25 Ways To Reuse Everyday Items Instead Of Throwing Them Away.

June 17, 2008

With the economy the way it is and the growing concern about the environment, people are looking for more ways to save money and reduce the amount of trash they throw away. Well, if you look hard enough, there are a ton of things that come into our houses that we can reuse for multiple purposes! Here are 25 that I came up with; what would you add to the list?

Milk jugs (gallon or 1/2 gallon plastic) – Clothespin holder after you cut the top off and hang from your clothesline.

Plastic soda or water bottles – Can be used as kids banks after a nice paint job; a cold pack to be stored in the freezer; with some small holes in it, fill with bird seed and you have a nice bird feeder.

Spaghetti jarssmall planters for around the home.

Film canister – Cut a slit in the side and you have a holder for a roll of stamps.

Beer bottle caps – You could pick up some small magnets and some glue at a craft store and make custom refrigerator magnets.

Glass bottles – pick up a light bulb fixture and you have a new lamp; can be used for vases, decorative grass holders.

Old t-shirts – rags for cleaning up around the house; sew a couple of your favorites into a pillow.

Shoe and delivery boxes – storage containers, file boxes, etc – no need to waste money on plastic containers from the container store. Every box in my closet is a reused cardboard one!

Toilet paper roll – extension cord organizer; stuff with paper and some alcohol to make a fire starter.

Sunday comics – wrapping paper. You would never have to buy wrapping paper again if you saved this all year!

An old garden hose – make a soaker hose – poke holes throughout, seal off other end, lay in garden; bucket handle,

Baby jars – votive candle holders; storing spices or seeds.

Toothbrushes – bathroom scrubbers; clothing stain scrubbers.

Mailing tubes – cut several of them to the same length, assemble into a wine rack.

Wine corks – soaked in alcohol, they make a good fire-starter.

CD’s – one-of-a-kind drink coasters (paint, cover with paper, etc).

Altoids tins – These tins are the perfect size to make small emergency kits for camping or to keep in your car; basic sewing kits for college kids.

Shredded paper – Makes great packing material for shipping gifts; also makes good packing material for when you are moving.

Old jeans – cut up and sew into squares full of padding to make pot holders.

Tires – build an earthship! Or, maybe just a tire swing.

Old shoes – send to Nike so the rubber can be turned into new playgrounds.

Bath mat – folded just right, can be used as a new floor mop!

Shower curtain – drop cloth for painting; cover the air conditioner during winter?

Mason canning jars – canning, obviously, but they also make great drinking glasses.

Paper – Be sure to use both sides of paper in the house. Just cut up “once used” paper and make notepads with the blank sides!

So what would you add?

Green PolkaDot Box
Filed in: Recycling • Tags: , , ,

About the Author:

After a varied past of being a test driver for automotive television programs, a Hollywood studio lackey, and an online media sales director, David is now the publisher and editor of The Good Human. In his spare time he rides motorcycles, drinks good beer, and builds stuff in the garage. You can follow him on Twitter at @thegoodhuman or G+ at Google
Like this post? If so, please consider subscribing to my full feed RSS. Or, if you would prefer, you can subscribe by Email:

Enter your email address in the box below. Address will only be used to deliver a daily email and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Comments (38)

  1. Tin cans – pencil holders or containers for all sorts of little things

    Egg cartons – sorters for all kinds of small things, paint pallete (styrofoam), seed starters

    Cereal boxes – opened up to make “placemats” for dirty jobs

  2. david says:

    All good ones, thanks SMM!

  3. mike says:

    How many pencil cups, clothespin holders, and emergency kits can one have? How many kids banks would the average soda drinking household have on hand? Would there be any $$ in them, or would they hold the credit card receipts?

    Refrigerator magnets from beer bottle caps? But I have to BUY something else to make them?

    Film canisters for stamps? So long as they are the self stick – I wouldn’t want to lick anything that was inside a film canister.

    Glass jars that turn into lights, after buying more stuff to make them glow?

    Seriously – buy milk from a local dairy – and get it in glass. Return it for your deposit so it can be used again and again – for milk.

    Baby jars? Make your own baby food. Plenty of info on the web – put all those mason jars to work.

    Buy in bulk when you can. Reuse those plastic bottles and glass jars for carrying your bulk items to and from the market.

    Finding uses for used materials is certainly preferable to tossing it in the landfill – but with most plastic, paper and cardboard recyclable, most glass on deposit – is there really a need for hoarding disposable stuff, stuff that might be turned into other products?

  4. David says:

    Mike, not everyone can be perfect like you want them/think them to be. You have to remember that most people still buy these things, day in and day out, and end up tossing them. Think big picture, my friend. Milk cannot be bought in glass bottles from local dairies in most places. The vast majority of people will never make their own baby food. Putting old candles in glass jars does not cost anything. Instead of criticizing what people TRY to do, why not be encouraging and offer realistic options so people dispose of less trash and reuse what they are already bringing in their house? That would be much more helpful than being so condescending towards others and their habits…the majority of people are only starting to learn about sustainability, so encouraging versus demanding goes a lot further.

