Upcycling, What To Do With That Junk

I get asked all the time if I can use things people find, and that’s good it means they are thinking before tossing something in their trash.  It may be furniture, or even a piece of wood (which is what I made this coat rack from), and let’s not forget the shot glasses that I finally removed the lettering from.

I soaked them in hot water overnight then carefully scrubbed with a damp cloth and baking soda. It took a little time but it worked!  I know I haven’t shown you what I have done with them and that’s because I haven’t been able to get out and pick up what I need.  But these will be filled and repurposed as candles.

It’s always better to repurpose something and continue its life before recycling an item. It saves resources to both recycle and to make something new you might need.

With such a variety of things  coming my way to repurpose I have turned to Pinterest for some inspiration.  Today I would like to share a few examples of what I have found.  If you have an idea of how to re-purpose some of these items I’d love to hear about them.

With plastic only  able to be recycled once if I come across plastic bottles I would like to use them and not toss them in the recycling bin.  Did you know you can grow tomato plants in them?

upcycle 2 liter bottle to tomato planter

Another use for plastic bottles outside.

upcycle bottle and spoon to birdfeeder

Here’s another idea for water bottles that you may find.  Pretty nice idea for packing cookies for gifts.

upcycle water bottle to cookie storage

Bottle caps around here aren’t recyclable.  We are asked to remove the caps before tossing our bottles into the bins.  So what can we do with those leftover caps?  Why not make a stamps from them?

upcycle bottle caps to stampers

Or a matching game for toddlers all you need extra is a shoe box lid?

upcycle bottle tops and shoe box lid

My grandfather was the king of repurposing items.  I still vividly recall him going to the auto junk yard asking to buy seat belts.  They had no idea what to charge him for seat belts as no one ever asked for them before.  He came home with the belts he had gotten for free and re-webbed an outdoor lawn chair, like the one pictured next.  You could also use belts like this one.

upcycle with belts

Here’s another belt project that would be very simple to do.

upcycle belts

What about an old hose that is no longer useful?  Of course you could add holes every  few inches for a soaker in the garden, but here an old hose was re-purposed into a doormat.

upcycle garden hose to door mat

Remodeling a kitchen and don’t know what to do with the cabinets you no longer want? Or better yet, with yard sale time fast approaching I’m sure you could pick up a kitchen cabinet rather cheaply.  It wouldn’t take much to upcycle one or two into toy boxes. Isn’t this cute? Best of all it would be plenty sturdy to allow the little ones to be able to sit on it too making it storage and seating area in one.

upcycle kitchen cabinet to toy box

What do you do with your old t-shirts?  Most of mine are turned into rags once they become too holey to even be used for painting clothes.  But before the entire shirt is covered in holes and paint, you could make your own baby bibs and save yourself a lot of money. I also have a friend who makes bibs out of hand towels as well.
upcycle shirts into bibs
I have yet to be offered a tent, but if I am I will definitely make a few of these lunch boxes.
upcycle tent to lunch bag
I love things that make a big statement.  Here’s an idea that jumped out at me.  I can see the hands made from wood scraps, paint sticks,  or even from cardboard decoupaged with something colorful.
upcycle tire
While this is themed for Halloween, you could use any design to have a unique  bowling game for little ones. I can see my 2-year-old grand-daughter loving this if it had a Minnie Mouse theme to it.
upcycled bowling game
While I am saving all the cardboard I can to use as a weed blocker in the garden this summer, this idea of using cardboard to make a lampshade has my attention.
upcycled cardboard lampshade
Speaking of gardening, one of the things I need to save are bottles to be used as watering cans.  Using a regular watering can last summer wasted water when the little ones, who expect me to wait for them to water the beds, would dump the entire can in one spot. Something like this should solve that problem.
upcycle watering can
 I would think this seat would be very inexpensive to make, at least a lot cheaper than a new chair.  I would guess you would need a couple L brackets to make sure the top didn’t bend backwards, but it looks easy enough to be able to repurpose that old suitcase.
upcycled seating
I love this skateboard idea,  I can see a few children having fun with this.
upcycled skateboard
Of course the one thing we all have enough of are empty toilet paper rolls.  Why not let the kids have some fun on a rainy day?
upcycled toilet paper rolls
Toilet paper rolls have many uses, I’ve found art made from them, garland chains and even thought of making napkin holders with some beautiful designs decoupaged on them.

I’m turning it over to you now.  What was your most unusual re-purpose?

36 thoughts on “Upcycling, What To Do With That Junk

  1. Loved this post! The funniest repurposed item I’ve ever seen was when I used to help teach in a preschool. One of the little boys that attended the school would come every single day with an empty laundry detergent bottle, for no other reason than to carry it around, like a security blanket. I guess it smelled like home? It was pretty cute.


  2. I have a few toilet rolls and kitchen rolls already and a waiting in the craft box…. Loved some of these ideas… The bird feeders we’ve done in the past, but I love that bottle top stamp idea.. :-) :-D


  3. It looks like you really enjoyed this post, I love the suitcase seat. I want to make a bed for Ruby from a suitcase. My mum once turned one of my brother’s old leather boots into a planter for a succulent. It looked great.


    • I hope you get those taxes done soon. I hate doing taxes so much that since I keep my income low I made a deal with my son to let him use me on his taxes. Now I don’t have to do anything but give my information to my son and he takes care of all the rest.


