Renaissance of Reuse

by - Wednesday, May 26, 2021

When I began to formulate some ideas for this blog post, I had thought to include some zero waste/reducing plastic tips and then I realised that actually I had enough to say on the topic of reusing or repurposing, so I decided to make that the main focus. I have long been someone who couldn't bear to throw out something that might conceivably have another future purpose. My candle business, which I ran for many years, was borne out of my distaste for throwing out old jars and containers and ends of wax from candles so I had lots of creative fun putting things to new use and making eco friendly candles out of upcycled containers. I decided to end the business as I had a lot on my plate and also other projects I wanted to pursue, but my love of reusing never left me. 
I guess it's partly frugality but also a sense that it's such a terrible waste to send things to landfill when they are completely fine and usable. Maybe it was also due to growing up with programs like Bagpuss and the Wombles, where creativity and imagination was coupled with finding a use for things and seeing the beauty in the somewhat shabby or old.  To be clear, I've always said that I'm not a perfect environmentalist - who is really?  And, honestly, I find 'green preaching' tedious and more likely to make me do the opposite so I sincerely hope that anything I write isn't seen in that way. We all make our choices based on our own circumstances and I'm very reluctant to put pressure on individuals, when a lot of the problems we have with waste require industry or legislative solutions. Having said that, I'd like to share the joy you can get in repurposing things and show that it's not the second best option but often the best way to add nice touches to your home, save money and save things from landfill for that little bit longer.
My magpie instincts always tell me to hang on to things that are pretty - I particularly love glass and the two vases pictured below were things I just couldn't let go of!

Upcycled Blue Vase with Flowers

Upcycled Blue Vases

The blue bottle was just a water bottle that we got on holidays in Spain many years ago - honestly I would have brought more of them except that we were limited to small suitcases. The little jar was a reed diffuser and I'm using it as a vase for the moment but it might also double as a little plant propagator jar soon.
Speaking of plant propagation, this has been my passion during lockdown - plants are lovely presents and growing plants is such a nice hobby, and relatively inexpensive once you get the hang of the whole propagation bit. A lot of plants grow roots in water so I kept this little green jar which had been a plant mister but stopped working and now it's a very attractive propagator jar.

Green Propagation Jar

And still on the plant theme - I had kept candle containers for absolutely ages because I really liked the colour so when I got some mini plants, I cleaned them out and sprayed a gold segment at the top - I really like the combination of the gold and blue and they made perfect homes for my new plants.

Blue Upcycled Plant Pot

Likewise with these houseplant containers, I didn't want to throw them out because I really liked the colours - one was a candle and one was a normal tea mug but the handle broke - I just have the handle bit facing to the back so you can't see it.

Upcycled Plant Containers

Clearly there is a recurring theme here but I also repurpose things which are not plant related :)
I've often seen jugs or special bottles for salad dressing but we have been using this nice bottle for years and it's exactly right for salad dressing - originally a balsamic vinegar bottle, we now just make up a batch of dressing and it's always on hand and great because the light doesn't get in to spoil the contents.

Salad Dressing Bottle

So I suppose what I'm trying to say is that sometimes the things we already have are just fine to use for multiple purposes and often look nicer than something bought new. Not only that, but over the years, I think, all these little objects have contributed to the fabric of the family and have a story and a part in our lives and that is something precious. Yes, of course, we have to get new things at times and there is so much marketing out there pushing us to change styles or house decor or whatever, that it can be hard to resist. But if something has a use or a possible new function, then it's just as nice to keep it and treasure its longevity.
Luckily, my husband is of the same mind and although we might disagree at times over what is actually good to keep, it generally works out ok and he has the added woodworking skills so that gives a lot more scope.
I really love this little shelf he made from old bits of shelving that were in the shed. It's perfect for our cleaning products and they were driving me mad, cluttering up the sink area so I was delighted when he made it.

Eco cleaning product shelf

Also, repurposed but on a much larger scale is this garden bench,  another creative make by my talented husband. It is entirely made from old pallets and although it's covered in plants at the moment, it's normally free for sitting out in the sun.  The disapproving cat is just a temporary feature :)

Blue Pallet Garden Bench

Finally, one of my favourite things to upcycle is bamboo toothbrushes - obviously these gather in quantity because there are 3 of us using them but they are just perfect as plant markets and I also used one as a label for my shampoo and conditioner, to stop it getting mixed up with ordinary soap.


Tomato Plant Label

Shampoo and Conditioner Bar in Bag

I love that reusing and not buying new is becoming more normalised now and I hope it will just be something that's totally taken for granted by everyone in the future.  Aside from repurposing objects you already have, there are so many great things that are available via freecycle groups and in the free sections of sites like Adverts or Done Deal, so if I'm looking for something specific, I'll check out those listings before I commit to buying new. Our giant comfy kitchen chair was an adverts freebie and it's the favourite sitting spot in the house. Likewise, I offer anything I don't need anymore on some of the groups and I'm always delighted when they find a new home.
Charity shops of course are another option, not just for clothes but for all sorts of household items - I've bought heaps of picture frames in charity shops over the years and just spruced them up with chalk paint or spray paint to fit in with my own decor.  The possibilities are endless, particulary if you can also sew - which I can't! It's on my list of things to learn because I'd love to be able to make old clothes into something new. 
I hope I've shown some of the lovely possibilities of repurposed items and if you have any favourite things that you have upcycled or changed to another use, I'd love to see them!

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