View Full Version : 101 throw-aways that could be put to creative use!

01-02-2007, 05:45 PM
I may not be an expert at anything yet but the last 20 years or so have taught me the rare skill of living with clutter all around. Yesterday itself, I got another "heap" of scoldings from mum on not decluttering my room. (And a very furious glare on not cleaning up the spider webs despite repeated warnings!)
I'm real lazy at household stuff and I thought if I could forever get rid of (or at least cut down on ) this decluttering job. Well, fancy took me and I came up with the idea of saving old worthy-of-jettisoning items and putting them to some other use .
I am compiling a list of 101 (okay, that's a goal for the start) materials you could recycle, or save, and put to other creative uses when their original function is exhausted.
And of course, I am looking at turning it into an article!

For a start, here are some of my initial "raw" ideas:
1. Old calenders: Calender pictures can be used as wrapping papers.
2. Tooth brush: Okay, this one I have been using since childhood. Old tooth brushes could be turned, almost magically, into spray painting brushes!

Okay, now, get going!

01-02-2007, 05:58 PM
I framed some pictures from old calendars (Van Gogh and Winnie the Pooh). My mom said that inmates usually make their shivs out of toothbrushes. She's never done time, but she's very adept with craft projects, so I'd take her word for it.

01-02-2007, 06:10 PM
A rival for my title of Clutter Queen? Cool.

Here are a few of the second uses that are normal around here.

Calendar pictures are worth framing, especially in an environment where pictures never last long, like a steamy bathroom. You've got eleven replacements when that paper finally ripples.

When the scrubby side of the dishwashing or bathroom-cleaning sponge becomes torn or too disgusting, I peel it off and use the resulting all-sponge sponge to clean the silver, since silver cleaner comes with a sponge that tears at the sight of a rosette. Not that I clean the silver all that often.

We don't have a kitchen trash can. We use a brown grocery bag inside a plastic grocery bag. My family didn't like it at first, but they adapted, and I've never again had to scrub a plastic wastebasket that held something that rotted or molded, nor buy trash can liners.

We wrap The Kid's birthday presents in newspaper. The Sunday comics looks good. The classified section lets us draw on ribbons with colored markers. We've given gifts wrapped in the sports section or automotive when it was both appropriate and we were sure the recipient would think it was fine. We'd have to give a lot more gifts to keep up with the onslaught of newspapers, though.

When I dust, it's with a used dryer sheet.

When I oil or polish the furniture, I use scraps from sewing or old athletic socks (which I mark with a big X in permanent marker when I deem them unwearable). I don't launder these, just toss them.

Maryn, hoping these help

01-02-2007, 06:14 PM
I like brown paper bags for gift wrap. I will use rafia for tying it up (the whole effect is rustic and charming) and when my kids were small I would get them to stamp a pattern on it for me with potato stamps or from one of their kits.

Plastic pop bottles can be recycled into bird feeders.

Plastic bleach bottles can be made into scoops or funnels.

01-02-2007, 06:24 PM
Wow, so many quick replies!

Thanks! Keep 'em comin....

01-02-2007, 06:25 PM
I actually re-use dryer lint. When I was a Girl Scout leader we would take it and stuff it into cardboard egg cartons, and then pour melted paraffin over the top. Then we'd take it on camping trips and use them as fire starters. I'm not a troop leader anymore, but I still camp, and these are great.

Toothbrushes: when they're no longer fit to be put in your mouth, throw them in with your cleaing supplies and use 'em to get in those hard to reach nooks and crannies.

Soap slivers: make a drawstring bag out of an old washcloth and when your soap bars get too small to hold, stick them in the bag. You can use the bag to wash yourself with instead.

Gift wrap: I decided not to buy any gift wrap this year, as my way of reducing the amount of stuff going into landfills. I used: cloth squares tied with a ribbon, a few old maps I had laying around, paper grocery bags that the kids and I decorated, a roll of butchers paper that we stamped and painted on, and pretty baskets that I'd picked up at the Goodwill store a couple of years ago.

