#YEEInterview: Paranduskelder – Community Repair Space in Tartu, by Martina Forbicini

In today’s interview, we travel to Tartu, Estonia where we meet the team at Paranduskelder – Repair Space, to talk with them about repairing things.

Nothing lasts forever. Do you stick with what you’ve been using and love, or get something shiny and new? Paranduskelder is a non-profit organisation, which offers their space and tools you need to fix your broken things. And if you don’t have anything to repair yet, you can still join their creative workshops and events to learn how to make your own stuff to live more sustainably. If you’re not in Estonia, don’t worry! Read our interview, get inspired and check out their Youtube Channel for some funny and practical DIY videos.

“Fixing things, we are beginning to believe, is a form of daily activism. A statement. A reclamation of power. Paranduskelder is a place where everyone can acquire the skills and willingness to take the act of repairing the world into their own hands.” 


  • Who is the team behind Paranduskelder – Repair space? Can you tell us a bit about yourself? 

Right now, our team has five members: Kätlin Johanson, Jiří Krejčí, Lauri Mei, Jaana Ahlberg and Diana Lõhmus. We are all thinking about a greener future. Community gardens, teaching, landscape architecture, restoration, bottom-up approach, filmmaking are some of the keywords that describe our past and present.

  • How did you come up with the idea of Paranduskelder – Repair space? And how does it work?

Three members of our team have been organizing repair cafes since 2017. Repair cafe is a worldwide event format where skilled people and people without skills fix their things together. After organizing this for a while, we felt a need for a more permanent solution, where it is possible to go weekly. Now, we have a place in the cultural center of Tartu (Estonia) and we are open three times a week in the evenings. People have to register to become a member – membership costs 10€ per year – and after they can use the space and tools from Tuesday to Thursday. Besides fixing stuff, they can also make their own stuff!

  • In the fast-paced society we live in, where one doesn’t seem to find time for repairing things but rather prefers to buy the product again, how do you engage people in the repairing process? 

We made a questionnaire and this showed that people have three main reasons why they don’t repair their things: they don’t have the skills, they believe the thing cannot be fixed and they don’t have enough time. We also often see that people think it is too hard to fix stuff, but actually when you get a bit of help and advice, you see that it is not so hard and you actually are able to do it yourself! We are offering a space where getting these new skills has an added value, because you also are socializing with new people at the same time.

    We also have a wider idea to make fixing trendy, so it would be like a cool new thing to do. This is the reason why we are making events, participating in workshops etc. One of our main initiatives is our Youtube channel where we make funny, but on the same time practical videos, about how to approach green living. This is also helping to make fixing trendy, but we still have to reach more people.

  • Which is the biggest challenge you have faced (or you are facing) since setting up this no-profit organization?

As we are no-profit then I think the biggest challenge all the time is time and money. Many of us would like to commit more for Paranduskelder, but financially it is not possible right now.

  • Which kind of reactions/feedbacks have Paranduskelder – Repair space received?

As far as I can remember, we only got good and very good feedback. People have heard from us and are following our doings. Although, it seems that it takes time for people to actually come to Paranduskelder and start to actively be part of the repairers’ community.  

  • In your opinion, which role does youth play in raising awareness about environmental issues?

In Paranduskelder, we are trying to create a community consisting of different generations: we have members who are teenagers, seniors and everyone in the middle. We believe that everyone has their role in this climate journey. I suppose young people have the responsibility and the need to pave the future to create new systems, which would keep the planet livable. Also, youth has the energy and freshness to take initiative maybe more than older generations. But, at the end of the day, it really depends on the person and not so much on the age.

  • Preventing waste and sharing skills is a very empowering community tool. Which role do you think companies should play as providers of repair information, spare parts and tools?

Things in general should have higher quality, then there wouldn’t be a need to fix them so often. In the end, something will probably break, but if things are made with modular parts then you could just replace one part of it and continue to use all the rest of it. Also, these modular parts could be open source, so everyone could 3d print them, so parts wouldn’t have to travel long distances. Modularity and higher quality are the main things that would change a lot, also in terms of producing less and less CO2. 

But producing less means that people buy less and there is less money, which is a problem from the perspective of the companies.

  • Looking back at when you started the movement, is there something you would do differently?

We started more like a service, so people paid each time for the help they got. This didn’t work so well, because it didn’t help to create the community around us. Now we have a membership system, which works much better, more people come and stick around. We can also see now the development of people skills, like someone learns something completely new like sewing, using power tools etc. I believe we could have started with this more open approach from the beginning.

Besides the physical space, we are uploading Youtube videos as I mentioned before. In the start of Paranduskelder we were doing videos in Estonian language. As it takes a lot of time to create a Youtube channel with a wider community, it could have been beneficial to start already in English to reach and inspire people from all around the world. 

Everything is an ongoing process: you get there when you get there, so we are not too harsh on ourselves about these things!

  • What’s next for you and Paranduskelder – repair space?

Broader vision is to make fixing popular and create culture around it. Right now, we are planning to get a bus, which would make it possible to organize repair cafes in different places of Estonia, so that fixing and DIY approach would get more into people’s subconscious. We have made a crowdfunding campaign for this. I will leave the link below, if someone would be interested in supporting this. We have been writing some projects which could give an opportunity to focus more on online things, especially Youtube, but also creating educational materials for youth about the circular economy. We have an interest to be more active internationally, so taking part in Erasmus or other programs is also a possible course of action. Locally we still organize events and market our space so more people would join.

  • Which advice would you give to the young people like you who want to be more active in environmental protection?

Do what you can! If you cannot do so much then do less, but do something. If all these obvious things like reducing and recycling your waste, repairing your clothes, traveling less, eating less meat, protesting … are not enough then go bigger. Join – for example, as an intern – some organizations, where you can work with others for some greener solutions or found your own! It can be practical like developing renewable energy solutions or more theoretical like researching the consequences of deforestation (share it after, loud and clear). Everything has importance and it is good that people are engaged in different ways. Some of us are protesters and some of us are designers and that is fine!

I believe it is also important to find ways to keep yourself sane by doing some daily practice. In our team there are different things people do, for example meditation, yoga, climbing, running. It’s rather easy to get depressed about the current course of action and this can be paralyzing and like this you are not inspiring anyone. 

Thanks so much to the team at Paranduskelder – Repair space for this interview. It is always exciting to see how we can give renewed value to things which would have been discarded as waste while gaining new skills and getting to know people in our community! Thanks for reminding us that youth as a pivotal role in raising awareness about environmental issues but pointing out that it’s not always about the age but more about the person. There are plenty of people, of all ages, out there who are very much engaged in tackling environmental problems and we’re extremely thankful for that!

Do you want to help Paranduskelder raise funds for their bus campaign? For the crowdfunding campaign (running until 12.12.2020) click here.

Don´t forget to check out their website and follow Paranduskelder on social media 





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