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The importance of repurposing and recycling when organizing or sorting through junk can’t be overstated. For many of us, taking the time to get organized, and to find creative, environment-friendly ways to get rid of or repurpose our old belongings is far overdue. Fortunately, with a few tips and some creative thinking you can be well on your way to removing clutter and improving organization, all while helping limit the waste that ends up in landfills.

To start, there are a couple ways to go about handling your excess stuff. One way is to recycle the raw materials through a local recycling center. Similarly, for old clothing or furniture you can donate to a non-profit reseller, like the Salvation Army. A better approach, which removes the processing step in recycling, is called repurposing. Also known as upcycling, this method involves personally applying old materials in a new way to serve a new purpose, removing any middle man or industrial processing phase. What follows are some fun examples of common household items that can be reapplied in pragmatic, novel applications. Welcome to the world of repurposing.

Lightbulbs - Everyone has lightbulbs that burned or fused out, so why not put those old bulbs to a new use? Here are some ideas:

  • Oil Lamp - remove the filament, fill the glass with lamp oil, and feed a wick through the metal holster- voila, a classy reusable oil lamp.

  • Flower or Herb Holder - fill the glass bulb with water instead of oil, and you’ve got yourself a personal flower pot, or, a chic place to put a couple herbs from the garden.

  • For basic instructions, check out this clever blog post from Dishfunctional Designs.

Vinyl Records - seem to remain in vogue by virtue of their pleasing aesthetic and nostalgic appeal. By virtue of advances in technology, many of us have a box of old records in the attic, collecting dust and wasting space. The first thing is to save any vinyl of particular significance or potential value. Records can sell for very high if they are in demand and in good condition. Take what’s left over, and create something useful. Here are some thoughts:

  • Bowls - lots of people have formed old vinyls into a bowl. With bit of warm water and a mold, you can form it to almost any shape. Instructions available here.

  • Cake Stand - with a few cake stand rods, some screws, a 45 (which is the smaller disc) and an LP (the larger), you’ve got a two tiered, stylish cake stand.

  • End Table - glue a vinyl LP onto a planter stand with a glue gun - as simple as repurposing gets.

Shutters battered by long exposure to the elements can become many things. Why not try a:

  • Fire Screen for the fireplace

  • Flower Box for the garden

  • Hanging Rack in the kitchen

Glass Jars and Bottles are endlessly able to be repurposed:

  • Dry Food Storage - put rice, beans, sugar, spices, or whatever else in your old jars, label them with a marker, and now no more buying extra plastic containers.

  • Lantern - add a candle to your old jar, and put it on the patio table for a simple, wind-protected lantern.

  • Vase - to hold flowers and plants

Antique Chest - with legs added, it becomes a coffee table.

Muffin Pans and Egg Cartons - these both make excellent organizational trays. Put your jewelry, writing utensils, paper clips, pins, etc…anything extra lying around looking for a home will fit well.

T-Shirts - can be donated if not being used, or repurposed to make colorful produce bags. See tutorial here.

CDs are outdated and variously repurposable.

  • Jewelry can be made from CDs to colorful, cool effect

  • Coasters are an option

  • Ornaments for Christmas or hanging on the wall

  • Invitations are easy to make if you have a plethora of old CDs lying around. Just write a note in Sharpie on the back side and impress your guests with your craftiness.

As should be clear at this point, there is no limit to what you can think up when you apply your imagination to the re-use of old items. Blogs abound for new and interesting ideas, so search online if you’re short for ideas, or utilize the vast assortment of artful projects on Pinterest, a sharable community full of creative inspiration.

The art of repurposing is what has enabled the human species to survive as long as we have. Hunting and gathering tribes from ancient times would utilize each and every part of the animals they killed, from the fur and the meat to the bones and skull and everything in between. By tapping into our innate resourcefulness, and limiting the amount of stuff we are throwing away, we can each do our part to help reduce the waste associated with consumption while engaging our creative energies.

The other side of the organizing coin is the clarity and peace of mind you gain from getting rid of clutter and cutting down on over-collecting. The energy in your home and in your mind can then flow more freely, opening up the space to allow you to work on the things that matter most in your life with clarity, calm and hopefully some newly honed creative vision.

About the Author: Joe Weidman is the founder and owner of Chicago junk removal company,, and his expertise is in finding creative, efficient, and safe solutions to junk removal projects, big and small. Follow 1-800-Junk-Relief on Twitter or Facebook.

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