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 Clever new uses for everyday things is a way of upcycling that gives broken, damaged, out-of-date, or otherwise unneeded household items second lives solving problems and serving purposes beyond their intended uses.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.
Aluminum Foil as Party Garland
Twist foil into links to make a sparkly garland for an almost-instant party decoration (or a rainy-day distraction for the kids).
Felt Pads as Clothing Securer
Help strappy garments stay on hangers. Affix a circle to each end.
Shower Curtain Liner as Child’s Smock
Finger-painting on the day’s agenda? Cut a new shower curtain liner in half or in fourths, and then cut a hole in the center for your little one’s head to pop through.
Candy Wrapper as DIY Gift Wrap
Sworn off candy? Use the leftover wrappers to sugarcoat small-scale presents: Cut a wrapper into a flat sheet, then fold and tape as usual.
Pipe Cleaners as Drink Labels
Skip the fancy wine charms and use an array of brightly colored pipe cleaners to identify guests' drinks at your next get-together. Submitted by: LassieBV
Baby Wipe Container as Yarn Holder
Don’t let your yarn get crossed. Use an empty baby wipes container to keep yarn clean and tangle-free.
Book as Word Scramble
For the kids' table: Cut out 30 or so words from old children's books (the fonts are larger) and challenge them to form sentences with the pieces.
Paper Doily as Cupcake Holder
These cute patterns on cupcake liners are there one minute, gone the next—they virtually disappear in the oven. For a pretty touch, trim off the patterned edge of a large (12-inch) doily and wrap it around the cupcake liner. Seal with clear tape.
Plastic Easter Eggs as DIY Maracas
Fill emptied plastic eggs with puffed rice cereal and silver-ball cake decorations to make impromptu maracas for kids.
Votive Candle Holders as Place Cards
Arrange a luminous table setting. Write guests’ names on strips of parchment paper and wrap them around votive holders, securing the ends with tape. As an alternative, remove the candles, cut snapshots of guests to match the height of a holder, and then curl around the inside wall.
Pastry Tip as Place Card
Set a sweet table and use scalloped pastry tips in fun colors as place-card holders.
CD Case as Photo Place Card
Assign seating at a holiday dinner. Slide festive photos of various family members into a case and prop it in front of a place setting.
Cupcake Liner as Halloween Decoration
Show what a creative Halloween party “ghost-ess” you are. Turn white liners upside down, attach spooky googly eyes, and display them by a boo-fet of seasonally inspired treats.
Paper Doily as Candy Cone
Form a cone with a small (5-inch) doily, secure with tape, and fill with candy and treats. The lacy server is a sweet upgrade for the next time you gather the ladies (think bridal shower) or girls (birthday party, sleepover, extra-special playdate).
Dental Floss as DIY Popcorn Garland
String a popcorn garland for the holidays (after a pit-stop in the medicine cabinet).
Cupcake Liner as Decorative Snowflakes
Create a winter wonderland in the entryway. Flatten white paper liners (foil ones will work, too), fold into halves or quarters, then snip out shapes along the folds. When you open them back up, voilà: snowflakes you can string from the ceiling.
Knitting Needle as Letter Opener
Neatly open an envelope by slipping the tip under the flap.
Egg Carton as Paint Palette
Create a custom paint palette for an afternoon art session.
Picture Frame as Dry-Erase Board
Let’s see—you need milk, eggs…and something to replace the stark white memo board that’s sucking all the style from your otherwise charming kitchen. Frame a pretty piece of fabric or paper, then write temporary to-dos on the glass with a dry-erase marker.
Garlic Press as Modeling Dough Tool
Make Play-Doh "hair" by filling the chamber and squeezing.
Lint Roller as Glitter Pick-Up
Clean up glitter (and tiny pieces of construction paper) after craft time.
Dryer Lint as Modeling Dough
Since you most likely have it in abundance, use it to make homemade modeling dough. Simply mix the lint with water and flour (and, if you prefer, food coloring), as directed below for an ear-resistible sculpture of Dumbo.
To make the modeling dough:
- Place 3 cups (shredded) dryer lint into a pot.
- Pour in 2 cups water.
- Stir in 1 cup flour.
- Add ½ teaspoon vegetable oil.
- Stir continuously over low heat until the mixture binds together and is of a smooth consistency.
- Pour onto a sheet of wax paper to cool.
Martini Shaker as Glitter Dispenser
Add a twist to craft time by using a shaker to dispense glitter.
Oranges as Mini Snowman
Build snowmen without bundling up. For a holiday party, give each child three oranges, some toothpicks, a sturdy plate, and store-bought frosting. Stick the large orange to the center of the plate with a dollop of frosting. Poke a few toothpicks halfway into the top of the fruit and spear a smaller orange on top. Repeat with the third orange, and layer on frosting, a vanilla wafer, and peppermints to make a hat. Use candy-cane pieces for arms and a nose, cloves for the eyes, and red licorice for a scarf.
Sugar as Lip Scrub
Perfect your pucker. Make a paste of sugar and petroleum jelly and gently brush on dry, peeling lips with a toothbrush until they are smooth.
Sugar Bowl as Homemade Candle Holder
Fill mismatched sugar bowls and tea cups with melted wax and a wick for beautiful handmade gifts.
Child's Skirt as Art Smock
Make a smock for a budding artist. Fashion shoulder straps from rickrack or ribbon and stitch the ends to the front and back of the skirt’s waist.
Funnel as Twine Dispenser
Dispense yarn or twine at a craft station by placing the spool inside the funnel and pulling the end through the hole.
Nutcracker as Cap Remover
Clamp the nutcracker around the top of a glue, nail-polish, or beverage bottle to give you extra gripping power. Your reward: Tight caps no longer drive you nuts.
Paper Tubes as Lincoln Logs
Cut squares out of the sides that are roughly the same diameter as the tube (see bottom left of photo) for a DIY version of Lincoln Logs perfect for little hands. Stack the “logs” perpendicularly to one another. It's a no-cost way to let the good times roll.
Rubber Band as Easter Egg Decorator
Shoe Organizer as Art Supply Storage
Cut off one pocketed strip of a hanging shoe holder, sew a ribbon onto each end, and tie it as you would a tool belt, around your little busybody’s waist to stylishly store art supplies. It's a shoe-in for “handiest craft-time accessory.”
Shower-Curtain Liner as Tablecloth
Protect your tablecloth (or antique wood table) from paint, crayons, markers, and glitter during arts and crafts. The result: More masterpieces, fewer disaster-pieces.
Cupcake Liner as Crayon Mold
Fill foil liners about two-thirds full with unwrapped crayon stubs in assorted colors, place in a muffin tin, and bake at 275 degrees until melted (about 10 minutes). Then freeze for cool colorers with zigzag edges.
Ice Cube Tray as Paint Palette
Mix watercolors in the tray’s compartments. (There’s actually one for every color of the rainbow.)
Paper Doily as Tote-Bag Art
Jazz up a canvas tote by securing a doily to it with adhesive spray, scalloped-side up, then gently painting over the holes with fabric paint. Remove the doily and let dry.