Upcycling and Repurposing: Your Complete Guide


This guide will answer all the questions you have about upcycling and repurposing. What is it? What’s the difference? And how do you do it?

Here on Clutter Keeper®, we’ve shared lots of different ways to organize every room in your home. One of the recurring ideas is to repurpose things as organizational tools. But when we repurpose things, it’s important to follow a few rules so that we aren’t keeping things that should be thrown away.

Upcycling and Repurposing: Your Complete Guide

Wondering where to begin? Get our FREE guide, The 30-Minute Organizing Secret, and discover easy ways to overcome the chaos of clutter – even with kids at home!

Upcycling and repurposing – Your Complete Guide

When you are trying to organize your house and save money, upcycling and repurposing other things is a really good idea. Plus, it can be really good for the environment, too.

In this guide, we’ll explain the difference between upcycling and repurposing, and share some clever ideas of each. Then, we’ll also tell you when to just throw things away (you can’t save everything).

Table of Contents

Upcycling vs Repurposing - What's the difference?

Upcycling and Repurposing – What’s the difference?

Before we get into how to upcycle and repurpose, I want to explain what the difference is.

These two words are often used interchangeably. And I totally get the misunderstanding. When you upcycle something, aren’t you giving it a new purpose too?

Yes, kinda.

Upcycling means you repair something and give it a second chance at performing the same function for which it was created.

For example, you can upcycle an old set of dresser drawers by repainting it and giving it new hardware. But it is still being used to store clothes.

Other words for upcycling include refurbish, renovate, and rejuvenate.

Repurposing is when you break something down and give it a completely new function. It has a new purpose.

For example, you can repurpose a terribly damaged book by taking it apart and creating a gift bag out of the pages.

Even with these clear examples, the two terms get used to describe the same projects. So I’ll share some examples of each.

back to top - press here to return to the top of the blog post
10 Upcycling Ideas for Home Organization

Upcycling ideas for Home organization

Here are 10 of the best upcycling ideas for your home. It’s so easy to take something and with a little effort, give it new life.

#1 Faux Cement Ball Vases

You can store so much more than just plants in these vases. I can see these sitting inside a basket and holding fabric scraps, paintbrushes, or even old rags or cotton balls.

This one is kind of repurposing and kind of an upcycle. These started out as glass lamp covers.

Find the tutorial here.

#2 Renewed Ottoman Tray

These little trays are fantastic home decor pieces that also keep your living room organized. They give you a central place to store your book, glasses, remotes, and coasters.

Follow the easy tutorial.

#3 Wicker basket makeover

I love storing things in wicker baskets like this one. It looks pretty enough to display in your living room and keep extra blankets inside. You can also store extra books, board games, and even cleaning supplies inside.

With just a little paint, this basket looks like new!

Check out how easy it is on the tutorial.

#4 Bathroom storage jars

These are normal storage jars. But with just a few tweaks they can look like really cute bathroom canisters. I think my favorite thing about them is the addition of the cute little handles on top.

See how to do it on the tutorial.

#5 Entryway bench like new

If you have room in your entryway to store a bench, do it! This gives you extra room for baskets, and these baskets can hold hats, gloves, and other outdoor things.

This tutorial shows you how to take an old rustic bench and make it look completely new. The transformation is pretty impressive.

Check out the simple tutorial.

#6 Refinish an old chest

This coffee table is also a large chest that holds extra blankets and board games. But you would probably be surprised at how dilapidated it looked before they added the pretty paint!

If you have a worn-out chest lying around (or see one at a garage sale), pick it up and give it a second chance.

Follow the complete tutorial.

#7 Make a trash can look brand new

A very important part of organizing is throwing things away. Just by adding some pretty wallpaper to a tall trashcan, you have something that looks entirely new!

Follow the tutorial online.

#8 Store bottles of paint

This is a garage sale find. It’s a vertical storage container that was turned horizontally to store the paint. Isn’t it pretty?

Check out the simple online tutorial.

#9 Give a dresser new life

This is a work of art! Go and check out what it looked like before. I love how they made it look like something out of a magazine. This is the perfect example of upcycling. They took a dresser and made it an even better dresser!

Follow the simple tutorial.

#10 hang up scarves

These rings are usually used to hold up curtains, but they also work to keep your scarves organized. I love using the back of closet doors for extra storage!

Check out the tutorial.

10 repurposing Ideas for Home Organization

Repurposing ideas to organize your home

Now that you saw some upcycling ideas, let’s look at some repurposing ideas. In the following examples, people took ordinary products and used them in fresh new ways.

Have you ever looked at a cereal box and thought, “if I cut it, I could use it to divide my drawers and keep them sorted”? If so, you already know how to repurpose things.

Here are 10 more ways to repurpose ordinary products in fresh new ways – and all of them will help keep your home organized!

#1 Repurposed tin can with burlap

This started out as an ordinary can of vegetables. But after sanding it down and washing it out (and adding a few lovely decorations), it turned into a cute desk organizer.

Now instead of storing food, it’s used to store office supplies.

