Homesteaders are champs at finding ways to repurpose and upcycle things that other folks would consider junk. Making do with what you have and stockpiling useful materials is a major part of the homesteading credo.
This list of 50 things you should stop throwing out and start reusing or upcycling will help you do just that…without costing you a single dime. Not only will the repurposed items on this list save you money, they’ll save you time, as well.
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Note: For each item, I included links where you can learn more about how to repurpose or upcycle them. Now on to the list…
1. Bread Tabs
Clip a bread tab onto electrical cords to identify which device or appliance it belongs to. You can color code the tabs or write on them with a fine point permanent marker.
Bread tabs also come in handy when trying to prevent Christmas tree lights from tangling during storage. Follow this link to Green Eco Services to find more bread tab uses around the house and homestead.
2. Broken Laundry Basket
Cut off the bottom of the basket and use it as a tray to hold small hardware, beads, or other small crafting materials to prevent them from rolling off. The trays are also handy to put down on tables when working on arts and crafts.
Check out this Readers Digest report to find intriguing ways to make use of unneeded laundry baskets.
3. Bucket Lids
Turn several space bucket lids into a durable cord reel. This will prevent frustrating tugging and detangling of various types of cords or even hoses that you regularly use around the homestead.
This Family Handyman link will walk you through this simple project.
4. Cardboard Boxes
This might be the one item on this list with the most uses. On our homestead, we make a lot of homemade toys and gifts at Christmas. Last year I made 8 dollhouses and superhero houses out of nothing more than old cardboard boxes and scrap fabric. They were huge hits and became one-of-a-kind and highly durable no-tech presents.
If you browse Pinterest for a little while and search for cardboard toys, you should be able to find free patterns to make a play kitchen and a rather ornate castle out of cardboard. For numerous non-toy ways to repurpose cardboard, visit Bob Vila’s website.
5. Cardboard Milk Or Juice Cartons
Turn drink cartons into planters or creative storage containers. To make a planter out of the cardboard carton, wrap it with rope or fabric, securing it in place with glue (I recommend E6000 glue) and plant seeds, herbs, or small plants inside.
Visit Movearoo to review hundreds of potential uses for cardboard cartons.
6. CD Binders
Turn old CD storage binders into a seed packet keeper. You can also use the clear plastic slots to place dried flowers and leaves, or photos of them, and make your own sturdy field guide.
7. Cereal Boxes
You can use the side of a cereal box for a one-time use funnel. Start cutting the sides out of every cereal box your family empties to create a stockpile of funnel making materials.
Visit DIYnCrafts for more creative cereal box uses.
8. Clamshell Containers
The plastic containers that grape tomatoes often come in can be repurposed as food storage containers for small solids such as cookies. They make handy and portable crayon containers, and they can be used for broadcasting seeds into the garden and onto the lawn.
Visit Munofore for even more ways to use plastic produce containers.
9. Clothes Hangers
Most new clothing comes on plastic hangers with encased metal clips. Instead of throwing them out, take them apart and use the metal encased portions as chip bag clips.
Wood clothes hangers for shirts can have teacup hooks screwed into them and can be used to store jewelry or other small lightweight items.
10. Curtain Rods
These short rods have a plethora of uses around the house, in the shed, or even the tack room. You can add extra storage into any cabinet using the curtain rods to hold bags with handles or hooks, or you could place lightweight wood on top to create an extra shelf.
Visit Mental Floss to discover more ways to repurpose tension curtain rods.
11. Drill Boxes
Even after the power drill has bit the dust, there are still uses for the drill case it came in. A drill box case can be converted into a small tool box, first aid kit, map holder, or craft case.
Here’s how to repurpose a drill case.
12. Fast Food Drink Carrier
The typical fast food drink carrier has holders that are about three and a half inches wide. You can place a plastic cup in the holder and fill it with small hardware, homeschooling, or craft supplies and tote the lightweight carrier with you during the project.
Here are some ways to reuse fast food drink carriers.
13. Five Gallon Buckets
There is a multitude of homesteading and survival uses for 5-gallon buckets. Every homesteader worth their salt has at least a small stockpile of buckets tucked away. They can be used as tool storage totes when working on a project, lined with a specially made tool belt to store handyman (or handywoman) tools, art supplies, homeschooling unit materials, and wrapping paper.
