Use What You’ve Got

Living simply often means putting aside desires to purchase a bunch of stuff you don’t need. I remember growing up, my mother would always ask me and my little brother if we needed to be reminded of the differences between Wants and Needs. We were fortunate than my parents provided everything we needed and then some, but her words still ring in my head when I’m coveting a new something-or-other that I know I can live without.

In my efforts to downsize my family’s stuff, I’ve noticed that I’ve become pretty good at creating a more “lavish” life simply by recycling the things I already have lying around. You may have some of the items below hanging around your home that you can put to good use, too.

There may be little bits of this and that you’re currently tossing to the compost or trash that could make your meals more delectable. For instance, did you know that you can use your cheese rinds (the hard ends of parmesan and asiago for instance) to add flavor to sauces and even make broth? Before that bunch of hard herbs you bought goes bad, you can add cuttings ice cube trays, pour over with olive oil, and freeze for use later on. The raw ends and skins of your organic vegetables (and even lemons and some seafood) can be saved in the freezer to use to make broth when you’ve stored up enough. Used coffee grounds are an amazing nitrogen source for garden plants (and are known to repel pests like slugs and snails). Rinds of lemons and oranges can be soaked in vinegar to create a powerful, natural home cleaner, or fragrant simmer pot recipes to make your house smell amazing. There are so many sneaky ways you can utilize food you’re currently tossing to create even more fabulous recipes, homes, and gardens.


Fresh herbs are too precious to go to waste. See how to freeze them in olive oil with tips from Kitchn.

Wine Bottles
Recycled wine bottles are fantastic for a multitude of things. I use a pretty blue bottle as a water decanter. I simply fill it up and leave it in the fridge. It’s great when we have company over for dinner, and I love having chilled water on hand when we’ve run out of ice or our filtered fridge tank is near empty. I went to a local high-end liquor store and bought an inexpensive reusable cork that keeps it sealed tightly (even when stored on its side).

Other uses for wine bottles are garden markers, candle holders, food trays, drinking glasses, oil lamps, décor and so much more. Seriously – start saving your wine bottles.


I always have a couple of these recycled wine bottles around to serve as chilled water decanters when we have guests over.

Large Pickle Jars & Coffee Cans
I love giant pickle jars and coffee cans. I use them for compost jars, spent cooking oil, to hold special compost mixes, storing stuff, and so much more. You can often head to your local ice cream shops and restaurants and request they hold large glass pickle jars for you. If you know someone who works in an office, see if they have large coffee cans you can have when they’ve emptied them.


Our kitchen compost holding tank. No fancy jar needed. We simply empty it when it fills up.

Food Cartons
I don’t recommend using cartons that have been soiled by food, but the clean ones make handy containers for gift wrap, seed starters, and storage containers. I mean, if Anthropology is putting them to good use, then you know it’s a win. You can even lightly spray paint the outside of cardboard fruit cartons and store soaps, wash cloths, office supplies, etc. in them. Cardboard egg cartons make great seed starters and they’re easy to cut apart when seedlings are ready to go into pots or in the ground (no need to remove the egg carton).


I’m a sucker for fresh florals, and I’m in love with this reuse of berry containers as featured on

Shoe Boxes
If you open a cupboard in my house, you’re likely to find a shoe box helping to corral something. You can use shoe boxes for everything under the sun. You can decorate them with fabric and handles so they look like store-bought storage containers, you can turn them into homemade charging stations for your devices, create kids toys, make wall art, and more. If you’re looking for shoe box inspiration, take a peek at these.

Old Clothing
Most of the clothing I don’t wear anymore goes to the local Salvation Army, but there are times when old clothes are used for something new. Old t-shirts are used in our barn to soak up engine oil, wipe down tools, or serve as slings to carry items in around the yard. If a favorite top or skirt rips and can’t be fixed, I’ll save it to turn into headbands, other clothing items for my daughter, or even gift wrap. Men’s collared shirts that are no longer worn can be used as smocks for little ones (or adults) or turned into other clothing items. I hate throwing out cute fabrics that can be reused so I just toss them into a designated container or bag until I’m ready to reuse them.

Toilet Paper or Paper Towel Rolls and Dryer Lint
When we lived in North Carolina we had a fireplace that we loved to use during winter months to keep the heat pump from having to work too hard. I would stuff empty toilette paper rolls full of dryer lint to use as fire starters during those months. These are also great to bag up and take camping or use in the backyard fire pit. You can also line up empty rolls in – you guessed it – a shoebox to create organized storage for pencils, markers, device cords, and more. I also like to toss dryer lint outdoors in the spring for the birds to use in their nests as well (a little “luxury” for our feathered friends).

What do you reuse around your home to make life a little simply amazing? I’d love to know!

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