Stop Buying Stuff – Start Refurbishing!

(Article today by Adria Saracino, a pretty sweet personal *fashion* blogger ;))

I used to buy a lot of $hit.

A self-proclaimed shopaholic, I was addicted to spending an insane amount of money. My poisons of choice? Fashion and home décor.

Budgets weren’t really an option in my mind. I’d look at my bank account, see it wasn’t negative, and say “let’s do this” to every piece of fashion and home accessory I saw. If I didn’t have the money I would put it on my credit card and vow to pay it off on my next paycheck.

That rarely happened. Rather, I’d pay some of the bills off just to justify buying even more the next time around. I rewarded my payments with buying more. It was an endless cycle I knew was destructive, but I couldn’t stop.

It wasn’t until I was thousands of dollars in the hole that it really hit me. I had the opportunity to go on a Vegas trip with my friends, but I had to sit out because I couldn’t afford it.

I’d never really been the type to hold myself back from fun, so when I had to out of necessity, I knew it was time to change. Especially because I was in the midst of moving to a new apartment, I knew there’d be a lot of temptations to buy new home décor items.

So I got my $hit together. However, I needed more than just a vow to spend less. I needed a way to fill that void of owning something new, or else I knew my new habits would never stick.

Thus, I turned to refurbishing things.

From creating new garments from thrift store finds to turning an old snowboard into a bench, I became addicted to refurbishing items into new and interesting ways. It did more than fill the void of owning more stuff, it made me feel better because I actually made this shiny new piece of wonderfulness.

Now, I create new pieces all the time. I’m constantly researching new ways to repurpose old items. It’s become somewhat of a new addiction. Since I think about it all the time, I thought I’d share some of the more interesting ways I’ve seen others repurpose pieces into new treasures. I’ll also share a few ideas of my own that I’ve either done already, or plan to do in the future.

Hopefully this will help all the other shopaholics out there buy less stuff and create a new item that you can proudly say is a one of a kind.

1. Create a new lamp out of anything

I am convinced you can create a new lamp out of just about any type of material, and when won’t you need more lighting? A room’s lighting can really set the tone of a space, and the possibilities are endless.

diy lamp

You can create a lamp out of an old washing machine drum and pulley wheels, an idea I saw over at PartSelect Appliances in this article, which also outlined other ways to reuse appliances. You can even make a lamp out of photo negatives, as seen in the photo above taken by Aleksi Pihkanen. Really, if you can think of a material, you can most likely use it in some way to create a new lamp.

2. Reupholster using old clothes

Clothes = fabric. Fabric + old piece of furniture = newly upholstered piece. Use an old piece of clothing you don’t like anymore to reupholster a piece of furniture, such as a bench cushion. Items that are flat and lack hardware are best, such as a women’s pencil skirt.

3. Utilize old wine corks

I currently save all my wine corks and put them into a large vase as a focal point for my mantel. Another great idea is to use corks as a rustic corkboard, as seen in the photo below taken by Andrew Smith.

wine corkboard

4. Reuse old dryer sheets

After using a dryer sheet, toss them into your drawers to act as a just-out-of-the-wash air freshener.

5. Create mosaic tiles out of glass bottles

What else gives you an excuse to smash bottles without looking like you need anger management? Reuse glass bottles to create beautiful mosaic tiles for garden walkways or pieces of art, such as seen in the photo below taken by Bridgeman Pottery.

mosaic tile

6. Turn an old circuit board into a coaster

You don’t have to stop at a coaster. Circuit boards are essentially a large piece of flat material, so you can make it into anything. I saw some really awesome ideas in this article by PC Mag, ranging from coasters to mouse pads.

There are many other ways to reuse common household items to create unique home and fashion accessories. For more ideas check out this article or this one. No matter what the item, always ask yourself if you could turn it into something else before throwing it away.

Adria Saracino is a food, fashion, and home décor enthusiast. You can see her blogging about Seattle style at her personal fashion blog, The Emerald Closet.

(Hilarious photo by falling_james)

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  1. LB January 19, 2012 at 11:36 AM

    I was actually thinking of doing #5 for my back splash in my kitchen. I have these awesome, most beautiful dishes that I want to use, but suck as real dishes. Here comes the hammer! HA!

  2. AverageJoe January 19, 2012 at 12:16 PM

    I love that those items above are unique and beautiful all at the same time. …and inexpensive!

  3. WR January 19, 2012 at 12:17 PM

    My wife is a Jedi Master at this. Re-purposed /refurbished stuff is way more interesting than retail. She just finished a stunning antique mirror collage over our fireplace with estate sale/ yard sale finds.

    A dollar saved refurbishing something is two dollars earned if you count the cost of disposal/storage etc.


