1. Don’t Buy, Remake!
What if we stopped buying the things we wanted and instead made things we love out of the things we already own or that were previously owned? Sound weird? Americans throw away millions of tons of clothing, craft supplies, shoes, furniture, and home decor items each year. This stuff sits in landfills and as it slowly and painfully decomposes (most of the items will take hundreds of years to decompose in a landfill environment) it fumes toxic gasses back into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming and causing major environmental issues. Therefore, as makers we have a responsibility to ourselves, our kids, and our planet to get creative not just with what we’re making but with what materials we’re using to remake. Instead of buying raw materials new, invest in tools and get your materials for cheap or even for free by repurposing things that others view as trash. So many materials can be bought used, there are countless thrift stores, Etsy shops, and artistic reuse shops that sell everything from fabric to paint.
2. See The Potential In Everyday Things
What could that lamp be if it wasn’t a lamp? What about that rug? How could your old t-shirt become a bed for your miniature poodle? Everything you own, from furniture to clothing, from your kid’s toys to an old bar of soap, has the potential to be something cool. Our grandparent’s generation knew this, and they never threw away a single useful item. While I don’t suggest developing a complex, it’s obvious that Americans throw out way more stuff than we need to and we buy just as much ( or more) to replace it. But the stuff we throw out? It sits around in landfills collecting dust, which sucks because all that stuff was once raw materials. The craft industry tricks us into buying more raw materials (like fabric or wood) in order move profit while we trick ourselves into thinking that we shouldn’t cut up items that already exist. But clothes are just fabric, your coffee table is just wood, and your old shampoo bottle is a plastic vessel and all these things have potential.
3. Have A Plan
Whether you keep a special notebook for your creations or you use your computer, having a plan before you start your project can be the difference between an upcycling success and an upcycling failure. It’s ok if you have to adapt your plan as you go, some of the coolest projects don’t end up how they originally intended. Some projects change so many times it’s almost impossible to remember all the iterations of a particular object. Just remember that most things are salvageable with a little elbow grease and a lot of creativity.
4. Save Materials for Later
If you see the potential in something, save it and commit to using it. If you’re worried about unwanted clutter, dedicate a closet to your materials, or commit to repurposing particularly bulky items within 1 month of realizing their potential. Or, repurpose them right away. Typically when I see the potential in something it’s hard for me to wait a week before I start on a new project.
5. Spend More Time Making Less
Sometimes our projects can mean more to us if they take longer to complete. Really invest in the craftsmanship of your work, and you will always love what you make.