Reusing Things: 100 Ideas of How to Reuse Commonly Thrown Away Items

Reusing things instead of throwing things away is cheaper and ecological. Joan Ranson Shortney gives a 100 ideas of how to reuse common household items.

| March/April 1976

Back in the 50's, a gal named Joan Ranson Shortney wrote a book, How to Live on Nothing, that sums up more of what eventually became MOTHER's use-it-up-wear-it-out-make-it-do-or-do-without philosophy than anything else I've ever seen. Needless to say, I was one of the first purchasers of that book and I used my copy as a reference for years before founding MOTHER. Here's a live-better-for-less selection from Joan's book.—JS. 

How incredibly wealthy our country is, even in times of economic recession and depression! Every day mountains of paper and wood are burned as waste. The countryside is littered with enough tin cans to circle the globe—tons of metal going to waste while they destroy the scenery's beauty.

In his admirably written Yankee Hobo in the Orient (originally published by Doubleday under the title Why Japan Was Strong; in revised edition, republished by the author, Frying Pan Creek, Florence, Oregon) John Patric tells of the Oriental use of what to us are waste materials. It will make all budgeteers feel rich to read Mr. Patric's account of how a cotton coat was sold over and over in its evolution from rough new coat to second-hand coat to shabby coat to padding rags for another shabby coat to patches for a junk sail to padding for quilting and finally to postage-stamp-size pieces of rotten cloth that made the basis of a hat.

Thus, when you use something ordinarily thrown away you can be extra proud — proud that you've avoided spending money you cannot spare and proud that you've done the national economy a service by reusing things and cutting down on our national vice — waste.

Below you will find a list of everyday objects that are usually discarded and some uses to which they can be put, either to make useful objects or to make life a bit easier. If you can add your own inventions in saving and using to this fist, award yourself a medal for Chief Saver in the League of Anti-Waste.

One Hundred Ways to Reuse

1. BABYS GATE or outgrown fold up playpen for garden trellis.

3/6/2018 9:09:24 AM

"Commonly thrown away items"? If I may say so, that would be everything, where I live! The people here throw out everything from gift bows & gift bags to plastic containers after only one use! I can't stand wastefulness. I'm a determined and unchanging recycler. I save & reuse even scraps of gift wrap if possible. I think the earth deserves a break from this depletion of the resources God so lovingly gave us.

2/23/2018 8:48:26 AM

This article is totally amazing and so much fun! My, how times and mentality have changed!!

3/16/2016 8:01:10 AM

There are 101 ways to reuse ordinary household items. I feel really inspired to try some of these ideas. Protecting the environment by reducing the waste that goes to the landfills is great and makes you feel involved in solving the pollution problem. Here is a useful infographic with few ideas:

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