Repurposing With A Purpose
Part of our Earth Month Challenge Series
I love a good challenge. And, when it comes to getting and staying organized, there is almost no greater joy for me than breathing new life into something so it can be useful again. Repurposing with a purpose feeds my creativity, reduces my trash output, and generally just makes me happy.
Repurposing Done Right
My favorite repurposing win came from a combination of discarded plywood, unused crates, and a surprise shift to a full-time home office. I was grateful to have a space available, but I wanted to keep it feeling like my home and not an office that takes up part of my home. So, I started with a beloved chair (start with what works) and quickly discovered that it wasn’t a good match for the height of a standard desk. A few screws and two cans of leftover spray paint later, I had a custom desk. Add in some mismatched baskets and trays, and voila, I had a custom desk that was ideal for my space, complete with built in (and hidden) storage.
I’m still using it over two years later, but that’s not the most famous “repurposing” project in my home. That title belongs to the wine rack that never was.
Repurposing Gone Wrong
In a corner of my basement, there are two small, wooden doors with beautifully etched glass panels. I rescued them from a doomed entertainment center I owned ages ago. The piece was a fine example of style over substance and warped beyond usability within a year. But, the doors were lovely and worthy of a second chance. Alas, they have moved with me not once, but twice, and have never become a part of anything beyond my wishful thinking wish list.
They’re an example of aspirational repurposing. The best-case scenarios and Pinterest-worthy creations that some of us long to create, but that always seem to take a back seat to literally everything else. Aspirational repurposing is how we put off making choices about our stuff and our time.
“It might make a nice wine rack” is the gentle ribbing that my husband and I use with each other. It’s a not-so-subtle code for “let it go.” It adds a little humor to the slog and helps keeps us on track, avoiding our shared propensity to get caught up in potential at the expense of purpose.
Three Reminders for Repurposing With A Purpose
Avoiding the pitfalls of aspirational repurposing is easy. Here are three reminders to help ease your decision-making process.
1. Be Practical. Before you decide that the potential of something outweighs its current lack of purpose, ask yourself if you have the skills, tools, and time to give it a second chance. If the answer is yes, then reminder #2 is your next stop. If it’s anything other than yes, consider jumping straight to reminder #3.
2. Be Accountable. If you commit to keeping it, you’re going to need a plan. I find it helpful to have both a work plan and an escape plan. For the work plan, spell out the next steps of your project on a piece of scrap paper and tape it to the item. For the escape plan, add a completion date to the list of steps. If the next time you cross paths with your repurposing project you haven’t taken any of the steps and the date of completion has long since passed, it may be time to check our reminder #3.
3. Be Resourceful. Repurposing doesn’t have to be an all or nothing proposition. Look at all the different parts of an item. Maybe a portion can be reused while the remainder gets recycled. Sometimes, breaking an item apart can relieve the pressure of considering its original function and open your mind to creative solutions and entirely different results. If sentimentality is what has you stuck, consider whether that itch could be scratched by saving just a part of the item, reusing it in a meaningful way, and allowing the rest to be used, donated, or recycled.
Breathing new life into something can result in a really great feeling. Sometimes equally satisfying is the feeling of breathing new life into your space by having less stuff. Both can reduce our consumerism footprint and ignite our creativity.
I bet if I tried hard enough, I could avoid ever needing to buy another basket, canvas bin, shelving unit, or storage tub. No doubt, I probably will. But for now, I’ll aim to complete my list of spring projects by sourcing what I can from all that I already own.
I’ll start with the easier options and move on from there. Practicing regularly helps strengthen my practicality, accountability, and resourcefulness muscles which are always in need of a workout.
And who knows, maybe I’ll even tape a list of next steps to those beautiful doors.