Save Money by Recycling and Repurposing

On June 11, 2014, in Recycling, by Stephanie Shalofsky
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RecycleIt seems that most of us have simply too much stuff and the fact is we keep acquiring more. Shopping has become a major pastime (did you know that the Mall of America gets more than 40 million visitors annually?) and we are continually adding to our collection of goods.

Take a minute and imagine the amount of money that you could save by shopping less frequently and recycling and repurposing what you already have.

Our closets are filled, garages are overflowing, and even the rented storage units are pretty much filled up.  And, if indeed you haven’t reached these extreme levels of mass consumption, you probably still have more than you need!

Take pocketbooks for instance. Most of them are made so well these days that they pretty much never get worn out. And shoes — how many are in your closet that have been worn just once because you realized that they were uncomfortable? Books – how many are crammed on your shelves and haven’t been looked at in 20 years?

You get the idea. We all have too much stuff.

We keep buying the new improved version of what we have (the manufacturers and stores depend upon it) and there is simply no way that we can keep it all. It’s time to take action! There are two things you can do to take care of your stuff … recycling and repurposing … and by doing so you will most probably feel a newfound sense of relief.

Recycling: Making Something New

The definition of recycling is to make something new from something that has been used before (like these suitcases, er, chairs). In recent years, recycling has become part of our vocabulary. In most households we recycle paper, plastics, and glass to reduce pollution and waste  — and it’s not unusual to see multiple waste receptacles in homes, stores, and even on the city streets.

So, what does recycling mean for you besides separating your trash?

  • Well, you might take all of those extra ties that your husband has acquired over the years and sew them together to make them into a beautiful skirt (Instructables: How to Make a Tie Skirt).
  • Or, you can take a rubber mat and cut out shapes for your toddler to learn and play with.

See what I mean? You’ve used the items before, but now you can use them in an entirely different way; by recycling them you are making something new.

Repurposing: Using Something in a New Way

The definition of repurposing is to change something so that it can be used for a different purpose (like this shoe organizer inside a pantry). So, how can you repurpose some of your common, everyday things?

  • pitcher


    You might take some of your worn out clothes, barely worn shoes, or out of style handbags and give them to your children to use for costumes when they are playing.

  • The pitcher that no longer fits the décor of your renovated kitchen can be repurposed into a vase that looks just perfect when placed on a shelf or table in your living room.
  • An extra mug you have (but you probably don’t use because you have so many) can be used to hold your favorite pens.
  • Foam bath mats parents kneel on when bathing their young children can be used as bulletin boards (hat tip to Geralin Thomas for that idea) when they are no longer needed for bath time.

We have so much stuff that it is very likely that we now possess items that can be used for something else entirely, thereby eliminating the need for us to go out and yes, buy more stuff. Why not be creative instead? Think of new uses for that bag of bargains from your latest shopping expedition or donate them to a local charity.

Of course, recycling and repurposing are great for the environment and they are great for your wallet as well (less stuff being purchased, right?!). Regardless of which path you follow, you’re sure to feel better for doing so.


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Quick Tip: Recycle Your Old Eyeglasses

On November 27, 2012, in Recycling, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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Donate your gently glasses. | OTR BlogOne of the tricky things about organizing your home or office is that you may not be sure how to let go of specific items, like eyeglasses. You might be tempted to through them in a drawer or box even though you can no longer use them. The good news is that they can be useful to someone else.

You can donate your gently used glasses to:

  • and their volunteers will distribute them during one of their Global Clinics around the world.
  • New Eyes for the Needy will distribute the following items to international charitable organizations:
    • plastic eyeglasses
    • reading glasses
    • sun glasses
    • metal eyeglasses in any condition (proceeds from sale are used to support voucher programs in the U.S.)




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Transformers: The Water Bottle That Turned into a Pen

On October 29, 2012, in Recycling, Transformers, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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Welcome to our regular Transformers feature (click link and scroll down to see them all). A transformer is a thing that started out as one thing, has been rehabbed, and now functions as another thing. A transformer can also be a thing that is really another thing all at the same time. Check out our latest find…

Who knew that a water bottle could be transformed into a pen? The folks at Pilot, that’s who. They’ve come up with a way to recycle those bottles and give them a new lease on life.

The B2P Bottle-to-Pen is a member of Piolt’s eco-friendly BeGreen line. All BeGreen products are made from 70% or more recycled materials. That percentage jumps to 89% for this pen.

Check it out:



…and here’s the Pilot Petball Ballpoint Pen. Like the B2P pen, it’s retractable, refillable, and made from recycled plastic bottles. They even look like a water bottles, don’t they?






Check Out These Other Transformers


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Fact Friday: Turning Garbage Into Gold

On April 29, 2011, in Fact Friday, Recycling, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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“It’s not hard to understand why energy entrepreneurs and municipalities are looking to turn more garbage into gold. Recyclers will pay for plastics, metals, and paper because they can sell that material, once separated, to mills which use it as raw material. As the tipping fees increase, it becomes more and more economical to divert that material into a composting facility at a lower rate than a landfill.”

Read More:

Next wave of recycling? Check your dinner plate | | 2.21.11


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Transformers: Suitcases that Turn into Speakers & Chairs

On January 17, 2011, in Recycling, Transformers, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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Welcome to our regular “Transformers” feature (click link and scroll down to see them all). A transformer is a thing that started out as one thing, has been rehabbed, and now functions as another thing.  A transformer can also be a thing that is really another thing all at the same time. Check out our latest find…

Got old, broken things tucked away in your garage or attic? Resolved to finally get your act together and ship them out? You might want to rethink that notion and turn those old things into something new. We like that kind of recycling around here, but only if you’ll really do it.

You can turn T-shirts into quilts, belts, and bags…ladders can become bookcases, pot racks, and towel holders…stools can become nightstands.