You can also drill several large holes into the lower sides of the buckets and use them as small livestock or even domestic pet feeders. The handle on the bucket makes it ideal for creating a hanging chicken feeder to cut down on feed waste and mess inside the coop.
One of my favorite ways to use old 5-gallon buckets is to create an off the grid ice house. Visit Survival Sullivan to learn how.
14. Flexible Culvert Pipe
Cut a slice from top to bottom in the plastic drainage pipe and wrap it around young trees or satellite dish posts to prevent it from getting nicked by a weed eater or chewed on by animals.
15. Garden Hose
Cut a ruined garden hose into a section about five inches long so it can be used as grips on metal bucket handles and shoved over wooden handles to make them more comfortable to use.
Visit One Good Thing to find more uses for old garden hose sections.
16. Garment Bag
Use unneeded garment bags to store Christmas wrap, craft supplies, or lightweight scrap board. By placing many low to medium weight items in the bag, you can store more items neatly in a single space – and protect them from dust at the same time.
A filled garment bag should fit nicely even in a small space, like under the bed. Check out the garment bag uses ideas at K-B Toys.
17. Gold Tees
Use golf tees and a piece of pegboard to lift and hold a small project when painting or varnishing it. The tees are also handy to patch when patching old screw holes and to poke the soil to plant seeds.
Visit This Old House to review more ways old golf tees can be handy on the homestead.
18. Hanging Shoe Caddy
Use old shoe caddies to sort and store a wide range of low to medium weight items. The shoe caddy could hold manual tools in the garage, toys, craft supplies, homeschool supplies, or seasonal decorations. The caddy can be hung on the back of a door to get the most out of your available space or held with a clothes hanger among other shoe caddies in a storage closet to vastly increase the items the area can house.
Follow this link to Home Hacks to find additional ways an old shoe caddy can be a space saver on your homestead.
19. Laundry Jugs
Poke some holes into the lid of an empty laundry soap jug and use it as a watering can. I recommend drilling ⅛ inch holes in the lid to prevent the water from coming out too quickly, and a 1/2-inch hole just above the handle to relieve pressure so the water flows freely.
Here are some more ways to save old laundry jugs from going to the trash dump.
Metal or plastic mailboxes can hold commonly needed gardening tools like gloves and pruning tools, preventing the need to pack everything with you each time you see a weed that needs pulling.
Old mailboxes can also be mounted to a wall in the garage, craft room, or homeschool area to store small items that are used frequently.
21. Mesh Produce Bags
Use mesh produce bags as hanging storage containers. They are strong enough to hold small manual tools or craft supplies, and they can be used as a wet felting tool or, when attached to a suction cup and hook combo, a bathtub toy storage bag.
Follow this link to Fave Crafts for even more ideas on how to repurpose mesh produce bags.
22. Muffin Tins And Ice Cube Trays
These handy little trays can be used to freeze fruit and veggie treats or herbs for your livestock to enjoy during the summer season. Small hardware or homeschool educational counting and sorting items can all be stored in plastic ice cube trays.
Both ice cube trays and muffin tins can be used to store leftover broth, eggs as a preservation method, or as paint trays for homeschool art projects. Click here to learn more cool ways to re-use tins and trays from One Good Thing.
23. Old Books
You can hollow out the inside of old books to create a covert and portable safe. The pages of text and illustrations can be decoupaged onto wood or cardboard to make art displays and homemade gifts.
Visit TasteMade to learn how to use old books to make a knife block.
24. Old Carpet
Glue some old carpet scraps or throw rugs onto the bottom of a metal toolbox or cabinet to prevent them from scraping the floor when using them on a project.
They also come in handy during the winter when you want to insulate your compost pile to keep it processing during the cold weather months. Visit This Old House for more carpet scrap upcycling tips.
25. Old Clothes
Any old clothing that cannot be passed down or used to turn a small profit at a yard sale can still have plenty of uses around the homestead. Old clothing with stains and tears could be used as shop and household cleaning rags.
