Mason jars are still pretty trendy to use around the home right now. And even if you think going to your neighborhood beer shop and sipping a local craft microbrew from a mason jar is the most pretentious thing in the world (certainly I have never done such a thing, especially not every Friday around noon with friends, nope), the truth is, you probably have a few hanging around your home; leftover gifts or an inheritance from grandparents. Are your mason jars sitting around, sad and unused? Let’s fix that! What can we use them for?
Canning. Mason jars were designed for, and thus are perfect for, home canning of fruits and vegetables. If you’ve never canned before, you’re in luck, as we live in an era where learning how to can is as simple as getting a starter kit for under $15 and using books, the internet, or friends as a learning tool. You don’t have to store a whole winter’s worth of food, either—a couple of jars of homemade jam is a wonderful treat or gift.
Drinking glasses. If you have a bunch of jars sitting around but you’re short on drinking glasses, why not just drink out of a jar? This idea is so trendy that stores even sell plastic “mason jars” complete with handles and straws, often in their summer-items sections. But if you already have some jars sitting around, no need to buy a cheap imitation—use what you have!
Flower vases. I never really use flowers to decorate, so I don’t actually own any flower vases. However, when my preschooler comes home with a fistful of dandelions or wildflowers for me, I feel obliged to stick them in water and display them for a few days. Mason jars fill this role nicely!
“Stuff” holders. Need a quick holder to shove all your pens and pencils into? Found a ton of buttons you use for crafts that need a home? Mason jars are clear and perfect for being able to see what’s stored inside. The glass is also fairly thick so they are less breakable than they seem!
How else do you use mason jars around your home?
My daughter loves to do art. Painting, gluing, drawing, coloring, it doesn’t matter, if it is a creative sort of activity she is all over it. The thing is, art supplies can get crazy expensive at the rate she blows throw them! If I were buying scrapbook and other art materials every week to replenish the supplies she uses, I’d be broke before any of our essential bills got deducted out of our bank account! Anyway, because of that I’ve taken to using things around the house that aren’t necessarily earmarked as traditional art supplies to keep our art cabinets well-stocked. Some of what we use are:
Toilet Paper Rolls. These can be turned into anything from binoculars to telescopes to wheels or even small animals. They can be painted, colored, cut up… the possibilities are endless!
Cereal boxes. Instead of banishing these to the recycle bin, we cut them up. The front and back make for a good sized canvas that’s stronger than paper, so it can hold up to gluing and paint better than plain scrap paper will.
Pasta. Macaroni and other shaped pasta has long been a standby in kid’s art. Large pasta with holes can be strung on yarn to make necklaces and bracelets. Older kids can glue colored pasta onto paper in patterns or pictures.
Old marker caps. Have a bunch of dried-up markers you’re about to throw away? My daughter picked through a pile destined for the trash when I wasn’t looking and started gluing the colorful caps onto her pictures. Since then I’ve saved the caps and tossed them in her “stuff to glue” art bins. I just make sure to keep them out of reach of her 1 year old brother, since they are a choking hazard to younger kids!
Fabric scraps. Are you a crafty person yourself? Do you have a bunch of fabric scraps sitting around? Cut some up into smaller bits and let your children use them in their art. It’s a fun way to add a little texture and color to other art supplies.
What else have your kids used in their masterpieces?
I live with a pack rat. At first I have to admit that this really annoyed me. I was of the opinion that if I wasn’t using it, it could go in the trash or be donated. There was never a reason to keep old junk. Now, years after opening my heart and my closet space I have learned that my spouse’s pack rat tendencies are useful and often save the day as well as save us money.
We have two boxes of old cords. They come from all walks of life. We have gaming console cords, phone charging cords, extension cords, and power strips all taking up room in our closet. There are cords that are for modems and cords that are from computers and laptops long gone. Let’s not forget the many keyboards and computer mice.
At first this collection of wires resembled a writhing nest of really skinny snakes, and I treated them as such. Over time however, I have learned to appreciate these life saving and money saving tools. The extension cords and the power strips have been been great in the kitchen. This past week our fridge wasn’t getting power from its regular outlet and we were able to reach another outlet by use of extension cord, thus saving a week’s worth of groceries. It’s particularly good because maintenance still hasn’t been able to fit us in.
