Find other uses for your unwanted household items, save money and protect the environment at the same time!
You don’t always have to throw away or recycle everyday items from your home when they’re empty or no longer useful – there are other uses for things like fruit bags, buttons, socks and even Christmas cards! If you’re a bit cash-strapped, want to have a go at making things with the kids, or just want to be more environmentally friendly this year, then give these tips a go.
Upcycling, made famous by programmes such as Channel 4’s ‘Superscrimpers’ and ‘Kirstie’s Homemade Home’, is a new trend in the green world where items are given a new lease of life and transformed into something else which is of more use. The aim is to ‘make do and mend’ rather than just throw out into the rubbish.
With a bit of imagination, you can upcycle many different household items and save money on the cost of replacing other things in the process. All of the items featured can be found in the average home – you’ll be surprised at how many new uses you can find for the most basic of household goods!
Our favourite is the smartphone sock – you can change to different colours depending on your mood….and how many odd socks you find lying around the house!
Did you know that baby oil can be used to take the day off as well as to soften your baby’s skin? Applied sparingly to a cotton pad, this versatile product removes all traces of make-up and works especially well on the delicate eye area.
Simply hold over the eye for about 5 seconds, (to allow the product to dissolve most of the make-up) then gently sweep away the rest. You only need to use a small amount, which means it lasts a really long time and you save some much-needed cash on your toiletries.
When you finish that jar of jam you have lurking in the corner of your fridge, don’t just throw it out; instead, give it a quick wash, pop a tea light in it and use it as a candle holder! Not only is this a much cheaper alternative to the fancy versions in the shops, they also look great in all rooms, particularly if you love the shabby-chic interior style.
You know those brightly-coloured netted bags that your fruit comes in? A great tip is to save them under your sink until you have a collection of about 3 or 4, and then wrap them around each other to form a small ball. This can then be used as a kitchen scourer and/or dish brush when it’s time to replace your washing up utensils! The rough material works wonders on dried-on food and breaks up grease in exactly the same way as standard scourers.
Get crafty with buttons you no longer need by turning them into unique bracelets! Start by measuring around your wrist – allow a little extra room as you’ll need to be able to tie them later. Then cut a piece of thin ribbon and thread it through the holes of the buttons you want to use – either use a needle to help you poke them through or wet the ribbon slightly to make it easier.
Once you’re happy with the amount of buttons on your bracelet, tie a small knot where the buttons end on either side and another two at the ends of the ribbon. Finally, tie the ribbon together in a bow. Ta-dah! They also make great Christmas and birthday gifts and you can teach the kids so that they can make friendship bracelets for their friends!
When you get to the end of your spread and/or yoghurts wash them out and use them to grow cress and herbs in your window. Simply go into your garden and scoop up a bit of soil – fill about 2/3 of the way up – then sprinkle some seeds of your choice in and watch them grow! Make sure you place them in a well-lit window so that they can soak up the sun.
You’ll have results in no time and it’s a much cheaper option than the window boxes available from garden centres; not to mention the cost saved in growing your own!
Got a spare oven glove lying around? If you give it a good wash and pop it in your bedroom, you can use it as a heat-proof mat for your hair straighteners and other styling tools. Simply place the tongs or irons on top of the glove once you’ve finished using them and have switched them off. The glove will prevent any damage to your carpet or dressing table and will reduce your chances of accidentally starting a fire!
The unlikely combination of bicarb and lavender oil makes for a great shampoo and it’s so simple to make. All you’ll need is a spare bit of bicarbonate of soda left over from baking, a few drops of lavender oil, (or any other essential oil of your choice), a small mixing bowl and a spoon. To make a shampoo ‘blob’ for the shower or bath, scoop about 2tbsp of bicarbonate into the mixing bowl and then add water, stirring gradually until it starts to form a liquid-y paste.
Once you’re happy with the consistency, add a few drops of essential oil and just give it another stir. So easy!
Get creative with your kids by saving an old sponge, (either the bathroom, kitchen, or car kind) dipping it in child-friendly paint and making funky effects and patterns on paper. Sponge is really easy to cut through so you could even cut out triangle, heart, or star shapes too! The more unique, the better! This is a really fun activity for young kids – just make sure you remember to cover the table with an old sheet first!
Another creative idea… Once you’ve finished a box of cereal, flatten it out and cut the largest sides out. You can then give these to your kids to draw on in pen or crayons. Not only is it cheaper than buying sheets of paper for them all the time, it’s more environmentally friendly too.
If you’ve a pet cat at home, take advantage of their cat litter (clean, obviously) and put a small amount in some old stockings or tights, then place in your kids’ stinky trainers overnight to neutralise the smell!
If you haven’t already thrown away or recycled your Christmas cards from 2012, collect them all and get crafty with the scissors. Simply select the best images on the front of the cards, cut them into a gift tag size, then hole-punch them and thread a piece of string or ribbon through, ready for presents next year!
If you have any old plates laying around in a set, not being used, you can turn them into a lovely 3-tier cake stand by gluing a linking stand to the bottom of the top and middle plates. For the linking stands you could use a thin candle holder or a small tea cup or bowl.
Once you’ve positioned the linking stands together, allow the glue to dry overnight and in the morning it should be done. As you’ll want to show off your new stand, it’s the perfect excuse to bake some cupcakes!
If your hubby has two bits of stick-like wood somewhere in the garage, you can use these to form the base of a handmade mobile for your baby. If they’re already sanded and smooth, then great, but if not, make sure you do this first. You don’t want any nasty splinters falling down on baby’s head! Next, nail, or glue (as long as they’re really secure) the two bits together into a cross shape. You can either leave them plain, stain, or paint them and once they’re dry, you can start hanging your items.
As for what to hang… booties, teething rings, light-weight toys, scraps of felt and paper shapes are all great options. To attach the items to the base, tie a piece of thick string to the middle of the crosspiece, then a piece at each end of the crosspiece, (up to 2 per side), and make sure it balances. Finally, fix the crosspiece to the top of the cot, or the ceiling, so that it comes down level with your baby’s chest, but make sure baby can’t reach it to pull things off. Mobiles should always be removed when a baby is able to sit up.
Empty syrup tins make great substitutes for vases for small bunches of flowers, and look so vintage and pretty! You could even use the flowers in your garden and bring the outdoors in! If you don’t fancy using them as vases, they also make great stationery holders for you or the kids.
If you’ve yet to buy a case or screen protector for your new smartphone, use one of your kids’ old odd socks instead. The material is thick enough to protect the phone and prevent scratches and, being a sock, it’s washable which means you can keep germs at bay without buying fancy cleaning products.