10 Bright Ideas for Repurposing Just About Anything

Beyond recycling, repurposing (also known as “upcycling”Ě) simply means finding a new use for an old item. You might change a leaky bucket into a rustic planter, for example, or a vintage door into a headboard. As well as saving you money and minimizing your contribution to the local landfills, repurposing tends to effect a significant change in your thinking. You’ll begin to see the potential for turning trash into treasure in every empty cereal package or roadside furniture discard … and even in things like iPads that you didn’t know were obsolete yet. Here are 10 suggestions for developing your “repurposing muscles.”

  • Think out of the box. The ability to envision multiple possibilities for any object is the true hallmark of successful repurposing mavens.
  • Look at what you have. The idea of “shopping your closet”Ě has already caught on among forward-thinking fashionistas on a budget, who look critically at their existing wardrobe and come up with creative new combinations. Apply the same concept to examine all your possessions. For example, if you love a certain tablecloth for its unusual color — but it’s worn or stained in an obvious place — you can cut it up to make a dresser scarf.
  • Consider what you need. Working the other way around, think about what you lack. Then open your mind to ideas about what could serve that function. Looking for a doorstop? Why not use your favorite too-worn-out to wear shoe that you were about to give to Goodwill?
  • Repurpose ideas. Repurposers tend to be generous souls. Use the wealth of inspiration out there for your own repurposing projects. Browse Pinterest or frugal-living websites to see what active upcyclers are doing and how they’re doing it. Then put your own spin on the process.
  • When in doubt, keep it simple. Got hold of an old mailbox that you’re not sure what to do with? Remember the old design principle, “form follows function.”Ě Your find is the perfect size and shape for use as a kitchen utensil holder.
  • See the upside of flaws or damage. Have you got a “good bones”Ě vintage dresser on your hands that’s missing a drawer or three? Create a perfect storage solution by filling the empty spaces with your collection of baskets.
  • Go extreme. You won’t want to use that 70s style TV in its present incarnation, so why not gut it and use the console as a luxury condo for your favorite pet?
  • Save for a rainy day. Often inspiration may not strike you at first glance. If you just know that a repurposing revelation is in the works, stash the item where your family, roommates or pet won’t be constantly tripping over it, such as a dedicated closet, a corner of the garage or even a workroom of your very own. A remodeling contractor can help you build or adapt a space for this purpose.
  • Accessorize. Store leftover paint, interesting thrift store hardware, fabric scraps and whatever other bits and bobs appeal to you. Repurposing is about creativity and saving a few dollars, so collecting cheap or (free!) accessories and ornaments for future projects is all a part of the process.
  • Keep an open mind. For instance, you may be going great guns upcycling salvaged wood and metal, electronics and more, but did you ever think of repurposing the sprouted onions in the bottom of your veggie drawer as new plants, yesterday’s newspaper as a gift bag or your old jeans as a Kindle cozy? Truly great upcyclers are always looking for new repurposing frontiers to cross!

Laura Firszt, Networx.com
Image credit (bathtub plants): Mikecogh via Flickr

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Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Janice Thompson
Janice Thompson3 years ago

If only I had the energy to do all that.

Debbie Crowe
Debbie Crowe3 years ago

I joined a couple of websites who feature this very thing! I love some of the ideas and using something old to create something new. Recycle, recycle, recycle!!

Kathryn M.
Kathryn M3 years ago

Thank you! A nice read for us thrift crafters!

Alice B.
Alice B3 years ago

Thanks for sharing !! :)

Barb Hansen
Ba H3 years ago


Bonnie Lynn M.
Bonnie Lynn M3 years ago

Thank you from us pack-rats. But I've been trying to get myself to simplify!

Christine W.
Christine W3 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

Nimue P.

Recycling is the only way. Do it.

Masahiko E.
.3 years ago