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Five Ways to Up-Cycle Second Hand Items

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by Sue W (subscribe)
Lover of exploring, family, food and fun!
Published April 30th 2020
Get creative this weekend
Do you love to up-cycle items and create beautiful projects, from second hand items or what others see as "rubbish"? It is rewarding to stand back and look at something that you have made, knowing that it cost you very little and you have prevented it from going to landfill.

I have previously written articles about ways to up-cycle items around your home, such as Moccona coffee jars, egg cartons, milk containers, glass jars and other basic items. The following ideas below, are larger projects that I have done around the home, which have up-cycled second-hand items found at op shops, tip shops, or from council clean-ups. Once you start scouring your local second-hand shop for a project to make, you soon get inspired.

Be warned - once you start, it's hard to stop!

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Buy cheap, wooden bowls and give them a make-over!


1/ Wooden Bowls

If you look around your local op shop, you are sure to find wooden bowls, platters or plates which were popular in the 1970s. My local op shop charges $1 a plate, so it has become a hobby of mine to paint them up and give them as presents. All you need to do is sand off the existing varnish, give them a coat of primer (find one with a "stain blocker" in case the previous stain leaks through), then paint with acrylic paints. To finish, give them a coat of waterproof lacquer, so they don't get ruined if they accidentally get wet. This is a cheap and fun project to make with the kids, on your next rainy day.

2/ Jewellery Boxes

Everything looks better with a lick of paint, so if you find some wooden jewellery boxes or trinket holders made out of wood, they look great with a bright coat of paint. These heart boxes below were at my local tip shop for $2 each - and then we saw them in the Bunnings craft aisle for $19.95! If you buy some colourful acrylic paints from the local bargain shop, it is a cheap way to jazz up something for your home.

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Look for jewellery or trinket boxes that you can up-cycle with just a coat of paint


3/ Wooden Furniture

Most op shops and tip shops have a second-hand furniture area, with cheap items which you can do up for your home. You will need to inspect them for broken pieces, however, if you have a drill and a handy person in your family, most things can be repaired. This cod chair set below cost $25 and needed some repair, however, it came up as good as new with a lot of sanding and just two coats of stain. Up-cycling saves money, is fun to do and the result is very rewarding. We love sitting on these chairs, knowing that we restored them to their former glory.

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Stain wooden furniture to give them a new lease of life


4/ Recycled Wood

Wood is an ideal item to up-cycle, as there is so much you can do with it and it doesn't take much effort to improve how it looks. This piece of wood below, was found on the side of the road for a council clean-up. It was already in good condition, it just needed a sand, some stain and two brackets and we turned it into a table near the clothesline, to put our washing basket on. The peg box was also made from recycled decking wood, picked up from the same council clean-up. For the cost of two brackets, stain and nails, we solved a problem around our home.

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Solve problems around your home with second hand, recycled wood


5/ Clothes

Clothes are another item that you can pick up cheaply, then up-cycle into something else. If you like a particular print on a fabric, or a particular colour, the fabric can be used for a wide variety of end uses. Pretty sarongs can become table cloths, dresses can become skirts, embroidered logos can be sewn onto bags, jeans can become shorts - the ideas are endless. In this project below, I cut off the embroidery border off a silk skirt and turned it into a scarf.

These are just some ideas to get you started, if you want to begin a new project this weekend. You also don't need to go to an op shop to find items to up-cycle, you can upgrade items you already have around your own home. Why not up-cycle a tired-looking bedside table, a dress you don't wear anymore or a garden bench that is wobbly to sit on.

With so many ideas - what project will you start this weekend?


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Take a look in your wardrobe and up-cycle something you don't wear anymore!

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Why? Save money and have fun!
When: All year around
Where: Buy from op shops, tip shops or up-cycle something from around your home
Cost: Cheap!
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