Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Do what you can with what you have, where you are.” I doubt the former president was talking about crafting, but he makes a good point.

Finding ways to be resourceful is the best way to stimulate your creativity and reduce waste at the same time.

That's why I love the art of repurposing old household items. It's cheap, eco-friendly and pretty easy to accomplish. In my opinion, that's the savvy-shopping trifecta!

Allison Merrick is the owner and operator of Space Craft Studios, a local crafting studio with a focus on repurposing items.

“(Repurposing) provides new things with deeper meaning and interest,” Merrick said. “It's also economical, and it keeps things out of the dump.”

This week, Merrick helped me come up with a few ways to breathe new life into ordinary things you'd typically toss in the garbage.


Tin cans are easily repurposed into luminarias, which can add lighting and a decorative touch to any outdoor setting.

Merrick said the first thing you'll want to do after removing the can's label is to fill it with water and freeze it. The ice keeps you from denting the can's shape while you work on it.

Then, find a design you want to use, print it out and tape it to the side of the can. The idea here is to create a silhouette, so Merrick said shapes such as hearts or flowers will be easiest.

Outline the design by drilling little holes with a nail and hammer. When you're done drilling, remove the paper, drop in a candle and watch your creation glow.

“I do that a lot in the fall and winter,” Merrick said. “They're really pretty on patios, decks or porches.”


Donating old T-shirts is an obvious alternative to throwing them in the trash, but they also can be cut and remade into almost anything.

With one T-shirt, Merrick said you can make up to 10 yards of knit rope, which can be used for crocheting, wrapping gifts or making accessories such as belts, headbands and jewelry.

Old Paper

Decoupage is a crafting technique you can use to repurpose two things at once: old paper products and household items.

Newspapers, old magazines and even maps can be used like wallpaper to redecorate anything from a bookshelf to a tissue holder.

All you need is a varnish such as Mod Podge, which you can find at most craft stores.

Cut out strips of the paper, apply varnish to both sides and cover the entire surface of the object. Once it dries, you'll have an item that looks brand new and unique. “Part of the reception desk here at Space Craft is made with reclaimed panels, and we used decoupage to cover them with old nautical maps,” she said.

How to learn more

With the rise of social media sites such as Pinterest, there are so many resources available to help you learn the art of crafting to give old items a new purpose.

If you have something odd and you're not sure if you should recycle it, do a quick search online to see if there's a way to repurpose it.

Reach Abigail Darlington at