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Rafeeah Laher shows us how to turn trash into home decor treasures with her simple tips for recycling used household items and natural materials.

Nowadays, it’s not uncommon to find urban modernity in home decorating by combining ecological furnishing with versatile, recyclable items to create an eclectic style statement. There are many ways to spruce up your home’s aesthetic, all while being kind to the environment. Nothing’s more eco-friendly than transforming old or unwanted items into something useful, or using everyday items to create green decorative elements. The only rule is to reduce, reuse and recycle.


Bottles and jars
Decorate empty jars with a coat of paint and add fancy embellishments such as buttons, glitter, old coins, rhinestones, labels or whatever else you have on hand. They can be used to store almost anything!


Glass jars and bottles also make chic pot planters for an indoor herb garden. Plant some herbs in a few of these, line them up in a wooden box at your kitchen window and dress them up with paint or labels.


Create cute bathroom accessories in a jiffy by filling glass containers with bath salts, bath gels and potpourri. Empty perfume bottles can also be used.


Tins and plastic
Plant small seedlings or flowers in plastic bottles that have been cut in half or tin cans. Add a coat of paint and place them outdoors or indoors to brighten up your surroundings.


Biscuit or sweet tins are great for storage, and smaller tins are ideal for keeping small-scale items like business cards or paper clips. Kids can also have fun making their own pencil holders by decorating empty tins (such as a Pringles tin).


Boxes and baskets
Cover empty tissue or shoe boxes with gift wrapping paper. Line them in your drawers or closet to organise items like socks, underwear, jewellery or make-up.


Pill boxes with dividers for each day of the week are not only meant for your daily vitamins; they also make perfect storage organisers for tiny objects.


You can use old laundry or wicker baskets to store things such as books/magazines, towels or even pantry items.


Wall art
Add some paint to a tray that you’re not using and hang it up on your wall by tying ribbon or strong cord to the handles of the tray so that it hangs like a frame. You could also paint it with chalkboard paint to make a notice board, which can be used as a menu planner, conversion chart for recipe measurements, to write emergency phone numbers on, or as way to organise your household chores.


Use old frames to make a dry-erase weekly planner with just a coat of paint and an erasable laminated calendar sheet on the inside where you’d normally put the picture.


Foam board frames are neat DIY wall decorations. Mount foam board on your wall and decorate with items such as postcards to make a collage frame.


Creative crafts
Broken dishes, CDs and mirrors can be used to make your own mosaics by gluing the bits onto a piece of chipboard and applying a small amount of tile grout to the gaps.


Any item (whether glass, plastic, wood or metal) can be decoupaged, by gluing on paper clippings, pictures or designs that have been cut out of things like magazines and wrapping paper. Use thin white craft glue to coat the entire item and arrange your pictures over it. Let it dry, then add another coat of glue and decoupage sealer.


Old clothing or linen can be made into small travel pillows by stitching them and stuffing them with cotton wool. They can also be cut up and sewn into dish rags.


Natural embellishments
Pebbles or stones give an earthy look to any surrounding. Fill vases with them – you can even add branches or twigs.


Beach or desert sand (if you live near a beach or desert) adds an unusual decorative element. Portion out your sand into jars/bottles and add some coral or dried plants to create a unique natural scene.



Rafeeah Laher is a South African based freelance writer.