How To Re-Use Common Items

Last weekend my grown son was home for our autumn family picnic. I pulled out our Coleman water jug and his chin fell on the floor. “That thing predates me!” he exclaimed (he was born in 1978). We also used the 40 year old burnt orange coffee pot to make coffee that day as well as the 20 year old ice chest and 25 year old rain ponchos from the local amusement park, old plastic forks and spoons, unused condiment packages from fast food restaurant stops and plastic tablecloths used at last years wedding shower.

I’m a saver (I don’t think I have gotten to the ‘hoarder’ stage at this point!). If something is useful and I might personally use it later, it gets saved and used again.

Common Items to Re-Use and How to Re-Use Them.

Below is a list of things I (or hubby) have personally saved and reused. I’m sure most of you can add your own ideas to the list as well.


Empty coffee cans are great for holding paint or turpentine or bacon grease. My dad even wound cardboard strips sideways around the inside of one and gave it to us to use as a screwdriver holder (Dad died in 1983 and we are still using that screwdriver holder!).

Zip lock bags  are routinely washed and used again for food (or other) storage. We don’t re-use for food if they contained toxic or very greasy items though.

Plastic one gallon ice cream tubs (we love ice cream) make great containers to carry food to picnics or gatherings. They fit nicely into ice chests and won’t break.

Plastic containers from sliced lunch meat are great for leftover vegetable or casserole servings.

Glass jars can be used for jelly and canning things like pickles. We also use them for holding those small utility items. Baby food jars are especially good for holding small screws and etc.


Plastic bags are used as trash can liners, food carriers on trips, package stuffing for shipping and re-wrapping precious Christmas keepsakes for storage.

Shopping bags are reused as carry alls for gifts and travel needs.

Brown grocery bags (when we can get them) are used for wrapping boxes for mailing and artwork by children as well as lining the kitchen trash can.

Decorated bags (such as those you put gifts in) are just reused for gift giving.


We save boxes to ship items. We tear down big boxes and lay them on the garage floor in case of oil leaks. We save heavy boxes to use as storage for all our other stuff – including once a year items for things like Christmas.

Small Utility Items

Loose screws and unbent nails (well this one is really more hubby’s than mine) are great to have on hand for fixing that odd broken thing.

Buttons from clothing we have given away, thrown away or made into rags can be used to replace missing buttons or as craft items.

Paper clips and rubber bands are corralled into containers and re-used multiple times. I don’t believe we have ever had to actually buy any of these in our 40 years of married life!


Pumpkins are first used to decorate the porch for Halloween, then carved into jack-o’-lanterns and finally processed for use in pumpkin bread.

Popsicle sticks have many uses, including crafts, holding up seedlings in a pot and more.

Used coffee grounds, banana peels and crushed egg shells are laid on the ground to enrich the soil.

Plastic utensils and hard plastic plates are washed by hand and used several times.

Mesh bags from Popsicle sticks hold bulbs we dig up and re-plant later to keep them dry until time to plant.

Clothing and Linens

Socks make soft containers for seldom used jewelry or if you have kids, they can be great puppets.

A worn out bedspread or comforter is used as a blanket under the new spread.

Old sheets and torn blankets are used to protect furniture as it is moved. They also make great summertime kid play tents when attached to the clothesline and can be used to hide items from view in a car or van while traveling.

Used up cotton underwear are great rags (after they are washed, sanitized and the bands cut off) for everything from washing windows to cleaning bathrooms.

Material from old clothing, if you are crafty, can be re-purposed into patterns for quilts or stuffing for handmade old time comforters.

Cast off clothing makes great dress up outfits for toddlers or kids making their own Halloween costumes.


Christmas cards are cut into gift tags and/or used for craft projects.

Old paper from things such as newspapers, magazines, discards from the printer and etc are used at our house to start fires, make notes and for grocery lists. Once we used old magazines for a craft project in Camp Fire Girls to make a ‘sit upon’ (cover the magazine with something water repellent and sew the sides together).

Leaves gathered by the lawn tractor are chopped by the mower and piled up to use as mulch.

Paint rollers are used multiple times at our house. The stores want you to think you need a new one for each job, but you don’t.

Logs are used at our house to line grass pathways. We have a lot of trees and many of them have died over the years so we have a lot of logs.

