Upcycling is simply taking an old material and turning it into something new and useful. This process usually creates something that is aesthetically pleasing and gives the item a new purpose. There are many ways to upcycle old and discarded objects, all of which share common benefits.

Upcycling Benefits

One of the biggest benefits of upcycling is its effect on the environment. Because you are reusing old materials and removing them from the waste system, upcycling is great for the environment. It can also put more money in your pocket as these materials are often free or have been discarded. With a little creativity, there is no shortage of items you can upcycle.

Upcycling Vs. Recycling

The biggest difference between upcycling and recycling is how the materials are changed. Recycling breaks down the materials to their simplest forms and creates something entirely new. In contrast, upcycling transforms materials without breaking them down and usually results in a product that is similar in quality to the original material.

Mason jars a popular household item for upcycling

Upcycling Ideas

1. Plastic Spoon Mirror

Plastic spoons can be used in a variety of upcycle projects, including making a chrysanthemum mirror. Simple break off the handles and glue the spoons in a pattern on thick cardboard. You can even paint the spoons to match your style.

2. Pipe Holder

You can fashion a book or iPad holder with a few pieces of old copper pipes. Start by cutting the pipes to their appropriate lengths and cleaning them as necessary. Then paint the pipes a color of your choosing (or leave them copper) and assemble with fittings.

A simple jar can be upcycled into stunning lights

3. Mason Jar Lights

Mason jars are a great material to use for upcycling. A fun project is to turn old jars into lights using candles or electrical bulbs. Start by cleaning the jars and cutting a hole in the lids for the wires. You can paint the jars or leave them clear for better lighting. Use as many as you want to light up a space.

4. Denim Holders

Old jeans are great to use for either decorative or useful means. You can cut the legs off an old pair of jeans, sew one end and turn them into small baskets for the kitchen. Not only are they great for storing items but they also add a unique look to your home.

5. Planters

There are a lot of items you can use for planters, including mason jars, trash cans, coffee cans and old pallet wood. If your trash cans have wheels, you can easily turn them into mobile gardening planters that can be moved throughout the day. Just make sure they have adequate drainage for your plant's needs.

Virtually anything can be upcycled into a planter

6. Remodeled Art

Sometimes upcycling is as easy as slapping a frame around an interesting piece. For example, if you have old barn wood with a lot of character, you can turn the planks into an art piece by framing it and hanging it on the wall. You can also stain the wood to really bring out the grain.

7. Bookshelf Renovation

Who doesn't have an old bookshelf around the house that's just gathering dust? Instead of throwing it away, you can turn a bookshelf into a small kitchen for your child. Simply cut a few holes in the top for the sink and faucet and cover the opening with a sink skirt.

With a little imagination you will know longer have boring bookshelves.

8. Retooling Old Shutters

Old shutters can double as headboards or tops for end tables and can really bring a cottage feel to your home. Start by cleaning the shutters and painting them to get your desired look. Then attach them to the end of your bed or use them as a flat surface on top of an existing end table.

9. Custom Room Dividers

If you collect certain items, like license plates, and are looking to give them a new purpose, consider using them as room dividers. Just attach the items using short chains or rope and suspend them from the ceiling. You can place them anywhere you need to divide a room, including an outdoor space or a basement.

10. Cardboard Storage

You can transform any cardboard box into a storage container with a little bit of twine and fabric. Start by wrapping the cardboard with string of your choosing and hot gluing the ends in place. Then add a fabric liner and you have a complete storage basket for around the house.

Old cardboard boxes can be given a new purpose with upcycling

11. Herb Jars

You can use old glass jars for storing herbs of all shapes and sizes. Simply remove any labels and clean the jars thoroughly. Then attach labels on the outside or design paper for added style. Finish the look by attaching vintage cabinet pulls to the top of the lids.

12. Decorative Soup Lights

Light up your porch in a unique way using old soup cans. Start by cutting the cans in half and poking holes in the sides to allow light to escape. You can use a quality hole punch for this job or hammer them out with a nail. Paint the cans a desired color and add a tea light.

Organize your messy desk with an old tissue box and a little creativity

13. Tissue Box Organizer

You can transform an old tissue box into a desk organizer with some old toilet paper rolls and pattern paper. Simply glue the craft paper on the outside of the tissue box and insert the toilet paper rolls, which will act as dividers for your desk items.

14. Wood Shelving

Old wood crates are great for turning into shelving around the house. After finishing and painting them, you can install them on the walls or put casters on them to make them mobile. You can even put them in the entryway as use them as unique shoe bins.

15. Bathtub Table

An old piece of lumber can easily be turned into an amazing bathtub tray. Start by cutting the plank to fit your tub. Then attach pieces of wood on each end that will act as stoppers. You can also drill a hole to fit a wine glass, though that is optional.

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