77 Things You Should Never Throw Out (and How to Reuse Them)

Updated: May 20, 2024

Wait! Before you toss these items in the trash or recycling bin, check out all of these clever ways you can repurpose them around your home.

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Foam Beverage Can Holders

How many times have you stubbed your toe on your metal bed frame? Here’s a creative way to protect your toes. Cover the bare metal leg and wheel with a foam beverage can holder. It’ll save your toes and prevent carpet dents and hardwood floor scratches to boot!

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Ice Trays

It might be time to upgrade the old coffee can filled with your lifetime collection of screws, washers and other hardware. Take 10 minutes to organize the miscellany in ice cube trays. Nail together a case from scrap plywood and carry it right to the job at hand.

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sock to clean window blinds
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The next time you need to clean your window blinds, slip an old sock on your hand! Your hand makes a perfect tool for reaching all the nooks and crannies on the blinds, and the sock picks up dust wonderfully.

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drill dock garage organization storage
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PVC Piping

There are countless ways to repurpose PVC piping, like these 56 brilliant ways to use PVC. Keep your drill(s) and accessories organized and close at hand to make your DIY projects run smoothly. By investing just two hours, you can build this wall-mounted drill dock to house everything you need. There’s a top shelf for accessories, a wider lower shelf for larger items such as battery packs, and the clever use of 3-inch PVC piping to hang holsters for different drill attachments. Here’s our guide to five must-have attachments.

The instructions for this drill dock include advice on how to customize it to fit your drill. You can even add a power strip to the bottom shelf to keep everything charged and ready to go. Besides basic tools, you’ll need a circular saw, a jigsaw and a clamp to complete this project.

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Milk Crates

If you don’t have cabinets or shelves in your tiny laundry room, buy inexpensive plastic crates at a discount store and create your own wall of cubbies. Screw them to the wall studs using a fender washer in the upper corner of each crate for extra strength. The crates hold a lot of supplies, and they keep tippy things like your iron from falling over. Here are some more ideas for small space storage solutions.

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Wine Cork Caulk Saver

Keeping around a few extra wine corks is a good idea in case you accidentally throw one away. But they also work for other purposes. Synthetic wine corks are great for sealing partially used tubes of caulk. Drill a 5/16-in. hole into the cork about 1 in. deep. The cork fits perfectly and makes an airtight seal.

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Coffee Container

Lugging a heavy bag of de-icer out to the sidewalk is no fun, and it’s tough to spread de-icer evenly with a shovel or cup. You get a clump in one spot and none in another, so you’re wasting time and de-icer. Here’s a great solution: Make a “sidewalk salt shaker” from a big plastic coffee container with a handle. Poke 1/4-in. holes in the lid and fill it with sand, cat litter, de-icer, or a mix of whatever you want and shake away. If you’re looking to live a more sustainable life but don’t know where to start, consider taking up the Plastic Free July challenge!

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vacuum cleaner gift wrap tube extension handy hints

Paper Tubes

There are several uses for paper tubes, from cord storage to making your vacuum reach more places. To make it easier to clean hard-to-reach spots with your vacuum wand, use a leftover wrapping paper tube as a vacuum cleaner extension. A long cardboard tube can get you as much as three extra feel, making it way easier to reach dusty ceiling fans and cobwebbed corners.

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Old toothbrushes are great at cleaning tough-to-reach spots. Now that discount and dollar stores carry cheap electric toothbrushes, you can add a modern twist to routine cleaning. Rapid vibration will quickly scrub out stubborn dirt, while the long handle can get to hard-to-reach places without all the elbow grease.

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tennis ball bottle opener

Tennis Balls

A tennis ball can help open a bottle or become a mallet in a pinch.

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milk jug scoop for pet foot
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Milk Jugs

You don’t need to save all your milk jugs, but having a few extra around can be a real blessing. Any jug with a handle can be repurposed into a handy scooping tool.

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filling grass seed broadcaster

Clamshell Containers

Clamshell containers are great for repurposing and for holding cookies. When it’s time to clean out the refrigerator, be sure to save those plastic berry containers. You can toss the mushy raspberries, but wash and dry the container — it’s perfect for spreading grass seed on your lawn!

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foam pipe insulation to babyproof a table
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Pipe Insulation

You can use foam pipe insulation to baby-proof your home.  Just cut the tube to length and slip it onto edges and corners that could be dangerous to a small child. The pressure of the curved foam will keep it in place for an easy-to-remove baby-proofing solution. Or, for a more permanent safety fix, use the adhesive strip to hold the insulation in place.