01-05-2007, 01:52 PM
I framed some pictures from old calendars (Van Gogh and Winnie the Pooh). My mom said that inmates usually make their shivs out of toothbrushes. She's never done time, but she's very adept with craft projects, so I'd take her word for it.

Last year I bought a calendar (H.R. Geiger) for the sole purpose of decorating my office.

Yes, toothbrush handles can and are often turned into handles for crude to sophisticated weapons by inmates.

Wanna guess how long the handles are on our current toothbrushes?

You could use used coffee or tea grounds as an add-in to potting soil. Helps stretch out how much potting soil you have and provides very nice mulch.

Old coffee/tea could also be used to help 'age' stuff such as wood, paint or paper. (which might be handy if you want to create aged paper projects.)

Wrappers of various products could be used to create a mosiac effect.

Chicken or other meat bones could make great Halloween decorations. Old blankets become throw pillows (or in my case, a slipcover for my sleeper sofa).

Bits of carpeting make great cat perches (with some wood and stuff, of course!)

Plastic shopping bags help make an interesting paint effect.

I've used old or ruined CD-Rs as coasters - but they also make neat decorative objects (or for the campers/hikers a very easy, lightweight and relatively small signaling mirror).

Cups can be nifty planters for smaller plants or seedlings.

Old clothing can be repurposed into accessories (such as jean handbags that were almost a fad not too long ago).

Used up crocheted/knitted things (such as blankets, sweaters, the like) are a fountain of free yarn for other projects.

Bits of highly fragrant soap, when crushed, become cheap and somewhat effective room scents (of course, if the inmate doesn't put it in a clean sock, then it will have defeated the purpose).

Playing cards = artistic endeavours

Shredded bills, credit offers and other personal information? I've used this for the past two years to 'bed' my roses and so far I'm doing great on the rosebushes. Really, it's all free stuff sent to me, I shred it and then have TONS of ground cover for the season! Or use it as 'kindling' in the fire place. Or as a means to 'contain' a spill.

Salt can be used to help clean most not non-stick cookware (works great in cast iron and stoneware!) Use either a bit of water (for large crystals) or oil.

Soda cans are cheap ashtrays (I am a non-smoker among lung cancer waiters!)

Old Barbie, Ken and GIJoe toys can join others in a nifty diorama (GI Joe saves the world from Godzilla only to have Barbie 'swoon' over Doctor Ken?)

Album covers are very decorative.

Some leftover paint and time can turn old furniture into new furniture (my 'coffee table' is a thrown in end table someone gave me when I moved into my apartment. I used some blue and gold paint to create something less ugly and 70's).

dishtowels = potholders

old plates = candle holders

toilet paper? use it to create real fun costume effects with some glue (dilution strenth depends on the project yes?)

Newspapers? two words PAPIER MACHE!!! Sure it may have gone out of vogue in the early 80s but who says that it doesn't still have a purpose? Or use it to handle hot glass when you're blowing glass. (cause we're all doing that yes?)

Venetian blinds have the 'up side' and the 'down side' right? Why not make them into some sort of 'double image' window decoration?

Bits of colored plastic wrap lying around? Save it up and make cheap stained glass effects (this could be good for small bits of water color or even food coloring with some clear drying glue).

Speaking of food coloring, it makes a great dye for just about anything.

Coke left in a can or cup? Use it to clean the battery terminals in your car - or other devices. Can also be used to help clean toilets or other mineral build ups. Now aren't you glad you've stopped drinking the nasty stuff?

Jars are really useful in holding stuff. Since, y'know, that's why they're made. But baby food, jam and other types of jars? Great for smaller things like beads, buttons, spiders. Larger jars are good for the ant colonies, snakes and left over fruitcake that has the EPA is investigating you. Oh, I bet you could even store food in them!

bits of old candles? Use them to make proper voodoo dolls. Your friends need to be punished right?

Old throw pillows can be refurbished with scrap material left after projects. If you're using all sorts of 'recycled' stuff throughout the house, you're already bohemian so go for the frankenpillow look!

Lots of 'trendy' foods that come in 'special' packaging can be remade into storage or even gift boxes. With a little bit of creativity.

