By Kate Meyers
Recycling helps the planet -- that’s a given. But reusing things you might otherwise toss offers other benefits: It can save you money and get your “junk” organized and clean.
“That adage ‘one person’s trash is another person’s treasure’ is really true,” says Delaware-based environmental consultant Kathy Klein. “I like the challenge of looking at things in a different way and coming up with new uses for them.” Here are 10 reuse ideas for everyday items.
1. Takeout Containers Into Lunch Boxes
If your Chinese food or pasta takeout comes in plastic containers with a re-sealable cover, keep them after the leftovers are gone. Use them instead of sandwich and snack baggies when packing lunches or picnics. For school lunches, write your child’s name on the container so it has less chance of ending up in the trash.
2. Wine Cases Into Shoe Cubbies
Champagne cartons (they’re pretty sturdy) and wine cases may not be in your throw-away pile, but chances are, liquor store staff will be happy to get rid of them. Both do double duty as shoe storage cubbies, especially for smaller items like slippers, flip-flops, sneakers and flats.
3. Egg Cartons and CD Cases Into Jewelry Boxes
Egg cartons are well-shaped for earring storage. And when you’ve used up all your blank CDs, use the case they came in as a stackable bracelet display. Old cigar boxes are also great for jewelry, saved letters and important papers.
4. Old Jars Into Gift Containers
Mason jars -- or empty jam and jelly jars -- make great gift packaging for everything from flower bouquets to spiced nuts to candy. Just tie a ribbon around the neck and pass them along. When Klein’s children were young, she reclaimed their glass baby-food jars, glued multicolored tissue on the outside and used them as votive candleholders.
5. Odd Buttons Into Decorative Displays
Klein saves buttons of all kinds and puts them in glass jars to add a funky boost of color throughout the house. This also works well with seashells and sea glass.
6. Cool Cans Into Artful Desktop Storage
Line up multiple clean cans with the same logo (try Campbell’s Tomato for a Warholian touch) on a desk and turn them into pop-art holders for pencils, markers and brushes.
7. Old Towels, Linens and Clothes Into Craft Fabric
Your mother’s soiled tablecloths, your favorite old skirt or your teenager’s baby clothes can be cut up and remade into lovely and sentimental pillows. If you’re feeling ambitious, turn them into a decorative quilt.
8. Empty Paper Towel Rolls Into Hair Accessory Storage
Take an empty cardboard roll from paper towels or toilet paper, decorate it with glued-on tissue or wrapping paper, and shellac until it’s stiff and sturdy. Place it on the counter of your daughter’s bathroom, and she’ll have a one-stop holder for ponytail elastics, bobby pins and clips of all kinds.
9. Plastic Deli Bags Into Small Travel Bags
Save the little plastic bags you get at the supermarket and then reuse. They’re the perfect size for carrying and protecting electronic items like computer and phone chargers when you travel. They also work for taking small amounts of liquids and creams on board with you. You can use an old tissue box to store the bags you have on hand.
10. Plastic Soap Cases Into Portable Storage Units
With the convenience of liquid soap, you may not need that plastic soap case anymore, but once it’s thoroughly washed and dried, it’s great for holding a small camera or an iPod in your briefcase, suitcase or purse when you’re on the go.
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