When you need to organize something, is your first thought to head out to the store to purchase new storage containers? Or are you like me and scavenge odds and ends around the house to use instead?
I’ve been sorting through my stamp area and office recently and so have been thinking about this a lot lately. I’m the kind of person who gives product packaging a good look before I throw it away or put it in the recycle bin. Sometimes trash is just trash. But many times it can be re-purposed in a way that can be very useful and save you money at the same time. Here are some of the ways that I use “trash” for storage in my stamp area . . . and a few other places.
Check or Deposit Slip Boxes
There are so many cardboard boxes that enter my house each month that I can’t believe we aren’t buried in the things. I recycle some, but hang onto others, breaking them down to store flat when possible. Small boxes like these for checks don’t break down well and so get stored into a bigger catch-all box for possible future use. When cleaning out my large shallow desk drawer recently, I realized that the two halves of check boxes were perfect for organizing desk supplies (and their check box origin seems apt for the use too don’t you think?)
Shallow Gift Boxes & Lids
Similarly, I re-used some sturdy shallow gift boxes and their separate lids to help divide up embossing powder and inkpads in shallow storage drawers recently. (See “Re-organinzing the Supplies Drawers Again” blog post.)
Take home containers from local restaurants vary from pretty flimsy to surprisingly sturdy and too good to throw out. In our house, most of these get used for holding left-overs in the fridge (instead of purchasing new food storage containers for the purpose.) The nicer heavier ones can also be used to divide items in drawers similarly to shallow boxes and lids. Often they are stackable so you could use them to store smaller quantities of stamp related supplies and stack them on a shelf. They can also be handy for holding water for use when painting. Especially large but shallow ones can even be used for projects like shaving cream marbling. The lids on these things can be used as palettes for ink or paint.
Palettes You Can Toss
Speaking of palettes, I used to get the kind of individual yogurt that had an extra plastic lid over the foil. (They’ve since eliminated the extra lid.) They made great mini palettes for mixing small quantities, using one color or when you need a puddle of glue for a project. I liked that I could use them once and not have to clean them. (Some paints, like acrylics, are better not going down the drain.) Other product containers have similarly sized flat plastic lids that can be used the same way.
Jars and Cans
I love canning jars. This time of year it is usually easy to find them and they aren’t nearly as expensive as a lot of storage containers. Some spaghetti sauce comes in jars that look like canning jars; remove the label and wash it out and you don’t even have to buy an extra jar for storage. These can be handy for holding things like paintbrushes, markers that you want to stand up and tools like burnishers, etc.
I use canning jars in my kitchen to hold small quantities of grains, specialty flour and dried fruits. If you don’t like the way the jars turn in near the top, Penzy’s Spices has some nice glass storage jars with straight sides and black plastic lids in various sizes. I use these mostly in the kitchen. (The only problem with these is that if you drop the jar, the jar is usually ok, which is great, but the plastic lids tend to break. Sigh.) You could of course also clean out a food can, decorate it and use it in similar ways. (Didn’t we all do this as kids? Now we have stamps and supplies to decorate them. See the previous “Stamped Tea Tin” blog post.)
Small jars have their uses too. When I use up the contents of small jars of embossing powder, glitter, etc., I save them for future use in the craft room. They can be handy for storing custom mixes of embossing powders or powdered pigments. You can also use them to hold small amounts of paint or water. Baby food jars or film containers (if you still have some of these around) can also be used in these ways.
Microwave & Fridge Bits & Pieces
When an appliance wears out and has to be replaced, there are sometimes bits and pieces that can be salvaged for new uses. I’ve saved the heavy glass from the floor of two different microwave ovens. I use one when I need a smooth heat-proof surface, like for cutting cushion with a hot tool (See “Two Variations on Stamp Mounting” post) and I use the other (a turntable version) for holding containers of brushes and similar tools. (See the “Keeping Stamping Supplies Close” post.)
The old ice bin from an old refrigerator, which is a nice deep but fairly narrow open container, holds my stamp cleaning supplies. (See “My Stamping Work Space” blog post.) I saw similarly sized plastic bins for sale in the local craft store today. Why buy one when you can re-use something else?