  4. I’m afraid my repurposing is not nearly as pretty and crafty as these examples. But let’s see… I made a make-shift mini greenhouse from some old clear vinyl carpet runners. I took a metal frame that had once been part of a utility storage thing and covered it with the carpet runners. I also made some sturdy bottom inserts for my reusable grocery bags by cutting up an old yard sign that the roofing company left behind after replacing my roof. It was the perfect material because it’s basically like corrugated cardboard only made from plastic so it can be easily cleaned.

    I suck at pretty, but I’ve got functional down pat! The only problem is that my garage is a total disaster area because I’m always holding onto junk in case I “need” it one day. Oy!


    • Oh no, do you park your car outside the garage because you can’t park it inside? My stack of cardboard has been growing recently and it’s driving me nuts waiting to be able to get into the field to get it out there as the base of my beds. Right now it’s in the closet which while out of the way bothers me to see.

      Cat these are great ideas. I never would have thought of making a greenhouse out of carpet runners. I have always hated those things but you came up with an idea that makes more sense for them.

      My grocery bags came with a removable plastic bottom which broke every time I used it. I gave up and began using just the bags without an insert. Now I’m going to keep my eyes open for left behind signs!! Thanks for the ideas


      • Ha! Well, the garage isn’t THAT bad, but it’s definitely got more crap in it than is useful. One of my projects for this summer will be cleaning it out and finding homes for all of the surplus stuff. Seriously there are 5 ladders out there. Yes, FIVE! And I don’t even want to think about what’s lurking in the piles of scrap lumber!


        • LOL, do I see ladders being used to hold plants in the future? I always wanted a garage, the only time I had one was for a year in Los Angeles. We only lived there 13 months so there wasn’t enough time to fill it up.


          • Hmmm… that’s an idea. Two of the ladders are wooden – they were left here by the house’s previous owner, and they’re both awfully rickety and VERY heavy. Seriously, I can barely lift them. I absolutely LOVE the idea of an indoor plant stand, but unfortunately I had to get rid of all my house plants because one of my little kitties likes to eat them. Oy! But, I did see a clever kitty scratching tree made from an old wooden step ladder once. Hmmm…. I’ll have to do some measuring and thinking. Maybe I could use the larger one to hang outdoor stuff and the smaller one indoors? I dunno if I really want to leave a ladder around outside though – sounds like an invitation for burglars!

            Then there’s one that’s this nifty fold-able aluminum ladder that I bought when I first bought the house. I figured I could use it as both a straight and step ladder. Problem is it’s REALLY heavy, and unwieldy, and the rungs are circular so trying to stand on them for any period of time is torture. But maybe I could sell that one.


          • Wish you lived closer, my youngest son has been wanting one of those foldable ladders to work on his house.

            You know I’ve also seen ladders up on the wall to use a book shelves, horizontally. Maybe if one fit one of your windows you could hang it from the top of the window and the cats wouldn’t be able to reach your plants??


          • I’m trying to picture that horizontal ladder thing with minimal success. But it’s probably a moot point since the adorable, yet challenging Smoky Bear kitty would likely consider it to be a challenge to be conquered. I think that cat has springs in his legs. Seriously, he can jump from the floor to the top of a six foot tall cabinet with no problem!

            One day a last summer I had one of the doors open so the cats could look out the screen. I left the room and when I came back I couldn’t find Smoky. I sorta started to panic wondering if he’d maybe gotten out somehow. Then I looked up and realized that he was perched atop the horizontal edge of the open door! I have no earthly idea how he got up there. You’d think that a swinging door would be a rather challenging moving target… maybe he scaled the screen and then climbed out on the edge of the door? Anyhow – I’ve come to the conclusion that the only way to keep something safe from him is to put it under lock and key!

            BTW – my advice to your son is to see if he can find someone to borrow one of those ladders from so he could try it out before buying it. My experience was that they looked much niftier than they actually were. This could be because I’m a wimp and needed a much lighter ladder – but also I think there’s a real design flaw that doesn’t become apparent until you try to use it as a straight ladder. Normally, to get such a tall ladder you’d have an extension ladder which you set up and then extend. But with this thing you have to fold it out to its full height first, which requires having a pretty big open space. Then you have to somehow muscle the 16 foot long thing into an upright position. I dunno… perhaps I’m just not coordinated enough to use it, but when I finally gave up and bought an extension ladder my life got a lot easier!


  5. I thank you for this. I try to re-purpose, but it has not been a terribly strong suit and I let it go by the wayside pretty often. I do the easy stuff – mustard jars to storage containers and drinking glasses for instance, but haven’t made any real efforts lately. After looking here, I’m considering repairing a lampshade by decoupaging old newspapers onto it – covering the tear, but still letting light out. Hmmmmm….


    • I’ve seen a lot of great ideas for decoupaging things on lamp shades like old letters, maps, and even silhouettes on the inside to shine through. Katy from the non-consumer advocate took apart a purse she had and used the fabric to recover a lampshade not long ago. I’d give you the link but can’t seem to get it to work.

      Every little bit helps, your jars becoming storage containers is a great idea and saves a lot so, Little Sis, don’t ever think what you do isn’t making a difference.


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