Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Repurposing items

In my previous post, I discussed how I try to extend the useful life of various items by fixing them rather than throwing them out and buying a new one. However, there gets to be a point where the item is too worn for its original use or cannot be fixed. Then what do I do with it? I have found new uses for various items in my home and hope they may inspire you to look at worn items in a new light.

I upgraded my sheets to a higher thread count but there was no real reason to get rid of the original set I had. I love my cats but their tendency to leave fur everywhere makes it difficult to clean furniture. Well, I could clean it but I got tired of the maintenance. Enter old sheets. Laying them over the furniture means the cats deposit their fur on a washable cover. It is easy to remove when company comes over and protects the fabric from cat fur and crumbs from dinner. For one piece of furniture, I sewed two full flat sheets together and it completely covered the sofa. Extra bonus: discourages my cats from scratching at the sofa corners.

Other uses for old sheets: dropcloths. When painting or refinishing, they soak up splashes and splotches. Any old worn fabric can work for this. I can imagine old curtains, blankets or tablecloths could work as well.

I had some pillowcases my mom gave to me in college or just after for my own use. I used them regularly until the fabric was thinning and the corners were starting to unravel. The cats not only lay on the sofa, but curl up in the corner against the throw pillows, another fur collector. To protect them, I stuff them inside the old pillowcase. They get a bit compacted but the ease of cleaning far surpasses that minor drawback. I also use old pillowcases on top of the cushions on my kitchen chairs. Again, cats lay on them so it is easier to remove and wash the pillowcase than defur the chair cushion.

Recently some of my socks have been developing holes in them. To me, it was not worth repairing so they ended up in my rag pile. Old socks are great for polishing shoes or rubbing off stain from wood. Old underwear or t-shirts are also thrown in the rag pile. These items are used for dusting or cleaning. I use Pledge and spray the rag before dusting. It works well and after a wash, it is ready for another round. I have used rags to wash down outdoor furniture or wash the car. With the exception of cat messes, I try to use cotton towels or rags to clean many dirty items rather than paper towels.

Old towels are repurposed in various ways. Depending on how worn they are, they may end up as towels for beach visits or folded up inside a pet carrier for cushion. Old towels can be relegated to the rag pile or used to dry a car after washing. Since I have laminate flooring, I use a towel on which to press my sponge mop to minimize the streaks on my floor.

Repurposing can also mean reusing an empty, one-time use container. For example, there was a tall slender tin that had chocolate-covered pretzels in it. Once empty, I took it home and put my spaghetti pasta in it. The container is nicer than the Creamette box and I have something sturdy in the kitchen. Pill bottles are used to hold various nails and screws or as travel-size containers for cotton balls. An empty gift basket holds all the cat toys.

A bit of imagination and there are new uses for old, worn items. While I illustrate some uses by protecting furniture from my cats, I believe it also works for humans. I have been repeatedly thankful there was a cover on my sofa when I dropped food while I was eating. Sending fewer items to the landfill is good and if all else fails, cotton and other natural fabrics can be cut up and added to the composter!

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