Repurpose an old frame for a vanity tray that’s pretty as a picture. Place a piece of colored paper or fabric inside as a finishing touch.
Twister Mat as Tablecloth
Protect the dinner table during a kid’s party, so right-hand-red Kool-Aid spills and left-hand-blueberry pie blobs don’t become permanent features.
Toothbrush as Corn Cleaner
Use a clean toothbrush to remove stray threads of silk from freshly shucked ears of corn. The bristles will lift them away quickly and efficiently.
At a party, stash ice in a colander set on top of a bucket or a bowl. Water will drain out, and guests will get only the solid stuff.
Stop searching high and low for hair clips and elastics: Store them tidily on an empty TP tube.
Pick up interesting cardboard coasters at restaurants and bars you visit along your travels. Punch a hole near the edge, thread some ribbon through, and voilà: homemade gift tag.
Chalk as Moisture Absorber
Tie up a few pieces in cheesecloth and store them with your good silver to slow any tarnishing.
Vegetable oil will put a shine on leather shoes. Use a damp cloth to remove any dirt, then run a soft cloth with a drop of oil over the surface to (literally) add polish.
Tuck a few needles, pins, and thread into a matchbox for an instant sewing kit.
Drink Carrier as Condiment Kit
Cart condiments to a backyard barbecue. Slot flatware, ketchup and mustard in the compartments for easy transport.
Have an old cassette case hanging around? (Oh, you know you do.) Coil iPod earphones and tuck them in to keep wires uncrossed.
One of readers’ all-time-favorite ideas: the LifeSaver as birthday-candle holder. (Candies in the original rolls provide the best fit―LifeSavers sold in big bags are larger and don’t work as well.)
Forget unruly plastic bags that seemingly regenerate under your sink. An empty tissue box keeps them neatly corralled and ready for use.
A giveaway shower cap becomes the perfect wrapper for shoes when traveling, preventing them from dirtying clothes packed in your suitcase.
Brand anything as yours―books, binders, Tupperware, a stapler―with a return-address sticker.
Window Decals as Drink Markers
Decorate (and distinguish) wine or water glasses at your next get-together with removable window decals.
Courtesy of reader Linda Winterhoff of Williamsburg, Virginia
A hard plastic soap case is the perfect size to protect a camera stashed in a carry-on bag.
Courtesy of reader Amy Deml of Little Falls, Minnesota
Put off-duty winter mittens to work as protection for summer shades.
A supermarket bag, tightly secured with a rubber band, will keep a brush (or roller) moist for a day or two in between painting sessions: the end of dried-out bristles.
Use Rubber Bands to Keep Clothes on the Hanger
No more worries of camisoles, sundresses, and other slippery garments slipping off hangers when you wrap the ends with rubber bands.
A binder clip serves as a key chain/money holder you can clamp to your waistband for a purse-free morning walk.
Pretty ribbon revives an old lamp shade. Apply a thin layer of glue and press on each piece of ribbon, matching the ends neatly.
Save a countertop with an old mouse pad turned trivet. (Make sure it has a nonplastic coating.)
No more oops! moments when painting, if you cover doorknobs and hardware with aluminum foil.
That straightening iron works on more than rambunctious hair: Use it to press between buttons, where a regular iron won’t fit.
Gardeners can go easy on their jeans with homemade knee pads. A couple of plastic bags tied on keep them grime-free.
When traveling, eliminate clunky bottles for nonprescription meds from your purse by popping the pills into a contact-lens case.
Towel Rod as Cleaning Supply Holder
Assemble a spray-cleaner arsenal by installing a rod in the closet or underneath the sink and then hooking the bottles onto it by their triggers.
A clear hair elastic binds blooms together for a better arrangement in a wide-mouth vase. Stretch the elastic around the stems, then let the flowers fall naturally.
Ketchup Bottle as Pancake Batter Dispenser
Make no-mess pancakes with the help of a ketchup bottle: Pour in batter, then squeeze out precise portions.
Rubber bands give little fingers a better grip on a chilly or slippery glass.
Why pack with Styrofoam peanuts when you can pack with popcorn (plain and air-popped). No air popper? Be sure to cover the item with a plastic bag.
Eyeglasses Case as Manicure Kit
An unused glasses case makes a convenient storage spot for nail files, clippers and other manicure essentials while on the go.
The cardboard tube from a spent roll of toilet tissue is a wonderfully simple tool for keeping extension cords tangle-free.
Wine Box as Shoe Storage
Warehouse your shoes in an empty wine-bottle carton wrapped in pretty paper.
A lemon works to remove tough food stains from a plastic or light-colored wood cutting board. Squeeze on the juice of one half, rub it in, and let sit for 20 minutes before rinsing.
Avoid batter splatters and flour dustings on a cookbook by wrapping a plastic bag around everything but the page you’re using.
Slide bobby pins onto a hem to hold pleats in place as you iron them.
Stick a sparkler in Play-Doh, then light it up. The container protects hands from flying sparks, preventing burns.
Courtesy of reader Peggy Gilchrist of Zanesville, Ohio
Change dirty water in a flower vase by using a turkey baster to suction up the liquid without disturbing your arrangement. Add fresh water directly from the tap.
Silence cabinet doors that slam with cork sliced into thin disks and glued onto the inside corners.
Plastic Easter Eggs as Snack Containers
Give Easter eggs a year-round use (and save on resealable bags) by filling them with snacks like crackers or Cheerios.
Cut down on the amount of potting soil needed by crumpling plastic bags to fill the bottom of a deep pot (just be sure that you don’t cover the drainage hole, if there is one).
Organize bills―arranged in the order in which they need to be paid off―in an unused napkin holder.
Paint Chips as Place Cards
Fold the strips in half and prop them up as place cards, writing each person's name on a shade that suggests her best qualities (like "Inner Glow" or "Delicate Peach").
Plastic Straw as Stem Extender
Boost a meager bouquet to new heights by inserting short flower stems into plastic straws to give them greater stature.
Shower-curtain hooks provide sturdy storage for heavier items, like purses.
Liberally apply cooking spray to both sides of a plastic or metal shovel before clearing away snow, and ice will slide right off instead of building up.
Magnet as Tweezer Holder
Stop tweezers from going astray by installing a magnet on the inside of the medicine cabinet and they will always be at your fingertips.
Lollipops as Cocktail Stirrers.
Give cocktails extra pop with lollies in complementary colors subbed in for stirrers.