Motivate me to use stuff up! give me your best reuse/recycling tips
February 25, 2014 7:42 PM   Subscribe

I don't like to use new/nice stuff because it ruins them. What are some recycling projects that are made from accumulating things like empty lipstick, jars, old pencils, dried pens, etc?

I do not want to START using something (especially things I like) because I will ruin them/ they will depreciate. I want things to be in perfect conditions, but that is just another form of wasting them, even if they are not in the trash. I also hate when things are too broken/worn to be used anymore, so I hate getting them to that stage.

However, I saw a project where old/broken/small crayons were melted together to make new crayons. I love that! Knowing I can turn the remains into something new (and "complete") is exciting and would motivate me to use the crayons.

What are other projects like that? Especially with things like old pencils, dried pens, empty bottles/sticks, or even socks and underwear (!!). I know that actually recycling/throwing them away IS an option, but if there are practical ways to reuse them, please tell.
posted by ichomp to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
Here are some of mine:

We stopped buying paper towels and use old socks and clothes cut up. Sweat socks make excellent dusters. I'm fancy and machine sew quick seams to make them last longer, but not necessary.

Pill containers can carry anything from random Ikea bits, sewing needles, buttons, beads, nails.

Old jars for leftovers, freezing sauces and summer fruit for winter.

Toothbrushes for cleaning all sorts of things.

Can't find the link, but use an old plastic magazine holder (the rectangular prism kind), attached to the inside cabinet door with 3M Command strips (from those removable hooks), makes an awesome foil/plastic wrap holder. Seriously, my favorite thing ever.

I just learned to use two chopsticks on either side of an onion when scoring it to dice. Keeps the knife from going all the way to the counter. Maybe you could use the right kind of old pen with the same results?

The right kind of pen is also excellent for re-threading a drawstring on a hoodie.

I use the cloth bags from Tom's shoes (any cloth bag of the right size) to buy produce (mark the tare weight on the outside), store washed produce in the refrigerator, and pack snacks. I wash my produce before storing, so I wash the produce bags weekly.

I buy spices in bulk, either in small jars or little paper bags at the store. I hung a little clothesline style rig over my spice containers and attach the bags using paper clips/clamps. I can keep track of them easily.

One more, not sure if this counts: when I use green onions, I save the root ends, put them in a little water in a jar, and regrow them. In about 2 weeks, I have more green onions (albeit not the same quality, but it's really fun to watch them grow).

(On preview, my gosh, what a crazy list!)
posted by mamabear at 8:25 PM on February 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

There are sooooo many options! Just look at the DIY & Crafts board on Pinterest, for example. "Upcycling" is huge! Like, I just searched for "upcycled crafts" and found a billion cute ideas.

The first thing that came to mind when you mentioned bottles is that you can cut them and turn them into glasses... I got nothin' for pencils and pens, sorry. Maybe you could do something like this with your socks? If you have orange ones. ;)
posted by karbonokapi at 8:27 PM on February 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Can you explain a little bit more about specific examples of your reluctance? Because I can understand being annoyed by tiny ends of crayons and thus, happy to find out you can melt them down, but I am not understanding if you are reluctant to use easily recycled disposable pens, for example.

I ask because while yes indeed, upcycling is awesome, many upcycling projects require the accumulation of additional stuff: pant pens, fabric, punches, string, ribbon, glue, etc. If using or accumulating these materials is going to be an issue for you, then this may not be the way to go.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:47 PM on February 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Soap! The women in my family are neurotic about not using the nice things we always get for gifts, because then they'll be used and we won't have them anymore. But you can take all your soap shards and do stuff with them. You can do the same with candles.

Speaking of candles, you can also stick candles in old wine bottles and burn them down so they create a pretty drip pattern down the bottle, then you have a bunch of pretty candle holders. And speaking of bottles, you can always make wind chimes or -- more candle holders!

And it's OK to say to yourself "Dammit, I deserve to use this nice thing." I deeply offended not one but two exes by saving the fancy chocolates for so long that they went bad.
posted by mibo at 4:32 AM on February 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Socks: make hand puppets or stuffed animals, cut up and use for dust rags. I love the monsters, the sock heat pack is good too. Same link has a sock quilt.

You could stuff small socks with cedar shavings (get cheap hamster bedding from the pet store), sew them closed, and use them to deodorize your shoes.

Cut a long sock down the side to the toe, trim the toe, sew the toe to the top, and use it for a headband.

Underwear, depending on the fabric, can make good dust or clean-up cloths. Riffing off of an idea I saw for socks - maybe in the link above, you could cut old underwear into strips and then braid clusters of strips and sew them into a rug.

I ran across the Craftster site while googling answers for you - it might be a good place for further exploration.
posted by bunderful at 4:53 AM on February 26, 2014

Oh man are you on Pinterest? It's a rabbit-hole of this kind of stuff! Also Dollar Store Crafts has a lot of upcycled projects too.

There are a lot of ways to upcycle for storage/household use:
- Personally I like to use old jars for storing things. I still keep my needles and thread in an old plastic Kool-Aid jar from 10 years ago!
- I keep quarters for laundry in an old jam jar.
My dad keeps his nails/screws/etc in old tea tins.
- I often use shoe boxes as drawer dividers in my dresser. There are some cool projects online to cover boxes with fabric or paper to to pretty them up, too.

My SIL inherited her grandmother's ridiculously large set of teacups, and for Christmas she made pretty candles out of them and gave them as gifts. I bet you could do that with glass jars - tie a ribbon around them for extra prettyness (save ribbons from packaging, etc).

I've seen a lot of tutorials for using old t-shirts to make accessories and stuff. I haven't done this one with a t-shirt but I've done it with other material and they came out really cute. I have some old shirts in a box waiting for me to make more!
posted by radioamy at 7:26 AM on February 26, 2014

If you use a fountain pen with a converter, you have the option of buying nothing more than ink for replenishment.
posted by oceanjesse at 12:56 PM on February 26, 2014

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