21 Common Household Items to Reuse and Upcycle

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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that the average American generates 4.38 pounds of waste every day. About 1.51 pounds of that is recycled or composted, but that leaves a lot of waste heading to the landfill. Many items can be reused or recycled right at home, and Cheapism.com identified 21 examples of common household goods with more than one life. Some items can even be upcycled -- recycled in such a way that their value increases. These projects might involve learning a new skill or using new tools, but most are fairly straightforward and don't require much of an investment.

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Picture Frames

It's a shame to throw away a beautiful picture frame when there are so many ways to reuse it. Replace the backing with lined paper or a light-color fabric and make notes on the glass surface using a dry-erase marker. Or leave the center empty, add several rows of twine, and hang many pictures within one frame.

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Not as common as they once were, the daily paper has potential for generating great waste. Recycled newsprint can be reprinted by professionals, but repurpose it at home by saving the funnies to use as wrapping paper.

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Upcycling furniture requires skill but pays off handsomely -- it's a profession in its own right. Techniques vary depending on the piece, but wood furniture is generally the easiest to upcycle because you can sand down and refinish it, and the piece will look like new.

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Old Hardcover Books

An old book is something to treasure, but if you don't want to pass it on or donate it to the library there are other ways to reuse it. Floating book shelves are one of the most interesting and require only a few supplies. Instructables offers a how-to guide, and you can see many examples of the floating shelves in action in the comments section. Another option with large books: Cut a hole in the center pages, glue the rest of the pages together, and you now have a secret compartment.

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Plastic Bags

Store old plastic bags or doggie bags in Kleenex boxes to keep them organized and easy to pull out when you need one. Disinfectant wipes containers, especially the cylindrical ones, also work well for this purpose.

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Plastic Bags, Round 2

Speaking of plastic bags, they can be reused many ways: bring to the grocery store, pick up animal waste, line the garbage pail, and carry lunch. Or, follow a tutorial at the blog Made and melt several bags together to create one strong tote.

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Old Doors

Doors can be turned into desks and coffee tables without much skill or know-how. If the door is in good shape all you need to do is bolt or screw legs onto it and the table is done. Or, place the door on top of file cabinets or small drawer units to create a desk.

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Mugs, Bowls, and Bottles

Just about any spherical object can be repurposed into a lamp with the proper tools. There are many examples online of how to make a lamp, but be sure to read up on safe installation of the electrical components, which is the dangerous part of the job.

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Binder Clips

Large black binder clips can be used for much more than just paper. BuzzFeed lists more than 50 fun ways to use these clips, including as a replacement keyboard foot, a toothpaste tube squeezer, and a cable organizer.

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Glass Bottles

If you want to liven up your kitchen, take an empty glass bottle -- liquor, San Pellegrino, Coke, it doesn't matter -- and fill with dish soap. Pop on a slow-pour spout and you have your own trendy soap dispenser.

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CD/DVD Cases

If you've ever burned CDs or DVDs you're familiar with the plastic cases they come in. Without any additional work, these cases can be reused as cord organizers. Wrap cords around your hand and then place them in the case. The cases are often see-through and stackable as well, making storage even easier.

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Over-the-door Shoe Racks

The shoe racks many plastic or cloth pockets that hang over your door can be used for a variety of purposes. Hang it in the kitchen or pantry for holding snacks, or use the pockets to organize cleaning, sewing, or craft supplies.

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Glass Jars

In trendy restaurants and bars, Mason jars have become iconic drinking glasses. But any old glass jar can be reused as a cup, vase, or candle holder, and as a pot for starting plants and storing small bulk items. Removing the label is the hardest part if the adhesive isn't water soluble, but there are some tricks. Fill the glass with water and then microwave it -- the heat and steam help the sticker peel off. WD-40 is a good chemical solution, or scrape off the residue with steel wool or a razor blade.

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Old towels, sheets, curtains, and clothing can easily be given a second life. Cut them into manageable pieces and you'll have a stack of rags. Alternatively, save the scraps for making quilts or patches.

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You can turn old shirts into rags as well, but there are more creative ways to reuse them. Consider making a headband, belt, bracelet, or bag out of the shirt, or get inspired by the 39 ideas shared at the blog Personal Creations.

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There are two parts to every pillow: the cover that can be repurposed in the same way as any textile and the stuffing that can be turned into new cushions, pillows, stuffed animals, and pet toys. This is a low-cost and simple project to tackle.

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Cracked Ceramics

A crack in your plate or bowl doesn't signify the end of its life. You can put the piece back together; the website HomeLife walks you through a creative way to do this while adding color to the dishware. You also can use the pieces to create a mosaic.

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From seat covers to yard decorations, swings, and planter pots, there are many ways to reuse an old tire. Take a look at these 45 creative solutions at Homesthetics.

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Yogurt and Egg Containers

Spring is in the air and it's time to start your garden. Plant seeds in cleaned yogurt containers or egg cartons and you'll be able to keep a protective eye on your starts while controlling their environment.

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Wood Pallets

Easy to find at home improvement stores and warehouses, wood pallets can be reused in the home in several ways. They'll probably need a good sanding, and possibly a paint job, but they then can be stacked and used as a coffee table, TV frame, or bed frame.

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Cigar Boxes

Many cigar boxes are beautifully crafted and finished and can be used to store jewelry or other trinkets. (Remove the smell by leaving a dish of baking soda inside for some time.) If you want to refinish a box, they are easy to paint over and decorate.