CD or DVD Containers
Blank CDs and DVDs sold in bulk typically come sitting on a circular disk of heavy plastic with a spindle to hold the CDs or DVDs and a plastic cover like a column to cover the whole thing. When you are have used them all, the plastic cover can be flipped over to hold markers or paintbrushes, etc. Sometimes there are extra clear plastic disks inside that can be used as mini palettes.
Old Popsicle Mold
I showed you my paintbrush storage in the “Keeping Stamping Supplies Close” blog post. Sometimes you can’t find what you want in stores but find something that will work lurking in the back of a closest, like this popsicle mold.
Individual yogurt cups are handy for mixing up small quantities of paint or holding just a little bit of water. I keep this larger yogurt container in my work area filled with water. The lid keeps things dry and tidy and I’ve always got some water if I need it. As you can see, I once used the lid as a quick handy palette for acrylic paint.
Now that my kids are grown and don’t need to make bag lunches anymore, I don’t buy plastic silverware very often. But sometimes when you get carryout, you’ll get a little pack with a spoon, fork and knife. If we eat at home, they really aren’t needed, so I put them in a box in my stamping area. They can be handy for stirring things or spooning out paint from a jar.
Similarly, you sometimes get cheap chopsticks with carryout. They can be great for stirring things or lifting just a little bit of paint out of a jar. They can also be handy for holding shrink plastic or a card down on a work surface while you use a hot heat-tool on it.
I hang onto blank rectangles of cardboard like those on the back of notepads or that are found inside some packaging. Cardboard can be useful sometimes as a work surface that is ok to get messy. You can also cut it to size and use it inside a regular or padded envelope to sandwich something that you don’t want bent or damaged in the mail. (The rigid cardboard can mean higher postage on regular envelopes though.)
It seems like everything comes in plastic these days. Sometimes the heavy clear plastic is molded to fit the product and the indentations can be used as a palette. Other times you’ll find broad areas of clear plastic that can be saved for use as card “windows”.
Produce containers can be particularly interesting. Often things like strawberries or blueberries and other fruit comes in clear lidded containers that can be cleaned up and the labels removed and then used for storage. They typically aren’t as heavy weight as purchased storage containers, often have holes for air circulation and probably won’t last as long, but when you need a new one, you just salvage one from your next fruit purchase.
You don’t see fresh figs in the grocery store very often. I picked up a pack of eight recently as a special treat. The package (center of photo above) had a little nest for each fig. Looks like a paint palette to me!
The last time we painted our walls, we purchased many rolls of Frog Tape (a type of masking tape for painting.) It came in this packaging. I haven’t used them yet, but they were too good to toss. They could hold water or paint and might work for storing other things. Often I’ll save things even if I don’t have a specific use, knowing that at some point they’ll come in handy.
Old Glasses & Mugs
In my house, glasses and ceramic mugs don’t last long. We seem to steadily break or chip them and periodically I need to pick up another inexpensive box of glasses or mugs from Target. This sometimes leaves odds and ends of glasses, and particularly mugs, that don’t match anything. I’ve also had a few mugs that I really like, lose their handles. If I can’t bear to toss them, I use them for storage, like this mug that holds my measuring spoons in the kitchen. As you can see, I’m also using a plastic trail mix container (we eat tons of the stuff) for storing kitchen spoons, etc. One of these days, I’m going to create a beautiful stamped label to cover the original product label.
Shopping Bags, Calendars & Gift Wrap
While not really candidates for storage use, things like decorative store shopping bags, old calendars and discarded but still nice gift wrap are all things that could be given a second life as a handmade envelope, the cover of a handmade book or a background layer for a card. (See “Making Easy Envelopes With a Template” post. And sometimes junk mail has interesting bits or pictures that can be salvaged for use in a future project or has clever card constructions to inspire future cards. Even mesh produce bags could turn into an interesting textural card layer.
We stampers are pretty resourceful people. I’ll bet you’ve used some of these same things in similar ways and maybe have found other ways to use this trash (I mean “treasure“) in the stamp room. It keeps this stuff out of the landfill (at least a little longer) and saves money. What kinds of treasures have you rescued from the trash to use in the stamp room?