Do you ever feel like you just throw away too much trash? I know my husband does when he has to lug the bag of trash all the way down three flights of stairs and half a block away! Our modern generation – despite attempts to “green” our lives – is far too quick to dump anything and everything into the circular file without first considering if it can be used again. Despite the catch-phrase of “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”, we still throw a lot of junk into the trash.
Sometimes the problem is simply that repurposing or upcycling household trash can seem like a daunting prospect, particularly if you think you’re not all that creative or crafty. I’m here to tell you, though, while a browse through Pinterest might wear you out with all those cute upcycling projects (Trust me, I know, I have my own Repurposing board.), it doesn’t take any time or ingenuity to put all those jars, boxes and cans to work instead of chucking them into the dumpster. Sometimes, I don’t even bother with removing the label; I just clean out the jar and put it back to work.
To get you started, here are a few of the uses I’ve found for a variety of common household containers:
- Giveaway Buckets
I always keep a stack of plastic containers in my cupboard for a variety of purposes. They make perfect give-away containers for those occasions when you fix a meal for a friend, or want to pass along some yummy baked goods. Your friends will appreciate now having to wash and return them to you! They’re also perfect for random assortments of leftovers that have no other home. They’re not great for freezing, since they’re not typically made with an exceptionally high quality plastic. In the same token, I wouldn’t recommend microwaving them either.
- Candy Containers
In the forefront of the picture, you see an old formula can with the label removed. I just wrote on it with a Sharpie (on the other side) to label it – no fancy artwork needed here! I hide it in the cupboard to stash all the candy that is given to my son (by people who don’t live with him). Whenever we feel like rewarding him with a special treat, we sneak it from this inconspicuous container.
- Junk Drawer Organizers
Head to a container store, and you’ll see a slew of pricey products designed to help you organize your junk drawer. No need to shell out the cash! I’ve got a couple of round re-usable Ziploc containers that lost their lids and put them to beneficial use rounding up a bunch of things like shoe-laces, pencil sharpeners, tape, and the like – things that would otherwise be rolling around loose on the bottom of the drawer. The rectangular plastic container is from toy-packaging, believe it or not. It’s the perfect container for all the packs of gum my husband goes through on a regular basis!
- A Homemade Find-It Game
You can use any old jar to create one of these; I used a plastic canned fruit container. All you do is drop in some small objects of interest to your child (e.g.: a Lego guy, a small car, a plastic tree, a button, and a marble). Then fill it almost to the top with rice. Spread a little glue (hot glue works wonderfully) around the rim of the mouth of the jar, then screw the lid on tight. You can decorate it with a ribbon around the lid of the jar if you desire, but you don’t have to. We brought ours with us on our vacation last year as an activity for our son to play on the looooooonnnggg car ride.
- Dried Goods Jars
You can’t re-use the majority of store-bought glass jars for canning because the glass is not stable, and the lids are not safe for processing. However, they are perfect for storing dried goods, like nuts and dried fruits and vegetables! I love to store the things I’ve dehydrated in jars like these. In the picture above, you’ll see some dried-orange zest in a baby food jar, pistachios in a salsa jar, dried peppers in a jam jar, and dried kale leaves in a peanut butter jar.
- Manipulatives Storage
Counting bears find a home in an enormous applesauce jar (I think it must have come from Costco!) Letter tiles get comfy in an old sunflower seed butter jar; and letter stamps reside in – of all things – a small jar that previously held a sugar body scrub. As you can see, I did some slight decorating here, but only because these jars are out in the open and visible by all.
- Granola Tin
I make my own granola, and I keep this old coffee tin on hand to store it. This kills two birds with one stone: it eliminates the need to throw away empty boxes from store-bought granola, and it keeps the coffee tin from ending up in the landfill. A win all around.
- Collection of Jars
You don’t have to have a specific use in mind for a container. I keep a handful of them in my cupboard below the sink to use as ready storage for left-overs, or for homemade sauces and the like. Occasionally, one of these under-the-ink jars will find another, more permanent home elsewhere around the house.
- Yogurt “Cups”
My yogurt machine has containers with screw-top lids, but I get a little annoyed by all those small glass jars tumbling around the refrigerator. Instead, I dump all the yogurt (yet another attempt to create rice milk yogurt pictured here) into one of those glass jars I mentioned from under the sink.
- Craft Containers
I did make a little extra effort decorating this old oatmeal canister, but it was worth it. I use it to store my small collection of rubber stamps. Similar containers (including rectangular ones that formerly held cocoa) have been used for other crafty supplies, like glue sticks, for example.
- Ribbon Scraps Confinement
I have a hard time throwing away those little scraps of ribbon that are still long enough to tie a bow, but not much else. In truth, I have a problem throwing anything away. But I also hate leaving them lying around,getting tangled and making a mess. A baby food jar is the perfect size to confine all those confounded little pieces of ribbon – it’s small so that I don’t have to dig through heaps of knotted strands in order to grab the one I need. It’s clear, so I can see at a glance if a jar contains the color I need.
These uses are mostly utilitarian, but you can dress-up your old containers. This past Christmas, I had a lot of fun transforming old formula canisters and even egg containers into lovely gift-giving receptacles. Use them any time of the year with seasonal papers and ribbons.
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