8 Things a Crafter Should Never Throw Away


There are some things that just should not go into the garbage. Period. End of story. I live in an area where it actually costs a significant amount to recycle, so I’m trying to be as eco-friendly as possible. Green crafting, up-cycling, whatever you want to call it is not only good for the planet, but also good for your wallet. As I mentioned in my very first post, being frugal can really pay off in terms of your own creativity. So I have generated a list for all of you wonderful readers of things not to throw away!

  • Paper Scraps

Use them to make paper rope (click for tutorial!)- super easy and an infinite number of uses!

Use them to decoupage just about anything that will take ModPodge (example of an awesome up-cycled garbage can)

Use the super tiny and/or ugly scraps to make your own paper (there are lots of tutorials, I like this one)

  • Tin Cans

Use them as lanterns for tea lights (one cool method for leaf-shaped patterns)

Paint them, use aforementioned paper scraps to decoupage them, decorate them and use them as vases or to organize stuff

Quick and free iPod speaker: place iPod in can. That’s it. The can will magnify the sound with relatively good quality

  • Glass Jars

If you have the lid, re-use them for pre-made recipes (here’s some to get you started!) or bath salt mixes (ideas here)

Put clippings from your garden in them for cloning (I am trying peppermint…)

Use them as customized tea light holders (epsom salt has a nice look)

Decorate and use for organization or just as a regular ol’ vase

  • Old Prescription/Vitamin Bottles

Wash well and use to store small stuff: glitter, needles, pins, organize your buttons by color…

Dry your own herbs and store them in cleaned and dry bottles

  • Old Books

*Please only use these if they are absolutely unusable! If you think anyone would be able to enjoy reading them, please donate your old books to a local library or charity

Up-cycle the book into a new, custom journal, recipe book, or sketchbook (here’s the tutorial I used to start on the book I am working on now)

If you can’t use the cover, salvage the pages and use them for random crafts! (and if the cover isn’t moldy, tear it up and make paper with it!)

  • Cardboard

Make your own stencils! Just cut out the shapes you want with an exacto knife (or scissors if you’re just that special!) and secure to object before painting

If it’s still in box form use it for organization! Cover/decoupage/decorate and put whatever fits best inside (example here!)

Random squares from broken down boxes? If they are thick enough, use them for wall art. Paint them as they are, or cover with fabric scraps for a chic and cheap pin-board

Super small scraps? You can make paper out of these too!

  • Plastic Take-out Containers, Yogurt Cups, etc.

Use them to start seedlings or scoop dirt in the garden- many already have holes in the bottom for drainage, and poking your own is easy too

Awesome for holding water for rinsing paint brushes

Using ink or food coloring? Use them to dilute or mix colors, or simply keep colors separate while painting.

  • Fabric Scraps

Sew a random quilt! I don’t sew much myself, but I love quilts!

Make a rag-rug (many tutorials out there, check out this one!)

Decoupage just like you would with paper- lace is especially cool for this one: see a planter here

Up-cycle your old t-shirts: dye them, cut them into new designs, make them into bags, hairpieces, etc. (You know how to use Pinterest, so just look this one up on your own! Let me know if you find something particularly unique in the comments section)

Anyways, the possibilities are endless when you become a borderline-hoarder! (But please don’t actually become one, that show is depressing and just shouldn’t be on TV, and hoarding just isn’t healthy…)

*Also note: keep things dry (by this I mean don’t save wet newspaper without drying it and checking for mold and mildew first, don’t store your prized home-made spices in an uncleaned old salsa jar, you get the idea)

Have fun, craft, and post your weird reusing tips below in the comment section! I can’t wait to hear what other people save for their projects ❤ -Amy



  1. Lots of ways to strengthen papier mache. One way is to add my pencil sharpener shavings, but that takes a long time to add up. If you know any woodworkers, and they have saw dust, that would be even better, because it is really light weight and you can get lots easily. All you need to do it add that to white glue and wall paper paste. Experiment with the proportions, because i am always changing the amounts and never write down how much I use…I am totally disorganized, remember and it works out no matter what I do.

    Anyhow, the mixture won’t be smooth on the final layer, so you will need to use a smoother paste for the last one, only paste and glue, but it should be light weight and very very strong. And also, it should be very quick, because it won’t need many layers if you use the sawdust instead of only the glue and paste. I also often use strips of sheeting, old sheets torn into strips, and this makes an incredibly strong mache. You can make bowls out of cloth mache in no time, because only one of two layers and you have an entire bowl already. It goes very quickly and cloth mache is amazingly strong.

    The thing about glue and wall paper paste is that the longer you let it sit, the strong the object gets. After 6 months it will be hard as rock. If you paint it with acrylics, though, it sometimes becomes pliable, so take care with how you decorate the object. I sometimes use modeling paste for a final layer over pure paper mache though this adds a weight i do not like. It adds rigidity too, and cost. I plan to try opaque water colors next time, gouache, after sealing the surface with polyurethane, rather than using acrylics. See what happens. (Let me know if this helps or if you still need more advice and instrux)


    1. hmmmm… ideas a brewin’ thanks!


