As I’m putting the finishing touches on my ebook, How to Have Your Cake and Eat It, Too — all about being a mother and pursuing your own passions — I’m reposting some of my favorite posts from the archives! Just submit your email address here if you want to be notified when the ebook is ready.
Reusing and repurposing items that would normally be sent straight to the trash bin or recycling plant is a great way to save money and conserve natural resources. But how do you decide what you should keep, and when does add to your stash cross the line and become hoarding?
Shows like A&E’s Hoarders and TLC’s Hoarding: Buried Alive is fascinating and heartbreaking to watch as they give us a glimpse into the lives of people who have a compulsive attachment to stuff.
While I don’t think such extremes are the norm, it is easy to get caught up in our desire to reuse, recycle and repurpose, and keeping everything that you might use one day steals your time and space. Sometimes, it even results in more waste because you cannot find the things you want to use.
To find a balance between the two extremes — keeping everything and keeping nothing — set specific limits for yourself:
Define the Space
First, define the space that you’ll use for these repurposed materials. Whether it’s a shelf lined with bins, an extra closet, or a corner of your basement, choose a specific, limited area to hold items that you hope to repurpose. When the space starts to overflow, it’s time to make some tough decisions about what needs to go.
If you regularly use your repurposing stash, you may decide to expand the designated space at some point. That’s okay, but be sure you’re doing it thoughtfully and on purpose rather than just letting the stuffing overflow so that you don’t have to get rid of anything.
Set Quantity Limits
Unless you have a specific project or use in mind (such as a seedling tray, a set of puppets, or using them to paint), keeping every cardboard toilet paper roll could quickly become overwhelming. To deal with these common items, set a quantity limit on how many you’ll save “just in case.” Once you reach that limit, stick to it.
Setting quantity limits is subjective, and I can’t tell you how many items you should keep in each category, but ask yourself these questions:
- Is the original item something you use regularly? You probably need fewer toilet paper rolls than metal mint tins because collecting the ones you need will be easier if you think of a use for them.
- How much space does each one take up? Keeping a stash of miscellaneous buttons is a lot easier than storing plastic milk cartons.
- How often have you repurposed the item in the past? If you regularly use glass jars in your pantry, craft room, or garage, chances are that you’ll continue to think of uses for them. If you’ve been saving an old fan motor for years, you probably don’t need to add a second one to your stash.
- Do you have a use in mind? Even if you don’t have a specific project planned, if you look at an item and see dozens of possible uses, you may want to keep more in your stash than an item that just seems like it might be useful at some point.
Brainstorm for Additional Uses
If you are serious about your desire to repurpose items around your home, subscribe to blogs that share your focus and will inspire you with project ideas and uncommon uses for everyday items. Some of my favorite repurposing bloggers no longer post but be sure to check out Making Do With The Not So New, and I’d love it if you’d share other repurposing blogs in the comments!
Donate Your Extras
The picture above is from a recycled art supply depot. I’d never heard of these before I found the picture, but it looks like there are similar depots in most big cities. If you don’t live near a depot, ask teachers, daycare providers, or churches if there are any items they could use for arts and crafts. For example, egg cartons or plastic yogurt cups make great paint cups. Or donate old towels, blankets, and pillows to your local animal shelter.
How do you keep your repurposing stash from getting out of control? What is your favorite thing to repurpose?