Upcycling Ideas: New Uses for Old Items At Home

Upcycling Ideas: New Uses for Old Items At Home

Small Projects and Repairs
DIY
By Mateos Glen Hayes June 23, 2022

As we enter a more eco-conscious era, it’s time to start seriously considering and implementing some solutions that will make your lifestyle more environmentally friendly and less wasteful. Of course, upcycling ideas are probably not something that you think about on a daily basis, and so you may be at a loss in terms of where to start. If so, do not worry because the guide will give you valuable pointers that will make your upcycling effective and fun.

Being green doesn’t have to mean being dreary or inconvenient, and in fact the smarter you do your recycling and upcycling, the more fun and fulfilling it will be. In reality, there is no shortage of amazing ways that you can take regular household items and make them useful again. Repurposed things save you money and time since you don’t have to go looking in the store for what you already have at home.

How to Get Started?

There are many old household items that you can easily upcycle.

There are many old household items that you can easily upcycle.

In truth, easy upcycling projects are everywhere hiding in plain sight. Even if you follow maintenance checklists religiously some things will still need refreshing from time to time. The good news is most household items can easily be given a new lease on life by being repurposed or refurbished. Upcycling ideas can be as simple as taking empty glass bottles and refashioning them as a flower vase or making them into a table light by adding LED light strips to the inside.

Upcycling also presents you with an opportunity to explore your creative abilities and reimagine parts of your home into something brighter and more colorful. Recycling is also a wise choice since it reduces our reliance on wasteful products such as single-use plastics, thereby reducing waste.  

Things You Can Upcycle

Old clothing such as worn-out jeans are popular choices for upcycling.

Old clothing such as worn-out jeans are popular choices for upcycling.

If you’re wanting inspiration, the answer to your problem is very often right before your eyes. As with all homes, your residence almost certainly has plenty of superfluous items, meaning things that you bought long ago and that spend most of your time sitting around and collecting dust.

So, everything from a beautiful vase you bought at a flea market, to a bunch of empty jam jars are potentially things you can reimagine as something useful and beautiful. Glass, fabric, tin, cardboard, metal, cotton, and plastic are all materials that are easy to work with even if you don’t have handyperson skills. That’s good news, everyone as that means most household items are fair game for upcycling. Here are just a few ideas to give you a healthy dose of inspiration. 

Broken Dishes

That’s right, even something broken or damaged can still be useful. Instead of tossing your damaged dinnerware, consider upcycling your damaged plates by turning them into an eclectic decor piece.

We’ve all had coffee mugs that had their handles snap off. It’s bound to happen over the course of the hustle and bustle of the working day. But a broken mug doesn’t have to be a useless one. Use your broken coffee mug in new and interesting applications such as windowsill planters.

Have a plate that snapped in half? Another upcycling idea you can try is to take the halves of a smashed plate and use them outside as unusual candle holders, allowing broken ceramic to brighten up your nighttime soirees. Chipped plates might not be fit for your dining table, but they are certainly good enough to make a rustic bird feeder.

Magazines

Magazines the world over are abandoning the print format and going exclusively online, and many of us are now finding ourselves stuck with piles of outdated magazines. That’s a lot of paper to just throw away, especially when you consider all the trees that went into making all those fashion mags. But even magazines can have novel uses. A magazine garland – meaning a garland made up of shapes cut out of old magazines - is a perfect solution.

Lemon and orange rinds can be transformed into soaps and even used in cleaning products.

Lemon and orange rinds can be transformed into soaps and even used in cleaning products.

Lemon Rinds

This might sound strange, but even food waste can be salvaged for something better than the landfill. Lemon rinds, for instance, can be transformed into blocks of soap. Lemon rinds are in fact an excellent candidate for soap as they smell good and also produce a soap that has natural health benefits. Lemon rind soap is dermatologically healthy as it soothes your skin rather than burns it. 

