From the corners of closets and the depths of storage bins, I have uncovered an assortment of unwanted items.
However, thanks to a few recycling tips, I look at castoff items with new eyes. Here are a few ideas from readers, magazines and friends:
Mylar balloons: Give festive Mylar balloons a second life. Deflated Mylar balloons make great gift bags. Just snip off the top portion, insert gift and tie the bundle with a pretty ribbon.
Mouse pads: As popular give-aways, computer mouse pads often multiply. Old mouse pads can be used as kitchen trivets for hot dishes, according to Budget Living magazine ($3.99 at newsstands).
Shower curtains: One Budget Living reader offers this practical suggestion for worn-out shower curtains: Cut the magnets out of the old plastic liners for use on refrigerator doors.
Envelope addresses: Put junk mail to good use. Before tossing unwanted mail, snip out the three lines featuring your name/address and paste that information onto outgoing envelopes. This process creates two solutions with one snip. Dumpster-diving identity thefts are thwarted and you've created instant return labels with minimal effort and no expense.
Craft photo frames: Take a tip from a vintage (June 2003) issue of Martha Stewart's Living magazine ($4.75/newsstand price). Old make-up compacts can be recycled into elegant photo frames.
Re-fashioned hair accessories: For awhile, I stocked up on trendy hair elastics – sold at CVS, Walgreens and other chains – created from the same fabric used in pantyhose. But a thrifty friend pushed my DUH button, with her brilliant idea: Cut the legs of clean but worn out pantyhose into horizontal strips. (No sewing, required). Using black and brown hose, I've made pony tail elastics that really resemble my favorite name-brand accessory. I've saved money and landfill space.
But my favorite recycling tip -- actually the spark for this post -- was delivered by a kind woman named Vivian.
While visiting an animal shelter, Vivian discovered that the vets used plastic Herald newspaper delivery bags as feeders for baby birds. What other uses are there for plastic bags? Vivian asked.
Melissa Tosetti, editor of Budget Savvy magazine (www.budgetsavvymag.com) has come to my rescue with this suggestion for plastic bags: "Double the bags and pour cooled kitchen grease into them. Tie the bag shut and throw it away. No mess!"