What are we talking about today?

I'll get back to theme days once I find a groove of posting regularly. In the meantime, most of my posts are about some variation of books, bikes, buses, or Broadway. Plus bits about writing, nonprofits, and grief from time to time.

This blog is mostly lighthearted and pretty silly. It's not about the terrible things happening in the world, but please know that I'm not ignoring those things. I just generally don't write about them here.

1001 Ways to Reuse

Okay, I don't have quite 1001 yet, but "200+ Ways to Reuse" didn't have the same ring. Some of them are downright goofy; if you're going to be thrifty and environmentally friendly, you may as well get some fun out of it! If you have a suggestion, leave it in the comments and I'll add it and give you credit (include the link back to yourself in the comment, if you don't have it set up on your profile).

Click on the item to jump down the page, or scroll to read them all. Many thanks to Liz, Chad, and Chad's cousin Bob for all contributing to my knowledge of how to make these in-page links!

Aluminium foil
Bread bags
Candle jars
Candy wrappers
Cardboard boxes
Cereal bags
Cereal boxes
Coffee cans
Deodorant canister
Disposable to-go cups
Disposable pans
Dryer sheets
Film canisters
Glass bottles
Glass jars
Juice cartons
Lotion bottles
Margarine containers
Mesh bags
Milk jugs
Paper bags
Peanut butter jars
Plastic bags
Plastic bottles
Popsicle sticks
Shampoo bottles
Shower puffs
Spice jars
Tin cans
Toilet paper rolls
Wrapping paper

Aluminium cans
  • This is a really valuable resource, so instead of urging you to find a new use for it, I'll just say: Please, please, please recycle your aluminium cans!

Aluminium foil
  • Save it to cover the same container as before if you have leftovers.
  • Start an aluminium foil ball.
  • Wash it off & use it to cover something else.
  • Make small balls out of it. Glue onto things for decoration.
  • Make it into a hat. Wear it outside to amuse the neighbours.
  • Foil is also recyclable.

Blankets (old, tired ones)
  • Call your local animal shelter to see if they take used blankets.
  • Put it in the trunk of your car for your next trip to the park.
  • Make it the designated fort-making blanket.
  • Use it as an extra layer of insulation for your cooler for a picnic on a hot day.
  • Do you sew? Take apart the old quilt and re-sew any usable parts into a crazy quilt. Be aware: In many areas, selling blankets made with previously-loved bits is prohibited. This will have to be a gift or kept in your home.

  • Pass them on to a friend.
  • Donate them to your local library.
  • Check with your local homeschool network to see if they can take them (or know anyone who can take them).
  • Sell them to a used bookstore.
  • List them on Amazon, Half.com, or other online used-book dealer. Thanks to Natalie at The First Kitchen for reminding me that Amazon is not the only place to buy and sell books!
  • If they are really old, see if a local museum or rare book room has any use for them.
  • Find out if your state has a programme to send books to prisoners that you can donate your books to. In Texas, it's Inside Books Project
  • Call all your book-loving friends to come over for a White Elephant book exchange. You provide all the books.
  • Turn them into book boxes.
  • Ask your local library/bookstore where you can take unwanted, unusable books for recycling.
  • In the middle of the night, drive to your local university. Find an open building. Leave the books in a stack in a hallway with a sign that reads "Free". 

Bread bags
  • Wash them out and take them to the store for fruit, veg, bulk items, etc., instead of getting a new bag. (Mark through the UPC with a magic marker first.)
  • Take a couple with you when walking the dog for his/her magical packages.
  • Store plastic shopping bags in one.
  • If you don't compost, put a bread bag in your freezer. During the week, stick all your fruit & veg peelings, and anything else that might attract the fruit flies, in this bag. Throw it out with your regular trash. (This is my grandma's idea.)
  • Remember Wonder Bread Bag rugs? Make your own.
  • Start making your own bread. Store it in a bread bag.
  • If your store has a collection spot for used grocery bags, take the bread bags there, too.

Candle jars
  • Buy some smaller candles and burn them in the empty jar.
  • Put pens in it.
  • Store thumbtacks in the jar.
  • Make your own bath salts and fill the empty jar with them.
  • Catch fireflies and keep them in the jar temporarily (don't forget to let them go!).
  • Make a snow globe.