My spouse is like a child that has found a puppy and brought it home asking if we can keep it. The only difference is he brings home things like a truck’s mudflap, an unused mattress a friend was getting rid of, and car seats. Not the child seats. The bucket seats that come out of vehicles. In short, he brings home things that make me look at him sideways and wonder what he was thinking.
I have been wrong about these acquisitions as well. The car seats were welcome additions when we had just started out as happy, broke newlyweds. The mudflap is currently our door mat and works great as such. And the mattress actually fits our toddler bed. No need to buy another one.
The scary thing about my husband’s pack rat ways is how they have affected me. Lately when I look at things I am throwing out I don’t see as much trash. Instead I see potential.
What have you found useful around your home?
I don’t like to throw too many things away. I am finding more and more uses for things that I would earlier in my life discarded as useless. In the spirit of frugality these items have found new lives in my crafting.
Blankets, curtains, sheets, and towels that are past their usefulness make a great replacement for crafting fabric. Old pillows can be opened and the filling can be used to stuff something else. An old worn quilt can be used in place of the batting for a new quilt.
One of the things that I loved doing the most to a favorite dress I couldn’t wear anymore was to take a seam ripper to it. I would take out all the seams and then use the resulting pieces as a pattern to make a new dress. What I loved most was I knew I would get a comfortable fit, but the dress would be in a new color or pattern.
I also use socks to make anything from stuffed animals to cleaning supplies. I use old pantyhose to make soft balls and rackets for indoor games of tennis for rainy days.
I used to think that I had to buy art supplies like chalk, play dough, paint, or crayons. I have since learned that I can make these items in my own kitchen using things like cornstarch, salt, water, and flour. It’s less expensive for me because I can make these supplies in bulk for what it would cost to make two or three cakes, they last for quite a while. and I know that they aren’t toxic to my children.
Junk Mail And Trash Items
Paper mache is fun but I wouldn’t want to spend money on newspapers just to rip them up. I use old ad circulars that are sent to me through the mail. I also use wrapping paper and toilet paper tubes, tissue boxes, and shoe boxes. My toddler and I can make all sorts of creative crafts just by adding some construction paper, paint, or the dreaded glitter.
If, like me, you have saved up this stuff, but don’t know what to use it for be sure to check out ideas on the internet (hello Pinterest!) or in your local library. Some ideas I have come across have been great for my children. Others have been great for me to save money. The best ones have brought us together over a project.
What are your favorite recycled craft supplies?
I posted the other day on Facebook about an old twin bed I have. It’s the grossest, most stained, ripped, gross bed. There is no way I am putting a human on that bed. It’s just bad. However, I can’t get rid of it. This was the bed that was in my grandparents house for about 40 years. Every weekend I was over at their house, which was across the street from mine, and I slept on that bed. My grandparents were very special to me, so the thought of getting rid of it kills me, but it just sits in my garage getting older and only to be thought of instead of used.
When I asked the question of what should I do with it, I got two amazing answers. You may not be able to use the first one if you have an old bed that needs to be carried to the dump, but the second one you will for sure. Here are the two things I’ll be doing with my old twin bed.
1. Photoshoot! My kids never got to meet my wonderful grandparents. They never got to stay up late reading books on this twin bed. So to allow them memories of their own and seal mine permanently, we are dragging the bed to a field and doing a photoshoot with our kids. We are going to allow them to jump up and down, read a book and just look cute on it. Then every time I see that picture hanging up, I’ll remember my grandparents.
2. Christmas Wreath.
Once our photoshoot is over, I am going to toss the mattress, but strip the box spring until all that is left is the spring. Then I found this amazing board on Pinterest with nothing but ideas for box springs. I love the idea of a Christmas wreath because Christmas is a big deal in my house and having something from the bed will be extra special.
3. Photo holder.
This is another one I saw on Pinterest, but they simply took the springs, stapled them to an old piece of wood and stuck old pictures in them. I could put pictures of my grandparents in them since it’s the one thing I want to remember them with.
Always remember repurposing. There is always another use for most junk!