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Think Before You Toss: Creative Ways to Reuse and Upcycle

March 3, 2024
Think Before You Toss: Creative Ways to Reuse and Upcycle


With Earth Day coming up, I’ve been thinking a lot about reducing waste and adopting more sustainable habits. It’s easy to toss items when they’re broken or I’m bored with them, but often a little creativity can give them new life! Reusing and upcycling items saves money while reducing my environmental impact. In this article, I’ll share my favorite ways to reuse everyday items and upcycle them into something new.

Repurpose Clothing

Clothing is one of the easiest things to creatively reuse. Here are some ways I give old clothes new life:

Turn Old T-Shirts Into Cleaning Rags

T-shirts with holes or stains still make great cleaning and dusting rags. I cut them into squares and use them all around the house. The soft cotton is perfect for dusting and wiping down surfaces. This saves money on paper towels while reusing items I’d otherwise toss.

Make Pillows or Bags From Old T-Shirts

With basic sewing skills, I turn old t-shirts into pillows for couches or beds. I can get creative with the shape and size. Old t-shirts also make cute tote bags for picnics, shopping, or the beach. I love being able to reuse old shirts I have an emotional attachment to.

Braid a T-Shirt Rug

Braiding strips of old t-shirts makes a durable, washable rug perfect for high-traffic areas like hallways or laundry rooms. I like adding t-shirts from vacations or college to give a rug special meaning. The braiding technique is easy to learn.

Reuse Food Containers

Before tossing out food containers, I consider creative ways to reuse them:

Turn Jars Into Vases

Jars that held pasta sauce, jelly, or other foods become unique vases with a quick clean. I remove labels, wash thoroughly, and decorate jars with paint, string, or other embellishments. Then I fill them with fresh or faux flowers for rustic home decor.

Use Butter Containers for Food Storage

The plastic tubs butter and spreads come in are perfect for storing leftovers or taking snacks on-the-go. I wash them thoroughly and reuse them over and over. They save money on plastic baggies or foil. The clear plastic lets me easily see the contents.

Repurpose Cottage Cheese Containers as Paint Holders

The small plastic tubs cottage cheese comes in are just the right size for holding and mixing paint. I use them to organize craft paints or when painting around the house. Clean them well first, add paint, and seal with a tight lid.

Give Furniture a Makeover

With some creativity and effort, outdated furniture can be upcycled into stylish, functional pieces. Here are my favorite makeover projects:

Sand and Repaint Furniture

Sanding furniture removes scratches and chips, preparing it for a fresh coat of paint. Neutral colors work well, but I like to get creative with bright, bold hues too. New paint gives thrift store finds new life.

Stain or Wrap Surfaces With Contact Paper

For wooden surfaces like dressers or nightstands, I apply wood stain in a modern hue to update the look. Another easy option is wrapping surfaces with adhesive contact paper – it comes in many materials like wood, marble, or patterned fabrics.

Reupholster Furniture

Reupholstering chairs, ottomans, or headboards gives them a whole new look. I purchase foam and fabric by the yard to create soft, stylish new upholstery. Watching online tutorials taught me how to reupholster. It lets me customize thrift store furniture finds.

Repurpose Common Household Items

Many household items can be creatively reused instead of being tossed out:

Turn Old Books Into Decor

Outdated encyclopedias or old hardcover books become chic home accents. I stack them on tables or shelves to add height and color. Books also become decorative containers when I carve out the pages. I hide small objects inside the “book box” on my shelf.

Reuse Plastic Bottles for Storage

I wash and dry used shampoo bottles, soap dispensers, or plastic soda bottles. Then I fill them with cotton swabs, qtips, scissors, paint brushes, or other small supplies to neatly organize. Labels help identify the contents.

Transform Jars Into Organizers

Jars of all sizes help organize my workspace or craft supplies when reused. Small jars hold paper clips or push pins. Large pickle jars store rulers, paintbrushes, and other longer items neatly on my desk.


With a little ingenuity, many household items can be creatively reused or upcycled instead of being tossed out. Simple projects like turning old t-shirts into rags or braiding a rug give worn items renewed purpose. For furniture or plastic containers, techniques like sanding, painting, staining or labeling transform them into functional, decorative items. Reusing and upcycling saves money while reducing waste – a double win for my wallet and the environment! What creative ways have you found to reuse everyday items?

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