Cutting away the worn pieces of the clothing will leave you with useable fabric that can be turned into clothing for babies or young children, quilting squares, and doll or stuffed animal clothing – or stuffing for soft toys. Find even more unique ways to repurpose old clothing by clicking this Trends And Ideas link.
26. Old Rakes
There is no reason to pitch a rake simply because the handle broke. Turn the rake upside down and mount it to a wall to create a hanging shelf or the base for an upcycled wind chime.
Visit Crafts Alamode to see some clever and creative ways to use old rakes.
27. Old Shoes
Use rubber-soled shoes to clean the sandpaper part of a power sander to make it run smoother and collect dust.
Click here to see how the process works.
28. Old Tires
Like cardboard, the many ways you can repurpose old tires are almost too numerous to count. They make great planters in a container garden, can be turned into outdoor furniture, become a base for a floating duck hutch or pond dock, storage ottoman, and upcycled playground equipment.
Visit Thrillist for more uses for old tires.
29. Old Trash Cans
Turn old plastic trash cans into potato growing towers. Metal trash cans make perfect Faraday cages to protect electronics from an EMP. They can also be used as pet and livestock food bag storage containers to prevent mice and moisture from reaching the feed.
Visit Earth911 to learn about the many ways you can upcycle trash cans.
30. Packing Peanuts
The packing peanuts can make excellent stuffing for homemade soft toys, as filler in planters, and to help tighten loose screws.
Follow this link to Air Sea Containers to discover more ways to repurpose packing peanuts around the homestead.
31. Peanut Butter Jars
Screw a plastic peanut butter jar lid on the underside of a shelf and use the base of the plastic peanut butter jar to sort and store small hardware, crafting supplies, art supplies, seeds, dried herbs… the options are nearly endless.
32. Pet Collars
Save all of the pet collars Fido or the furry kitty outgrow and hang them on the wall to be used as cord, strap, or hose holders.
Check out Keyka to see how to upcycle the hardware from the collars for uses on other projects.
33. Plastic Bags
Use plastic bags to make sturdy rope or as weaving material for baskets, purses, and accessories. The plastic sacks can also be used to wrap paint brushes in to protect the bristles.
Visit The Survivalist Blog to learn more about making rope out of plastic sacks.
34. Plastic Coffee Containers
After poking holes in the coffee container lids, you can fill them with grass, pasture, or gardening seeds to vastly speed up the time it takes to plant a homesteading area.
The plastic coffee containers can also be used to help sort nuts, bolts, screws, washers, and nails in handy and portable containers. Labeling the containers filled with hardware and sorting them before placing them on a garage shelf will reduce time not only when looking for project supplies, but when using the material throughout the chore.
Spare paint left over after a project can also be stored in a plastic coffee container. Using the containers as a small indoor compost in your kitchen is another excellent way to re-use the empty coffee containers. Click here to learn more ways to repurpose plastic coffee cans from Thrifty Fun.
35. Plastic Jugs
You can cut the top half off of a plastic jug and use it as one massive ice cube tray. The large chunks of ice can be used to keep your flock cool in the summer, to fill coolers during homesteading gatherings, or as part of your off-grid ice house cooling plan.
Plastic jugs can be filled with two parts salt to one part water and floated in large livestock troughs, ponds, or creeks to prevent them from icing over during the winter.
Cutting holes into the lower half of the jug and then tying a rope through the handle and hanging it – if you are working with a jug that has a handle opening, like a milk jug – allows you to create a poultry feeder, bird feeder, or bat house. Visit This Old House to learn more ways to use empty plastic jugs.
36. Plastic Pill Bottles
Old pill bottles are great for saving seeds, housing dried herbs, small hardware, and tiny crafting supplies like sewing notions, and beads. If you mix your own paint colors for crafting, the prescription bottles are a perfect size to hold small amounts of paint.
Visit Crafts By Amanda to learn more ways to re-use old pill bottles.
37. Plastic Water Or Pop Bottles
Turn the bottle sideways and cut out just enough space in the top to place lightweight plants or herbs inside. Poke a hole going through the bottom end of the bottle and run string or wire through it to create a holder that can be knotted around the bottle to make a hanging planter.