Candy wrappers
  • Get a plain white plastic tablecloth and a clear one. Glue the candy wrappers in between the white and clear tablecloths for a fun tablecover.
  • Glue them onto a plain shower curtain.
  • Cover your roommate's door with them.
  • Start a Terracycle brigade.
  • Glue them to the front of your notebooks.
  • Use them to brighten up your plain brown book covers.

Cardboard boxes
  • Makeshift trash can.
  • Store out-of-season clothes.
  • Give them to a kid to build a fort/house/castle.
  • Give them to a friend who is moving. (No friends who are moving? Wow.)
  • List them on Freecycle.
  • Use them for end tables.

Cereal bags
  • Save them for the next time you have to crush something into crumbs. Put the "something" inside the bag. Less mess!
  • Or save them for tenderizing meat.
  • Take to the store for your fruits, veg, or bulk items to save getting another bag.
  • Sew a piece inside something made of fabric to make a crinkly toy for babies.

Cereal boxes
  • Cut it up & build a model airplane.
  • Keep Legos in one.
  • Call your friends/neighbours/playgroup. Get everyone to save their cereal boxes for a couple of weeks. Get together and have a grand fort-building party with the cereal boxes. (Better have an adult with glue handy.)
  • Can be shredded and used for padding when mailing something.
  • Or just shred for recycling.

Cling film
  • If you can get this stuff to work the first time, you're already doing better than I am. Theoretically, if you remove it carefully, you should be able to use it again. I have never had any success with this.
  • Most stores will take cling film in the same collection box as their plastic bags for recycling.

Coffee cans
  • Keep the lid! Store grains or dried beans.
  • My grandma used to store the fat from frying in hers. I don't know how; I tried it once and it did not go well.
  • Remember Ramona's tin-can stilts? Your kids (or you!) can have the same experience.
  • Bake a cake. Really!

Deodorant canister
  • Turn it into a pen holder.
  • Make your own deodorant and store it in your old container.
  • Use it for a small vase.
  • Thrifty bath toy!
  • Keep it on top of your dresser/nightstand to catch all the odds and ends that wind up there.
  • Use it to keep your ponytail holders/scrunchies in order (wrap them around the outside).

Disposable to-go cups
  • Start a seedling in it. When it's time to plant, slit the cup open & plant the seedling, cup and all. (Thanks to Delores at The Feathered Nest for this idea.) Don't plant the cup if it's styrofoam!
  • Before tossing, keep it on your counter to catch crumbs, peelings, or other compostable things to carry out to your compost bin.
  • Take it back with you for a refill (yes, those cups will survive more than one use) and possibly get a discount.
  • I used to keep one in my desk to hold my tea bags in between uses (I use them 2x each). Toss when it starts to look iffy.
  • Use it for a pen holder on your desk.
  • Rinse out the remnants of your drink, clean the lid throughly, then refill with coffee from your house or office. Hand it to the homeless person on the street corner. Is it much? No. But it's a long way better than nothing.
  • Best idea? Take your own mug to the coffee shop to avoid having a to-go cup.

Disposable pans
  • Use when you're taking a meal to someone with a new baby/recent illness. (Tawra at Living on a Dime points out that this is a good time not to worry as much about where the dishes will end up-- taking care of people trumps worrying about whether the dish will end up in a landfill.)
  • Use them for freezer meals. (Hint: the aluminium dishes do not work well if you're going to pop the food out and put it in a freezer bag after it's frozen. Only use disposables if the dish is going in AND coming out of the freezer in the same pan.)
  • Wash them out & give them to the kids for sand toys.
  • Make another hat to match your tinfoil one.

Dryer sheets
  • If it still is stiff-ish and has some scent left, it isn't dead yet. Leave it in the dryer for the next load of clothes.
  • Use it for cleaning your blinds.
  • Stick a barely-scented one in your drawer to keep the clothes smelling nice.
  • Use a worn-out one for dusting.

