If you didn’t already need another reason to recycle/repurpose items, how about doing it to save money and stylishly reduce clutter. Some of your most common food container cast-offs may actually be hidden gems that can be put to even greater use around the home. This is a wonderful way to repurpose, as according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s common waste and materials facts, in 2010, Americans generated 11.5 million tons of waste glass (of which only 27% was recovered for recycling), 31 million tons of plastic waste (only 8% recovered for recycling) and 45 million tons of paper and paperboard (63% was recycled). Why not help save the planet and your wallet at the same time, by using a few clever ideas to use your empty jars and boxes to fashionably tackle everyday storage and organizing needs.
How to Find the Keepers
I admit I may have a rare obsession of saving almost all of our used food jars. I have a collection of them in my pantry all waiting to begin their new life. Now, not all containers are created equal. I repurpose the best ones (recycling the rest of course), which means finding jars and containers of interesting shapes, without permanent inscriptions etched on them and no chips. All you need to do is clean out your empty jar and soak it in warm soapy water to remove the label. For extra stubborn labels, I try a touch of olive oil to scrape them off, or try any of the techniques compiled by Popular Mechanics for removing tough labels. I also like to run my glass containers through my dishwasher to make sure they are truly clean. I do something similar for boxes too. I sort out those that are a useful size, in good shape, not wet or ripped and very sturdy.
Once you narrow down your contenders, you are now ready to repurpose and organize. Use your container as-is, or spiff it up with some paint, fabric, craft paper or embellishments for an attractive storage vessel. The possibilities are endless. Below are just some of the many ideas you can try.
Jars Are Not Just for Jam
Small Jars (like those for jams, salsa, olives): An endless array of uses await such containers from storing markers, pens and pencils to using them to hold utensils at a buffet table. Try them out by the phone to hold business cards and keep sticky note pads within reach. And don’t forget the beloved storage of all things office, from rubber bands to binder clips, neatly labeled and decorated for a nice touch. In the bathroom try using small jars to make makeup brushes, hair accessories and lipsticks easy to grab. Or use a collection of decorated jars to beautifully display everyday items on the counter, such as cotton balls, Q-Tips and Band-Aids.
Spice Jars: An absolute must in any craft room or playroom for storing the likes of glitter, buttons, stickers, decorations or beads. And of course, great for those who grow and dry their own herbs. You can also paint such jars and make them into super cute bud vases. I did just that with an old capers jar, which now sits out on my kitchen counter.
Wine, Olive Oil or Balsamic Vinegar Bottles: These can transform into the ideal vase for single cut stems. Look for interesting bottles that have unusual shapes or pretty colored glasses. You can also paint, wrap fabric, ribbon or paper around them for really one-of-a-kind flower vases. I repurposed two uniquely shaped champagne bottles and use these as a pair on my kitchen table to hold a candle or fresh flowers depending on the season.
Think Outside of the Box
Large Cardboard Mailing Boxes: Help ease your shopping guilt over that online clothes order that just arrived at your front door. Repurpose good shipping boxes by letting the kids paint away and use the box for any type of fun storage, whether it be for their school artwork, supplies, sports equipment or stuffed animals. Or decorate such boxes in a sophisticated way with fabric or craft paper and use as a filing box in an office or work area.
Jumbo Diaper Boxes: These are some solid and strong boxes, which you can cover with some fabric or decorative paper and have instant sturdy toy storage for a playroom or bedroom. Or use them next to a chair to store magazines and books in the family room. I currently use several well-decorated ones to house my photo albums and scrap books in our common areas.
Shoeboxes: Ideal for storing recipes, photos, keepsake cards or scrapbook items and of course shoes. Label and stack a few of the same size on top of one another, and you will feel instant calm, as you marvel at your awesome organizational skills. Shoeboxes are also super easy to cover in fabric for a pretty touch on a closet shelf.
Jewelry Boxes: Besides re-gifting for more jewelry, use these boxes to hold your jewelry or hair accessories when traveling or even store credit cards in them that you don’t use in your everyday wallet. They also work well in drawers to keep your small office supplies in order. Such boxes are also a crafter’s dream as they can be labeled and stacked to store beads and other small objects that you want to corral in one place.