For the past few months I’ve been interested in expanding my experience of repurposing unwanted things. For years I’ve been buying pre-loved clothes, accessories and bric-a-brac from charity shops, but I wanted to take things a little further to see if I could find uses for everyday objects that would otherwise end up in landfill. I know this is nothing new – people have been focusing on recycling and upcycling for decades. It’s quite new to me though.
To some extent I have been inspired by coming across magazines that steer away from consumerism towards finding joy in the simple, everyday things (Simple Things and Breathe are good examples). The mainstream glossies, full of the ‘Buy this product and be transformed into a goddess’ BS have been getting me down for a while, hence the change in reading habits.
Being a fan of charity shops, some of my repurposing projects have focused on items bought there, but that’s only part of the story.
I’m sharing photos of the projects in case you too are interested in turning pre-loved things into useful items.
My friends and I gathered up a load of clean, empty coffee jars. They came from family, colleagues and friends. I knitted little sleeves for the jars, a friend made covers from leftover pieces of fabric, and another friend sewed colourful buttons and Christmassy motifs on to the sleeves and covers. We filled the jars with coffee/ tea/ hot chocolate sachets, mini bags of sweets, cartons of raisins, fruit bars, and mini chocolate bars; all the things you’d need for a nice drinks break. We made up 100 jars and gave half of them to a local school, and half to a hospice, to sell as their Christmas fayres.
There are lots of other ways to fill glass jars to make gifts. You could make up sewing kits including things like a small pack of needles, thimble, mini reels of cotton, pack of pins, a mini tape measure, or a tiny pin cushion. Alternatively, how about a pamper jar containing travel size items like soap, hand cream, cotton wool pads, lip balm and the like. There’s been a resurgence in interest in giving care packages; placing items in a jar, rather than a cardboard box could be an option.
One word of caution; you’ll come to loathe the labels manufacturers glue to the glass. They take some elbow grease to remove, but washing up liquid, warm water and effort will get rid of them.
Occasionally you see pre-loved kilner or mason jars in charity shops. I don’t reuse them for food storage, instead I use them for storing things I want out of view. I simply find a piece of pretty paper or thin-ish card, cut said paper/ card to fit the jar, place it in the jar, and hey presto, you have a jar with an insert which means nobody can see what’s inside, unless they’re nosing through the lid!
The thick paper in this jar came from Breathe magazine. I store chargers and cables in it (and my cat seems to like it!).
The botanical themed card in this jar was once in a picture frame, (the whole framed print cost less than two pounds from a charity shop). I plucked the card out and re-gifted the frame to a charity shop.
This jar contains buttons, (who says button jars are a thing of the past?).
I love creating sequin balls. They’re easy to make (polystyrene ball + sequin pins + sequins = all you need). I wanted a way to display them and had the idea of getting a glass dome. I bought one from John Lewis but couldn’t fit all the balls in it, (I had made loads in time for Christmas). Fortunately, I came across this cheese board in a charity shop. A quick scrub and it was perfect to use as a second display case.
Fererro Rocher box
Some of my make up and toiletries are now contained within a box, instead of rolling around loose in a drawer. I suppose most people would have removed the label, but the box lives in a drawer, tucked away from sight, and so I couldn’t be bothered to worry about looks!
A friend gave me a few chocolate tubs and boxes that were leftover after Christmas-time treats had been devoured.
A quick internet trawl for potential uses gave me the idea of using the round tubs as planters for mini alpines. Thanks to the Red Peffer blog for the idea and instructions.
The Fox’s tin box was snapped up by another friend, to be used for storing cat treats.
Over the next few months my colleagues and I plan to collect up unwanted mugs, fill each one with sweet treats, then pretty them up by wrapping each one in florist’s cellophane, finished off with ribbon. We’ll give them away at Easter time. Lots of people have a ‘mug cull’ once or twice a year (at home and/ or work); this is a nice way to make use of them.
I hope this post has provided you with a few ideas about giving a new lease of life to things that would otherwise have made their way to the bin.