  2. Here’s a weird one: I save Pencil sharpening shavings! As an artist I am forever on the prowl for the best sharpener money cannot buy…no joke. NO money can buy a decent sharpener, there simply is not one on the market that works for long. As it is, I go for as long as I can with one, then have to switch to another brand or buy another small battery operated one, and try to repurpose the old one. But I save the shavings. But wait, did I say, shavings???? Oh my, no, NOT shavings, never. Shavings are what you never want to see coming off a pencil when you sharpen a pencil, a good sharpener, when electric or battery operated or even crank-run, should give off little filings, almost like millet or saw dust. And this is what I save. And save and save. When I have enough of this pencil shaving dust stuff, I will mix it with my special recipe paper mache mix to make a kind of really really tough –??? i dunno what to call it –pencil wood mache.

    Amy, would you like a tutorial on how to make napkin rings from tubes? I can do one for youtube if you would like me to. (It was my danged DIY ipad stylus slide show that got me so many hits in the first place….)

    I save leather in all its various forms, because I know I can tear apart any leather purse or even a pair of leather pants (amazingly you can find pristine pairs for sale at thrift stores in teensy sizes, often for a dollar or two, since nobody can wear them) or a raggedy suede coat and rather easily repurpose it into a smaller item, like a cell phone bag or another bag. All you need to do is loosen a few stitches from the old leather and it begins to undo itself. You can see how the purse or jacket is put together if you carefully start to pick at the seams…It isnt hard and it’s really quite satisfying, if like me, you either cannot afford to buy and also would not want to pull new leather into the marketplace…but still appreciate the feel and hard-wearingness of leather for the time being, and for as long as cowhide etc is still available. Why waste the hide just because a purse clasp broke, or the coat has a hole? It isn’t hard to sew up a tote bag with a sewing awl and some waxed cord…

    Ummm,I’d better leave it at that for now, because otherwise I will go on and on, and I need to get to my Liebster Award! Thanks Amy!


    1. Yes! Youtube it! But I would be quite interested in how you use the pencil shavings for paper mache if it is not a secret recipe, too- could you make a video/tutorial on that? would definitely be interested in a stronger form of paper mache- someday I’ll get around to sculpting more formally again, and I would like a green and cheap way to make large scale forms that are still lightweight
      hmmm- I definitely don’t have the money to buy leather, but I have always wondered if there was a way to salvage those old bags at GoodWill; I think I might experiment with taking the leather apart as well as it would make a WONDERFUL sketchbook cover (or at the very least I could salvage the “good” strips and turn them into jewelry)
      Yay!! Thanks so much!!


  3. Ann Landers or one of the old advice columnists used to counsel never to throw out nylon the kind that onions and clementines etc come in and lots of fruits and vegetables. I have tons of it…I have used it to make soap scrubbies — just toss a bar of soap inside a tubed piece of nylon netting and knot it on both ends. It works fine on crusty pots and pans.You can figure out other uses from that one. Also, I never throw out tubes from paper or plastic wrap, because they are much stronger than paper towel tubes, though those I save as well. I never throw out a tube if I can help it. Tubes can be made into all sorts of things, from bangles, the big ones, to rings from the little ones, to napkin rings — I made nearly 200 from plastic wrap tubes and papier mache for my sister’s wedding a couple of years ago. Frankly, I also never throw out a large piece of plastic, if I can find a place to save it out of my way. Plastic never degrades so if I don’t save it, and reuse or repurpose it, I know it is going to end up in a landfill somewhere…so better my artroom than under 10,000 years of pressured earth and darkness where it will still remain largely unchanged.

    I am sure I could continue with things I save, and reuse, but I’d go on for a whole post, and this is YOUR blog, not mine. But thanks for a great idea. I LOVE it! I want to click on every single link you cited.


    1. Feel free to continue as you want! Love this- didn’t even think about those stronger tubes! I saw an instructable about how to make a napkin holder, but I can’t remember the link… I haven’t eaten quite enough nylon-contained foods (I still have a few oranges and onions to go LOL), but I will definitely NOT toss them either (perhaps an interesting material to mix in with paper mache?)
      ❤ Amy


  4. You are so interesting! I don’t suppose I’ve read
    through something like this before. So wonderful to discover
    another person with original thoughts on this subject matter.
    Really.. thank you for starting this up. This web site is one thing that
    is needed on the internet, someone with some originality!


    1. Thanks! Please keep reading!


  5. Thank you for the reference. We are so happy when people use our tutorials! Come make a bath mat with your old towels, and… then learn a couple of other craft projects while you’re at it!


    1. No problem! I love the idea, so totally cool and customizable! I’ll try to post my pics when I get around to finishing a mat!


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