For almost everything

You can find creative new uses for almost anything online! Even if you plan to donate the old rather than design the new, it's great inspiration.

You can find creative new uses for almost anything online!
Even if you plan to donate the old rather than design the new, it’s great inspiration.

“There is a use for almost everything.”George Washington Carver

“A great master can find a use for everything…he is good at salvage. He wastes nothing; therefore, he always has enough. He values everyone; therefore everyone values him.”
Chris Prentiss

One year ago today I wrote about my problems with clutter, and having way too much stuff, as well as my determination to clean up and clear out. Since then I’ve had some success, though I still have a long way to go.  A large part of the battle has been trying to figure out why I ended up with the stuff in the first place, and how to change the thought patterns that result in continual accumulation.

I think a lot of us have a fear of wasting resources, and an aversion to tossing out what is still useable.  This is not a bad trait, especially with landfills overflowing and budgets stretched to the limit.  While I keep reminding myself it’s actually just as wasteful to keep and store more than I can ever use, I admire those who are able to transform something unwanted into a new and needed object.

Repurposing is one of the most practical forms of creativity we can develop.  And it’s more popular than ever, with online tips and ideas so numerous that it would be impossible to explore all of them.  The next time you find yourself undecided about whether to throw something out, try doing a Google or Pinterest search  with the words “repurpose” and a description of the object you are reluctant to trash.  You might be amazed at some of the ingenious uses for everything from small utensils to large pieces of furniture.

If you can’t find an idea for upcycling whatever you vaguely dread wasting, you can throw it out in good conscience.  Believe me, if anything could be done with it, someone would have discovered it, created it, and posted it online.  Give yourself points for effort, and pitch it.

If you do find lots of ideas for it, here’s where you have to exercise wisdom and willpower.  Will you actually make and use this new creation anytime soon?  If so, go for it! If not, your time online still has not been wasted.  You’re in the best position of all; you can donate the item knowing others can find a use for it, with the immediate reward of a cleaner, more spacious drawer, closet or room.

Have you found any clever ways to re-use something broken or unneeded? If so, we’d love to have you share them with us.  Meanwhile, spend a few minutes online marveling at all the ways people can get clever with their clutter. Transforming trash to treasure is a great hobby to enjoy, whether as observer or creator, and you might pick up some inspiration for a project of your own.

One year ago today:

A physical manifestation



  1. HarryS

    Lordy, don’t let me load myself down with another project.

    I’m just busy as I can be enjoying my life. 🙂

    One of my great joys is visiting this webpage.


    • Harry, I need to remember this myself! I told Jeff just this morning, one of my big problems is I continually UNDER-estimate how much time it will take me to finish all the things I start! Having said that, I’m so grateful to have so many good things to do. I really appreciate your kind words about the blog. I am so glad you are here to share with us, and I hope you will always enjoy being here.

  2. Julia, good morning. I’ve read George Washington Carver’s biography. Very interesting man.
    I enjoy prowling in consignment shops, where I find interesting objects for use on my front porch. Or for use during holidays. I actually found a soup label that match my dinner set. I had lost mine many years ago. My favorite shop has a clothes rack in the back of the store for dressy items out of style. This shop is always busy. And I’m amazed at the things people buy to reuse… 🙂 Yes I take in some of my collectables to be sold for “repurpose” …. 🙂

    • Merry, I would like to read more about Carver. Time magazine (in 1941) compared him to Leonardo da Vinci, and that doesn’t seem too far off. He did so many things, including being an artist. I don’t think of scientists as being artistic too often. I am so glad you are able to reuse and recycle! People who do that are close to my heart, whether they do it by adapting things for new use, or giving things to others who will do that. I’ve always felt it’s a shame to waste things just because we can. It bothers me that seemingly everything nowadays is seen as being disposable.

  3. Good morning, Julia! Recycling clothing is actually a huge hobby of mine. I love to re purpose old silk clothes into pajamas or baby bibs, and I’ve made pram blankets and accessories for shepherds’ costumes from old leather jackets. I even reserved a .com some years ago, thinking I’d get out of engineering and start this full time. It’s but unfortunate I’ve never even started populating it. Life is always so busy – we think “Oh, someday I’ll have time” and then it never happens. Oh, potholders and aprons out of old clothes, too. I went through some tight times when my kids were young, and we really didn’t waste much. There was a great publication I subscribed to, called The Tightwad Gazette. It was so practical!

    • Susan, The Tightwad Gazette sounds very familiar; I think I may have read it during our VERY frugal years (as opposed to now, when we are just moderately frugal, unless you compare us to most people 😀 ) It sounds as if you are far more ingenious with a sewing machine than I’ve ever been. I need to send you a long list of stuff I should pass along to someone else, just in case you could use any of it. I used to love seeing bits of clothing I remembered (mine or other family members) show up in quilt designs made by my grandmother. Better than a scrapbook!

      • I love those quilts, too. I made one from leftover fabric from my kids’ clothes. Just a tied quilt – I don’t actually “quilt!” I wonder where that quilt is now. It would be fun to remember back when they were so little.

        • I have a very old one that must have been made when I was a baby. It’s held up well all these years and we still use it often.