Visit Budget Dumpster to learn more ways plastic bottles can be useful, including how to turn them into cute little colored pencil or pen holders.
38. PVC Pipe
Just like duct tape, there are many ways to re-use PVC pipe on a homestead. You can use pipe as survival caches buried in the ground with emergency essentials, to hold power drills when mounted to a board, to make an outdoor race track for toy cars, or to build a simple archery bow and even a bow stand.
PVC pipe can also be cut in half and used to make a hanging or vertical garden as a food cultivation space saver on the homestead. Visit iCreative Ideas to find more ways to repurpose PVC pipes.
39. Rain Gutters
Repurpose an old rain gutter section to create a vertical garden for small plants and herbs, wall-mounted storage, or to develop a hydroponic garden.
Visit Architecture Art Design to discover some other ways old rain gutters can be handy around the house and yard.
40. Rubber Chair Leg Cap
Keep the rubber caps from chairs or stands to use to cover mallets or hammerheads. When you are working on a project where the material could be damaged by the necessary pounding, the rubber cap should help prevent that.
41. Scrap Building Materials
The sky is the limit when it comes to repurposing old wood boards and tin. You can turn the scrap materials into kitchen cabinets, bookshelves, or even a chicken coop – as showcased on New Life On A Homestead.
42. Soda Pop Tabs
The little pop tabs are incredibly sturdy and can easily be used to hang picture frames and artwork. They can also be used as makeshift key rings and in making upcycled jewelry. Visit Thrift Fun for more ideas to re-use pop tabs.
43. Swimming Pool Noodles
Cut a pool noodle in half and wrap it around sharp furniture edges to protect little ones when they are learning how to walk and pull themselves up. Pool noodles can also be used as a base for making large decorative wreaths.
Simply shove a dowel rod or branch piece gently into one end of the pool noodle and then shove the other end of the noodle onto the open end of the dowel rod, then duct tape them together to make a base wreath.
For more pool noodle use ideas, visit Family Handy Man.
44. Three Ring Binders
You can use old three-ring binder spines as cord or ribbon hangers when they are mounted to a wall or desk.
Simply punch out the rivets and then screw the spine into place.
45. Tin Cans
Affix a tin can to the lawn mower handle with duct tape or zip ties and use it as a water bottle or sunglasses holder. Pound two holes near the rim of the tin can and thread sturdy wire through it to make a little bucket for homeschooling supplies, or hanging luminary purposes.
Click this Urban Survival Site link to learn many more off-grid and preparedness uses for tin cans.
46. Tomato Cages
When they are not in use in the garden, or too bent to be used properly, turn tomato cages into drying racks for small fabric items, paint brushes, or art projects.
Check out Home Talk for more tomato cage upcycling idea.
47. Wine Bottles
Learn a few simple tricks required to cut glass and turn wine bottles into hanging planters.
Click here to get some great glass cutting tips from Family Handyman.
48. Wine Corks
Save the corks from wine bottles and use them to seal off the tips of glue tubes with pointy ends or tubes of caulking. Attach a few wine corks to a key ring to ensure it will float if it falls into the water during a boat or camping trip.
Visit Expert Home Tips to unearth more ways wine corks can come in handy.
49. Wooden Spools
Turn wooden cable spools to make beautiful outdoor or even indoor furniture and decor.
Follow this link to All Created to learn how to turn wood cable spools into something beautiful or useful – or both.
You can never have too many yardsticks, right? The problem is, those darn things are so lightweight and tend to slide no matter where you put them, that they fall to the ground and crack. Use cracked yardsticks or solid ones as cabinet “locks.”
Instead of buying child proof locks or latches to keep an unlevel door from rolling open, simply slide a yardstick down through the handle to keep the door closed. Yardsticks can also be upcycled into beautiful decor pieces and used as thin wood slats in household projects.
The more ways we find to use broken, used, or scrap items around the homestead, the more time and money can be saved and poured back into other worthy self-reliant projects.
This list of things you should stop trashing and start reusing is not exhaustive. There are surely more commonly used household and homesteading items that could find a new purpose in our daily lives. If you come up with any great ideas, please leave a comment and tell us about it.
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