Re-purposing Household Items


I was looking through our archives and found this great post about re-purposing items around your house. There are some really great ideas in here. Are you still looking for ideas to save money, or do you feel you do not have time to mess with it? When we started this blog in 2008 people were hungry for ideas to save money and make things last longer. As the economy has improved it seems like many people have lost that hunger. do without ig

A few weeks ago I cleaned the teeth of a 95 year old lady. She was born in 1920. She knew what it meant to Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without. She lived through an era that ingrained that in her mind. As devastating as things got in 2008-2012 I do not think we felt is like they did in the depression.

I kind of feel a responsibility to myself, my posterity and my ancestors to be a good steward of the things I have been given. I feel I need to make things last, and find ways to reuse things. I may not be in dire straights need to do this now, but I think a time will come again will I will need these skills. For sure a time will come when my children will need these skills. If they do not learn them in their home, they will probably never learn them.

Do you feel this responsibility to your ancestors, yourself or your posterity? Maybe you feel a responsibility to the planet? Or is it just me?

I think if more of us felt this responsibility there would be an even brighter future ahead for our children.

Let me know if this resonates with you. I would love to discuss in the comments.

45 Frugal Ways to Re-purpose Household Items

1. Baby Food Jars
Recycle small jars into magnetic spice organizers.

2. Brown Paper Bags
Tightly twisted bags make good fire starters with more staying power than newspaper. Or slit, poke holes throughout and use to line your flower garden before adding mulch or potting soil to reduce weeds and serve as a natural mulch.

3. Butter/Margarine Wrappers
Empty wrappers allow you to grease baking pans without greasing up your fingers. Fold the wrappers up and store in the freezer for future use.

candied orange peels

4. Citrus Peels
Make homemade citrus cleaners; make candy citrus peels; grate as zest in recipes (you can freeze the zest too); dry and toss into fires for a fresh smell. Orange peels can also be used as seed starter containers.

5. Cereal Boxes
Cover with brown paper to re-purpose as shipping boxes. Or make desk organizers for your kids by cutting boxes with a utility knife at the desired angle and height. Wrap with decorative contact paper or leave as is for a funky look. Alternately, use to create sketchbooks for your kids. Cut off the top and bottom, punch holes with a 3-hole punch, add scrap paper (3-hole-punched mis-fed printer paper) and tie together with a ribbon or string.

6. Cereal Box Liners
Use instead of wax paper. Layer between meat patties before freezing. Cover food to maintain moisture while microwaving. Slit and use to roll out dough.

7. CDs
Use unwanted or promotional CDs as a glittering scarecrow in fruit trees and on corn stalks. Glue two discs together with shiny sides face out and string together through the middle hole as you would a wind chime. Hang and the shimmering reflections will scare off thieving birds and raccoons.

chalkboard FB

8. Out of Date Platters
You can convert an ugly old platter into a super cute DIY chalk board.

9. Coffee grounds
A great natural plant fertilizers (SustainableEnterprises has more info.)  One teaspoon of coffee grounds mixed with your favorite moisturizer is an inexpensive and effective cellulite treatment.

10. Cooking or Bacon Grease
Mix bird seed into grease, freeze and hang outdoors to feed the birds and (if you like) squirrels.

11. Diaper Boxes
The handles on diaper boxes are a real asset when you have to move stored items frequently. Cover with wrapping paper or contact paper and use in closets or other small places.


12. Detergent and Soap Boxes
Here’s a great way to turn empty boxes into gift “bags.”  The results are more durable and original than store-bought gift bags.

13. Dryer Lint
Dryer lint is quite flammable, so stuff an empty toilet-paper roll and use as a fire starter. (Wonder if this works with belly button lint?)

14. Dry Cleaning Bags
Tie a knot in the end and use to line a tall trash can. Reduce wrinkles by using to pack suits, dresses and formal clothing. Prevent knits from snagging in the closet.

