Crafty New Uses for Old Things
If the thought of getting rid of odds and ends around the house is chill-inducing, consider giving these finds new uses, instead. Clever new uses for everyday things is a way of upcycling that gives broken, damaged, out-of-date, or otherwise unneeded household items second lives solving problems and serving purposes beyond their intended uses. With new uses for old things, every knick and knack has a ton of potential just waiting to be discovered.
Some new uses can be a little out there, but it’s better to be prepared—one person’s triviality could be another’s daily stressor, and having a simple solution using an item already in the house can help lower that stress. Other new uses are more of the craft or DIY variety: a shower curtain as a child’s paint smock, for example, or paper rolls as homemade Lincoln logs. Whatever their purpose, new uses help cut down on clutter (there’s less to buy!) and waste (no more throwing so much away!) while solving daily problems, large and small; consider them elusive win-win-wins.
Admittedly, a few new uses aren’t permanent fixes. (Using a martini shaker as an arts-and-crafts-time glitter dispenser will only work until happy hour arrives, for example.) Others, though, can be completely repurposed. (A dated sugar dispenser can hold that unruly kitchen twine for as long as the roll lasts.) And still more new uses for old things are excellent for when a household item has worn out its usefulness serving its original purpose. (Pipe cleaners purchased for a school project can be used during the next house party, instead of wasting away in the craft bin.)
Whether you approach new uses for old things out of a desire to reuse and upcycle more or out of a need to cut down on daily struggles, these creative solutions can help.
Scratched CD as Paint Palette
When you're working on an art project, dab the colors you need onto a CD. (Place one finger in the hole to keep the CD stable.)
Sugar Dispenser as Kitchen Twine Holder
Keep kitchen twine from tangling and jamming your drawers by using a glass sugar dispenser as a spool. Simply place the twine in the jar and thread through the open hole.
Book as Misleading Gift Box
To foil present-guessers, hide the real gift in a hollowed-out book. Using a box cutter carve a space just large enough to hold the small item.
Cereal Box as Sweets Carrier
Attention, PTA members: Here’s a practical Transport Alternative for the bake sale. Tape a cereal box closed, then cut away the front or back panel to create a tray for those top-selling brownies. Best of all, you can just "donate" the box.
Cotton Balls as Teddy-Bear Stuffing
Has Paddington ripped and lost his padding? To add fluff, cram cotton balls behind the torn seam, then stitch him back up.
Colander as Knitting Assistant
To prevent balls of yarn from tangling, string the end of each through a colander hole.
Chopsticks as Glue Stick
To get a tiny sequin in just the right spot during your next craft project, use the tip of a chopstick to nudge it into place without gumming up your fingers.
Glass Jar as Arts and Crafts Organizer
Kids can see inside the glass jars to find what they’re looking for, from crayons to pompoms. Leave off the lids for extra long supplies, like pipe cleaners or colored pencils.
Button as Apron Hook
Cooking up a storm? For easy access, attach a button to the front of an apron so you can hang a pot holder or a looped dish towel from it.
Frame as Table Numbers
Grab your bridesmaids and settle in for a night of crafting. With this easy DIY project, it’s a breeze to create table numbers that are beautiful and budget-friendly. Purchase cheap frames (or use ones you already have on hand), attach numbered stickers to a background in your signature color, and frame.
Bobby Pin as Gift-Card Clip
More than just a hair accessory: Attach a note to a ribbon with a colorful or bedazzled bobby pin.
Tinsel as Ornament Filler
If you have extra tinsel but aren’t feeling a fuzzy tree this year, stuff a handful into clear glass ornament balls. You’ll get tinsel in small, sparkly doses.
Paper as Boutonniere
Create an accessory that doubles as a keepsake by crafting the boutonniere out of your favorite song, reading, or even love letter.
Get the how-tos here.
Button as Necklace Pendant
Have one special button? Thread it onto a thin chain or a delicate piece of ribbon for a standout necklace.
Ribbon as Photo Matte
Glue ribbon around an existing matte to turn a basic frame into one-of-a-kind art.
Wrapping Paper as Confetti
You could toss old giftwrap in the garbage or… in the air. Use a hold punch to turn gently used paper (or last year’s stock) into confetti.
Playing Card as Gift Tag
A playing card is a winning stand-in for a gift tag. Numbers 2 to 10 are fun for kids' birthdays; the king and queen of hearts are perfectly suited as valentines. (Use a permanent marker to write your message.)
Washi Tape as Cocktail Flag
Skip drink umbrellas in favor of this low-effort DIY option. Attach decorative tape to coffee stirrers and drop into signature cocktails. Guests will, well, drink to that!
To-Go Container as Paint Palette
Even a starving artist eats takeout sometimes. Use the plastic top from a to-go container as a palette for mixing colors; when you’re finished, just toss.
Birthday Candles as Valentine’s Day Card
Turn a birthday party prop into a loved one's bright spot on February 14. All you'll need to make this card is a blank note card, glue, and a felt tip marker.
Matchbook as Valentine’s Day Card
Once you've found your perfect match, it's easy to turn sentiments into handmade crafts. Start with a blank note card, glue, and a felt tip marker.
Playing Card as Valentine’s Day Card
When the stakes are high, you'd bet your money (and your heart) on this guy. Start with a blank note card, glue, and a felt tip marker.
Puzzle Pieces as Valentine’s Day Card
For the one who lights up your life, create a card that'll be for keeps. Start with a blank note card, glue, and a felt tip marker.
See more homemade valentines.
Tinsel as Wreath Garland
Ropes of tinsel, wrapped around a foam circle, make a fun, modern wreath that you can use year after year.
Paper Sack as Halloween Treat Bag
Don’t pay a premium for Halloween-themed treat bags. Turn any paper sack into a jack-o-lantern with a few precise snips.
Kid Art as Holiday Wrap
Oh, that’s grandma dressed as an alligator? Perfect for wrapping her birthday gift. (And the fridge door is full anyway.)
Parchment Paper as Musical Instrument
Make a kazoo by folding a piece of parchment or wax paper over a comb’s teeth (the paper should hang over about an inch).
Baby Food Jar as Easter Egg Decorating Aid
Design Rothkoesque Easter eggs. Fill a jar with dye, then dip half the egg in and let dry. Dip again, but only one-third of the egg. Repeat with both ends of the egg until you have stripes in varying shades.
Need a quick refresher on how to dye Easter eggs? Watch this quick video to learn how to hard-boil an egg, then check out these homemade Easter egg dye recipes.
Felt Pads as Cutting Board Anchor
Anchor a cutting board’s corners to make prep work easier and safer.
Button as Earring Holder
Travel is best done in pairs (think of Lewis and Clark or Thelma and Louise). To keep a set of earrings together on your next overnight jaunt, fasten them to a button so they won’t get lost in your suitcase pocket.