10 Household Items You Should Never Discard

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Living Green

There are numerous ways to reuse office products in this image.
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The TV show “MacGyver” demonstrated that with just a paper clip, a C battery, some twist ties, and an empty toothpaste tube, you could do amazing things like repelling thugs, escaping from prison, and building a spacecraft. Although MacGyver may have been fictional, we can still make use of everyday items that we usually throw in the trash to solve household problems. Join us as we explore the world of recycling and repurposing to reveal the 10 items that you must absolutely never discard.

10: Binder Clips

Binder clips are robust and can be used to bundle cords together.
Photick/Sandro Di Carlo Darsa/Thinkstock

When decluttering your home office, hold on to your binder clips. They are the ultimate tool for creative solutions to household challenges, according to the life hacker community.

One side of the binder clip is flat, which allows it to stand up on its own, and its strength is well-known; anyone who has had a body part caught in a binder clip can testify to this. Here are a few of our favorite uses for them [source: Gordon]:

  • Minimalist wallet – use the clip to hold a folded bill and a credit card, and even attach a house key to the silver handle.
  • Picture “frames” – attach some clips to the wall, clip your favorite photos, and hang them from the nails.
  • Toothpaste helper – roll the bottom of the half-empty toothpaste tube and clip it to keep it in place.
  • Cable corral – attach some clips to the edge of your desk to hold the ends of unused USB, power, and audio cables.

9: Aluminum Foil

You can use aluminum foil to sharpen a knife, in addition to its conventional uses for storing and reheating food.

When Reynolds introduced aluminum foil in 1947, it was marketed as the foil for “1,001 kitchen miracles.” Foil has some unique metallic characteristics, such as moisture and odor resistance, as well as being able to tolerate extreme temperatures, and it can be shaped into any shape imaginable. Foil can also be washed, making it a material with multiple lives.

After using foil to wrap leftovers, rinse it and save it for one of these unexpected household uses [source: Stimpson]:

  • Pot scrubber: Create a ball using aluminum foil to easily remove stubborn grime from pots and pans. This method also works well on grease-caked grills.
  • Silver polisher: Dip tarnished silver in a glass pan of boiling water lined with aluminum foil and add two teaspoons of salt. A simple chemical reaction will dissolve the tarnish without damaging the silver.
  • No-fuss funnel: Make a cone out of a double layer of foil to quickly create a funnel.
  • Scissor sharpener: Cut through a sheet of aluminum foil to sharpen dull scissors.

8: Electronics

Old electronics can be recycled and donated to soldiers or those in need.
Lisa Quarfoth/Hemera/Thinkstock

In the world of technology, gadgets quickly become outdated. People often accumulate old electronics that collect dust in their basements. However, recycling these electronics can have a significant positive impact [source Environmental Protection Agency]:

  • Recycling 1 million laptops saves as much electricity as 3,500 American homes use in a year.
  • Recycling 1 million cell phones saves 35,000 pounds (15,876 kilograms) of copper, 772 pounds (350 kilograms) of silver, 75 pounds (34 kilograms) of gold, and 33 pounds (15 kilograms) of palladium.

Find local retailers who accept old electronics on the EPA donation and recycling website. Charitable organizations like Cell Phones for Soldiers, Hope Phones, and Music and Memory will take old electronics and put them in the hands of those who can use them. Music and Memory, for example, gives old iPods and MP3 players to dementia patients.

7: Wine Corks

Wine corks can be used to create DIY projects, such as a bulletin board.

Don’t throw away wine corks – save them for DIY projects. Use them to create a simple bulletin board by gluing them in an eye-catching pattern on a backing board or within a colorful frame. Slice corks in half lengthwise and hot glue the flat sides to a sheet of shelf paper to create a cork bath mat. Even with just a handful of corks, there are still creative options, such as making a floatable keychain by twisting a loop screw into a cork or using thin slices of cork to make cabinet doors slam-proof.

6: Squeeze Bottles

Plastic squeeze bottles are not just limited to fancy restaurant kitchens. They are a versatile tool that can be used in your home kitchen as well. Chefs use them to add flavor or color to their dishes and you can use them to make pancakes without the mess. Simply fill an empty ketchup bottle with pancake batter and squirt out perfectly sized portions. You can also fill old salad dressing bottles with your own vinaigrette or wash out a Sriracha bottle and fill it with homemade Magic Shell ice cream topping. Recycling old squeeze bottles has never been so useful!

5: Plastic Grocery Bags

Single-use plastic grocery bags are an environmental nightmare. They contribute to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and cause harm to marine life. Most municipal recycling programs do not accept plastic grocery bags, but grocery stores will take back used bags. Instead of throwing them away, you can reuse them at home. They can be used as stuffing for a pet pillow, protective packaging for fragile items, and makeshift gloves for cleaning. If you’re creative, you can even make raincoats, yarn, and reusable grocery totes out of them.

4: Eyeglasses

Millions of adults and children in developing countries do not have access to prescription eyeglasses, which can hinder their education and employment opportunities. Fortunately, there are charitable organizations, such as Lions Club International, that accept donations of used glasses. These organizations sort the glasses by prescription and distribute them to people who cannot afford them. You can donate your used glasses by mailing them to one of 18 Lions Eyeglass Recycling Centers worldwide or dropping them off in a collection box at a local community building.

New Eyes is an organization that donates used eyewear to those in need, accepting prescription eyeglasses and reading glasses in good condition as well as sunglasses, metal eyewear in any condition, and watches and jewelry that they sell to raise funds.

Old T-shirts can be repurposed as dust cloths and all-purpose rags for cleaning and wiping counters or cars. They can also be transformed into bracelets, hair wraps, tote bags, and rag rugs for those who are crafty.

