craft. I could have ordered a replacement cord directly through Electra Craft, but I was concerned that someone might have clipped the cord because of another electrical issue, so I decided to send the whole thing in for repair with someone more expert in the field. Less than a week later, they’d replaced the cord and the selector switch and the machine was back on my kitchen counter ready for the toast-hungry two-year-old in the next room.
It was luck and proximity to neighbors who weren’t planning to fix their fancy toaster, that made this possible. I’m not suggesting this is a journey that might be easy, or even possible, to replicate, but it was a process that made me very thankful that there are companies committed to producing goods that are not only designed to last, but designed to be repaired. Fixing toasters alone won’t halt climate change, but there’s no doubt that changing our relationship to stuff is a part of the puzzle. At the end of Fixation, Sandra Goldmark writes, “If fixing your toaster will disincline you to vote, or switch to renewable energy, or work to support local repair providers in your community, then by all means, don’t fix that toaster. But if you believe, as I do, that our collective actions—our culture—begin in our homes, in our daily lives, and in our hearts, then perhaps you will come to see, as I did, that fixing a damn toaster is just part of a larger fight that we all need to step up and join, each in our own way.”
+ The exact toaster I found is no longer on the market, but it’s an older version of the current Dualit New Generation Classic 4-Slice Toaster. (This is an affiliate link to Williams Sonoma where you can purchase a Dualit toaster in the US.)
+ Dualit covered the cost of repairs for this toaster after I reached out to them about writing this piece. All opinions are my own!