Spring Cleaning: 10 Ways to Upcycle Junk Creatively!

Everyone knows they should recycle. But many people forget that there are two other R’s in Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, and that the other two immediately work together. Upcycling is the process of putting together something new by using old materials you might otherwise throw away. Doing this not only reuses an old item, but reduces both what goes into the landfill and what you might otherwise purchase.

The Internet is practically bursting with awesome ideas on how to upcycle everyday junk into beautiful creations. But these are 10 of the simplest and coolest that anyone can do, even if you don’t have a crafty bone in your body.

1. Bottle Flower Display

Bottle Flower Display

This is one of my favorites. It works by taking old glass bottles and turning them into a raised display for real or silk flowers. You could really put anything in there that you would like to show off as long as it fits into a standard-size jar. If you wanted to do a larger one, you could try a wine bottle. However, keep in mind that the larger the bottle is, the harder it might be to balance it properly. Also, you could paint the paper cover if you wanted to, though I like the way the text print looks.

2. Plastic Card Picture Frame

Plastic Card Picture Frame

I see those bulky wooden frames at thrift stores all the time, and I think they look awful. Presumably, so does everyone else based on how often the things are tossed to secondhand stores, still with the original store picture underneath. But this upcycle idea makes them much more attractive. Plus, it is a good way to get rid of all those empty gift and business cards you have probably seen add up since the end of the holidays. You just cut them up into small squares (or other shapes), and you paste them to the outside of the frame in whatever pattern you like. The multitude of colors, pictures, and icons make it a great piece.

3. Wine Cork Bulletin Board

Wine Cork Bulletin Board

Wine drinkers tend to be regular partakers of the beverage. That isn’t surprising, given the health benefits along with the acquired taste of the different styles. If you are a heavy drinker, you might be wondering what to do with what is left over once the drinks are gone. We already showed something you could do with the bottles, and there is another suggestion below. But, what about the corks? If you like, you can gather them together and create this cool bulletin board. Don’t drink much wine? No worries, you can help a local bar or restaurant upcycle by asking them to keep the used corks for you for one night. Many will oblige.

4. Record Cover Boxes

Record Cover Boxes

Many of us are old enough to remember what it was like to buy a new record and put it on the player, feeling that excitement as we lowered the needle and the scratching sound of it finding the groove began just before the music itself. Others might not know the experience firsthand, but at least have a few records in storage that used to belong to someone else, or maybe you just saw a few at a secondhand store or flea marker. Either way, you can use a thick cord to bind them into a trendy-looking box to keep anything in.

5. Magazine Mirror Frame

Magazine Mirror Frame

This is a great one. You take a few pages from a magazine and roll them up nice and tight. You can use a simple paste to bind the shape and then attach them to the outside of any mirror. It makes a cool effect similar to a sun or star. You can also create other shapes and patterns using the same technique.

6. Plastic Bottle Frog Box

Plastic Bottle Frog Box

Great for a child’s room and possible to adapt into other animals or patterns, this cute little box is very easy to make. Plastic bottles are easy to come by in different sizes, so they work well for jewelry, hair ties and a number of other items. You can even create some for your desk or craft room, if you have one. A friend of mine made one for her desk at work in the shape of a monkey, and she gets comments on it all the time. Some coworkers even requested she make some for them.

7. CD Spindle Lamp

CD Spindle Lamp

This lamp is really cool. Because it uses simple transparency paper, you can make any image you like. Literally, the sky is the limit. If it seems a little complicated, you can actually find nice little kits that give you everything you need to make lamps out of anything. But the actual process is so cheap and easy that most won’t have a problem.

8. Old Mac Aquarium

Old Mac Aquarium

Old Mac Aquarium

I have seen a lot of these with old computer monitors, but I think the Macquarium is the best. This blogger shows you exactly how to do it, all the way back to buying one off of eBay to adapt. You can keep real fish inside or make a fake one. You would be surprised by how simple the whole process actually is. You can also do it with old television sets, which is pretty cool, especially since TVs are becoming some of the most commonly thrown out electronics to pollute landfills.

9. Wine Bottle Glass

Wine Bottle Glass

I love this. The blogger shows you how to evenly break the top half off a wine bottle and smooth down the edges to make a sturdy, attractive glass. Because wine bottles use such interesting glass tints for their containers, you can really get creative. I think it would be worth the time to engrave the surface to make an entire set of classic, handmade items that you will love for years to come. But because wine glass consistency can vary, I suggest only washing them by hand. Also, make sure you polish down the edges properly or you will end up slicing up your lip.

10. DIY T-Shirts

DIY T-Shirts

This Pinterest board is just full of cool ideas for custom T-shirts made from old pieces of clothing. The double layers with cut shapes are my favorite, but there is something for just about any taste. If you like original clothing, you will love making your own — especially for the many that are needle-free creations you can do with a simple set of scissors.


You don’t have to be a craft genius to upcycle creatively. Each one of the above ideas is perfect for the beginner or even the hopeless. They all will help the environment, reduce waste and give you something new to enjoy.

Image Credit: cork board by Yandle

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