Film canisters (Does anyone even still have these?)
  • DON'T use them for storing your medications. You know those nasty chemicals that leach off of plastics? Yeah, this is one of the culprits, and even worse, it was never approved for food in the first place.
  • Store beads.
  • Store nails or screws. Toss in one of those itty bitty screwdrivers, and you have a teeny fix-it kit!
  • Roll up a couple of Band-aids and alcohol wipes and tuck them inside for a small first-aid kit.
  • Store small nuts or washers.
  • Those little locks & keys you have for your suitcase? Keep them in here when they're not in use. (Does anyone even still have those little locks & keys?)
  • Keep a very small coin collection inside one. (I have one full of the Spirit of '76 quarters.)
  • Cut off the end and use it as a sleeve to keep your computer's cords together and getting along.

Glass bottles
  • Wash one out and remove the label (but keep the lid). Voilà; instant reusable container. Make your own tea/Crystal Light/whatever at home and carry it in this bottle. Save money!
  • Use it to store dried beans in your cupboard.
  • Fill it with one cup of water. Mark that line with a magic marker. Add another cup. Mark that line. You now have a backup liquid measuring cup.
  • Use it for a vase. This is especially good for Coke bottles that don't have a reusable lid.

Glass jars
  • Store beads in it.
  • Or buttons.
  • Or safety pins.
  • Or spools of thread.
  • Or dried beans.
  • Or grains.
  • New pen holder!
  • Need a toothbrush holder? Now you have one.
  • I also store Chad's extra razors in one on our bathroom counter. Much more attractive than the plastic bag they came in.
  • Set a large jar on your kitchen counter and keep your large utensils in it.
  • Make your own yogurt and store it in a jar.
  • Bake another cake.
  • Make some cookies in a jar.
  • Make a snow globe.
  • Or just use it as a drinking glass (depending on size and shape, of course).

  • Stuff them and an old shirt full of straw or newspaper. Instant yard decoration for Halloween.
  • Cut them off for shorts.
  • Use non-worn bits for fun patches on other things.
  • Cut them into rags.
  • Save the outside pockets. Use them to make your own Advent calendar once you have 24. 
  • Or use the pockets as a behaviour chart of sorts for your kids: Put chores, privileges, etc. on different strips of cardstock. Decorate one pocket for each kid. Stick a magnet on the back and hang them on the fridge, with the appropriate cardstock stuck inside. (This idea comes from when I worked at the Texas Boys Ranch.)
  • Make them into a throw pillow or three.

Juice or Milk cartons (cardboard)
  • Start a new plant in it.
  • Build a bird feeder with it.
  • Clean it out really well. Get your resident artist to make it pretty. Bake some cookies, stack a dozen on top of each other, and wrap. Tuck them inside the container. Leave it on your neighbour's porch.
  • Attach wheels to one side at the top and bottom. The kids now have a dump truck when playing in the dirt.

Lotion bottles
  • See if your town has a store with beauty products in bulk. Take your lotion bottles back to be refilled. If you live in Austin, go to in.gredients.
  • Make your own lotion and store it in your old bottles. Give them away to friends! 
  • Use a tube-type container instead? I've got nothing... but at least cut it open and make sure you use all the product before tossing!

Margarine containers
  • New cereal bowls.
  • Put one for each family member in your launch pad area for keys, coins, etc. Have each kid decorate his/her own.
  • Store leftovers in them. (Another one of my grandma's. Doesn't always work out perfectly-- be sure to label it as NOT what the outside says!)
  • Take your lunch to work in one.
  • I keep one handy to catch excess wax if I'm burning a taper candle (sometimes, it doesn't dribble correctly!).
  • Give them to the kids for bath toys, sand toys, dirt-digging toys, etc.
  • Decorate & use them for plant pots. Keep the lid-- poke holes in the bottom of the bowl and turn the lid upside-down under the bowl.

Mesh bags (the ones that onions, oranges, or whatever produce come in)
  • Turn it into a scrubber for your dishes. I looked for a tutorial for this, but they all more or less say to just scrunch it up. Fortunately, you're all smart, resourceful people who can figure it out.
  • Thread a ribbon through the top and take it back to the store to continue being a produce bag.
  • Use it as a makeshift toiletry bag in the shower: your shampoo bottles won't fall out, but the water will drip off.

