Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Conscious Shopper Challenge: Reuse/Repair

The next few weeks of The Conscious Shopper Challenge will focus on developing an attitude of non-consumption. Here's the next challenge in this series:


Image by justinbaeder

To complete this challenge, you can...


  • Take care of your things. This is one of the rules of our household (along with "don't hit" and "obey your parents.") Just like our kids, we adults also need to remember to put away our toys when we're done with them, keep our rooms cleaned, and don't jump on the furniture. We should also perform regular maintenance on any items that need it.


  • Reuse what you have before buying new. This challenge could also be stated as RETHINK. As in, what other purpose could I find for this object? How could I change it so it's still usable? Get really creative, and you may surprise yourself.

To get you started with some ideas, here are a few places around the web where people are getting creative with their trash:

  • Maya*made is the queen of using old materials and repurposing them into something new and beautiful. Her latest, The Reinvention Skirt, is made from thrifted t-shirts. I especially love all of her ideas for reusing cereal boxes.
  • The blogger at Running with Scissors is furnishing and decorating her new home with tons of DIY projects, including reupholstering thrifted chairs, painting and refinishing garage sale bookcases, and even refurbishing old suitcases. She's an amazing model of RETHINK.
  • Every day at New Dress a Day, the blogger refashions one item of old outdated clothing into something new and fashionable. The catch? She can only spend $1 every day.


  • Repair before you replace.When something breaks, it's tempting to throw our hands in the air and head to the store for a new one. The old art of repair has fallen out of style, and I have to admit that it's not something I'm always good at. But like our grandparents, we should strive to "use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without."

When I was on the academic team in high school (yes, now you do know a little too much about me), our coach forced us to warm up with a brainstorming game where we'd be shown an object and then each take a turn thinking up a new use for that object. Amazingly, you can find a new use for just about everything if you get your creative juices flowing.

So I thought it would be fun to play a little game. My husband and I brainstormed a list of trash:

  • socks
  • pillowcases
  • broken dishes
  • plastic pots (the kind small plants come in)
  • CD cases
  • t-shirts

How would you reuse these items?


Sandy said...

Cool Game! Here are my ideas:
•socks: puppets

•pillowcases: child's painting smock (Cut holes for neck and arms)

•broken dishes: mosaic backsplash

•plastic pots (the kind small plants come in): ball-toss game for kids

•CD cases: if you have lots of them, make a modular artwork by putting fragmented images in them, then grouping them on the wall.

•t-shirts: Quilt. I've made two of these already; lots of good memories in those t-shirts

Wendy said...


My "repurpose" list:

socks - We used socks to make "silly sock creatures". My daughters each made the Chinese mythical creature, feng huang. They had a blast.

pillowcases - cloth napkins, or as most of ours are flannel, I'd use any old pillow cases for the top layer of a feminine hygiene cloth napkin.

broken dishes - With sharp edges sanded smoothed, and then, pressed into cement, broken dishes make some beautiful mosaic stepping stones for the garden or would be lovely as the mosaic top for a garden bench.

plastic pots (the kind small plants come in) - I clean them and save them to start seeds. I know, not terribly creative, but they're usually reused and not tossed here ;).

CD cases - If the cases were clear plastic (as opposed to opaque), they could be used as "windows" for a child's playhouse.

t-shirts - I was gifted a swiffer a few years ago. I cut up old t-shirts and sew them into a couple of tight layers and add a strap on each side that fits over the swiffer mop head. When I'm finished mopping the floor, I toss them in the wash. Instead of buying the disposable swiffer pads, I use these reusable ones.

swiggett said...

Socks: can/cup/bottle coozy

Pillowcases: placemats, dust rags
broken dishes: how broken? Still using a few dishes with hairline fractures. If really broken, break further into smaller pieces, and reserve for a child's art project, or donate to a school's art department.

plastic pot: start new seeds. organize garage/tool bench odds and ends.

CD cases: gift money/certificate holder

tshirts: PJs! or dust cloth or packing material.

knutty knitter said...


Socks - puppets

broken dishes - paint trays or mozaics depending on what they were. Maybe drainage for larger pot plants too.

Plastic pots - more seeds of course

cd cases - nope nothing springs to mind

pillow cases - strainers for apple jelly and home made juice

t-shirts - pee wipes

I'm sure there are a million other uses too :)

viv in nz

Liz said...

What fab ideas!

Socks - chop into small pieces for cushion stuffing

Pillowcases - None of ours have got to the state where they're not fit to be used as pillowcases, but my mum used to use old pillowcases as teatowels.

Broken dishes - I'm ashamed to say I've not previously thought of reusing these. I do, however, have a set of china that was a wedding present to my great-grandfather on his second marriage, and some of the plates and dish lids have broken and been riveted back together - I love that! Cups/mugs that have lost their handles can be kept and used for breaking eggs into, or draining fat off a roast (again, something my mum does).

Plastic plant pots - I keep these to put more plants in

CD cases - I've not done anything with these, but I once saw a site showing how to make them into picture frames.

T-shirts - patches for quilting, cleaning rags, chopped into bits for cushion stuffing, and I want at some point to cut some into long strips and knit something (possibly a shopping bag) with them. I've also long wanted to make a rag rug ...

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

Love all of these ideas! My favorites: the ball-toss game out of plastic pots, stepping stones for the garden out of broken dishes, and PJs out of t-shirts (until I was 12-ish, the only pajamas I ever had were my dad's old t-shirts).

Condo Blues said...

I'm a big time marathon runner! I do all of the fixing around my house.
Here's my list:
* socks - put over a golf club & dust ceiling fan blade.
* pillowcases - Turn into a a toddler sundress or shirt for you.
* broken dishes - smash them up and mosaic them on the plastic plant pot!
* plastic pots (the kind small plants come in) see above.
* CD cases - picture frames. Print a photo to fit the front, snap closed, hang a row on the wall or make a block of multiple rows.
* t-shirts - make a t-shirt, shopping tote bag, or pillows. Use the scraps for cleaning rags or to stuff the pillow.

Angelina said...

I'm not a marathon runner yet by any means but the fixing what you have is something we've been working on for a few years now. What it sometimes means is paying more to fix something than to buy it new, which is why a lot of people don't do it. My feeling is that if I'm spending money anyway I'd rather I spend it without buying something new.

We fixed our shovel, I had my digital camera fixed, we get shoes fixed when we can, we've fixed a toilet a plummer said we should trash (so stupid!), my husband keeps fixing my old bicycle, and the greatest project ever was learning to glaze windows in our old beautiful house rather than have them all replaced with new crappy vinyl windows. It was a lot of work and we ended up getting help doing it but it was so deeply satisfying to restore something beautiful that was already there.


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