  4. SmartAssetTeam January 19, 2012 at 12:38 PM

    This is a great mentality to adopt. With a little creativity, you can find a new use for almost anything. The awesome thing about this is the win-win situation: you save money and get to be creative. I am a sculptor, and in my studio I keep everything from bits of wood to potted plants abandoned by other people, and it is amazing what solutions I can come up with when making a new piece by just being a little creative. At home I keep old clothes and use them as rags when I clean my bike, I even save and wash ziplock bags (that is a little over the top, I know).

  5. Edward Antrobus January 19, 2012 at 12:46 PM

    That picture reminds me of the bike my friend made in high school. He found a 10 speed in the trash with no seat. Instead of justing buying a seat at a bike shop, he glued a wooden crate the the seat stem.

  6. J. Money January 19, 2012 at 12:56 PM

    @Michelle @ Making Sense of Cents – I’m glad! My fave was that lamp idea up there, haha – super creative!
    @LB – AWESOME! I want to help with that! :)
    @AverageJoe – Right? I thought the same thing.
    @WR – Cool! It doesn’t count until you send me a picture though ;) I wanna see that antique collage thingie! I love that stuff.
    @SmartAssetTeam – Haha, yes – def. over the top, but hey – it works ;) It’s funny how random things come out to make beautiful pieces too. As if they were meant for art over functionality.

  7. Weirdo January 19, 2012 at 1:25 PM

    We had hundreds of wine corks (not just from us… other people know my wife collects so they give them to her). We used every single one of then for a friends wedding gift. We created each letter of their last name and put it on a really cool landscape photo of France (the wife loves to cook). We spend $0 on a gift that would have cost lots of money.

    My wife is very creative. She has made photo frames out of buttons, clothes out of old curtains and bed sheets. Sounds weird, but she does a great job.

  8. michaela January 19, 2012 at 1:28 PM

    Nice ideas. Love this post. ♥

  9. Long January 19, 2012 at 1:33 PM

    I’m not crafty, but I am handy (does that make sense? : P). When we first bought our house and were remodeling our master bedroom, I refinished the closet doors myself instead of buying new doors. They were that standard old school brass color. I took them apart, sanded them, and repainted them with a more modern color to match our walls and decor. Looks great! A cheap and easy fix…saved hundreds of dollars on closet doors that are still functional (especially since they are very large – they span floor to ceiling).

    I also refinished our linen closet myself as well. A little bit time consuming, but it was well worth it. Great article. More people should refinish and repurpose things instead of replacing or throwing it away. Not only does it save money, but it’s environmentally friendly as well.

  10. Nick January 19, 2012 at 3:21 PM

    I have friends who swear by resoling shoes, too. For some reason I haven’t done that, but I keep telling myself to do it. I do buy pretty cheap shoes, but apparently it’s really cheap to just put a new sole on.

  11. abby January 19, 2012 at 4:53 PM

    I really want to know how you turned an old snowboard into a bench!?! As a former avid rider, I have several snowboards that are sitting in my closet driving my husband crazy! I’m a new mom so if/when I get back to snowboarding I will only be needing my favorite board!

  12. Adria Saracino January 19, 2012 at 5:09 PM

    Thank you everyone for your lovely comments!

    @Michelle – I am glad you like them. My favorite is the cork board. I absolutely love the rustic look of cork.

    @LB – That would be amazing for a backsplash! I wonder how intensive that would be individually laying each piece? I know my sister was complaining about using glass tile, so be prepared for one hell of a project! :)

    @Average Joe – So many refurbishing projects are inexpensive. You could reuse just about anything, from old tomato sauce cans for centerpieces to paper towel rolls as a means of weaving cords through and prevent tangles.

    @WR – Would love to see the mirror collage!

    @smartassetteam – reusing plastic bags is not excessive at all! I do the same a lot of times! I also use those reusable sandwich bags for lunches and things.

    @Edward – That is amazing! I’m not much of a biker myself so hard to envision…is this instead of a seat?

    @Weirdo – Love that idea for a wedding gift! I collect wine corks and keep them in a huge vase on my mantle. It’s a great aesthetic addition and conversation starter! And I wish I could say I didn’t collect all those corks…. :)

    @Michaela – thank you!

    @Long – wow I’m impressed! Another example of a great way to save money with home improvement is refurbishing cabinets similar to how you did your doors. By just sanding, repainting, and adding new hardware you can completely transform them!

    @Nick – I completely agree this is a great idea. I unfortunately am hard on shoes, and sometimes wear them out beyond repair, so just make sure to talk to a shoe repairman about the options before you wear your shoes into the ground!

    @Abby – I have a confession to make, my boyfriend at the time did a lot of the grunt work on that specific project because it required some more advanced tools. But here are some examples of what they can look like (these are for sale, but it will give you an idea):

    Mine looks most like the last one, but some of those are insanely cool. Hope this helps!

  13. Serena January 19, 2012 at 5:39 PM

    I really love this article for several reasons:

    1. People are so in-the-dark about the awesome stuff that you can find second-hand and/or free.

    2. It’s a misconception that only poor or cheap people reuse or recycle stuff. In fact, I like to believe that creative and consumer-conscious people are included in that bunch.