Toothpicks are good for a lot of stuff - I used to use'em to measure out the food for my betta fish. But sadly, Alpha has recently passed on.

Flattened/squished critters on the side of the road? Them's good eats!

Relabel a lot of your old VHS tapes "me and the spouse - honeymoon night part three" and then donate them to the old folks home. Good for a laugh. Yours, not theirs.

We used to make our holiday wreaths out of the branches we cut from the bottom of our Xmas tree so it would fit the tree stands. Not recommended for artificial trees.

Cat litter is good and absorbent right?

When pruning most houseplants, why not use them as starts for either more planty goodness in the home or give them to friends?

Old cabinets that have little use can be remade into 'cat box hiders'. This is apparently a big idea in larger cities with lots of apartment dwellers.

So you've used your tea to age a bunch of paper into 'parchment' to write the long, breathlessly romantic letter to your soulmate and still have some left? Try origami. Use a bit of holiday gift ribbon to hang your new Crane of a Thousand What the Heck? Is It Supposed to Look Like This? What the Heck Have I Done Wrong!

Apparently at baby/bridal showers there's this thing about saving the ribbon from the gifts? Why not make art out of it? At one I made a poodle, at another I made - a poodle.

Baby blankets = children's pillows. Or backgrounds for framing cherished items in a shadowbox.

T-shirts make great quilts. Or so I've been hinted at. Many, many times.

Not a lot of space but a great passion for DVDs? Use CD binders. Takes up a heck of a less space and allows for the holding of TONS of movies. I've got one just full of my television season sets - wherein the cases for said television season sets takes up its own 13 gallon plastic tub and then some!

Storing luggage? Why not use that wasted space and store non-seasonal clothes? Throw dryer sheets into the plastic storage bags to help keep the clothes 'fresh'.

Got the fancy Martha Stewart types who give you gift bags? Use the tissue paper to make your project patterns, the bags can be used for many things. I've even got my magnetic poetry board covered with some old tissue paper to make it more 'decorative'.

Stacks of books make great weights.

Hope some of these ideas help!


01-05-2007, 05:52 PM
I've lost the count! I need to organise the list.

01-05-2007, 09:02 PM
I also dust with used dryer/fabric softner sheets, and polish silver with worn toothbrushes ... very handy.

OK, something new:

You can use those junk CDs you get in the mail (to get Internet service, or for "free information" on some product you have no interest in) in several ways. I tend to use them as coasters, but if you collect enough, you could make a trivet. They also make really nice (Christmas) tree ornaments --all nice and shiny silver circles, hung with clear fishing line through the middle hole.

01-05-2007, 09:34 PM


But, I don't get how you could use CDs you get in mail (snail mail?) to get Internet Service?

01-05-2007, 11:27 PM


But, I don't get how you could use CDs you get in mail (snail mail?) to get Internet Service?

AOL used to send out all these stupid little Signup/Free trial CDs as junk mail all the time.

I've not received one for - oh, I don't know how long. They were also inserted into any magazine that might have ANY geek factor at all. Even a lot that didn't. Then they got all upset when they found out people were using a bunch of these discs to create longterm accounts without actually paying a cent for the service.


01-05-2007, 11:39 PM
I'm great at throwing away clutter. The only thing I can think of that I recycle is the dishwashing sponges to clean the bathroom or stove with.

I do save grocery plastic bags for the bathroom trash can though.

01-06-2007, 05:20 PM
Those CDs are also good as cat scarers.
My sister hates the neighbour's cats coming into her garden to do their business - so she hung up two or three of those free CDs around the gap in the hedge where they came through. She still sees the cats occasionally, but nothing like as often as she used to.

I turn my old Tshirts and socks into dusters, generally.
I also use old clothes to make rag rugs.

My gran used to save odd bits of soap in a jar. When she had enough she would heat them gently in a bowl inside a saucepan of water to make a new cake of soap.

