Repurpose Your Life


People no longer snicker when they learn your latest find was something you picked up at the local thrift store. In fact, thrifting, gifting, swapping, or repurposing (or reusing) your gently used (and sometimes barely hanging on) clothing, books, and other personal items can save you money, and keep a little more green in your pocket.

This hobby is not new to our hippy and hipster era. In the 80’s, a favorite pastime was “thrifting,” which involved shopping at second-hand stores, garage sales, flea markets, etc. in search of that vintage or unusual find. My passion was clothing and I found so many beautiful dresses fit for a princess attending a ball, which I bought, and of course had nowhere to wear.

The items we searched for were not new, and we could actually get a vintage item for a vintage price. Just try doing that now. Many of those types of items cost more than newly made clothes today. Thrift Score, a term used to describe finding the “diamond in the rough,” which could bring a day of thrifting to an end leaving you feeling victor of the day, is also the title of a once popular zine published in the early 90’s and written by veteran thrifter Al Hoff. It was the “bible” for any wanna-be thrifter, and although many of the stores listed in the book may no longer exist, it still is a great resource for today’s thrifter. Another book to consider reading is Thrifting into a Debt-Free, Carefree Lifestyle, which assists us in surviving the challenging financial times we are now experiencing.

A glance around our homes likely reveals many items that we once used repeatedly, but as our lifestyles changed due to marriage, children, etc., these “fabulous favorites” are used less frequently, or sometimes not at all. The old is not necessarily trash, but it is no longer treasured and can serve a better purpose being used by another. When I learned of the Freecycle™ Network, a private, non-profit, founded in Arizona in 2003 by Deron Beal, I thought, “you’ve got to be kidding.” The word that stuck out to me was “FREE.” I like that word, but sometimes FREE doesn’t always translate to value. I decided to join my local network and the emails started coming. “Yes, yes, yes….” It was FREE, all of it! I have seen couches, entertainment centers, razor telephones and more being offered. It is not a free for all, but as stated, a network of people. While nurturing a community of givers, they are also promoting environmental sustainability and reuse. Now with a network of millions in more than 75 countries, there should be a network near you. If not, then you can always start one.

My multiple magazine subscriptions have been reduced to one because that is one of my green efforts, but I still enjoy sitting in a comfortable chair and flipping through the pages. Believe it or not, all of my time isn’t spent in front of a computer screen. I also get my news online, but have not been able to grasp reading a book while sitting in front of a computer. For those of you who, like me, have difficulty letting go of holding the book in your hand, then PaperBackSwap is an option for you. You can get the book you want to read now, and trade it back later for another desired read. Looking for a hard to find book? You just might find it there.

If you reuse yogurt containers as planters, glass jars as pencil holders, old toothbrushes as cleaning tools, or do composting, then you already have an understanding of the concept of repurposing. When you think about it, unless an item is hazardous, it can probably be repurposed. This is where your creative juices start flowing because you try to think of ways to repurpose an item before throwing it away.

Having children has made me figure out ways to repurpose just about everything. It doesn’t do well for maintaining a clutter-free home, but has saved me a few dollars because I don’t have to buy a new item when something I already have can be given new life. Since we have been recycling, items get “reviewed” before heading to the recycling container because a lot of things we have saved have been used in art projects as well as storage containers. I absolutely love strawberries and have been saving the plastic containers to use for storing craft supplies, small toys, and other items. When I saw these pillowcase dresses, I thought they were a great repurposing idea. Make a fashion and green statement with mother/daughter matching pillowcase dresses.

Just as the earth rotates, do the same with your no longer used items. Gift them, swap them, and repurpose them, around and around and around.

Additional Resources:
Frugal and Thrifty
Frugal Hacks
The Thrift Shopper

Swap Tree
U and I Trade

To laugh, learn, and live more green and natural, visit Jennifer at Little Green Secrets where she shares the country living adventures she has with her children in child’s play and enjoy delicious vegetarian food that will make your mouth water.

An original post written for 5 Minutes for Going Green.

5 Responses to Repurpose Your Life
  1. Matt Wilbourn
    July 23, 2008 | 11:50 pm

    I wanted to say thank you for adding us as a resource to your article!

    I love the use of the word repurpose. Just because we cant use it any more doesn’t me someone else cant.

    Once again thank you!

  2. Jennifer (Little Green Secrets)
    July 24, 2008 | 12:21 am

    Mr. Wilbourn,

    Thank you for your comment. I appreciate companys like U and I Trade. Keep up the good work. Now, if only you can help me let go of some of my “stuff.”

  3. Jennifer (Little Green Secrets)
    July 24, 2008 | 12:53 am

    You’ll get to know me more and more. I had to make the “edit” – companies! I feel so much better. That is why you have to be more careful about making comments so late in the evening.

  4. Hans Ortega
    January 8, 2009 | 10:27 pm

    good luck

  5. Lindsay Garrett
    January 10, 2009 | 11:14 am

    good luck