  5. mike says:

    Fair enough… but people’s unending consumption is the problem – not the stuff. If the world magically turned all products ‘green’ – we’d still see a huge amount of resources being used for essentially disposable, throw away ‘green’ products. It’s happening now – the greenwashing has only just begun.

    And for the record – I was thinking big picture – what good does it do to save a plastic bottle from the landfill tomorrow by turning it into a pencil holder today – only to have 10 more plastic bottles in the house by week’s end? Recycle. Reuse. And stop buying stuff that comes with materials that can only be used once.

    I thought I was being helpful with the second half of my post. Buying in bulk saves all that packaging that you have to find other uses for, and while you might not find milk in glass jars at the giganto mart that you have to drive to – you may find it at the coop down the street, or by researching a CSA or your local agricultural extension. Doing this also ensures that your hard earned $$ stays local – where it does the most good.

    And seriously – most paper, plastic, cardboard and glass can be recycled.

    We can’t have our cake and eat it to. There is no way to buy ourselves out of our current situation – however ‘green’ the products get.

  6. david says:

    Sure, of course it is Mike, I don’t question that at all. But the majority of people in the US and in the world do not care nor care to change their ways or what they buy. I try to avoid being too harsh on my site because it is only going to turn people off to doing the little things first. Unfortunately, that is all we can hope for from people that don’t really care or even know better. Those of us who do, can do our best…but you have to encourage or gently prod those on the other side of the fence. This will not happen overnight, but it will not happen at all if people feel as though they are being judged for doing what they have always done.

    Not everyone has a coop, a CSA, a local dairy farmer – in fact, most don’t. I forget that myself sometimes living here in CA. Most communities have hundreds of big box stores and convenience stores, and that is all. It’s a sad fact, but true.

  7. meetjoe says:

    Reuse is a excellent idea, in this polluted world only way to reduce the pollution one way is to reuse the items, excellent article about the reusability of the items, looking for more updates on these, thank you.

  8. Matt says:

    Using sour cream and cream cheese containers for leftovers is another that we occasionally use.

  9. Lynn says:

    This is somewhat related, although not in the sense you mean, as one item lasts a long, long time. I keep a gallon plastic milk jug under my kitchen sink, and fill it with water (from times when I’m waiting for the water to get hot). I later use the cooled again water to flush toilets and water my garden (since we’re in a drought and have water restrictions). So far, my water bill has gone down about $7 per month.

  10. david says:

    Matt, those big containers are great for storing leftovers, yep!

    Wow, Lynn that is a good one. I will have to implement that in our new home next month, thanks!

  11. I save the reviled plastic grocery bags for doggy sanitation needs, which probably isn’t very original. Plastic tubs that hold various food items get converted to storage for crafts–they’re great for beads and findings, if you make jewelry–and saved for use with craft and household paint.

    Although it’s true we do overconsume and it certainly is true that almost all the products available to us through normal outlets are obscenely overpackaged, Mike’s remarks seem a little over the top. First, there’s not a thing we can do about the way manufacturers and retailers package products–you can’t not buy milk or juice because it comes in a plastic container. I guess you could, but it means your kids will go without milk and juice. Yes, you could squeeze your own and burn some extra gas to run over to a dairy (assuming you could find one that sells retail). But my orange trees don’t bear all year round, and there’s no dairy within 500 miles of downtown Phoenix. It just isn’t dairy country!

    Of the 25 items listed above, only a few represent true overconsumption. The plastic soda and water bottles: nobody needs soda, nor is it necessary or even advisable to purchase tap water in bottles. Spaghetti jars: if this means jars that spaghetti sauce comes in, well, it’s mighty easy to make real spaghetti sauce; but to do so you have to buy (yes, buy!) canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, and tomato paste, and meat, spinning off four throwaway containers instead of a single jar. Beer bottle magnets: beer is a staple at my house–that’s not an extra purchase; and I always have glue and some of those magnetic strips laying around. Altoids: OK, OK, we probably don’t need candy.

    Everything else on this list is pretty much de rigueur, with the exception of the funny strips. Newspapers are going the way of the Model A anyway, so those soon will be unavailable–better enjoy them while you can. You probably could make your bathmats by weaving strips of old rags; that’d be lovely in the guest bathroom. And who needs a bath curtain when you can squeegee and wipe down the entire bathroom after every shower? Oh heck, we shouldn’t be showering anyway–wastes water.

    There’s a limit to how “green” you can be. Those of us who live in cities and have to spend five or six days a week on a job can only work within the limits of what’s available to us, and that, unfortunately, means we’re limited to purchasing goods in wasteful packaging. You have to find a happy medium between living simply and asceticism.

  12. BreAnna says:

    I rewash sandwich baggies….it saves me like $3 a month…LOL

  13. david says:

    Thanks Funny about Money, I agree with you and that is a great comment, appreciate it!