Rubber bands should never be thrown out as they have various household uses such as wrapping around the top and bottom of an open paint can, the edges of a cutting board, or jar lids to make them easier to open. Rubber bands can also be used to childproof cabinet doors by wrapping them tightly around adjoining handles.

Toilet paper tubes have numerous uses such as making binoculars, rockets, and submarines for children, while adults can use them as organizers or even planters.

Here are some useful ways to repurpose everyday items:

– Take a paper towel tube and stuff it with plastic grocery bags to make a convenient dispenser.

– Organize hair bands and clips by wrapping them around a toilet paper tube in the bathroom.

– Keep extension cords from getting tangled by folding them neatly inside a paper towel roll.

– Prevent holiday lights from tangling in storage by wrapping them around the outside of a paper towel tube and securing the end with tape.

– Store important documents like diplomas and birth certificates safely by rolling them up inside paper towel rolls.

If you’re looking for more ideas on how to give new life to old items, be sure to check out the related links on the next page. Additionally, the author of this piece shares her own struggles with throwing things away and offers advice on how to repurpose instead of discard.

Other Relevant Articles

  • 5 Ways to Reuse Mint Tins
  • 12 Creative Uses for Toothbrushes
  • 15 Innovative Ways to Reuse Envelopes
  • 15 Smart Ideas for Reusing Cheap Plastic Cups
  • 5 Practical Reuses for Oatmeal Canisters
  • 8 Fun Ways to Repurpose Cereal Boxes
  • 5 Surprising Ways to Use Socks


  • Breyer, Melissa. “19 Innovative Ways to Use Rubber Bands.” Treehugger. Oct. 23, 2012 (July 19, 2014) http://www.treehugger.com/cleaning-organizing/19-clever-uses-for-rubber-bands.html
  • Ewing, Monica. “DIY Wine Cork Bath Mat.” Craft Nest. March 24, 2010 (July 19, 2014) http://www.craftynest.com/2010/03/wine-cork-bath-mat/
  • Gordon, Whitson. “10 Amazing DIY Projects You Can Do with a $1 Binder Clip.” Lifehacker. July 21, 2012 (July 19, 2014) http://lifehacker.com/5927857/top-10-diy-miracles-you-can-accomplish-with-a-1-binder-clip
  • McRobbie, Linda Rodriguez. “The History of Toilet Paper: How America Convinced the World to Wipe.” Nov. 7, 2009 (July 19, 2014) http://mentalfloss.com/article/23210/toilet-paper-history-how-america-convinced-world-wipe
  • National Conference of State Legislatures. “Plastic and Paper Bag State Legislation: Fees, Taxes, Bans, Recycling and Reuse.” Feb. 2014 (July 19, 2014) http://www.ncsl.org/research/environment-and-natural-resources/plastic-bag-legislation.aspx#bans
  • Puhala, Kelly. “20 Unique Uses for Wine Corks.” Brit + Co. Oct. 3, 2013 (July 19, 2014) http://www.brit.co/wine-cork-roundup/
  • Reader’s Digest. “12 Extraordinary Uses for Rubber Bands” (July 19, 2014) http://www.rd.com/home/12-extraordinary-uses-for-rubber-bands/
  • Reader’s Digest. “18 Incredible Uses for Cardboard Tubes” (July 19, 2014) http://www.rd.com/home/18-incredible-uses-for-cardboard-tubes/
  • Real Simple. “50 All-Time Favorite New Uses for Old Things” (July 19, 2014) http://www.realsimple.com/home-organizing/new-uses-for-old-things/favorite-new-uses-00000000019718/index.html
  • Reynolds Kitchens. “Aluminum Foil” (July 19, 2014) http://www.reynoldskitchens.com/products/aluminum-foil/
  • Stimpson, Jennifer. “10 Uses for Aluminum Foil.” This Old House (July 19, 2014) http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/photos/0,,20225533_20509123,00.html
  • Stimpson, Jennifer. “10 Ways to Reuse Wine Corks.” This Old House (July 19, 2014) http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/article/0,,20176738,00.html
  • Surfrider Foundation. “Rise Above Plastics” (July 19, 2014) http://www.surfrider.org/programs/entry/rise-above-plastics#program-resources
  • Trover, Sara Rae. “Creative Uses for Plastic Squeeze Bottles.” Apartment Therapy. Nov. 13, 2008 (July 19, 2014) http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/uses-for-wonderful-plastic-squ-69471
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “Donating and Recycling Electronics” (July 19, 2014) http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/conserve/materials/ecycling/donate.htm


1. Glass jars and bottles:

Instead of tossing out your empty glass jars and bottles, consider repurposing them. You can use them as vases, storage containers, or even as drinking glasses. Just make sure to clean them thoroughly before reusing them.

2. Old clothes:

Instead of throwing away your old clothes, consider donating them to a local charity or thrift store. If the clothes are too worn out to donate, you can repurpose them into rags, cleaning cloths, or even use the fabric for crafting projects.

3. Plastic bags:

Instead of throwing away your plastic bags, consider reusing them. You can use them as garbage bags, for storage, or even as packing material when shipping items. Just make sure to recycle them when they are no longer usable.

4. Egg cartons:

Instead of throwing away your egg cartons, consider using them for gardening. You can use them as seed starters or even as a way to transport plants. They can also be used for organizing small items, like jewelry or screws.

5. Cardboard boxes:

Instead of throwing away your cardboard boxes, consider repurposing them. You can use them for storage, as a playhouse for kids, or even as a cat scratcher. Just make sure to recycle them when they are no longer usable.

6. Plastic containers:

Instead of throwing away your plastic containers, consider reusing them. You can use them for food storage, as a planter for small plants, or even as a way to organize small items, like screws or nails. Just make sure to recycle them when they are no longer usable.

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