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Household Items You Can Upcycle or Repurpose

Dec 21st, 2023

Upcycling is a relatively new term, but the idea is an age-old one. 

Historically, humans have been pretty creative when it comes to solving problems, and that creativity has (thankfully) remained even after the rise of online shopping and instant gratification. And if you’re the kind of person that likes to solve a problem with a little creativity while also using what you already have on hand, then repurposing old materials into something new is just the kind of thing you’ll like. 

Giving old items a new life not only saves money but also reduces your environmental impact. There’s enough stuff in the world already, so let’s use what we already have and have some fun while we’re at it!

How to repurpose old household items into new uses

Household upcycle ideas

Tins and jars: Use them for storage (food, spices, crafts, etc...), unique planters, colorful organizers, DIY candle holders or light fixtures.

Glass bottles: These can become reusable water bottles, flower vases, juice containers, vessels for DIY kombucha or lamp bases with a flair.

Glass jars: Glass jars are the ultimate DIY dream. Turn them into lanterns, terrariums or snow globes, or use them for storing spices, teas or buttons. Fill them with treats and give them as gifts, use them to propagate indoor plants, keep your toothbrushes in them — the opportunities are endless.

Cardboard boxes: Repurpose a good cardboard box for storage, crafts, children’s playhouses or furniture pieces like floating shelves or cat scratching posts. The options are endless, and the best part is that you can usually recycle them when you’re done!

Furniture: Give old furniture a fresh look with paint and upholstery, or repurpose it into something new like a bookshelf from a ladder or a coffee table from a door. You can even use removable wallpaper to add some depth and design to an otherwise simple piece!

Electronics: Donate working electronics to schools or clubs that can tinker with them, or use their parts for some cool DIY projects like speakers, chargers or mechanical goodies. An electronics scraps box is a great resource for kids who are interested in learning more about those skills.

Books: Repurpose books as heavy bookends, stacked decorative pieces or as gifts; take out the pages and make coasters out of the covers and collages out of the pages. You can even use the pages in  a papier-mâché project!

Newspaper and magazines: Use this abundant resource for crafts, decoupage projects or free packing material. You can even shred newspaper and use the shreds in kitty litter or as mulch for your planters!

Kitchen upcycle ideas

Cookware: Use old cast-iron pots and pans for planters, storage or DIY outdoor ovens (although honestly, cleaning them can be super easy!). You can also use old pots for crafting purposes if they are starting to peel or flake off into food. Candle wax, for example, needs to be melted on a low heat, and even some DIY cleaning products need some prep work. Might as well use a pot that isn’t suitable for food anymore!

Utensils: Turn old silverware into wind chimes, plant markers, coat hooks or jewelry. You can also string them up and use them as a deterrent for birds that are targeting your balcony veggie garden.

Mugs and cups: Repurpose them as planters, pencil holders or paint brush holders. If they’re clean and in good shape, then you can give them as gifts alongside some homemade hot cocoa or a DIY tea blend!

Spice jars: Use them for storing small items like jewelry, buttons or screws. Or, make your own spice blends and give them as thoughtful gifts!

Egg cartons: Egg cartons are very versatile and can become seedling trays, organizers for small items, DIY bird feeders and much, much more! They’re also great for holding paint if you don’t have a paper plate or palette.

Wine corks: Sew or glue these together to create coasters, bulletin boards or bathmats!

Clothing upcycle ideas

Clothing: Turn old clothes into rags, cleaning cloths, tote bags, headbands, pillowcases or patches for other clothes. You can also tie them up into knots and use them as pet toys (as long as you do it safely!).

Scarves: Scarves are, essentially, large pieces of fabric that can easily turn into pillow cases, tablecloths or art pieces. Unravel knitted scarves to collect your own ball of yarn, or cut them into strips of long ribbon. You can even use them to wrap gifts!

Belts: Repurpose belts into straps for bags, guitar holders or plant hangers. You can take apart the buckles and metal pieces to use for other projects, too, and then you have a great piece of fabric or leather to do whatever with!

Jewelry: Repurpose beads and chains into new pieces, or use as embellishments for other projects. Give them as gifts or implement them into collages, fashion pieces or ornaments!

See what you can make with what you have — you’ll either love it and keep it forever, or you can donate it and someone else will try the same thing. It’s a win-win!

Have fun!

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Featured photo courtesy Pixabay/mariya_m

Author of Article

Colleen Ford is a South African who now lives in Spokane, Washington. She loves to travel, camp (in warm weather) and bake.

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