Now, I know that I am NOT the re-use queen but I try.  So, tell me what common items you re-use and how you re-use them!


How To Re-Use Common Items — 38 Comments

  1. Your efforts put mine to shame! I reuse all kinds of plastic containers (from takeaway containers to ice cream tubs) for lunchboxes, ziplock bags for holding food items and any kind of fabric (old ripped sheets, shirts etc) for rags.

  2. This is an awesome list! I try to reuse everything that I can’t recycle…or I try to reuse it a few times before I recycle it. My favorite things to reuse are glass jars. It all adds up.

  3. This is great! We try to reuse heaps of things around the house rather than wasting them.

    Probably the most unusual is the ice cream container that now serves as my gecko catching device. My wife doesn’t like them being inside the house and neither of us want to kill them, so I am left spending much of my time catching them with quick reflexes and an empty ice cream container.

  4. Interesting topic! People are not often very concern about the environment or even if we are, we still tend to overlook some of the things we could use again and just throw them out.I hope that the little things we put an effort on to re-use and recycle will still help us save our planet. We could also save some money from re-using stuff around the house.

  5. We reuse what we can here as well. We compost our kitchen scraps as well as adding shredded paper. We tore apart a couch that was beyond usage as a couch. I washed the fabric to use for a future project. My husband kept the screws and such from it. The usable metal was kept and the rest sold at a salvage yard. My husband actually used a piece of the metal to make a bracket for my car when it broke. The bracket was going to cost about $100 as it had to be purchased from the dealer. The stuffing that was usable was kept for craft projects. What foam was usable was kept to redo a seat cushion on a couple of stools. I have used old telephone wire to hang pictures and such. I took the outer coating off to expose the 3 wires and cut those to length leaving their coating on. I re-purpose worn out clothing and bedsheets into rags or rag rugs. There are probably more things I do without even thinking. Get ideas you have! If we all would reuse items we sure would do our environment a lot of good!

  6. We reuse everything we can. The big ones are plastic containers for food storage. We have plenty of “tupperware” type containers, none of which we’ve ever actually purchased! The other big one is coffee cans, those babies can be used for almost anything.

  7. Reusing items is a great way to save money. We do a lot of the things you mentioned. We don’t use cotton under wear as rags though, we use old white under shirts. Socks can be placed on the hands and used as dusters, and we put a paper grocery bag in the shredder instead of a plastic one and just recycle it. It draws less attention than a plastic bag.

  8. I’ve mentioned this before, but the 1 gallon milk containers make excellent planters if you cut off the top – even come with a handle!

    If you cut the handle off in the right spot they also make nice scoopers – for just about anything (dirt, cat poo, let your imagination run wild).

  9. I have reused many things that the previous owner left at the house I just bought. Old bed sheets are now rugs, a plastic glass is a mobile vanity for toothpaste and soap (when there was no running water I had to shower in a lake), old plastic containers are used to freeze food… I love giving old things a new life.

    And today I used a 2L soda bottle, did a few holes in the cap and watered my plants with it.

    Your list is great, I have plenty of new ideas now!

  10. Wonderful list! I’ve used old sheets as beach blankets. They take up so little room in the car & make a big blanket that doesn’t let sand through. Wash easily too. You can also make a comfy caftan or nightgown from an old sheet. Or use it to sew a practice garment when you don’t want to mess up more expensive fabric.

    You can cup open old socks to fit a Swiffer. Free & washable!
    I also use old socks cut into thirds as kitchen cloths. They do the job of paper towels & take up little room in the wash.

    If you sew, you can use old clothing to make ruffles or trim on things you sew. You sew all sorts of things with that “free fabric.”

  11. I reuse shipping bags, shipping boxes, envelopes, swap books online, and make crafts out of old clothes. I occasionally reuse sheets and towels for hot pot holder stuffing. You can stuff them with socks or ts in a pinch. I have even made hot pot holders and trivets out of sweaters and ts. I make old clothes into new bags. I heat up old records and mold them into bowls. I even use old Victoria’s Secret bag handles in other crafts projects, namely hot pot holders.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

I appreciate your readership and really enjoy hearing your thoughts on different topics. Thank you for contributing to the discussion.