  4. I re-purpose continuously Julia. I like the challenge of finding new uses for discarded objects and packaging bits. [The problem is I can amass a large amount of ‘junk’ waiting to be re-purposed 🙂 ] I also make use of my local ‘Freecycle’ branch and pass things on – someone else is often looking for the thing you want to get rid of. ‘One man’s junk…..’ etc. If you are interested – here is a link to a book I made from a packaging box

    • WOW Pauline, what a gorgeous and totally unique gift! This is embarrassing for me to admit as a librarian, but I did not know what the word “palimpsest” meant. I don’t remember ever coming across it until your post. Thanks so much for sending that link. I had not seen it. Your blog is full of wonderful recycling ideas! Thanks so much for sharing this with us! I just love your artwork.

      • I’m a history buff and stuffed full of archaic and esoteric bits and bobs that no-one else has much interest in 🙂 Thank you, for taking the time to look at it – and of course, I’m pleased you liked it too 🙂

        • Pauline, I’m sure I’m not the only one (see Susan’s comment!) and I’m so happy SOMEONE is remembering all these “archaic” treasures. I especially appreciate learning new words. I forgot to say how much I liked the airport sign at the end of the post, too.

    • The book is great! That must have taken a lot of time and effort.

      • Pauline is SO talented. Must be that New Zealand enchantment.

  5. bobmielke

    As you probably know I’m in temporary living quarters in my friend’s spare condo bedroom. I have a rental storage unit with the bulk of my kitchen stuff. After nearly two months of living a Spartan lifestyle I’m beginning to wonder if I need that stuff in storage? I actually do as my dishes, glassware and pots & pans are amongst that stuff. Hopefully I have just 3 weeks remaining until I move into a much bigger, nicer place, with air conditioning. 🙂

    • Bob, I know you will be happy to move back into your new place, but I think it’s an interesting experience to live with most of one’s belongings in storage. We did that during the weeks surrounding our move to and from Hawaii (and for shorter periods during every move) and it’s liberating in a way, to go without so many things. But you’ll be glad to see them again! Most of them, anyway! 😀

  6. Michael

    If you want a laugh about clutter look up Weird Al’s song “I found it on E-Bay.” He has an interview on NPR yesterday. It is not very often I laugh out loud- but I did several times during this video. I will try and find the l ink. He is a riot.

    • Michael, I love, love, love Weird Al. I’ve been listening to him for years and I think he is so talented. I had not heard this one, though – thanks for sending it. It’s SO perfect! Matt and I watched it together and got a big kick out of it. It made me want to sell the boys’ old Ninja Turtles and VHS Disney videos.

  7. Moving into our retirement home in Florida four years ago, with the exception of our summer clothes, we started with zilch. Four years, later the clutter is growing and decluttering has been on my to do list far too long. Thank you for the “google repurpose” idea.

    • Yvonne, isn’t it amazing how much stuff can accumulate in four years? We were in a similar position four years ago when we moved here to our Alexandria townhome, and my stated intent was to keep things here “very sparse.” HA! Almost two years ago Jeff asked me what happened to that plan. It was embarrassing to realize how far of the mark I’d gotten in such a short time. It’s good to hear from others who are determined to keep after the tendency for our stuff to expand to fill every available inch. It helps to seal my own resolve. Now all I need is the time…

  8. I was incredibly inspired this morning by a man in Oakland who uses street trash to build movable enclosures for people living on the street. He uses palettes for the foundation, pizza bags for insulation, and most importantly creates safe havens for people at great risk. Let me go find the link.

    • I totally love stories like this. It’s the type of thing that brightens my day, thanks so much for sending that link! Such a PERFECT combination of thrift, conservation, compassion and practicality! There are some amazing palette homes online; some of them are quite spectacular, luxury-style dwellings. But it’s even better to see them used as shelters for people who don’t have anyplace to go.

      • I agree, Julia. What heart this man has.

        I’m so glad it brightened your day. It did mine too.


  9. MaryAnn

    My mother was a “pioneer” in repurposing. When I was in elementary school (in the 50’s), there was an event coming up that we needed fancy dresses. She made 3 dresses out of the dotted-Swiss curtains in our bedrooms. One for my sister, one for a neighbor girl, one for me. They were beautiful! We wore them for a long time, looking so cute & dressed up at church, etc. (This always brings to mind the “Gone with The Wind” parody that Carol Burnett did:
    I enjoy using scraps to make quilts. Your friends have given me the idea to use clothes that can no longer be worn. I do a good job of donating clothes to Opportunity House, a place for homeless families to learn new skills. But I have a harder time picking through my Bible class materials. I have made baby steps, like you.
    This week, I decided to not throw the empty Play-doh containers in the recycle bin. I cleaned them, plan to use to sort buttons or hold other crafty items. if they become just more clutter, I will feel no pain tossing them in the bin.

    • Mary Ann, that Carol Burnett parody has to be one of the great classic TV scenes of all time. I read later an interview with her where she said that Bob Mackie had designed that dress. No wonder it was such a scene stealer! I have a hard time getting rid of containers too, and those Play-doh ones are so colorful and airtight. If you have a harder time getting rid of print materials such as your Bible class lessons, you have that in common with me. I have a hard time pitching anything educational. I was reading a social media book for librarians last night that said it is hard for libraries to predict what will be popular on YouTube – one library made a series of Star Wars themed videos that were dramatically outvoted (in terms of how many views they got) by– get this — the videos of storytellers doing flannel graph presentations, which I didn’t know anyone even DID anymore. They figured out that young mothers were downloading them to their smart phones for babies and toddlers to watch, and the babies would watch them again and again. I hope I didn’t just make it harder for you to through away any flannel graph stories

Thanks for encouraging others by sharing your thoughts:

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