01-06-2007, 09:46 PM
I was six years old at home with chicken pox when I first discovered the wonders of a wire clothes hanger. Taking the cardboard tube off, adding a rubber band to the the two "hooks" (for lack of a better word and lack of desire to ascertain the right word) created a bow and arrow with which I went around terrorizing my sister's stuffed animals. I made a sword (a foil I guess is the right word) to fight off my sister who was displeased at her stuffed animals all having been skewered, get those pesky toys that have sua sponte crawled under the refridgerator, clothes washer and drier, and break into cars (my cars, of course).

The wire itself is a good general purpose wire, and in my adult life I have used it to make hooks to hang stockings, fix my son's toys, use it as a television antenna b.c. (before cable), make a scale with, and a host of other things, some of which were I ever to make public I would be arrested and tried for treason/arson/crimes against nature.

01-07-2007, 03:53 AM
CDs could also be reused as mirrors for caged birds.
Or for betta fishes.

Having access to an ice macine at work means I buy a lot less, pure or filtered ice for the making of ice beverages. Just reuse the old ice bags.

Clean out old freezer bags used for lunches or whatever and then put in a mix of 50% rubbing alcohol and 50% water, freeze as ice packs. Or just water to create ice packs for chests and coolers. (also good for old water bottles)


01-08-2007, 03:34 AM
Ok, I have a couple of minimally useful tips....

CD coasters - there are plenty of knitting and crochet patterns online to cover them with. I used something that "went" with the couch, but since then I've seen seasonal ones such as Jack O Lanterns and Santa faces.

Plastic bags - there also a pattern online to use plastic bags as a type of yarn to create sturdy shopping bags and such.

Food jars - I've been using the smaller ones for tea light holders. Tougher for the cats to knock over.

Speaking of cats, we reuse the old past-due sponges as a clean up for cat puke. One-time use on those ones! But it's nice to not have to use up a good sponge.

This spring I'm going to attempt to grow some of the smaller herbs in old spaghetti sauce jars... not sure how that will work out, but my house gets so little sun this is a nice way of being able to move them around a little.

Cats, crochet and gardening. Would you believe I work as a computer geek? :-)


01-08-2007, 07:23 AM
Plastic bags - there also a pattern online to use plastic bags as a type of yarn to create sturdy shopping bags and such.

That sounds intriguing -- can you provide the URL?

01-08-2007, 08:47 AM
Here's the original URL with the method for making plastic bag "yarn" - http://www.marloscrochetcorner.com/bag%20cutting%20instructions.html. A pattern for the bag is at the bottom.

While googling to find the link, I also found this site - http://members.tripod.com/pacycrochets/frugal/. It lists a number of other crochet projects that use household items.

In fact, the phrase "plastic bag" +crochet brought up a lot of sites related to this. I might be distracted for the rest of the night.


01-08-2007, 05:35 PM
A few more thrifty tips.....

Forget Tupperware - save all the margarine tubs etc. and use to store leftovers.

Save bread wrappers, wash, and use to store lettuce, pack a lunch, or bag anything

Use vinegar to clean kitchen counters, sinks, the table, stove, and other surfaces. A gallon is cheap and cleans just as well as cleaning products. (This is an old time restaurant trick, BTW) Works to clean mirrors too.

A fabric softener sheet dropped in water in a pan with stuck on food will remove it and make it easy to clean

My husband saves 16 ounce and one liter pop bottles, runs them through the dishwasher and takes tea to work in the bottles

Put vegetable peelings, shredded newspaper, and other biodegradeable garbage on a garden spot to enrich the soil

01-08-2007, 11:02 PM
I forgot one as well, though this is pretty limited in its use.

2L pop and juice bottles can be used as sharps containers for people who dispose of needles regularly (such as diabetics).


01-09-2007, 12:25 PM
Thanks, guys! :D

01-09-2007, 01:10 PM
Forget Tupperware - save all the margarine tubs etc. and use to store leftovers.

snippety snip

Use vinegar to clean kitchen counters, sinks, the table, stove, and other surfaces. A gallon is cheap and cleans just as well as cleaning products. (This is an old time restaurant trick, BTW) Works to clean mirrors too.

A fabric softener sheet dropped in water in a pan with stuck on food will remove it and make it easy to clean

OHHH!!!! Except for the margarine thing, I have GOT to try these ideas!