Old Jeans

Old clothing such as worn-out jeans or tattered sweaters can be refreshed with a bit of sewing work, and this doesn’t even have to break the bank. Give your jeans a new life by transforming them into shorts and thereby cutting off the sleeves which are usually the first thing to go bad. Alternatively, old clothing doesn’t even have to be clothing anymore and can instead be converted into something neat like pillow covers or some eclectic hipster-esque upholstery. 

Repurposing Parts of Your Home 

Spruce up an old wall with some nifty and creative decorative additions.

Spruce up an old wall with some nifty and creative decorative additions.

It is also possible to upcycle parts of your home by thinking outside the box and being thrifty. As with old household items, your house itself will also get old, and tattered. Fortunately, there are some cool upcycling ideas that can help you to refresh parts of your home such as windows, hardwood floors, or even walls. In the process, outdated decor becomes tomorrow’s hottest trend. 

Old Windows

We highly recommend retrofitting old windows with more modern alternatives. This will give your home better thermal insulation, and save you money on your energy bill. However, that doesn’t mean the old windows need to go to the dump. Instead, preserve your old windows for an interesting new decor layout.

A gallery wall of your old window frames can add some stylistic texture to your sunroom's interior design, and works well in larger rooms as well. Alternatively, use the old windows like an interior window that has both decorative and practical applications.

Old Walls

If your walls are looking scraped up and dated, one quick fix is to put something over them. Resurfacing your walls, whether by plastering them or adding some cladding can be a time-consuming and expensive option. If you just want something fast and almost bohemian in aesthetic, this hack can work too. A nice bright quilt or Oriental rug can reinvigorate your blank wall with some vibrant color and interesting patterns. This may not be the best solution for all walls since hanging carpets or quilts can heat a room up and make it feel cramped, but this is nonetheless a great solution for larger rooms where there’s a lot of empty wall space.

Wooden furniture and fixtures can be refreshed with a bit of elbow grease.

Wooden furniture and fixtures can be refreshed with a bit of elbow grease.

Cork Board

Blank walls are also a good place for a corkboard. This is a simple modification that gives you a center from which you can manage all your tasks. At the same time, you get to refresh your wall with something that is both practical and adds some texture. Your cork board will only gain more character the more you add post-its and postcards to it. This is quite useful for those of you who are aiming for a farmhouse interior design as the simple yet practical layout of a corkboard perfectly complements this distinctive look.

Furniture Upcycling Ideas

Old furniture likewise can be restored even if you aren’t the best with carpentry. Fans of restoration shows (where contestants must renovate on a budget) are well aware that a little bit of money can go quite a long way. This is especially true in this case with worn-out furniture. 

Furniture Drawers

An old chest of drawers may not be salvageable, but individual drawers are somewhat easier to repurpose. Old sets of drawers can be converted into all manner of things including side tables, stylish magazine holders, unusual planters, and even dinnerware storage. These are just some ideas for upcycling, but there are many more to choose from.

A bit of sanding, repainting, and affordable wood treatments are enough to make your vintage furniture look good as new.

A bit of sanding, repainting, and affordable wood treatments are enough to make your vintage furniture look good as new.

Reupholstering

As we mentioned earlier, old clothing can make a great fabric for refreshing tattered furniture upholstery. This can make a standard old sofa into something completely new and experimental. Of course, this kind of unusual upcycling idea may not be to everyone’s taste, and in that case, you can always have your furniture reupholstered with a more standard upholstery style and color. Either way, you save yourself from having to buy new furniture and by extension save the earth from the extra pollution that would result. 

Repainting

Resurfacing and repainting wooden furniture can be time-consuming, but it is ultimately pretty simple to do and can completely change the appearance of some old furniture for the better. A bit of elbow grease, some sanding, painting, lacquer, and other wood treatments can restore a showroom sheen to even the oldest furniture, leaving you with old things made new.

MG

Written by
Mateos Glen Hayes

Written by Mateos Glen Hayes

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