1 of 20Photos: Erica McCartney; Styling: Linden Elstran
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).
2 of 20Photo: Nicole Hill Gerulat; Styling: Kristine Trevino
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.
3 of 20Photos: Erica McCartney; Styling: Linden Elstran
CD as Ice Scraper
Too cold to hunt down the real deal? Use a jewel case to clear the frost from your windshield.
4 of 20Erica McCartney; Styling: Linden Elstran
CD as Invitation
Make jazzy (or rockin’) invitations. Jot down party details on the shiny side and mail the CD out in a cushioned envelope (postage: about a dollar).
5 of 20James Wojcik
Poker Caddy as Pencil Organizer
Dialed back on late nights? Corral some clutter with that poker caddy. Glue a poker chip to the bottom of each slot, then close the gaps on the sides with playing cards to create compartments for stray pens and pencils.
6 of 20James Wojcik
Beer Can as Noise Maker
Cut down on drinking? You can still start 2012 off with a bang—or at least a rattle. Drop a dozen coins into a clean, empty beer can and seal the opening with tape. When the clock strikes 12, shake some noise.
7 of 20James Wojcik
TV Remote as Hiding Place
Curbed your TV watching? Remove the batteries from an old remote and stuff the empty compartment with emergency cash, a spare key, or anything else you need handy (but hidden).
8 of 20Photo: John Lawton; Styling: Linden Elstran
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.
9 of 20Mark Weiss
Address Labels as Bookplates
Stick or tape them on anything you don't want to lose: books, magazines, umbrellas, Tupperware containers, cell phones, the stapler on your desk at work. That way your stuff will see many happy returns.
10 of 20Kathryn Barnard
Jewelry Box as Game Piece Storage
Store game pieces, play money, or other priceless rainy-afternoon distractions.
11 of 20James Baigrie
Coupon as Grocery Store Game
Ward off temper tantrums in the supermarket by handing out unneeded coupons and have your kids go on a scavenger hunt. First one to spot five items gets a big prize (okay, a pack of bubble gum) at checkout.
12 of 20James Wojcik
Button as Board Game Piece
Is your Monopoly game missing its top hat? Replace wayward board-game pieces without missing a beat (or a turn).
13 of 20Antonis Achilleos
Jewel Case as Recipe Card Holder
Easily display a recipe card during meal prep by opening the CD case and bending it back as shown, then place the card (after cutting it to fit, if necessary) on top.
14 of 20Mark Lund
Storybook Pages as Placemats
Add some character(s) to a table setting by sandwiching favorite storybook pages between lamination sheets (available at office-supply stores). Catchy text and colorful pictures (think Dr. Seuss and nursery rhymes) are especially attention-grabbing.
15 of 20Burcu Avsar
Toothpaste as CD Cleaner
To restore a damaged CD, apply a dot of non-gel formulat toothpaste to a cotton cloth and rub in a straight line from the center of the CD outward, covering any scratches. Rinse off the toothpaste with water.
16 of 20James Baigrie
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.
17 of 20James Wojcik
Kitchen Timer as Board Game Timer
Keep games fair. Replace the sand timer in a board game with a much less subtle kitchen timer. (The dinging will keep the game moving.)
18 of 20James Wojcik
Penny as Replacement Game Piece
Replace a missing piece of your family’s favorite board game. Just remember: No fighting over who gets to be president!
19 of 20James Wojcik
CD as Candle Plate
Catch messy candle drippings. Rest a pillar candle on top of a CD placed shiny-side-up to reflect the glow.
20 of 20James Wojcik
CD as Drink Coaster
Stop wet glasses from leaving messy tracks on the tabletop. Truth is, some CDs are more useful as coasters.