Milk jugs
  • Make a bird feeder.
  • Punch some holes in the bottom. Use it as a watering can to water your plants.
  • If you have an old toilet, fill a jug with water and set it in the tank as a displacement device. You'll use less water per flush.
  • Fill one or two with hot water to incubate yogurt. (That's what I do!)
  • Keep a jug filled with water in the trunk of your car in case of the engine overheating.
  • Cut off the top and make a plant pot.
  • If you go here, you'll find lots of cool ideas I never would have thought of!

  • Line the birdcage.
  • Introduce the kids to paper-mâché.
  • Save them up for a friend who is moving.
  • Save the Sunday comics to use for wrapping paper.
  • If you read the paper in the morning, take it to work or hand it to a neighbour once you are done with it.
  • Make a kite.
  • Make a hat, or a brooch, or a pterodactyl.
  • Or a boat.
  • Shred for composting.

  • Use the backside for scratch paper.
  • Practise your origami skills.
  • Shred to use as packing material when you send a package.
  • Turn the kids' drawings into greeting cards.
  • Use it to make homemade paper.

Paper bags
  • Trash can. 
  • Or a liner for your existing trash can.
  • Pack things in to haul to Goodwill.
  • Take them back to the store with you for reuse.
  • Make book covers to keep the real covers nice and shiny.
  • Use to wrap packages to mail (not for UPS!).
  • Make homemade cards out of them.
  • Make homemade paper with them.
  • Set one out, open, for the cat to find. Be entertained for a long, long time.
  • If your local library has a Friends of the Library sale, hang onto at least one paper bag for "fill a bag" day-- all you can carry in a paper bag for a ridiculously low price.
  • Keep one near the door to stand on while taking off muddy shoes.
  • Keep one or two in the car for picnics or random road stops, so you can leave your picnic spot cleaner than you found it. Keep a couple pairs of gloves, too, if you're squeamish.

Peanut Butter Jars
  • Store spools or skeins of thread.
  • Make a homemade snow globe.
  • If you buy your peanut butter in industrial-sized kegs like we do, use them to store flour or sugar. I prefer peanut butter jars to the traditional jars that most people put on their counters.

Plastic bags
  • Trash bag for the bathroom, bedroom, office, or car.
  • Can be used as a grocery bag again! Just take it back in with you!
  • Donate them to a local church's school supply drive.
  • Make a plastic bag rug.
  • Make a reusable bag to take to the store next time.
  • Does your store have a recycling spot for plastic bags? Be sure to take yours back, even if they get tattered-- they'll recycle just as well with holes in them.
  • Doggie clean-up duty.

Plastic bottles
  • Cut the bottom off and use it as a funnel.
  • Cut both ends off and use as a sleeve for extension cords, Christmas lights, etc.
  • Tape the lid on and cut a slot in the side. Instant piggy bank. Let the kids decorate their own.
  • Make a kitchen volcano.
  • Apparently, you can make just about anything into a bird feeder.
  • Send them to Terracycle.

Popsicle sticks (At first I was worried about the ick factor of this one. And then I remembered that people have been using, washing, and reusing wooden spoons, cutting boards, bowls, etc for generations.)
  • Save some for that bird feeder you're making out of a juice carton.
  • Use for making your own popsicles.
  • Save them up (maybe in one of your old cereal boxes?) to build a little log cabin.
  • Make small puppets with them.
  • Frame a picture with them (good for a gift from or to a child!).
  • Make a catapult. (Brave mums only!)
  • Build a bridge.
  • Make popsicle stick people.
  • Use them for plant stakes.
  • Use one as a stir stick, especially for messy projects that you're not willing to sacrifice a spoon for.

Shampoo bottles
  • Easy bath toys for the little ones.
  • If there is a store near you with bulk beauty products, take your bottles back and refill them. You already paid for the package once, after all! In.gredients is your friend here again, Austin!
  • Attach some wheels and a string. Instant pull-toy.
  • Cut the bottle in half longways and you get cargo room and two cars for your pull-toy. If you have more than one shampoo bottle, you have the makings of a Lego-hauling train!