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Wine Bottle

Wine bottles are getting used by DIYers for all sorts of projects these days. If you’re up for cutting glass, try using empty wine bottles as planters. You’ll need to cut either the side or the top of the bottle, depending on the look you’re going for.

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Gutter Garden

Gutters can be used as part of creative outdoor water features. In the picture above, gutters have been mounted on a wall for a hydroponic garden. Check out nine other uses for gutters that aren’t on the roof.

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Who says practical storage can’t be pretty? This DIY Knife Block, made from old books, is a cinch to make. Simply pick some unique books in your favorite color scheme and tie them together tightly with twine to create the perfect home for all your kitchen knives. You can even create different color schemes based on the seasons and holidays, making this a versatile hack and a way to utilize old books.

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DIYSpiceRackVideoStill curtain rod
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Curtain Rods

If you need extra storage space in an upper cabinet, reach for a curtain rod. Try a DIY spice storage rack that uses a spring-tension curtain rod.

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produce-bag bathtub toy storage
Brenda Porter-Rockwell

Mesh Produce Bag

One of your easiest and most eco-friendly options for toy storage is already in your refrigerator. Empty a mesh produce bag and toss in your child’s bath or beach toys. Attach a plastic hook and hang the bag of toys on the shower wall within easy reach. And if you need more room than what you can hold in a five-pound bag, buy a reusable mesh produce bag — another eco-friendly bag alternative to traditional toy storage.

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Save all your glass and plastic containers for your shop. Glass jars work well for liquids. Clean brushes in an old tin can. Brush on glue from small containers of all kinds. Sour cream/cottage cheese containers work for just about everything. Clear plastic containers are great for miscellaneous storage because you can see what’s in them. Just label everything with a permanent marker. What happens to plastic when you toss it into a recycling bin? Get to know the life cycle of plastic.

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Photo: Courtesy of A Piece of Rainbow
Courtesy of A Piece of Rainbow

Cardboard Boxes

Don’t go crazy collecting cardboard boxes because they can be big pieces of clutter, but keep some around for projects. This innovative, flexible shoe rack uses repurposed cardboard boxes that have been cut, folded and held into triangle shapes with colorful tape. Attach as many as you need for a fun and stylish shoe storage solution.

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repurpose old clothes dirty cloth cleaning rag

Old Clothing

Purchasing cotton rags for painting, cleaning or dusting projects can get expensive. Make your own rags for free using old T-shirts and other unused garments. A few minutes with a pair of scissors or a utility knife set up like this is all it takes to convert unwanted clothing into useful rags.

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raw reclaimed wood
Photo: DT10/Shutterstock

Used or Leftover Building Materials

Salvaging used or leftover building materials is a great way to save a few dollars. Visit a nearby construction site and speak to the project supervisor. Often they will let you dumpster dive for discarded materials. This is not only good for your wallet but also the environment, because it keeps junk out of the landfill. Plus, used materials often have a unique patina, which could add extra appeal to your project.

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Old Rake

Don’t throw away that old rake. When the handle breaks on your old rake, repurpose it for use as a rack to store your garden hand tools. It fits the gardening theme and keeps what you need in plain sight! Check out the best-reviewed garden hand tools you can get on Amazon.

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Electrical Box

Use an electrical box to keep screws, washers, nuts and bolts handy while you’re working up on a stepladder. Bolt the electrical box to the top of the platform. Everything you need is collected in one spot and nothing rolls away.

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Packing peanuts
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Packing Peanuts

Packing peanuts aren’t going into your curbside pickup container, but places like UPS and other shipping retailers will accept packing peanuts for recycling. Recycle packing peanuts at home for your garden needs.

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Laundry Jug Watering Can

Instead of throwing away empty laundry detergent containers, rinse them out thoroughly and then recycle them for watering plants. Drill 1/8-in. holes in the top of the cap, and a 1/2-in. hole just above the handle to relieve pressure so the water flows freely.

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Gardening Tool Hack

Don’t throw away the plastic pots from potted plants. With a rope handle attached, they make great weed buckets to carry with you as you tend the flower beds or vegetable garden.

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Pull tab picture frame hook
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Pop Tops

If you’re hanging pictures and run out of those sawtooth hangers, grab the nearest pop can. Bend the pull tab back and forth until it breaks off. Then screw it to your picture frame. Bend the free end out slightly and hang the picture.

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sneaker to clean sandpaper

Old Sneaker

Make sandpaper nearly new again with a lowly old sneaker. Power up your power sander and dust collection system (and remember to put on your hearing and eye protection). Then slowly press the rubber sole of an old sneaker along the sandpaper — you’ll see a difference instantly!

