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

Used Cans

Before you throw away those used cans, or anything else for that matter, check to see if you can reuse it somehow.  This article gives 100 tips on how to reuse commonly thrown away goods.


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.

3/16/2016 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:

8/18/2015 6:28:29 AM

Great ideas!Reuse is a means to prevent solid waste from entering the landfill, improve our communities, and increase the material, educational and occupational wellbeing of our citizens by taking useful products discarded by those who no longer want them and providing them to those who do. In many cases, reuse supports local community and social programs while providing donating businesses with tax benefits and reduced disposal fees. Greets!

5/28/2015 2:37:34 AM

While this list is appreciated for its time. Why not publish an updated list with todays disposable items? That would be much more helpful. I grew up when this list was written and I do not know what several of these items are.

10/27/2014 7:23:20 AM

I surmise that insufficient individuals reuse. I run a daily paper and this next issue is about reusing. I think that it hard to induce individuals to reuse in light of the fact that a percentage of the best bits of influence have been utilized yet individuals ignore them. Do you have large junk contact to the Junk Removal Services In Toronto. They will support to you.

12/19/2013 3:27:53 PM

Cool ideas! Anyone here know of ways to re-use vinyl privacy slats, if you won't be using them for a fence? I have a few sets of these in red, with the wavy pattern like this: and I've seen people re-purpose shutters that are similar looking, but are usually connected. Fence slats are on their own, in a strip. I'd appreciate some ideas!

12/13/2013 3:31:12 AM

Recently found out that leftover tea could be used as a feet deodorizer. I've been throwing my used tea bags out for years. Such a waste! A tea feet bathe surely would have come well to my husband.

11/1/2013 7:14:41 AM

You forgot old (used) window screens of the nylon or other soft fiber types (NOT metal) make excellent reuseable filters for the clothes washer discharge hose. Fold and form into a large enough bag size that you can fit your hand into, then you will be able to rub and peel the lint off the inside after each wash. Just fold over the cut edges many times and staple along the edges as if you were stiching it, using a heavy duty hand held stapler for this job. Obtain REUSEABLE tie raps to clamp it around the end of the dischare hose. Lasts a long time but make a few spares anyhow! CarlFromCleveland

10/30/2013 7:37:42 PM

Plastic instant coffee caps can be used to hold vitamins and prescription pills until ready to be taken. They are flat and wont tip over. Just flip out the cardboard and throw it away.

rachel thoo
3/20/2013 4:56:13 AM

Lint is flammable and should never be use for anything esp children's toys.

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