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6 Items You Can Upcycle Into Beautiful And Creative Projects

6 Items You Can Upcycle Into Beautiful And Creative Projects
Norm Tedford May 9, 2019
Want to Earn Some Extra Money?

We live in a society that throws away way too much stuff.

Once something no longer serves its purpose, we discard it with the rest of the useless junk we no longer need. This is not good for the earth at all. And if our species is going to survive, this must stop.

Upcycling is an inspired response to all this wastefulness. And for those maniacal about frugality such as yourself, it saves LOTS of money.

This means taking an object that has reached the end of its life and transforming it into something new and beautiful. And, when the object is reborn and once again emerges in the world, it often increases in value.

Trash to treasure upcycling is also a great way to showcase your creativity!

1. Pallets

Pallets are a terrific resource for free wood.

But something about them perplexes me. When you don’t need any, they seem to be everywhere. But when inspiration hits and you want to make a gift for your wife or relative, you can’t find a single one. Where are all these pallets hiding nowadays?

They’re hiding in plain sight all around you in a zillion different locations!

Warehouses use them to stack merchandise. Pet shops, hardware stores, and construction sites all have them in droves. Some businesses get a refund for returning pallets, so ask before you take. It’s the polite thing to do.

I remember when I worked at a homeless shelter and had to pick up food for the shelter. To do this, I would drive to the Food Depot. Once I got there, a big tractor-trailer would pull up, stacked to the gills with tons of food.

All shrink-wrapped to pallets.

After the driver unloaded the turkeys, boxes of macaroni and cheese, and other mainstays of a homeless shelter, there would be tons of pallets, all free for the taking! There were so many of them, the Food Bank didn’t want them back. I’m sure with a little looking, you can find a supply near you.

And with a little ingenuity, you can turn an ordinary pallet into something beautiful. These artistic creations will add more than a dollop of style to your home.

You can use reclaimed wood from pallets can in so many different ways. It almost seems as though you can make anything you need for home and garden from pallets.

They’re almost as versatile as duct tape!

You can make garden planters out of them. Or outdoor furniture of all varieties. Make a vertical garden and plant herbs on them you can add to your culinary creations. Add legs to a couple and make a rustic coffee table that your neighbors will “ooh” and “ah” over.

Use weathered pallets to create beautiful works of art. So lovely and so inexpensive. But you have to be careful because some pallets aren’t suitable for home use.

If a pallet looks oily or has chemicals spilled on it, don’t use it. Also, make sure it has the IPPC (International Plant Protection Convention) stamp. If it doesn’t have it, stay away from it. It could be treated with chemicals.

Trouble is, you won’t know this if it doesn’t have a stamp.

A pallet with an IPPC stamp will have a treatment code. These codes let you know if the pallets are safe. HT means that it was heat treated and is safe. But MB means the manufacturers added methyl bromide to it. This chemical poses a health risk to anyone coming into contact with it. Exercise caution and make sure you read the codes before starting a project.

So, you found a couple of pallets. And you determined they’re safe to use. Now what?

There’re hundreds of possibilities! For example, you can make a pallet-backed bookshelf. I picked up a bookshelf from Craigslist the other day. It had backing that was falling off. Plus, it was more than a little wobbly. I haven’t decided what I’m going to do with the thing.

But if I want, I can take a couple of pallets apart, nail the slats of to the back of the bookcase, and voila! It’s almost as good as new.

One bad thing about working with pallets (especially old ones) is that the wood tends to splinter. To prevent that, use a drill with a small bit to place a hole where you want the nail to go in.

To make an herb garden, attach shelves to the back of a pallet. Have the shelves leaning back a little so water can drain off them. Paint them vibrant springtime colors, and then put your herb pots on the shelves.

Make a towel rack out of one. Remove all the slats off of a pallet except for one. Stain it, and then store your rolled-up towels standing up proud and tall and held in by the one slat.

You can make all kinds of awesome bars from pallets. Transform your dream of having an outdoor tiki bar into glorious reality by building one. Then you can kick back and have a Mai Tai or two with friends. There is no end to the possibilities.

Here’s an easy bar project for you:

Find two pallets. Sand them down to remove any splinters. Wipe off any dust with a damp cloth and paint them. Allow the paint to dry.

Apply a second coat and then fasten the pallets together using the method of your choice.

Affix three paving stones to the top of your pallets with adhesive. Add any finishing touches you’d like. And when you’re done, you’ve got your own inexpensive outdoor bar.

2. Glass Bottles

You might have a ton of glass bottles and jars lying around. Or, awaiting rebirth as new consumer products in your recycling bin.

Why not upcycle them instead?

Before you do that, you need to remove the labels that distract from their intrinsic beauty. To do this, try to peel off as much of the label as you can. Next, buy some washing soda. You can get this in the laundry aisle of your friendly neighborhood supermarket.

