Spring cleaning: New uses for old things
Associated Press Writer
Springtime is here again, and with it the annual tradition of cleaning house. But that doesn’t have to mean bag after bag of garbage.
Given fears of a recession and worries about overflowing landfills, there’s new incentive to find second lives for many household items.
“We can’t afford to keep living disposable lives,” said Lori Baird, a co-author of “Don’t Throw It Out: Recycle and Reuse to Make Things Last,” a compendium from Yankee magazine. “It makes sense for all of us to be more careful about how we spend money.”
Some of Baird’s favorite tips include using the wire racks from an old refrigerator as cooking racks for baked goods, and donating old towels to animal shelters, which use them for dog baths.
But not everything can be salvaged. Baird warns against reusing items such as children’s car seats, which have expiration dates because of frequent changes in safety features. “If there’s ever a question of safety involved in reusing an object, I’d say don’t do it,” Baird said in an e-mail.
For everything else, repurposing often requires a little washing up and a touch of imagination. The next time you’re contemplating giving something the old heave-ho, here are tips to give it new use.
OLD DISHES, NEW PLANTER
Filling large outdoor planters with soil for a small plant can be costly. Pieces of a broken clay pot or ceramic dish help drainage and prop up undersized plants. Place shards at the bottom of a large pot until almost half the pot is full. Add a layer of plastic foam pieces or a mixture of gravel or pebbles (you can also use filler from old aquariums or wine corks), and then fill with potting soil.
OLD BRANCHES, NEW DECOR
If you’re trimming trees to prepare for the growing season or cleaning the yard, save long fallen twigs or branches that are in good condition. Tie in a bunch and let dry completely in the garage. Spray paint them in white, silver or gold and display in a vase or large urn as indoor decorations.
OLD MAILING TUBES, NEW WINE RACK
ReadyMade, a savvy do-it-yourself magazine, suggests making a wine rack with mailing tubes and an old milk carton crate from your college dorm years (or a box that’s at least 12 inches in depth). Measure the depth of the crate and cut the tubes to this length with sharp scissors. Stack the tubes in the crate and turn the crate on its side on a flat surface. Each cubby hole can fit a wine bottle. Be sure to store the crate in a dry, cool area.
OLD PENS, NEW SILVERWARE
Forks, spoons and knives with broken handles can get new bodies from old pens, according to Jaspal Marwah and Sarah Hunt of Vancouver. They’re winners of ReadyMade’s MacGyver Challenge, a monthly contest that challenges readers to find innovative ways to reuse common objects. To make their pen cutlery, discard everything inside the pen except its tube and cap. Fill the tube with hot glue, shove in the heads of the cutlery, and let dry.
OLD PILLOWCASE, NEW TOY
Fashion a toy for Fido from a discarded pillowcase, says “Don’t Throw It Out.” Roll it lengthwise and make three knots – one in the middle and two at the ends.
OLD SHOWER CURTAIN, NEW GRILL COVER
Got a stained or tired shower curtain? Baird suggests using it as a waterproof cover for outdoor furniture or a grill.
OLD PAPERWORK, NEW DOG BED
Shredded paperwork from your home or office shredder, small rugs or bath mats, and old towels can be donated to local animal shelters. The paper and bath mats make beds for dogs and cats, and towels are needed to wash animals.
OLD BINDER, NEW CD CASE
Watch this: Three-ring binders from yours or your children’s old school days can house CDs or DVDs that’ve lost their cases. “Don’t Throw It Out” says to store them in album refill pages for 5 x 7 photos.
OLD SOCKS, NEW ORNAMENT SAVER
Save old socks or ones that’ve lost their partner to store delicate Christmas ornaments. You can also use socks to stuff the insides of shoes so they don’t lose their shape in storage.
OLD PANTYHOSE, NEW BROOM
Revitalize an old broom by covering the bristles with ruined pantyhose. Cut a piece from the leg, and stretch it over the broom’s bristles. The nylon’s static will attract lint and small dust particles as you sweep.
OLD BOOK, NEW SAFE
Make a safe out of an old hardcover textbook or outdated encyclopedia. “Don’t Throw It Out” suggests opening the book to a spot at least one inch from the back. Prop the book open with a paperweight. Use a pencil and a straightedge to mark a rectangle in the middle of the page. Cut out the rectangle with a craft knife – score the edges heavily, and you’ll be able to cut through several pages at a time. Repeat until you’re about to cut into the back cover. Place a piece of cardboard or a thick piece of scrap paper over the cover so that you don’t cut into it.
OLD NEWSPAPER, NEW WINDOW WASHER
Go through the paper recyclables before you wash the windows, because you can use old newspapers to clean glass surfaces. Scrunch up newsprint and dip it into a mixture of equal parts white vinegar and warm water. Wipe windows with the wet paper.
OLD YARN, NEW NEST
Another tip from “Don’t Throw It Out”: Help birds build nests by giving them leftover yarn from a crafting project. Cut the yarn into 3-inch strips and put them in a netted bag, similar to the ones garlic or onions come in. Hang the bag in a tree.
OLD MOP, NEW CURTAIN ROD
The long handle of a broom or map makes a cheap curtain rod for a small window or doorway. Wrap the length of the pole with metallic contact paper. Drill a small hole at the ends of the pole to insert an L-hook, from which you can hang the curtain.
OLD SOAP, NEW MOTH REPELLANT
Dry leftover slivers from bath soap bars and place them in a large zip top plastic bag. Use a hammer to smash the bars into small pieces, and then close the bag. Poke several small holes in the bag with a pin, and then toss the bag into storage bins with clothes. The soap will repel moths and other insects, and keep clothes smelling fresh.