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bread tabs labeling cords

Bread Tabs

Not sure which cord goes with which electronic device plugged into your power strip? Save yourself the hassle of following the cord from the plugin to the device for each item you need to move by labeling them. Plastic bread tabs are perfect for labeling cords that are plugged into a power strip because they’re sturdy, have enough room to write on and can easily clip around the plugin end of a cord. Plus, they often come in different colors. You’ll be able to easily identify and move your electrical devices.

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pie plate dust pan

Pie Plate

Create a quick disposable dustpan out of an aluminum pie plate. Use tin snips or heavy-duty scissors to cut the pie plate in half. Sweep up the mess and toss it in the trash!

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placing water bottle in tin can holder

Tin Can

Keep cold water within reach when mowing the lawn on hot days. Simply attach an empty (and clean) tin can to the handle of your walk-behind mower using zip ties. Be sure to select a can large enough to fit your water bottle!

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egg carton painting props

Egg Cartons

Keep a few empty egg cartons with the rest of your painting supplies. They’re great for lifting a small project off of a work surface, making it easier to paint nooks and crannies and along the base of the project.

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frog tape to move furniture

Tape Containers

Don’t have any furniture glides on hand when you need to move a piece of heavy furniture by yourself? Dig into your painting supplies and slip the base of a FrogTape container under each leg on the furniture piece. It’ll then slide smoothly across the floor.

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wine box shoe storage container
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Wine Box Shoe Storage

Find a free shoe storage container at almost any store that sells wine. Originally designed to protect glass bottles, a wine box is perfect for organizing shoes as well because it comes with cardboard dividers already in place!

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Easy-on-the-hands bucket handles
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Garden Hose

If you have old buckets with broken plastic handles, retrofit the buckets with new handles made from an old garden hose. Cut short lengths of hose, slit each one with a utility knife and slide them over the handles. If you can remove one side of the wire handle, just slide the hose grip on without splitting it. The handles work great and keep those buckets on the job!

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Old Gloves

Don’t throw out your old work gloves. Cut the fingers off and you’ll find lots of uses for them. Use them to protect the tips of chisels when you need to carry them. They’re also good for softening the grip of pliers and many other applications. Have you heard about these vegan leather work gloves?

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Bucket-lid cord reel 5 gallon bucket

Bucket Lids

Make this handy cord reel using extra bucket lids. Cut a 5-in. length of 4×4 and then cut a groove in the side the same width as your cord. Fasten the lids to the 4×4 with 1/4 x 2-in. lag screws. Make handles from an old 1-1/8 in. diameter broom handle and drill a 1/2-in. hole through the center. Fasten the crank to the lid with bolts, nuts and washers, and apply Loctite sealant to the end nut. Fasten the handle to the 4×4 through the lid with a 6-1/2 in. lag screw. Just insert your cord and reel it in.

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Safe cord storage bungee cord
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Three-Ring Binder Spine

To store elastic cords safely and neatly, pull out the spine of an old three-ring binder. Punch out the rivets and screw the spine to the garage wall. The rings are the perfect spot to hang cords without dangerous tension.

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Painter’s Plastic

After thoroughly washing and air-drying my brushes, wrap them with the same painter’s plastic that you use to mask off trim and protect the floors. The tape on the edge sticks to the metal ferrule, and the plastic is the perfect length to cover the bristles and help maintain their shape.

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Coffee bag twist ties
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Coffee Bag Ties

Small bags of fancy coffee have heavy-duty ties to keep them airtight. The ties are handy for securing small coils of electrical cable and rope. They’re usually fastened to the bag with just a dab of glue, making them pretty easy to pull off.

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oil change trough for mower

Cereal Box

Make changing the oil in your lawnmower, snowblower and outdoor machines less messy with this handy hint: Cut off a piece of an empty cereal box and fold it into a trough. Then tip the machine and use the trough to guide the oil into the waste pan. The glossy coating on the cereal box keeps the oil from soaking through.

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Coffee Carry-All

You can reuse those takeout coffee four-pack cartons. They’re made of stiff cardboard and offer 3-1/2-in. wide square bins for jumbo plastic drinking cups. They’re handy storage spots for nails, screws and other small stuff. Here are more workshop storage ideas.

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to-go coffee cut watering can

To-Go Coffee Cup

Use a clean to-go coffee cup with a lid to water plants. The hole in the lid is small, so water pours slowly. It’s especially useful for plants such as aloe vera and cacti, which don’t require much water and are at risk of overwatering.

