Many Americans find it difficult to commit to their New Year’s resolutions, especially those that include organizing and cleaning out the house. When a project has been put on the backburner for months, or even years, finding a starting point can be frustrating and overwhelming. Instead of throwing away all that clutter, see what you can reuse to help the planet and ease your worry.
In Your Cleaning Closet:
1. Wash out old orange juice and milk containers and use them to store homemade cleaners, such as vinegar and water, which is both a cheaper and safer option for the planet than chemical cleaners.
2. Use your mesh fruit or vegetable bag instead of tossing it. Wad it up and use it like a Brillo pad to scrub counters and tough surfaces.
3. Don’t throw out those used dryer sheets – keep used them in stinky rooms, such as the basement, dog’s room or mudroom for a fresher smell. Be sure to replace them regularly, as the sheets will lose their potency over time.
4. Use your plastic dry cleaning bag as a garbage can liner. Simply tie off the hanger end and place inside your trash bin. Use plastic bags you may have picked up at the grocery or pharmacy for smaller wastebaskets in your bedroom, office or bathroom.
To Stay Organized:
5. If you hosted a New Year’s Eve party, you may have an empty wine bottle box lying around. Use the conveniently placed cardboard dividers to separate and store lightweight shoes. (Please note that winter boots will be too heavy for this project).
6. Pickles, olives, jams and jellies, applesauce and condiments come in glass jars of all shapes and sizes. Upcycle them and use them to organize the small items forming clutter on desks, kitchen counters, vanities and more. Jars are handy for pens and pencils, spices and flour, makeup and bracelets, toys, candies and knickknacks. If you’re looking for something with more visual appeal, add a dresser knob to the lid and paint it, or add a ribbon around the middle of the jar.
7. Use the empty round CD holder to coil and store your extension cords.
8. If you’re like the average American, you use 57 squares of toilet paper a day! One person alone goes through an average of one roll every 10 to 12 days. Instead of tossing these away, opt to use your cardboard roll for small cord storage (fold cords back and forth and use the roll as a sleeve) or to keep your wrapping paper from unrolling (slip over the tightly rolled wrapping paper to hold in place).
9. Binder clips are also useful for organizing cords and cables, such as a laptop charger, HDMI cable, phone charger, iPod charger and speakers or headphones. String the head of the cable (the part that plugs into a charging port on your device) through the metal loop of a binder clip and secure it to the edge of your desk.
For Snack and Mealtime Prep:
10. Still unpacking from your trip to the grocery store? Use those berry boxes to hold small packets or spices in the pantry. They’re great for organization and you won’t waste the container.
11. Reuse margarine, yogurt and cream cheese containers for frozen meals, snacks or lunches-on-the-go.
12. Do you use a pint-sized coffee creamer? When it’s empty, wash it out the container and use it to store pourable sugar or salt. Since it’s airtight when closed, you’ll keep out ants and other critters.
13. Reinforce your picnic plates with Frisbees — this way, you can reuse your plate throughout the day at a cookout or graduation party, and you put your old Frisbee to good use!
14. Is your little one a messy eater? Next time your child is enjoying a Popsicle, use cupcake wrappers around the bottom of the stick to prevent messy drips and spills.
15. Reuse your hanging shoe rack to organize your pantry — you could sort meal storage by day of the week or by type of food (for instance: snack, dessert, side dish, etc.).
16. Don’t throw out that empty ketchup or mustard bottle – wash and reuse it for pancake mix to make perfectly circular pancakes or try your hand at pancake art, making designs using the batter. Who knows, you could be the next van Gogh of breakfast foods.
For DIY Crafts and Design:
17. Have an old picture frame? Upcycle it into a serving tray or jewelry organizer. For the earring holder, remove the glass, string threads a few inches apart across the frame and hang your earrings from the threads, then prop up the frame on your dresser or hang it on the wall.
18. When you rifle through your attic, basement or closets, keep an eye out for cassette tapes. You can decorate the cases and use as gift card holders for an upcoming birthday or holiday.
19. If you have a handful of mismatched silver utensils, nail them to wooden plaques and bend the handles to create wall hooks for keys, scarves or other small and lightweight items.
20. Are you a wine connoisseur with leftover corks? Create a homemade corkboard to gift to someone that can be used to hang memos or jewelry or create a wreath for the front door that can be easily changed for each holiday.
21. Your garage and storage closets may be overwhelmed with old athletic equipment, like tennis rackets, but you can repurpose these into frames for oblong mirrors by removing the wire or plastic strings.
In the Yard:
22. Cut off the bottom of your plastic water bottle to create a funnel for cooking or changing motor oil.
23. Twist brown paper bags into small rolls to be used as fire starters for your hearth, BBQ or fire pit. This can be done with greasy or dirty paper bags as well as clean ones.
24. Recycle your water — your washing machine releases excess water at the end of each cycle. Why not use this to water your lawn? Reroute the washer’s water line and be sure to use biodegradable laundry detergent. This recycled water can save you money on your next utility bill!
25. Do you have extra envelopes lying around from holiday greeting cards? Cut them in half to create seed packets that you can seal with a staple or paperclip, or trim off half-inch corners for easy-to-use bookmarks that hug your page corner.
Do you have other ideas to reuse or recycle household items? We’d love to share them! Please send us an email with your name and idea and check back with us to see when it is published.
Gershow Recycling takes aluminum, brass, copper, steel, cast iron, appliances, cars and vehicles. In keeping with its philosophy of “Conserving the Future by Recycling the Past,” Gershow Recycling purchases scrap metal that would otherwise have wound up in local landfills and turns them into high-quality scrap products for recycling. Gershow has nine locations in Brooklyn, New Hyde Park, Valley Stream, Freeport, Lindenhurst, Huntington Station, Bay Shore, Medford and Riverhead. For more information, call (631) 289-6188.