  14. Kelly from My Small Cents says:

    Here’s another use for an old shower curtain (though it might not be for everybody): use it to protect your floors or bed during a homebirth. Works wonders.

  15. David says:

    Good idea Kelly, wouldn’t have thought of that one!

  16. TK says:

    Wine bottles – sell or give clean wmpty wine bottles to people who make wine at home. You can adverise them on Ebay or Craigslist

  17. TK says:

    Egg Cartons – these can be cut or broken up to be used as packing material for mailing or moving!

    • pat says:

      we use egg cartons (grey paper brand) to start seeds for the garden. we collected old rectangle baking sheets for the base, an put the egg cartons in them. the slight edge of the pan keeps water in the bottom so we dont have to “drown” the tender plants. they soak the water up from the bottom!

  18. David says:

    Good stuff Glenda, thanks!!

  19. Glenda says:

    I am a teacher and I reuse alot of stuff. We make snowglobes with the baby food jars. Also, my kids at school use old film canisters as quarter holders. Thankfully, I get to reuse these every year. As for the shoe boxes, the kids at my high school package items for an organization called Operation Christmas Child.

  20. Glenda says:

    Oooohh! I forgot, we make Christmas candy holders from paper towel rolls. We use old tissue (I know) boxes to store things like crayons and pencils. We plant seeds in used soda bottles and watch the condensation and growth of the plant. Children have the most wonderful imaginations, and can really show us how to reuse so many things.

  21. eCycle Group says:

    We collect printer cartridges and cell phones from community groups and individuals so that they can be reused. We even pay money for them. http://www.ecyclegroup.com

  22. Fern says:

    Those tin cans you use for pencil holders can be wrapped with leftover wallpaper.

    the egg cartons are very good for storing Christmas ornaments in.

    In the past i used plastic store bags for kitty litter, but then i’m still contributing tothe problem, aren’t I/ So i bought a small plastic bin, collect the kitty litter in there and then dump it in the bin at the transfer station. I don’t know if they appreciate loose kitty litter, but at least i’m not using a bag for it.

  23. Michael says:

    Any container including plastic, metal, glass, ect. can be used as a planter i use orange juice containers fastfood cups water bottles sour cream bowls and milk jugs. Anything that can hold materials inside can be used as a planter depending on the size the plant can grow. exspecialy if you own a green house or sell plants. Not only are you reusing your helping grow more plants which help clean the air and give air.they might look getto but who cares atleast your making a change.

  24. ashley says:

    corks me and my aunt (who makes her own wine) took her old corks and cut them in half long ways and used them like you would use tile behind her stove in the kitchen it turned out beautiful

  25. lovetorecycle says:

    i try to reuse whatever i can! i reuse take out containers, any kind of plastic containers with a lid for leftovers! i save the lil plastic containers from applesause for snacks for my 2 lil ones instead of buying then and the baby food containers with lids r great for on the go with kids, and i even keep some of the plastic easy mac containers to microwave stuff, or just bigger snacks or whatever, and i reuse plastic silverware for bday parties, i keep plastic bags, and cute lil bags for candy around the house or other snacks around the house!

  26. hardy har har says:

    i say har har har har har har to all this madness

  27. Maggie says:

    I would just like to say that I love all of these great ideas and that i plan to use almost every single one sometime soon. I will most definitely be reducing my carbon footprint in the world. Thanks yall. Yall are great.

  28. shirley wallace says:

    So many of these ideas were common in the depression and my (older) generation grew up saving everything we could. My mother saved plastic bags and re-used tinfoil–i do the same. It becomes a habit-a necessary way of life. I love your website! Keep up the good work!

  29. Shelley says:

    Very cool ideas!

  30. Shelley says:

    David, I read your comments and you were right!

  31. lori says:

    we put dryer lint into empty tolit paper rolls, and use them in the fire place to start a fire,,

  32. Vicky says:

    1. I reuse the kiddie cups from restaurants. I have a shelf full of them, and the kids love using them!
    2. Coffee canisters are great pencil holders. You could glue several of them together and have small cubby-holes.
    3. Non-recyclable plastic containers are used for bug houses.
    4. Newspaper can be used for painting projects (it keeps my tables and floors paint-free)
    5. I reuse the applesauce containers for scoops in flour, sugar, dog food, etc.

  33. Rosemary Bubnic says:

    We keep a few plastic food containers in the car for dog water bowls which we fill from our water bottles.

  34. Abbey says:

    Recycling is a good idea, especially if you live far outside of town or in a very isolated area of the states(Alaska is mostly island cities or way out of the way and very expensive to ship, even though it is in America) or even other countries.

    • David Quilty says:

      Great comment, Jacob. Real insightful. Glad I am not involved with anything with the slogan “Developing Educated Citizens with Character” in Arkansas, doesn’t sound like it’s doing that great a job.