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medicine bottle to store fasteners

Rx Bottle

Repurpose your empty medicine bottles to store fasteners such as nails, screws, washers, etc. Remove the original label so you can clearly see the contents inside.

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Tissue Box

An empty rectangular tissue box makes a convenient holder for small garbage bags, plastic grocery bags and small rags. Simply thumbtack it to the inside of a cabinet door. It’s one of our favorite kitchen storage ideas.

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Peanut Butter Jars

Plastic peanut butter jars work better for storage than glass baby food jars because they hold a lot more hardware and won’t break into shards if you drop one. Attach the lids of 28-oz. jars under a shelf with two screws (so the lid can’t spin when you loosen the jar) and screw on the loaded jar. For quick access, cut away half of a 64-oz. peanut butter jar with a sharp utility knife, leaving the neck intact, then attach the lid and jar to the side of a cabinet. If you load it with lemon drops, we won’t tell. Here are more workshop organization tips.

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Bubble Wrap®

Bubble Wrap® can help prevent blisters by placing some on the handle of a rake or a broom. Find out if bubble wrap is recyclable. Also, discover the best rakes for dealing with leaves and how to make yard work easier.

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Golf Tee Paint Helpers
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Golf Tees

When you’re painting or varnishing small projects, it’s best to elevate them for good coverage and to keep your project from sticking to the worktable. Use an old piece of pegboard and some golf tees. The pegboard keeps the tees in place, and then you can arrange them as necessary for different size projects.

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bike tube for wheelbarrow handles

Bike Inner Tubes

Make lifting heavy loads with your wheelbarrow a little more pleasant by adding these cushioned hand grips. Reuse an old rubber bike tube by cutting pieces to fit over the wheelbarrow handles. If needed, use a hair dryer to warm up the rubber and make it easier to stretch. The bike tube provides the perfect amount of padding and traction. Plus: Build your own garden cart with these plans.

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grated cheese grass seed spreader

Grated Cheese Container

Reuse your grated cheese container to shake grass seed on bare spots in your lawn. The holes in the container are the perfect size for dispensing just the right amount without overdoing it. Plus: More handy hints for frugal homeowners.

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Rubber Chair Leg Cap

A rubber chair leg cap instantly converts a hammer into a rubber mallet. And if you want to drive a nail without denting the surrounding wood, cut a hole in the rubber cap. Pound until the rubber strikes wood, then finish driving the nail with a nail set. A 1-1/8 in. rubber cap fits tightly over most hammers and costs about $1 at home centers and hardware stores.

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Garment Bag

To make wrapping presents easier, use a clear garment bag as a portable gift wrap organizer. It’s great for storing all your ribbons, bows, tape and scissors — all clearly visible and grouped together. Just hang the bag in the closet until you need it, and you can carry the whole shebang to the dining room table whenever you have a big wrapping project.

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Spray Paint Organizer

Don’t throw away that old shoe caddy! Instead, screw the shoe caddy to one of the walls in your garage and use it to store your spray paint cans. The clear storage makes it easy to quickly pick out the color you want.

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No-Slide Knee Pads

Knee pads that slip down your shins every time you stand up are a huge nuisance. Avoid the slide by strapping on a pair of hockey or baseball catcher’s shin guards instead. You get comfortable knee pads that stay put, and shin protection, too. You can try a secondhand sports store or get a new pair for about $30 online.

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garden tool mailbox hideaway storage
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A mailbox hidden behind shrubs near your garden provides a convenient home for tools. Use an old mailbox or find one like this at a home center. A small mailbox like this one costs less than $20 at hardware stores and home centers. King-size models cost about $35.

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Wire Mesh Fence

Moving leaves in a wheelbarrow is no fun. A couple of good bounces and your leaves are all over the ground again. To solve this issue, take a 4-ft. piece of wire mesh fence and bend it around the top and sides of my wheelbarrow. Now you can load the wheelbarrow full of leaves and have them stay put as Iyouwheel them to the compost pile.

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Key Ring

Occasionally, your utility knife can get stuck inside the narrow pockets of a leather tool belt. To prevent this, install a key ring through the hole in the end of my utility knife. The ring also makes it easy to hang your utility knife on a nail in the workshop.

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You can cut and glue a piece of carpet to the bottom of your toolbox to protect surfaces like floors and countertops from scratches. The carpet also makes it easy to slide the toolbox around rather than having to pick it up just to move it a small distance.

