Repurposed: Bringing Things Left Behind Back to Life

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My coffee shop on a college campus is closed for the first part of summer, so I needed to find a job for just six weeks. I decided to work for the college with “heavy duty,” which is the department that takes care of the trash, cleaning the bathrooms, collecting all the recyclables, and clearing the dorms. I had no idea about the stuff that got left behind when the students move out. In just a few days I’ve found a bunch of stuff I’m going to repurpose in interesting ways.

Repurposed! Reusing Common Items

I’ve only been on the job for a week, but already I’ve accumulated a bunch of things that I’m going to use for a purpose other than what was intended.

  • Floor length curtain – I’m going to use it as a shower curtain with a liner behind it.
  • Pallets – These will become the base of the chicken coop I’m building.
  • Screens – These will be used for the chicken coop as well.
  • Slow cooker – You all know I’ll be making crock pot soap in this!
  • Small rolling suitcase – I’ll use this to transport supplies I need for selling items at the tailgate market.
  • Large rolling suitcase – This will make great storage for my camping equipment.
  • Baby bed – I took it apart and used the mattress for a dog bed.
  • Baby blanket – I put this on the bed for my dog.
  • Jeans – These are too small and damaged, so I cut them apart to make an apron.
  • Scarf – I actually got a few scarves, which make great table runners.
  • Lentils – Not knowing how old they were, I used them in a cup to help my pens stand up.
  • Large piece of cardboard – I placed it under a chair by my desk to help it roll better.
  • Clear bags with zippers that contained sheet sets – These will be used for my fabric collection so I can see at a glance what’s in each bag.
  • Concrete blocks – I put these under an old bed spring to hold some of my plants up off the ground.
  • Fan – I placed this in the “curing” room for my soap to help it stay dry in there.
  • Binder clips – I have a bunch of these tacked to the wall to hold photos, articles, and recipes.
  • Clip hangers – These work great for drying sheets and larger things outside
  • Large drawing pad – I’m making a huge calendar out of this. You just can’t find them that big!
  • Coffee – This is probably stale, so into the garden it goes, or I’ll use it for making soap.
  • Cheap hair ties – I saw a tip online about using soda can tabs on a hanger to double the space in your closet. I found that cheap hair ties, doubled, work just as well.
  • Cotton balls – I’m not sure if these are sterile, so I’ll use them for arts and craft projects.
  • Part of an old sweatshirt – I turned this inside out for a dry board eraser.
  • Umbrella – This had a broken tine, so I used it as a shade for my plants.
  • Broken kids’ soccer goal – I looked at this and thought, hey! Hay manger for the goats!
  • Clothes basket – This became hay storage.
  • Dog kennel – I put my chicks in here now that they are older, but not yet ready to be with the big girls.
  • Castor oil – I’m using it to lubricate door hinges that squeak.
  • Stretch pants (too short or with torn legs) – I cut these off to make stretchy shorts.
  • Nylons – Some have runs, but I washed them and used them to hang and store potatoes.
  • Stained refrigerator tray – It works great to water plants in to hold some water in the bottom.
  • Spray nozzle for a hose – I hooked this up to the outdoor shower hose.
  • Old bifold doors – These became the sides for my outdoor shower.
  • Tennis balls – Dog toys, of course!
  • Gallon jars with lids – These will hold herbs after harvesting and drying them.
  • Cement mixing tray – I use this to mix my soil for planting.
  • Strainer – I use this for sifting finer soil to cover small seeds.
  • Heating pad – I will use this next spring to gently heat the bottom of seed starting trays to give the roots a boost.
  • A chunk of wood – I’ll use it to display jewelry I’m selling at shows.
  • Old newspaper – I line the bottom of trash cans with newspaper in case of liquid spills.
  • Mismatched china plates – These make great drip pans for indoor plants.
  • Broken mini blinds – I cut these into strips the size of a pencil. Then I use them in my plants for identification.
  • Old drum with missing top – This made a cool planter.

This is only a partial list as I also found clothes and mugs and things that will be used as you normally would. I’m sure I’ll find more things tomorrow and in the days to come.

What are some of the best finds you’ve had? How did you repurpose these things? Share below!


About Debra Maslowski

Debra is a master gardener, a certified herbalist, a natural living instructor, and more. She taught Matt and Betsy how to make soap so they decided to bring her on as a staff writer! Debra recently started an organic herb farm in the mountains of Western North Carolina. You can even purchase her handmade products on Amazon!

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  1. Jane says

    Probably out BEST recycling/repurposing project comes from reusing OLD decking & pressure treated wood – I advertised on craigslist & freecycle that we were looking for old (or cut-offs 2′ or longer) pressure treated wood – we got lots of calls & started collecting, denailing, stacking. We have used it for making compost bins, shared with neighbors, made wicking beds (in the south this is better than raised beds) planters – including potato towers & raised planters for raspberries & blackberries! Using old pressure treated wood works well for us since the chemicals are long gone & most of our projects are lined with pond liners (ie wicking beds)! The beds are now 3 yrs old & we haven’t had to repair any – using wood that would have gone to the landfill!!!

    • Debra Maslowski says

      Thanks Paulette! I’m not sure if I’ll be able to every day, but I can certainly do another article on some more of my finds. Today I found some grits and I’ll be using them to get rid of ants. And someone left a hank of hair (as a joke probably!) in one of the freezers, so I’ll use that in the garden to keep the bunnies away. Uses for everything!

  2. Rebecca says

    I love all of your repurposing ideas. I’m currently in the process of collecting metal scraps whenever I find them on the side of the road or the sidewalk, and I plan to eventually make interesting figurines and decorations out of them. I love the idea of taking things that people consider to be trash and turning them into beautiful and useful things.

  3. Brunella Brunet says

    the odd plates are great for using when making deserts to bring somewhere. you don’t have to worry about getting it back. I volunteer alot of deserts for different organizations and found this helpful.

  4. Debbie Dillon says

    Best repurposing from garage sales…file cabinets and file drawers. Years ago I found old metal individual file drawers that can stack. Husband uses them under his work bench. One organizes very heavy tools that can be easily accessed by sliding out the drawer. Another organizes cans of spray paint. Etc.

    About 10 years ago, we organized a workshop for our business. We needed LOTS of storage. I found a large number of stacking lateral file cabinets cheap at a garage sale (following closing of a lawyer’s office). They created an entire wall of sturdy, floor to ceiling cabinets with easy-access slide out shelves and drawers for well under $100.

  5. Mary says

    Beautiful! It’s so beautiful to see a very alive creative/visioning energy, Debra, yours is impressive.

  6. Elizabeth Cotten says

    My husband used to work for a company that use Aquafault, a pothole repair product. It comes in an orange 3 gallon bucket. The buckets are so useful! I have one holding dog food, and 16 are being used for a container garden! Btw, aqua fault is non toxic, so even though I washed them out, I’m not concerned about leeching chemicals into my or my dogs food!

    • Debra Maslowski says

      At work we get tofu and pickles in large buckets that are square with locking tops. Them when they are empty we use them to store chips, flour, sugar, whatever we have to store.

  7. Lori brown says

    Empty gallon size pickle jars are great storage for cat food, sugar, cereal etc. To keep out the bugs, mice etc.