Fill a large container with boiling water. Mix a tablespoon of washing soda with the boiling water. Stir it a little to dissolve.

Let your jars sit overnight in the water for a nice long bath. The longer they sit, the easier it will be to remove the labels.

When you take the jars out of their bath and try to peel off the labels, most will come off without a problem. If there’s still a little glue left after you remove a label, take a piece of peeled-off label and dab at the glue.

For stubborn cases where some of the glue or label refuses to budge, smear a little peanut butter on the jar. Let it sit for a couple hours. Then scrape off the peanut butter. If you’re lucky, any residual gunk will come off with it.

Once you remove the pesky labels, you can use old jars and bottles for all kinds of interesting projects!

For example, put together a terrarium.

Terrariums fit in all kinds of glass containers and bring a touch of greenery to indoor spaces.

To make a terrarium, forage through your recycling bin to find the perfect jar for your project. Then, add a gorgeous selection of plants. You can find free plants by looking around your yard. Epiphytes make for great terrarium plants since they live on rainwater and grow on trees.

You can also use ball moss plants, which are common throughout the American South. But don’t pick plants from public spaces without asking for permission first.

Finally, populate your mini-garden with a few miniature figures.

You can even make an action figure terrarium!

To keep this project on the frugal side, scrounge up some action figures at your local Goodwill. You can make terrariums personalized for each figure.

Action figures shorter than five inches work best. You could put in Captain Kirk and Mister Spock figures! Select plants that look like a planet that the Enterprise would visit.

You can even make a chandelier brimming with rustic charm out of old wine bottles. Or, use old sauce and candle jars as candy dishes. Splash some festive Christmas colors on them to delight your guests.

Wine bottles make excellent tiki torches. They’d go well with your pallet tiki bar! You can make one for under $4.00. To do this, wrap some nylon tape around a copper coupling so that it fits in the mouth of a wine bottle.

Then insert a wick into the coupling. Fill the bottle with Tiki Torch Fuel and insert the coupling with the wick. Let the wick absorb the oil before you light it.

Another thing you can do is to make flower vases out of spaghetti jars.

For this project, Use clay paint. This kind of paint come in colors both soft and soothing, as well as vivid. It’s made with earthborn clays and reflects beauty from the inside out.

It’s also like chalky paint and gives that same kind of textured look to your pieces. When you start painting, make sure your brush strokes are going in the same direction. This makes your jar look more finished. Give each jar two coats of paint.

Let the jars dry between coats.

After the paint is dry, apply wax to seal the paint. You have to do this because if you don’t, the paint will absorb moisture and change color. You’ll also notice rings where moisture got into it. Plus, the paint job will damage easily and your piece won’t look finished.

Use clear or natural wax. Or for a more textured look, use dark wax or glaze. Swirl your wax brush in the wax container and then using a circular motion, apply the wax to the jars.

Use a rag to wipe off any extra wax. Then, pick some beautiful daisies from your backyard, and put them in your lovely jars.

You can also display photos in glass jars with tea lights in them. These glowing luminaries are quite lovely to look at.

Buy some translucent vellum at before beginning this project. This is a kind of paper that has the appearance of frosted glass.

Print out your photos on the vellum. And then, Grab a bunch of clear glasses or vases. Trim your photos to the proper height, so they look good inside your glasses.

Apply double-sided tape to the inside. Then, attach the photos to the tape, making sure the tops of the photos meet up together where the tape is.

If you want, add a piece of washi tape for decoration. Washi is a decorative kind of masking tape. It comes in hundreds of colors and patterns. It’ll make your luminaries look classy.

Add some tea lights to your jars. During the day, the sun streaming through them will lend them a preternatural glow. And at night, light the tea lights and you’ll get a lovely flickering glow.

There’s nothing cooler than things that glow. Agree?

If so, make a glowing fairy jar. Your kids will love this. All you need is some glow sticks and glitter. Line them up along an entranceway for a fun beginning to a nighttime party. To make one, rescue another jar from your recycling bin. Then, put on some gloves. Next, crack a glow stick so it starts glowing.

Take scissors and cut the clear end of the glow stick off, letting it drip into your jar. Flip it over and cut the other side. Place a straw in the open end of the glowstick and blow the remaining liquid into the jar.

Put lots of glitter in the jar. Then, shake it up real good.

You’ll get the best results with the emergency glow sticks because they glow brighter. If you want more light, add more than one glowstick. Who knows…your pretty lights might lure some real fairies out of the woods.

3. Old Clothes

Spring is here. That means that spring cleaning is also here. And it’s a great excuse to dig through your old clothes for upcycling ideas.

