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5 Everyday Items Your Great-Grandparents Repurposed (That You Should, Too)

5 Everyday Items Your Great-Grandparents Repurposed (That You Should, Too)

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It’s a shame how wasteful the average American is today. Fortunately, for those who want to save some money or limit their contribution to the landfill, there are ways to reuse almost any common household object – just like our grandparents and great-grandparents did. Here are five things that you should really think twice about before throwing out:

1. Empty jars and bottles

Empty jars, bottles, food containers, etc. are all very useful. If you’re already inclined to repurpose things, your cabinets may be home to glass jars that were once used for jams, pickles and sauces, but now are sturdy drinking glasses. Mason jars also can be cleaned out and reused for canning.

Keeping nice glass jars is a no-brainer. But don’t forget about plastic containers as well. Food tubs can be thoroughly cleaned out and used for numerous things while saving you from having to buy Tupperware.

Very large plastic bottles or jugs can be used to store water for emergencies or cut to make handy scoops for pet food. Glass bottles with necks, like wine bottles, can be decorated and reused as vases or for other craft projects. These types of bottles and beer bottles also can be turned into drinking cups if the neck is cut off and you sand down the edge.

2. Old clothing and linen

Even heavily stained clothes or those with holes can be given new life. The most common way is to turn them into rags. Old shirts can be turned into DIY rugs or a throw blanket. Old denim can be reused that way as well.

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Don’t forget that clothing that is still in pretty good shape can just be patched up –  something our grandparents did far more often than we do today.

Aside from clothing you also can repurpose old linens. Sheets that are still in good shape can be turned into curtains. Worn-out sheets can be used as drop clothes for projects, turned into pet beds, or kept in your car as picnic blankets. Towels can be cut into rags or turned into braided rugs like the T-shirt project above.

3. Soap slivers

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When you use up a bar of soap until it’s no longer easy to use or just breaks up into slivers in your hand, don’t throw it away. You can collect soap slivers and eventually make a whole new bar of soap.

Aside from using soap slivers to make a new bar you also can use them in a few other ways. Some sewing pros find that a small, hard sliver of white soap makes a perfect marker for drawing lines on fabric that will wash right out. You can put dried pieces of soap slivers in a small mesh or breathable bag and put them in dresser drawers, bags or the car to keep things smelling fresh.

4. Candle stubs

Similar to soap slivers, saving old candlewax is a good idea. Keep old candle stubs and scrape out old wax from jars. You can melt the wax from old candles if you are worried about breaking the jar. Once you have enough wax you can melt it all together to create a new candle (although you will need to buy or make a wick). Learn how to do it here.

Old wax also can be used to coat pine cones for homemade potpourri or used as a fire-starter if you layer some melted wax over an old egg carton or toilet paper tube. Some people keep leftover birthday candles to use for lubricating “sticky” zippers and for emergency fire-starters.

5. Old wood and furniture

Probably one thing that many people keep is old lumber, and for good reason. Scrap wood can easily be turned into awesome DIY projects.

Old furniture doesn’t need to be sent to the dump. You can salvage parts to create new furniture or to use in other projects around the homestead. Headboards can easily be turned into benches, coat racks or shelves. Dressers can be turned into kitchen islands or storage benches, and the drawers alone can be used for flower boxes, among other things.

Repurposing furniture can be really fun and is going to be a lot easier than starting from scratch with lumber. Turning old furniture into something new also is a great way of keeping a part of a loved piece of furniture in your home without sacrificing space.

What are some of your favorite ways of reusing or repurposing things around your home? Share your ideas in the section below:

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  1. I save my empty toilet paper and paper towel rolls and fill them with dryer lint, scraps of fabric and thread from sewing, slightly used paper towels and any other soft material that a person would normally throw away. I fold over the ends and save them, putting a few of them in an old sealed ammo box and add used cooking oil to the box. They make the best fire starters I’ve ever seen.

    • I would not add any kind of oil to a flammable material like this and store it in my home. This how spontaneous combustion fires start. The metal box may be somewhat of a precaution. It could be like the hay bales I have seen smolder until the burning part reaches the outside air and bursts into flame.

    • I have stuffed old paper towel/t.p. rolls with lint from our dryer and stored them, but NOT with oil added. That really could cause a fire within your house. We found that there is no need to add anything but lint to these rolls; they are good fire starters on their own.

  2. When my mother passed away, I chose a number of her clothes made from fabrics suitable for a quilt. I have a beautiful memory quilt. Silk ties, mens suits, jeans, etc. can be used for quilted projects.