  • Call your local animal shelter to see if they accept used sheets.
  • Cut it up into hankies.
  • Cut it up into rags.
  • If it's not too tattered, cut out some kid-sized smocks for messy projects.
  • Or an apron for you!
  • Use it as a drop cloth for messy projects.
  • Make it into curtains for a playhouse or puppet stage.
  • Make clothes for the Von Trapp family... dolls.
  • Instant tablecloth for picnics.
  • Use it as a blanket for impromptu living room picnics on a rainy day.

  • If you're just tired of them, see if a friend can use them.
  • If they're too ratty for general use, but might be good for occasional dirty work, stick them in the back of the closet for a while to see if you get any use out of them.
  • Make a shoe planter.
  • Old tennis shoes can go to Nike to be turned into running tracks, tennis courts, and other fun stuff.
  • Please don't donate anything to Goodwill or a clothes closet that you wouldn't be willing to wear yourself. If it's truly beyond use, toss it.

Shower puff (the plastic scrubby thing; you may want to disinfect before reusing just to set your mind at ease about germs, dead skin cells, etc.)
  • If it's only come untied, get a better piece of string and re-tie it. Voilà; no need to toss!
  • Untie it & unfold all the way. Tie a knot at one end, and hang the whole thing up on the shower (this may take some finagling). Put your shampoo/conditioner bottles in it.
  • Unfold all the way and keep it in your shower as a back scrubber.
  • Scrunch it back up, tie it into a ball and use it to clean the bathtub.
  • Put your odds and ends and slivers of soap into one (may need to double it over) for a soap-on-a-rope-type thing. Prevent waste of two things that way!

Spice jars
  • Take them back to your local bulk store and refill.
  • Stick a flower in one.
  • Use it for a pen holder.
  • Keep your extra twist ties in one.
  • Use it for bubbles for the kids.
  • Stick some coins (rocks, etc) inside, tape the lid shut, and hand it to a kid. Instant noisemaker!
  • Corral push pins, screws, and other small stuff that collects in the kitchen in one.
  • Have too many magnetic poetry words for your fridge? Switch them out from time to time. Store the extra ones in a spice jar.

  • Go to this website and see if your tee can find new life as another article of clothing.
  • If you just need a redesign, try this tutorial for a t-shirt dress.
  • Sew up the armholes and the neck. Find some other fabric (perhaps another old tee?) to cut into strips for handles & sew them on. Another reusable bag... with character.
  • Turn it into a pillow (I've found this works well for husbands who won't let go of tatty shirts!).
  • Or a pillowcase.
  • Round up all the family's old tees and have them made into a t-shirt quilt. Hire a local person to do it and you're supporting local business to boot!
  • If it's really far gone, cut it into rags for cleaning.
  • And of course, there's always the clothes closet/thrift store/consignment shop option. But only if the shirt is in good condition.

Tin Cans
  • Itty bitty plant pots.
  • Stackable toys (make sure there are no sharp edges, of course).
  • Sand or dirt-digging toys.

Toilet Paper Rolls
  • Make a pair of binoculars.
  • Glue on some fabric, draw on a face: voilà! Puppets!
  • Do this.

  • Use it for small cleaning jobs once it's too old to be of any use to your teeth.
  • Get a Preserve toothbrush, and you can send it back for recycling!

  • Call your local animal shelter to see if they accept used towels.
  • Keep a worn-out towel near your door or in your mudroom for messy shoes.
  • Cut into rags.
  • If you have a couple of worn-out towels, stitch them together for a backup bathmat.

Wrapping paper
  • If it's not torn, turn the tape under and reuse it the next holiday.
  • Turn torn Christmas wrapping paper into New Year confetti.
  • Use scraps to make homemade paper.
  • Crumpled bits add character to homemade cards.

  • Check with the family to be sure no one wants Great-Aunt Hilda's yearbook from 1920.
  • Call the school and see if they would like it for their library.
  • Check with a local museum to see if they could use it.
  • If you don't get any takers, it's time to make popsicle puppets.
  • Or use some old pictures for homemade cards or other crafts.


Grahame said...

Another use for cereal bags (or other thick, noisy plastic) - sew a piece of it inside a fabric something or other to make a crinkly toy for babies.

Su said...

Great idea! I shall add it forthwith.