Healthy Homemaking: Creative Repurposing

Taken from Healthy Homemaking: One Step at a Time

Ebook buttons_tree Baby Step 14- Creative Repurposing

What this baby step is all about:

What? Repurposing? Okay, so it’s just a fancy word for reusing, but you have to admit, it sounds a bit sophisticated, doesn’t it?
The goal is to find a way to repurpose an item that you would normally throw out.

Why this step is important:

Frugality used to mean something different than what we tend to mean when we use the term these days. When we say that we’re frugal, we mean that we shop for deals, try to use up everything we have, coupon clip, buy in bulk, score bargains at second hand stores, etc. Once upon a time, though, frugality was even more of a lifestyle.

I love reading the introduction to Emilie Barne’s book More Hours in My Day
. She tells the story of her mother, raising her and her brother alone after her Father’s death. When she was a young girl, her mother (a seamstress) made her a beautiful dress for special occasions. As the dress lost its newness, it eventually became an everyday dress, and as she grew taller, rows of rickrack were added to extend the life of the dress. When it was no longer acceptable to wear as a dress, it became a play dress to wear over pants. When the dress became tattered, the sleeves were ripped off, and it was sewn into an apron that she wore alongside her mother. Next, the dress became soft cloths for dusting and eventually it made its way into the rag box, where long strips of the fabric became part a rag mop that cleaned the kitchen floor. Over the years, buttons popped up on things like nightgowns, and she even still has some to this day.

Every single part of this dress was used until it was no longer usable. There was no room for waste. Everything was valuable. Nothing was lost. How far we have strayed from this old-fashioned and yet much truer concept of frugality! How quick we are to discard of something that no longer suits its original use.

I long to develop a keener sense of awareness and creativity when it comes to using and reusing the things we own. To skillfully make use of all that God has blessed us with, and to ensure that each item is used to its full potential, rather than taking the easy way out by tossing it in the garbage because it no longer works for the original purpose. Let’s pursue that ingenuity and purposefulness that defined the lives of our grandparents and great-grandparents!

How to get started with this step:

This isn’t an easy step for me to write, just so you know. I don’t always push myself to think outside the box, nor do I routinely examine what I am throwing out and consider whether it could be transformed into a more useful object.


**One example from our own home- toilet paper rolls turned into seedling starters!

Here is a list of just a few ideas from my own home:

  • Glass or plastic jars with lids can be incredibly useful for organizing and storage (food, craft materials, office supplies, etc.). Since I no longer buy plastic wrap, I try to save every decent jar with a lid to keep in my cupboard, for the purpose of storing leftovers, pantry items, soup broth, homemade salad dressings, etc. The bonus in this is that it can save money as well, by reducing the containers that you need to buy for these types of things!
  • The odd thing we’ve bought has come with a really useful package. For example, I purchased a set of cloth diapers, together with covers and liners which came packaged in thick, see-through, zip up containers, about half a square foot in size. I have begun to use these for storing baby socks, toddler’s underwear or tights, etc. 
  • As a second example, my daughter has a fold up child-sized tent that came with a medium sized mesh bag with handles- it was impractical to try to get the tent back in that silly little bag each time she’s done with it, but because it is mesh, it is perfect for storing bath tub toys in!
  • I've recently been learning to make my own feminine cloth pads, and have been using cloth from all sorts of random places. Old baby towels, unneeded blankets, a stained shirt of my daughter's, a burping cloth I never liked.

That’s just a couple of ideas to get you started. Below, I’ve left links to a few sites with far more creative ideas than my own!

Online Resources:

10 Easy Reuse Ideas for Organizing your Home
When Recycling Won't Cut It
Repurpose and Recycle Ideas
The Imagination Factory's Trash Matcher (lots of ideas for kids, especially craft ideas)
Reuse Trash Ideas
Uses for Plastic Bags

Reading Resources:

Another Use For . . .: 101 Common Household Items
(This is a really neat little book a friend lent me, full of practical ideas)
ReMAKE ReSTYLE ReUSE: Easy Ways to Transform Everyday Basics into Inspired Design
(I haven’t read this one myself, but the concept looks so interesting!)