There are lots and lots of other ideas out there of ways you can reuse tin cans around the house. But this is my favorite!

Follow the online tutorial.

#2 From T-Shirt to Tote bag

Now instead of something you wear, the shirt becomes something that stores your things. I think my favorite thing about this tutorial is that it doesn’t require any sewing. It’s so simple that my kids can help make their own bags.

This is the perfect way to store extra toys, winter gloves, and hats, or a beach bag with all your essentials.

Follow the easy tutorial online.

#3 repurposed craft products storage

Make your own tray that can be used to transport and store craft supplies. This tutorial goes beyond showing you how to clean out and reuse glass jars. It shows you how to make your own tray out of leftover scraps of wood.

Follow the simple tutorial.

#4 From a fence post to a bathroom caddy

This project comes out so useful! That spot on the back of the toilet is the first to become cluttered and messy. But with a little caddy like this one, you have a place to store them.

You can make it out of wood scraps, a broken fence piece, or even parts of a wood pallet.

See how to do it yourself by reviewing the tutorial.

#5 From Bottles to a piggy bank

Turn plastic bottles into cute piggy banks. Aren’t these adorable? This is a craft that your kiddos can help you make.

Now whenever you find loose change in your couch or the dryer, you have a place you can put it.

Check out the easy tutorial.

#6 Turn a leather jacket into a bag

This one takes a bit of sewing knowledge. If you have a sewing machine and know how to use it, then you’ll love this tutorial. The blogger found a leather jacket that didn’t fit and turned it into a cute bag.

I imagine storing fabric scraps, yarn, or other supplies in it.

Follow the complete tutorial.

#7 Turn a cookie tin into a small craft supplies organizer

If you enjoy crafts, you know the struggle of storing those really small supplies. But all you need are a few cookie tins. You can find these at most thrift shops, they almost give them away.

I love how Pillar Box Blue decorated these tins with old maps and then created her own cardboard dividers. It’s such a useful container now.

See how easy this is online.

#8 Turn a cupboard door into a coat rack

A coat rack made out of an old cabinet door.

Finally have a place to store your jackets and bags. Hang this up near your front door. It’s one of the easiest repurposing crafts on my list. The entire thing shouldn’t take you much longer than an hour from start to finish!

Check out the easy tutorial.

#9 Turn old jeans into a hanging organizer

This idea will take a lot more time, but it turns out so unique! This is the perfect way to encourage your young children to pick up their toys. Hang this up in their bedroom and let them stuff the pockets!

Follow the tutorial online.

#10 Turn a ladder into shoe storage

Finally, if you have an old rickety ladder lying around, turn it into a shoe and scarf holder. It’s beautifully rustic and has a vintage charm to it. Plus, it takes very little prep.

If you don’t have room in your bedroom or closet for it, then store it in another room. Maybe put it in the living room and store extra blankets on it. Or put it in your master bathroom and hang towels on it. The options are endless.

Follow the tutorial online.

Upcycling and Repurposing: Your Complete Guide

How to Know When It’s time to get Rid of Things

All of these ideas are brilliant ways to reuse what you already have around the house. But how do you know when it’s time to just get rid of the old things?

I always go by the following rules to decide whether to keep something or try to use it again.

If it is broken, throw it away

First, if it’s broken beyond repair, don’t keep it. Keeping broken things around because you might possibly fix it someday is just creating more storage problems.

Ask yourself if you have the know-how to fix these things. If it’s beyond your skill-level, let it go.

If you don’t find a use for it within 6 months

Another reason to get rid of the broken things is if you stored it for more than 6 months and still haven’t fixed it or found a use for it.

Good intentions are wonderful, but they can also lead to storage problems. If you haven’t found the time to fix something within 6 months, chances are you never will. Find them new homes.

If you don’t have room to store it

Most importantly, if you don’t have enough room to store things that need to be fixed don’t keep them. You should never keep things you aren’t using when you don’t have the room to store them safely.

The Essential Upcycling Guide

Buying new or upcycling – which is best?

If you don’t have the time to fix things and you don’t have room to store half-finished projects, don’t take on upcycling.

Repurposing and upcycling are better for the environment than throwing things away and buying new ones. However, when it becomes a safety issue, just get rid of them and buy new ones.

There are ways to find things new homes that don’t involve the landfill. You post your items to Freecycle or have a “free” yardsale.

Upcycling and Repurposing can save you money

There you have it! If you do it right, upcycling and repurposing can save you money. Instead of going out and buying new containers you can make your own.

Only do it if you have the time and storage space. This could even turn into a fun side business!

Struggling to get motivated? Sign up to get our FREE guide, The 30-Minute Organizing Secret, and discover easy ways to overcome the chaos of clutter – even with kids at home!

Easy Home Organizing by Repurposing and Upcycling

More Home organization ideas

Keep the home organizing going! Here are some more clever ideas you can try next.


  1. A great collection of upcycling ideas, lots of variety too. Thanks for including my projects, the denim pocket organizer and map tins.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.