  3. I’m pleased to say that I have used all five suggestions in your article, & in fact am using the first four right now. Living off-grid on a remote mountaintop with bad roads that are impassable with most vehicles other than small 4-wheel drives, we don’t come & go except when necessary, & we get stranded when the roads are too wet. We cut wood, cook on the wood stove & propane burners on the porch, can lots of food, pickle & ferment others, mend our clothes by machine when I can run the generator (a couple/few hours per week max), save t-p & paper towel rolls for fire starters, use old linens for mending, new projects, or when they’re really bad, rags, filter rainwater water we collect in barrels & store in gallon jugs, make liquid soap from scraps, save old wax, re-use glass & plastic jars, re-cycle plastic grocery bags (tho I’m considering making braided rugs w/ them), & about two dozen more things, so our trash to the dump is usually one shopping bag per week. Large plastic containers get used for storing staples like flour, sugar, pasta, crackers, etc, to protect from bugs (I always add bay leaves to the containers to control bugs; it keeps the eggs from developing; I’ve not had bugs for years now) & the occasional mouse. Compost scraps are collected in a mushroom box & tossed daily. Old tea bags are great for cleaning windows (carefully, so to not tear the delicate paper), & absorbing odors. Old cat litter (not solid waste) gets collected to try to plug a leak in a small pond that once held water but leaked out. We use solar light bulbs & battery chargers on every day it’s sunny. Wood stove ash gets scattered on the dirt driveway. Burnable paper is used as firestarter (nothing wet goes into the trash, to prevent odors that could attract bears, big cats, coyotes, rodents, etc, as it must be stored till it can be hauled to the dump. For the same reason, all cans must be washed out prior to crushing; I haven’t found a good use for the many cans we gather from cat & dog foods; they get recycled too). Cardboard egg cartons serve as insulators & moisture-collectors under the coolers we keep food & ice in, to prevent mold, rug & floor damage, & they dry outside or get replaced as needed when the chests are emptied to take to town for fresh ice. (The ice chests are elevated off the floor, as well, for my back health). The ice-melt gets filtered for drinking & cooking water. I use borax & baking soda for most of our laundry, washed by hand of course, & hung on the porch to dry weather permitting, or in the wood stove room when needed. I boil the kitchen towels, make herbal tinctures & colloidal silver for first aid & preventive medicine, make our tooth powder using baking soda, cinnamon, activated charcoal (for whitening–,(yes, it works great!), sea-salt, bentonite clay, & xylitol, & have added essential oils at times (oil of oregano, tea tree –aka Melaleuca — peppermint or spearmint, etc), & mix non-alcoholic mouthwash with 3% hydrogen peroxide 2:1 for mouthwash, & store my toothbrush in a little jar of it. I make Kombucha vinegar & use it as a facial treatment — it’s a natural, mild organic acid that doess the same thing alpha-hydroxy acid does for skin, cheaply & effectively, & also gets used anywhere distilled vinegar is used (it has a lower acidity); I also make Kombucha to drink — it’s wonderful — leave it long enough & it goes to vinegar, very likely the absolute easiest & fastest way to make vinegar, & great for health (I like to mix Kom half-n-half w/ red wine as a cooler over ice — yum). Geez, I know there’s lots more, but this us enough fir awhile, doncha think?

  4. With Dial soap (& probably others) the small piece can be “glued” to the new bar. Just moisten both, press firmly together, let sit for a while, be careful not to dislodge the first few uses.

  5. My grandparents chicken feed came in large, pretty fabric bags. Nanny would accompany Papa to the feed store just to pick out the bags that could be used for upcoming sewing projects–quilts, nightgowns, aprons, dresses for herself or me and the other “grands.”

  6. I have always reused ALOT of glass jars and their lids, whether they were originally store-bought pasta sauce jars, or my own canning jars. They are good for SO many things! Storing leftovers, gifting hot cocoa mixes (I paint on the jars), holding liquids, drinking from the canning jars (my youngest son really likes to do that!). I open a bag of Dove dark chocolates and dump them in to a glass jar, to keep them fresh. The shorter jars are good for candles, or for storing buttons and other sewing do-dads. The list goes on and on….

  7. I reuse cans and make pretty containers using crochet thread or fabric or burlap.
    I take scrap yarn and make flowers for brooches or to put on picture frames. ..I also use scrap fabric for the same things.
    I recycle tee shirts to make the streamers on boho dream catchers…as well as old doilies and lace for the centers.
    I take scrap lumber and paint on them or build things…I also take pallet wood and do the same.
    I have a canister set made of maxwell coffee containers. And to use as flower pots.
    I recycle wine bottles for decorative use.
    I give plastic lids to the senior center to be recycled into benches.
    Used medicine bottles are also taken to senior center to be sent to countries who need them for meds.
    I have used dryer lint in artwork.
    Dryer sheets into flowers or to clean mirrors.
    Old picture frames to make wreaths.
    Old wood window frames to make crafts.
    Old socks and t shirts are stain rags
    Yogurt containers end up as paint pots.
    Old clothes pins end up as crafts or chip clips, or magnets.
    Bubble wrap is used for privacy and insulation on windows.
    Coffee ground go into flower beds.
    Pallets get turned into furniture.
    There’s a lot of things that I reuse. Use your imagination!

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