15. Phone Books
Use the pages as window wipes, package filler, fire starters, etc.Deep Root Watering

16. Plastic Milk Jug
Turn into a watering can with a few holes punched into the plastic cap. Cut off the top and fill with bird seed. Or you can create a deep root watering system in your garden.

17. Envelopes
Use junk-mail envelopes for your own mail by scratching out the old address and adding your own. The blank backs are a handy size for grocery or to-do lists.

18. Facial Tissue Boxes
Reuse as a plastic bag dispenser. Toddlers can use as doll beds and garages for miniature small cars. Store yeast packets, instant drink mixes, gravy packets and other flat, thin items that get lost in drawers and refrigerators.

19. Food Boxes
Cover with brick-patterned contact paper to create giant, lightweight building blocks for infants.


20. Egg Shells
Use egg shells to start your garden seeds. You can plant them right in the ground with the shell! We have also had fun filling them with flour and having an egg war!

21.  Socks
Wrangle straggling cords behind your entertainment centers and computer desk into a trouser or sock to keep them separate and organized. Cut into strips to gently tie-up plants in the garden. Also useful in place of cotton gloves to clean chandelier crystal drops.

22. Light bulb
Put inside socks to serve as a darning egg.

23. Magazines
Drop read magazines off at hospitals, oncology offices, art classes or hair salons. Alternately, shred the pages and use in place of tissue paper in gift bags or bubble wrap when shipping or packing. Shred a perfume ad for a subtle fragrance.

DIY Accessory Holders 550

24. Plastic Containers
Make convenient storage containers for your electronic devices. Think DIY charging station.

25. Paint Containers
Clean empty quart containers, spray paint, solder together into a big square, mount it on the wall, and use to sort papers, pens and small computer accessories without wasting precious desk space.

26. Pantyhose
Put a cake of soap in the foot when camping and tie the top end to a low-hanging tree branch. Cut into strips as a gentle way to tie plants securely to stakes. Cut across the leg to make rings, roll them up for a stretchy ponytail holder that won’t break and damage hair like rubber bands do. Put some human hair clippings into toe of the stocking and place around the garden fence to keep deer away.

27. Paper Towel/Toilet Paper Cardboard Rolls
Keep extension cords and Christmas lights from tangling by wrapping around an empty roll before storing. Protect sharp knives. Pet gerbils or hamsters enjoy gnawing on and crawling inside tubes. Double up and stuff bathroom appliance cords inside to keep cupboards and drawers organized.

Chrome Cleaner

28. Dryer Sheets
Remove foods stuck hard on your pots and pans by filling the pan with water and drop the sheet inside. Let soak for about an hour and wash as usual. Quilters can use old dryer sheets to keep block-edges straight and all the same size. Dust furniture; put them on a hanger in the closet to add freshness to the closet; or hang on the shower curtain to add a fresh scent to bathrooms. Use them to polish your chrome. Find more uses for dryer sheets.

29. Plastic Grocery Bags
Use as garbage pail liners, paint tray covers, stuffing for various craft projects, protection for hands and household items, or packing materials.

30. Plastic Produce Mesh Bags
Wad into a ball and tie to make scrubbers for pots, car windshields or bathtubs.

31. Laundry Bottle Caps & Powdered Detergent Scoops
Wash thoroughly and use as sandbox, pool and bathtub toys or as pet-food scoopers.

DIY Garden Tools FB2

32. Soda Bottles
Used soda bottles can be used for science experiments or to make your own mini greenhouse.

33. PVC Pipe
Every garage seems to have some PVC pipe pieces hanging around. Use 4-inch (or wider) pipe around bird-feeder poles as a squirrel and raccoon guard. Animals can’t climb the slippery and wide pipe.

34. Plastic or Wine Bottles
Place a narrow soda or wine bottle in tall boots to keep their shape when not in use. Also helps speed drying of wet boots.

35. Strawberry Baskets
Make candy baskets for the holidays by weaving ribbons through the holes and attaching decorations. Makes an interesting bubble machine or playpen for small dolls.