This is an excerpt from the book Healthy Homemaking: One Step at a Time. Buy the eBook now!

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What are some ways that you've practiced "creative repurposing"?
Share your proudest reusing and repurposing moments with us!

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  1. This makes a wonderful post. I can’t wait to read the e-book itself.

    I saw an interesting tip from Celestial Seasonings today – they recommend using their boxes/liners as a seed starting container. I thought it was a fantastic idea in general – but then I realized OH how I wish I had known about that idea before now. It would have been the perfect Earth Day/Leader Recognition Day present for my daughter’s Brownie leaders on Wednesday – to let my daughter start a little plant for them and pass it on as a gift and a reuse for Earth Day.

  2. Stephanie, I’m somewhat new to your blog, but I’ve been enjoying it a lot. Thank you for your helpful insights on healthier, simpler, more frugal, and God-honoring living!

    When you mentioned making your own feminine pads, I thought, “she has to hear about the Diva cup”. Go look it up–I admit I first looked at it because I was incredulous that people would do something so gross, but the overwhelmingly ecstatic reviews won me over. Now I have one, and I have been totally thrilled with it. It’s cheap, reusable, environmentally stewarding, and worry-free. (Ad over 🙂

  3. Oops, somehow I had 13 stuck in my head last night when I was putting it up! 🙂

  4. I’ve recently begun to think a little more outside the box about these types of things, too. One of the greatest things I can think of is to do a quick search online if you can’t think of a use for something you might throw out. Recently I did that when I honestly could not think of a use for a great-quality bed sheet we have that has a big hole in the middle and several other smaller holes (but still has a lot of life left in the rest of the sheet). I read some ideas of making it into pillow cases, pillow protectors, drawstring bags for storing things in, a smaller sheet (since its a big sheet to begin with) etc. All simple sewing projects. I haven’t actually done this yet but its waiting to be made into some of these things.

    Once I saw someone had used an old TV satellite dish (one of the huge, old ones) as a flower planter on their front lawn. That, however, for me, would be going a little extreme, LOL. I’ve also seen it done with canoes, old boots, old teapots with chips, etc

  5. just bought the book and am loving it so far! good job!

    a proud repurposing moment for me is to use the bags from the bulk aisle over and over again rather than using a new one every time. same for produce. i just rinse them out and hang them over my faucet and use them again next time.

  6. …i guess that’s not so much frugal, because the bags are free, but it is frugal in terms of mother earth’s resources! 🙂

  7. Nola, I like the idea of using your sheet for other projects. A tv satellite in my front yard is a little much for me, too! LOL!

    Sarah, I’m glad you like it! 🙂 And I think using your bulk bags over is great repupurposing! It doesn’t have to be frugal- the point is less waste as well, right? When I read your comment I thought, “Oh, smart girl!”

  8. I have frequent urges to redecorate (AKA move things around). I don’t have $ to buy things (well, I choose to put my money elsewhere) but by rearranging things within my home I fulfill this creative urge of mine.

  9. I noticed in another post that you said you use toilet paper instead of Kleenex. One of the things we do is have cloth Kleenex. My son gets frequent sinus infections and we would go broke on Kleenex not to mention how raw his poor face would get from paper tissues. I cut up my husband’s old undershirts with pinking sheers into the size that suits us ( they are not neat nor pretty, just somewhat square with crazy corners) and put them around the house in old baby wipes containers (my son is 9 and I still have the few wipes containers that I bought and ended up using at the time for cloth baby wipes). I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE our cloth tissues for so many reasons. No laundry mess if a tissue is left in a pocket, no money spent on Kleenex, much gentler on the skin than paper, they can go in with any load of laundry since I don’t care if they change color. They require very little thought once the initial cutting up is past. Also, one cloth tissue withstands more wipes than a paper tissue. I also have cloth toilet paper for myself (for #1 only and I’m the only girl in the house so it only works for me 🙂 but I know that it saves me at least one roll of toilet paper a week. I keep a small, airtight, old grain pail under the bathroom sink with some water and baking soda in it. To make them I cut up an old piece of white flannel that I had in my fabric box.

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