Why not margarine? Well, I prefer butter. Real butter...not any of the substitutions. Otherwise the theory is sound and I do it quite a bit.

Larger jars, covered in colorful plastic wrap, helps to create neato mood lighting. Three years ago, at my 'housewarming' the shade of a brand new standing lamp got broken. I just happened to have a fish bowl covered in blue plastic wrap left lying around from an art project. I put it on the lamp when we all left the house and haven't removed it since.

Running vinegar through the coffee/tea makers also helps to clean up mineral deposits from the inside out, creating better tasting coffee/tea. Just be sure to run pure water through the machine a few times before making your beverage again.

Got a bunch of postcards/greeting cards you love? Take a hint from Ikea and make them into framed art to help decorate! (I love getting those icky preframed art things from the dollar (oops, sorry, the dollar five store and putting my own images into them instead. Okay, so the backs get a bit torn up but why are people seeing the backs of them anyway????)

Who says rugs have to just lie there? A simple spring rod, a few curtain rings and that rug you love to walk on can help to create rooms, block light at windows, or even work as a door. Not to mention help to cover up large sections of BLAH walls! (especially useful for apartment dwellers who aren't able to paint their boring white walls).

Or, got large sections of walls and not enough to cover them? Why not create small shelves for your favorite DVD or CD covers? Your local DIY store sells square 'dowels' that can be used as the support and "L" shaped moulding for cheap which can be the shelves. Just the perfect size to display that graphic art that contains the things we love so well. (not to mention create more storage area as well.

Got old, busted speakers? Why not use them as avant garde knife holders? (this may be stretching it a bit, but hey, if we can't bear to throw things out, why not make them useful in the meantime?)

Y'know, postcards, greeting cards and other photos can also make great lightswitch covers...all that's needed is a bit of good double stick tape and some basic cutting skills.

Bunches of colored construction paper, wrapping paper and the like? Again, a few basic cutting skills and you can create your own cheap, but oh so decorative picture mats. (to go with your inexpensive frames)

Or heck, got lots of scrap lumber and/or moulding left around? A miter box and handsaw can become your best friend. With some cuts, patience and creativity, you can make your own frames. Which could also be good and helpful considering the high cost of having things framed. (plus you get to pick the style, colors (with your left over paints, etc.) Plus, if it's moulding you've got from redoing a room, what better way to 'pull' the decor together than having the frames reflect architectural elements of the room?

Buy those popcorn tins around the holidays or get them given as gifts? SMALL WASTEPAPER BASKETS! Or even pretty good cannisters for storage.

I really should stop posting in this thread it's making me depressed with all the things I *could* do but haven't done!


01-11-2007, 08:40 AM
Rabe some brilliant suggestions there.

Here are a couple more:

Cut the pics off last years Christmas cards, glue on some coloured paper and taaa daaar, this years gift tags.

Put ribbon through a finished toilet roll or paper towel roll for a fun swing for your caged birds. Yes they will destroy it, that is part of the fun.

Old socks and clothes make great bike cleaning rags.

Unwanted CD's make good reflectors for go-carts, bikes, everything else.

The Thai's put red-flashing-bike-lights on their elephants tails so you can spot them at night, very handy as even though elephants are big, they are also grey and difficult to spot at night. Perhaps not so handy for a western readership magazine...

Gaffer tape and zip ties are magic and can fix absolutely every single problem that could ever occur. Magic!!!

Wine corks are useful for... ummmm... actually they are not useful at all; why ohh why does hubs insist on putting them in with the spoons and clogging our drawers?

Unwanted gifts make fantastic gifts for work christmas functions. If you have unwrapped neatly you can even re-use the wrapping they came in.

Double cook every time you cook and store half in the freezer. Fantastic for the nights you can't be bothered cooking anything. Used 1 litre icecream containers are fantastic for storage.

Bird baths are easily made by cutting a hole in the side of a finished and rinsed milk container... don't clean out dirty bird-bath containers, make new ones when the old one smells.

Save of jars and make home made hommus or pickles to give as inexpensive christmas gifts.