36. Styrofoam Meat Trays
Clean thoroughly, wrap in foil and use as serving trays when giving baked treats. Sort small craft items when crafting or use as a paintbrush rest that can be tossed after a project is complete.

37. Tin Cans
Paint a bevvy of cans to store pens, pencils and other tall items on your desk, as vases and to corral plastic spoons and forks at casual gatherings. If you don’t like to pain, glue contact paper or fine-art pictures from magazines or old books onto cans.

38. Toothbrushes
A great way to clean difficult-to-clean items, like grout, cheese graters, jewelry, around faucets, window screens, stains and computer keyboards.

39. Window Screen
Staple onto over-sized wood frames to display earrings.

40. Wine Corks
Glue to the back of rocking-chair legs to prevent scratching walls and from tipping over. Cut-off a small piece and place on the back of a picture to avoid scratching walls.


41. Egg Cartons
Organize small toys, golf balls or tiny craft materials (i.e., sequins, buttons, beads, etc.). Start seeds indoors before it’s warm enough to transplant outdoors. Cardboard containers make good fire starters. Either Styrofoam or cardboard egg cartons can be used to store golf balls. Make bird feeders by removing the lid, threading string through holes in each corner of the tray, filling the cups halfway with birdseed, and hanging in a tree. Great seed starters for planting seeds indoor.

42. Coffee Cans
Pack cookies or other baked goods for mailing. Use as a cheap and quick “dog pooper scooper” or to store food scraps in the kitchen before adding to an outdoor compost pile. Store your child’s collection of crayons, magic markers and pencils.

43. Packing Foam Peanuts
Toss several into the bottom of a large plant pot before adding dirt to aid in drainage. Some shipping companies buy garbage bags of peanuts in good shape as they’re expensive to purchase.

44. Hair Product or Cleaner Spray Bottles
Clean thoroughly and refill with homemade cleaners or spray starch. Spray plants with water.

how to recycle jeans facebook

45. Jeans
Jeans can be used to make quilt or bags, pillows, bibs, aprons. The list goes on. Check out our ideas on how to recycle jeans.

Pin these ideas for later….

re-purpose-household items


  • katie

    Who even darns their sock anymore, and with the new funky lightbulbs that might be difficult. Some great ideas though, definately going to make some organizers out of cereal boxes.

  • Mel

    Another good one for citrus peels is to put them through your disposal every couple weeks. It naturally freshens it and gets rid of the smells

  • Helen in Meridian

    The magnetic board with baby food jars confuses me. Do you put magnets on the end of the baby food jars, or how does that one work? I like the magnetic spice jars they sell, but the sets are expensive and about $3.50 or $4 individually. Please help this old lady understand.

    • Sophie

      I was thinking you must hot glue (or something similar) the magnets onto the baby food jars and then stick them to whatever magnetic surface you can find!

  • Shuree

    Great ideas. Thanks!

  • Sophie

    Hmm… I just cant imagine myself reusing Styrofoam meat trays, even after thoroughly cleaning. 🙂 Am i just paranoid?? These are awesome ideas though for all the others!

  • Ashlee

    I read in a magazine that it is not safe to use plastics, like cereal bags, in the microwave. It can emit harmful stuff like BPA into your food. You should only use plastic that is approved and safe for the microwave.

  • Shelli

    Here’s another idea combining 14 and 16 that we’ve been doing for the past five years or so with great success…. Evenly spread dryer lint into the bottom of paper egg cartons. Next, melt old candle wax (I just heat up the jar in the microwave or on a candle warmer) and pour it into the egg slots. Freeze or refrigerate until solid. We then cut the bottoms apart and store them in a ziploc baggie in the freezer until we’re ready to go camping. They make great fire starters!! My hubby got the idea from a camping magazine years ago.

  • Meccala

    We re-use wipes containers for crayons, markers, pens, pencils, etc. Would work well for plastic grocery bags as well.

  • Meccala

    We re-use wipes containers for crayons, markers, pens, pencils, etc. Would work well for plastic grocery bags as well.
    They work well to organize little toys too.

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