You don’t have to toss out old and worn clothes. Don’t worry if that pair of jeans is full of holes, because you can upcycle it into something new and beautiful.

With an old shirt, you can even make a tent for your feline friends!

To do this, take two wire hangers. Straighten them out so you have two long pieces of wire. Use the ends to poke holes in each corner of a square piece of cardboard. Put the two hangers together so that they form an arch.

Tape them together in the middle. Stick each wire end into the holes in the cardboard and tape together.

Now, slide an old T-shirt over your wireframe. Make sure the neck hole’s in front. Pin the sleeves and the bottom of the shirt so there are no holes. That’s it! Your cat can do a little campin’ right in your living room.

You can reupholster a stool with an old sweater. Flip the stool over. Take a flathead screwdriver and pliers to remove the staples from the old fabric. Remove this fabric and use it as a pattern to cut the sweater. Remove the black liner as well.

After cutting the sweater, place it on the stool. Staple the sweater in place and trim any excess. Staple the black liner back in.

4. Windows

Windows make great display cases. Build a box around a window to make an instant display cabinet. You can make a bathroom storage cabinet with one, too. They can be used as coffee table display cases or jewelry organizers.

For bedroom décor that’s decidedly out of the ordinary, make a headboard using four windows.

After you done with that, continue to flex your creative muscles by taking a wreath and attaching it to a weathered old window. Put it in your living room, and you’ll have a work of art that’ll add decorative panache to your home.

Take an old window and spray with chalkboard paint to create a usable chalkboard on your old window. This would be great in the kitchen for shopping lists. Or, use it anywhere you want to leave personal messages for your family.

The kids will love it!

Make a mini-greenhouse to start your plants with the glass from a few windows.

For a creative alternative to frames, use an old window as a backdrop for your artwork. Place your window where you want and then place your painting in the middle of it. Make a coffee table with a lid you can lift and put your magazines in the compartment.

You can make a dizzying array of things with old windows that most people think are only destined for the dump.

It’s easy to upcycle an old window with divided panes of glass into a collage-style photo frame. Use photos the same size as the panes.  Or, use mattes to make smaller-sized photos fit.

Just let your imagination run wild, and turn all your old windows into beautiful works of art!

5. Furniture

There’re so many ways to upcycle old furniture. I often see pieces lying on the side of the road practically begging to be upcycled. If you find a dresser with missing drawers, turn it into a beautiful display case.

Upcycle a pair of bureau drawers into side tables.

To do this, take two old drawers and add legs and a shelf to each. Add a couple of coats of paint, and blasé drawers are transformed into lovely stands for your mementos.

Something else that’s fun is to magically transform an decrepit door into a corner shelf. First, cut the door in half using a circular saw.

Then, secure the two door pieces at a 90-degree angle using clamps. Screw in five 90-degree metal brackets to the back to hold the two pieces together.

Cut four shelves out of particulate board to fit the door measurements. Secure the shelves in place by using two 90-degree brackets under each one. Sand any rough edges. Lastly, paint the door.

6. Ladders

If you have a wobbly old ladder, don’t throw it out.

Instead, find a place for it inside your home (and your heart) as a stunning piece of décor.

Everyone has a ladder or two hanging around…which makes it super easy to find them at garage sales. Ladders are so easy to repurpose and are a fantastic way to add a rustic touch to your home.

Use an old ladder as a bookshelf by artistically arranging the books on the rungs.

What’s great about this idea is that you don’t have to do anything to the ladder except to paint or stain it.

How simple is that?

Try making a wine rack out of an old ladder. Place metal brackets to hold wine bottles at regular intervals on the ladder. Then stain it.

Even old ladders can be resurrected from the dead to be used as storage solutions. They work great at holding shoes or towels. Hang one from the ceiling for an instant pot rack. Or hang it horizontally on the wall for a small bookshelf.

Ladders can be repurposed to hold items normally stored in a closet. Use a ladder to hang lanterns on a porch. Paint a ladder sky blue, attach it to your ceiling, and use it as a laundry rack to dry clothes. Turn a piece of a ladder into a display shelf. Or, put a couple of ladders against a wall and use them as shoe racks.

Use an old, weathered ladder as a nightstand. There are endless ideas.


So many people are upcycling to save money. It seems as though the world over, people are trying to find chic uses for old stuff. There are even upcyclers on Instagram who have made a lucrative career out of this activity.

One of these influencers is apairandaspare. Geneva, the woman behind this account, has inspired thousands around the planet to take up the cause.

It’s also good for the environment. When you rescue things bound for the landfill and upcycle them, you’re reducing waste. When you do this, you cannot help but feel as though you’re making a difference.

This is a great feeling.

Why don’t you jump on the upcycling bandwagon if you haven’t already?

Your wallet and Mother Nature will both thank you.

Norm Tedford

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