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Appliance and Tool Manuals

Store your appliance and tool manuals in three-ring binders so you can find them when you need them. Insert labeled dividers to organize them for quick reference.

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Toothbrush Holder

Toothbrush holders make great, inexpensive holders for drill and driver bits. You can find them at discount stores and drugstores in the sample/travel section. Label the holders with a permanent marker and keep them in your drill tote or tool pouch.

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Instead of throwing away old aerosol can caps, save them to use as mixing containers for epoxy. Once the epoxy hardens, you can usually reuse the caps a couple times because the epoxy peels away from the slick surface. We’ve got 32 more handy hints for frugal homeowners.

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Tomato Cage

An inverted tomato cage makes a great drying rack for rollers, brushes, pads, rags and whatever is wet after painting cleanup. The stuff dries quickly outdoors, and there’s room for everything.

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CD Case

Use an old CD case to organize and store your seed packets. It works great to store them by seed type or even alphabetically. It’s a convenient reference to have for the following year. You can even write notes on the packets to remember which seed variety worked and which didn’t. Oh and, if you want, you can even recycle your CDs, DVDs and other discs.

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Broken Laundry Basket

Here’s a clever use for old, broken laundry baskets. Cut off the bottom with a razor knife to make an easy-to-clean drip pan for catching oil drips under your car or keeping greasy parts from wrecking your workbench. It’s a simple way to reuse something you’d normally just throw away.

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Floral Water Tubes

Here’s a clever way to get rid of twining briars and nuisance vines without damaging your shrubs. Buy a few floral water tubes (available at floral supply companies and nurseries) or just reuse the tubes that come with individual roses. Fill the floral tube with a little herbicide and replace the rubber cap to keep out pets and rain. Stick the tube in the ground and then stick the tip of the vine into the tube. The vine will “drink up” the weed killer down to its roots and die within a few days.

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Drill Box

When that power tool finally gives up the ghost, give its carrying case a second life by carefully cutting out the liner with a utility knife. The case can be recycled into a roadside car kit or travel toolbox or holder for just about anything you can cram in there!

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Floor Tiles

Using shelf liner to line drawers or shelves is expensive and a hassle. It’s easier and cheaper to use self-stick vinyl tiles. Cut the tiles to fit with a utility knife, then peel off the backing and stick them in place.

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Fence Post

Build an attractive birdhouse that will last for a lifetime, yet only takes a few minutes to build. All you need to create a welcoming home for wrens and other small birds is a short piece of a plastic fence post. Find out how to build this birdhouse with these complete plans.

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Twist Ties

Use tape or twist ties to attach spare blades to the frames of your hacksaw and coping saw. The next time a blade breaks or dulls, you won’t scratch your head trying to remember where you put the spares

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clothespin scriber
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Here’s a great way to scribe lines when you’re fitting countertops, cabinets and built-in furniture against irregular walls. Tape a pencil to a clothespin with the tip pointing away from the clothespin’s jaws. Wedge the jaws open with a chunk of wood until the pencil matches the widest gap between the workpiece and the wall. As you scribe, the flat side of the clothespin spaces the pencil point to exactly match the wall contour. Sand to the line for a perfect fit.

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hardware lasso
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Electrical Wire

To keep your hardware neat and accessible, thread nuts, washers, sockets and other items on short pieces of 12- or 14- gauge electrical wire, then hang them on a toolbox handle or a pegboard hook. Twist the ends of the wire into hook shapes that interlock for easy closing and opening.

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After waxing wood or leather, use a pair of pantyhose for that final buff. It will give your project that extra gleam and make the surface feel smoother.

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Golf Club Covers

A round of protection. To prevent your ladder from marring your home’s exterior, slip golf club covers on the ends of the ladder. It may also motivate you to get your household chores done and get you out on the links.

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If toddlers visit your home only occasionally, you don’t have to mar your cabinetry with a safety latch to make it childproof. Keep a set of drawers from being opened by sliding a yardstick through the handles. Now the kids are safe and you didn’t have to buy a special safety latch or get out your drill.

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The Family Handyman

Shelf Liner

Build your own push blocks and work with greater precision and safety when you’re routing, dadoing and planing workpieces. Apply shelf liner (the rubbery type) to a piece of 3/4-in. plywood with contact cement, then add a handle to maintain downward and forward pressure on the workpiece. Use two push blocks to keep uniform pressure while you’re moving longer workpieces through the router table.

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Stay-put balls
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Flowerpot Drip Pans

Screw flowerpot saucers to shelves so balls can’t roll off. Cheap plastic trays come in sizes to suit all kinds of balls.