But, what about suitcases? Most of us have many but use only a few. Check out these two interesting ways to repurpose them.

Listen to Your Suitcase

Who knew your suitcase could blast out music? I’m not sure how easy it is to do this, but it looks pretty awesome.  Want your own speaker-case? Mr. Simo can take care of that for you. It’ll cost you $300 for a plug-in “boomcase” or $350 for battery powered one. If you decide to do this, please tell us if it’s really as cool as it looks.

Sit on Your Suitcase

I love, love this idea of making your suitcase into a seat! It looks great and would be an awesome conversation starter. They are made by Katie Thompson of, a company that specializes in designing with recycled furniture.

These final two were created by Maybe Designs located in Turkey.  I really love that the last one doubles as seating and storage. Btw, I couldn’t find a working website for the design company but you can read more here and here.




Check Out These Other Transformers



Quick Tip: Follow These 3 Donation Rules

On August 24, 2010, in Recycling, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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Donating  items that you no longer need or want can be very rewarding.   You get a less cluttered space and someone else gets something they need.  Before you go on give-away campaign, be sure that you follow these simple rules of thumb.

1.  Give the good stuff. On the surface, it may sound counterintuitive, afterall, you want to keep the good stuff, right? Remember, it’s only good if it’s useful to you. So, be sure to only donate something that functions as intended (read: not broken). This also means giving clothing that is clean and CDs that are not scratched. A couple questions to ask yourself before donating would be:  “Would I buy this exactly as it is?” or “Would I be offended if I received this as a gift?”

2.  Give the good stuff with all the parts. Wouldn’t it be great to get that gently used, really fabulous thing that you’ve always wanted?  Not so much if the power cord for the really fabulous thing is missing.  If you can’t find all the parts, you may want to consider recycling.

3.  Give the good stuff with all the parts without your marks. This means that if your name is on it, you’ll have to remove it.  When in doubt, refer to the questions in #1.

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Organization as Art: Used Book Sculptures

On August 23, 2010, in Art, Paper, Recycling, Transformers, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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Back in February 2010, I discovered the art of Michael Johansson.  He was quite clever with how he organized every day things.

My most recent find (thanks to Alltop) is the work of Jacqueline Rush Lee who makes sculptures from used books. Some of you may cringe at that thought, but it sounds like a better option than having books packed away in a box, never to be seen again.


“As an artist I am inspired by the materials, colors and forms that I find in my everyday environment. I am particularly drawn to objects that record physical processes or bear the imperfections and scars of life.” ~Jacqueline Rush Lee

“I am interested in how these recycled books come with their own histories of use and meaning and how they serve as potent vehicles of expression. With the idea of working with them as my canvas or building block, I transform the books into sculptures that explore and redefine the book as familiar object, medium, and archetypal form.” ~Jacqueline Rush Lee


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Quick Tip: Recycle Your Unwanted Electronics With

On April 6, 2010, in Recycling, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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I usually tell my clients to donate or responsibly discard their unwanted electronics.  Now, there’s another option, one that might get them a bit of cash: Gazelle. Simply answer a few questions about the condition of your used tech, Gazelle makes you an offer, and even sends you a postage paid container to ship it.  If it turns out that your item “has no market value,” Gazelle will recycle it for you.

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Pay as You Throw

On March 22, 2010, in Recycling, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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“Why should I pay the same as someone else who throws away twice as much?” ~Ellis Burruss, Frederick County Solid Waste Advisory Council

How do you feel about the concept of paying for what you throw away?  That means that the more you buy, consume, and discard, the more you pay for the garbage you throw away.  Ellis Burruss of Frederick County, MD doesn’t believe he should have to pay for trash service because he recycles just about everything.

The idea is waste less and pay less, or in Mr. Burruss’ case, pay nothing.  If you have more “re-usables,” then you’ll also have less to throw away.  If you shop less, then you also have less to throw out (and theoretically, you’re likely to be living a more simple life).  Less garbage = smaller landfills = good for the environment = everybody’s happy…right?

Hit people where it hurts the most – their pocket – and they’ll do almost anything, yes?  What do you think?  Is this the right course of action?  Leave a comment with your thoughts and take the poll below.

Would you recycle more if you what you paid for trash pick up was based on the volume of your trash?

Are you willing to pay as you throw?

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Plant a Garden to Get Rid of Clutter

On February 15, 2010, in Paper, Recycling, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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Overloaded with paper clutter? I normally advise anyone struggling with piles of paper clutter to spend some time every day separating/recycling the junk followed by sorting, categorizing, and containerizing documents they must keep. It’s a logical process, though not one that most people enjoy.

Well, if you have a green thumb, there’s a solution you might just love: gardening.  Recently, The Huffington Post profiled Garden Girl and her daughter, Garden Kid, about how they successfully combined “newspapers, kitchen scraps, and junk mail” to create nutrient-rich soil (with the help of earthworms) for their house plants. This is perhaps not how we usually think about decluttering or managing paper clutter, but here’s why this may be a good option for you:

1. You can quickly decrease your paper piles

2. You can remove your “shred” pile from your home/office almost immediately

3. You make less trips to the curb for recycling pick ups

4. You declutter in a way you love and are likely to keep up with

5. If you involve your children (or other loved ones), you’ll get help with decluttering and spend time together

Still not sure if this right for you?  Need a little inspiration?  Check out the video below to hear what Garden Girl and Garden Kid had to say.  If you’ve been using your garden to get rid of your paper clutter, tell us about it.

“I’m taking the waste that we make every single day and composting it in my home and not putting out on the curb.  I’m utilizing here, right here on my land.  I take it, I consume it, and I reuse it.  Then we’re gonna consume it again and then we’re gonna reuse it.”

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