    3. It reminds people to make do with what they have, instead of rushing to buy new.

    One year ago my husband and I bought this house (see my blog link), and going from am 1,100-sq ft condo to a single family home of over 3,000, there’s no way in HELL we can furnish this with brand new stuff! I’ve been a lover of all things used and thrifty, so it just made sense to continue in that manner. And you wouldn’t believe the stuff I have found!! I have found an awesome drafting table (which I think it actually worth over $300!) at the thrift store for $5.00…….a handmade star mirror for $5.00…….a coffee table for $5.00… son’s dresser for $25……..a cool chair at a yard sale for $25 that I reupholstered….my two crafting room desks for FREE. Seriously, there’s a lot of good stuff out there for next to nothing, and there’s nothing that I love more than to brag to anybody and everybody about my thrift store scores!!! :) I have even started trying to find good stuff that I can resell on Craigslist or eBay.

    P.S. My husband HATES that I brag about it so much–he worries what people will think of us. Phff! Yeah, but look at all the cool stuff I have found!

  14. Serena January 19, 2012 at 5:40 PM

    OOps, sorry, the drafting table was $30.00, not $5.00….but the sweet thing is that I think it’s vintage and worth some serious cash! :)

  15. C The Writer January 19, 2012 at 5:53 PM

    I love this idea! I love the lamp and tile and corkboard ideas. I shall have to try them sometime.

  16. Leslie January 19, 2012 at 11:44 PM

    The lampshade is awesome! I wish we still had some film to re-purpose to make one…

    I bet it makes really cool shadows.

  17. Andrew from FabulousSavings January 20, 2012 at 11:55 AM

    That wine cork board is actually incredibly clever. I’m going to have to start keeping mine. Great post!

  18. Adria Saracino January 20, 2012 at 12:58 PM

    @Serena – Love your blog! I particularly like your new Thrift Store Thursdays column :) I am happy that you are putting the refurbishing concepts to great use – just look at that gorgeous light fixture you painted!!

    @C The Writer – If you’re feeling particularly handy, you could also apply the tile concept to a new walkway in a garden!! Let me know if you end up trying any of this or have questions!

    @Leslie – I am sure it does! The lamp would be a great addition to a room that has a pop-art, 50’s them, no?

    @Andrew – I will say, it can take a while to collect wine corks if you don’t drink wine regularly (hey you might be like me and not have that problem :) but I know places like Whole Foods collects them, so I am sure you can grab some from there!

  19. J. Money January 20, 2012 at 8:21 PM

    Woo! Guest poster interacting with our sexy readers — thanks Adria!
    And to all my sexy readers – have fabulous weekend! :)

  20. Slackerjo January 21, 2012 at 12:13 PM

    I make shelves from busted furniture I get from the garbage. I live in a 1 bedroom apartment and have installed 40 shelves. Yes, 40. It’s a bit of an obssession. Most of the shelves (33) are in the living room and bedroom. The only purchased shelves are 4 glass shelves I bought over 10 years ago. I made a video for a contest on Get Rich Slowly about how shelving saves me money and you can see it here:

  21. J. Money January 21, 2012 at 8:44 PM

    Hahhaa… GREAT video! I esp like how beer drinking is your leisure activity ;) smooth work on those shelves too, I dig ’em. but more importantly, did you win the contest???

  22. Slackerjo January 22, 2012 at 8:11 AM

    I won JDs book. But it was all about the shelving! The guy who won built his own house. It’s pretty impressive.

    Bo the Sock Monkey can’t drive so he drinks the beer and I do the driving!

  23. frugalportland January 23, 2012 at 3:56 PM

    great suggestions~ Goodwill is my thrift store of choice!

  24. J. Money January 23, 2012 at 7:21 PM

    @Slackerjo – Oh wow, one of my dreams is to build my own sustainable house! I have no idea how to do that exactly, haha, but it’s still a dream of mine ;) Tell Sock Monkey I say what up! I’m currently downing a Blue Moon as I type…
    @frugalportland – Oh yeah, love that place! Was actually at The Salvation Army today ;)

  25. Lindsay January 30, 2012 at 5:38 PM

    Fun ideas! I love how this is not only a great way to save money, but also a great way to surround yourself with fun, “new” stuff when the feeling strikes you to spend money.

    One thing I do often is rearrange my furniture and clean out my closets. It definitely helps me feel like I’m in a completely new space without spending any money – and sometimes you can actually MAKE money on the stuff you’re clearing out.

    Thanks for the article.

  26. J. Money January 30, 2012 at 6:27 PM

    Haha, yeah! I do the re-arranging thing all the time :) The room I’m sitting in right now has been changed 3 times in the past month already! Def. feels newer, thanks for bringing it up!