What household items can be upcycled, you ask? Candlestick, watering “can”, plant pot, gift basket, and rug – those are the five upcycled ideas for your home that you’ll read about here. Let these ideas jumpstart your brain to other ways you can repurpose and reuse materials already in your house.
What Can I Make Out of Old Stuff?
Do you know what I read the other day? An entire home décor book consisting entirely of upcycled ideas for the home. Home décor made of garbage! No joke.
Some people just naturally have a gift for looking at an object and seeing its infinite possibilities. Hence the phrase, “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.” Often also called “re-purposing,” this is a must-have skill for our times, I believe.
Here are some upcycles we’ve made simply and easily with leftover packaging components.
What Are the Best Items to Upcycle?
The best items to upcycle are the ones that you have in abundance.
If you read our article How to Stop Recycling, then you’ve already gone through the activity suggested there for determining what you’re always putting into your recycling container. This is a great place to start when looking for items to upcycle!
Remember, we’re not just repurposing garbage to repurpose garbage. When we upcycle, we take an item that has outlived its usefulness and give it new life in a useful way.
We don’t need more clutter in our house, but we can always use more useful tools!
If you’d like to complete the recycling exercise, please visit the article How to Stop Recycling–>>
5 Upcycled Ideas for Your Home
- Do you have glass bottles from cooking oils on your counter?
- What about plastic containers from yogurt or sour cream?
- Make a basket from a cosmetic gift package or Mother’s Day surprise?
Good – let’s put them to use!
Upcycled Idea #1 – An Emergency Candlestick
My favorite surprise in upcycling occurred during a recent energy drill where we turned off all lights in the house for a day and night to learn to do without. I kept my stove on (this was just a light drill) but soon discovered that there was no way to position a flashlight, lantern or candle so that I could see what I was cooking.
I’d just finished using up the contents of a glass avocado oil bottle and, in desperation, I shoved a short taper candle in it and lit it up. The height of the bottle was perfect to diffuse the light over what I was doing. It’s not like I was the first person to think of such a simple thing. Historically, the reason candlesticks were rather tall was so that diners could see their plates in an era of no electric overhead lighting.
If you decide you’d like to keep using your glass bottle candlesticks, simply remove the labels and polish up the glass. There are paints that will stick to glass, if you’d like to change their color. These will even work well at your next homestead wedding!
If you want to take your DIY living one step further, you can even learn how to make your own candles with our simple book,
Candle Making in a Day.
Upcycled Idea #2 – The Small Watering “Can”
The problem with using a standard watering can on seedlings – baby plants just barely emerged from the soil – is that the water stream is just too heavy. Solve this problem with a yogurt container watering can.
- Drill with a small bit or poke holes with a sharp nail into the lid of a yogurt container. The lids MUST fit firmly onto the container. Spaghetti jars with twist on lids will also work for this project but can be prone to rust over time.
- Fill the container with water and secure the lid.
- Turn the container upside down and sprinkle the seedling trays – almost like you’re sprinkling on salt and pepper.
I use these all the time! At the end of the season I recycle the container.
Upcycled Idea #3 – Seed Starting Pots
Along the same lines, yogurt and sour cream containers make great seed starting pots. No matter how many nursery pots I collect, I still never have enough for starting seeds every spring. So, I save up my food containers to fill in the gaps.
- Wash each container thoroughly, including the lid. If you have a container without a lid, that will work, too. Lids simply help keep the soil moist as you wait for the seed to emerge.
- Using a sharp nail or a fine drill bit, drill 3-5 holes into the bottom of the container. A general rule of thumb is that if the container has a diameter of 3-6 inches, 3 holes should be sufficient for drainage. If the container is more like 6-8 inches in diameter, five holes will probably be more effective.
- Fill the containers with potting soil, plant the seed and cover LOOSELY with the lids. A tightly close lid will most likely lead to mold or damping off disease.
These also can be washed and recycled after the season, or you can keep them in your stash of garden pots for next year. Most will last several years before cracking and breaking.
Side Note: As an added preventive measure to ward of damping off disease sprinkle the surface of your potting soil lightly with cinnamon once the seeds have been planted. Cinnamon is a potent anti-fungal and can help stop damping off disease before it even gets started.
Upcycle Idea # 4 – Gift Basket
Do you have those cheap-o, made-in-China baskets lying around from old gift baskets and gift sets? Instead of tossing them or donating them, spray paint them to give them new life. This is so simple but I’m always blown away at the power of a fresh coat of paint to make the ugliest thing look brand new.
If you decorate for holidays, use holiday-themed paint colors and create catchalls for kid’s crafts and instant containers for holiday gift baskets. The homemade bread for your friend will look much better in one of these baskets.
Upcycled Idea #5 – Rag Rugs
This is a bigger project that will take some time, but I know we all have clothes lying around that are too used up to donate for reuse. To turn these into something useful, prepare the spent clothing to become rag rugs!
- Save all the clothes and sheets that you just can’t repair anymore and cut them into 1/2-inch strips.
- Connect the strips by sewing a 1/4” seam across the ends.
- Wait until you have long strips of about the same length, braid them together, and stitch them side by side in an oval shape to create a rag rug.
If you need more directions, please see the list of useful posts as you scroll down a bit. I have a link for jelly roll rugs from my friend Angi over at Schneider Peeps. If you need some help learning to sew, you can visit her basic course on sewing below.
What’s the Difference Between Upcycling and Recycling?
In brief, recycling, in our modern culture, is taking an item after it’s been used for one purpose and chemically altering it to form it into another item that can be used anew.
For example, when you’re done with your juice bottle, you rinse it and put it in your recycling bin. Your local recycling truck picks it up and takes it to the recycling facility where it’s broken down and turned into a new plastic item.
Upcycling is when you take the same plastic bottle, clean it out and turn it into a candle mold for your candle making project. That bottle spends the rest of its life in your candle making box being useful.
In fact, for you candlemakers, we have a post on just how to do that included in the links below!
What’s the Best Way to Upcycle an Item?
The best way is to use what is already in your home and possibly in your recycling bin. Using materials you already have on hand will be easy and accessible, of course, but it will also show you what products you’re consistently buying from the stores. This might help you think about how you can stop buying that item and start making it.
- For example, if you always have cultured dairy – yogurt, kefir, cheese – containers to upcycle, maybe it’s time to learn to make your own.
- Or, if you constantly have bread bags hanging around begging to be re-used, maybe it’s time to learn to make your own bread.
(For ideas on how to do those things, please see the link list below.)
Either way, I hope you have success in your efforts to use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without!
If you have great upcycle ideas to share, please leave a comment below so others can benefit from your genius.