A few weeks ago, I was searching through my craft supplies for a specific item that I knew I had stashed away somewhere, but as I hadn’t used it for a good while, I couldn’t quite remember where I had put it. I ended up dismantling most of the various boxes, bags, shelves and tins in my craft cupboard and it was a mini-adventure to re-discover the various treasures stored inside. I came to realise that many of the ‘materials’ I had stashed away in the darker depths of my cupboard were actually comprised of salvaged, recycled and saved bits’ n bobs. There was a lot left-over from various group workshops and events, as well as plenty of everyday objects from our home too.
Whilst there have been various trends over the last few years for home and space decluttering and living more minimal life-styles in general, I have often found that creativity and collecting, saving and gathering objects and materials go hand-in-hand. This isn’t really about consuming more, but about seeing the possibilities in things, and if anything, wasting less. If any given object or material might “come in handy” one day, things can be squirreled away, salvaged and saved, and there is less waste overall. Re-using everyday objects also fosters a kind of resourceful, creative mindset and is a great way to encourage and support the imaginative worlds of young children – it can be quite magical to see how a pile of random, unused nuts and bolts can be transformed into an array of other-worldly robots and creatures by simply glueing together with a hot glue gun!
It can be tricky of course to save up too many things from a storage point of view and if you don’t like clutter, it can require some creative thinking in and of itself. You could have some large-ish dedicated tubs for the items you save, some room in the garden shed or if you are like me, squirrel them away in all the nooks & crannies of your home (maybe keep a note of where you put things as you go along?)!
I’ve put together a handy visual poster of some everyday items that are great to save and that we have used plentifully in our creative projects over the years. For some ideas on uses for some of the materials – see below the poster.
Using your saved items – a few handy ideas:
Buttons & beads – can come from a variety of sources, they might be inherited, or cut out of old clothing, maybe a family member can save buttons for you too. Can be handy for so very many crafts from card-making, bookmarks, fabric crafts – to using them as eyes on creature creations!
Ribbons – again, cut out of clothing, or any that might come your way from gift packaging and so on. Useful for attaching to anything that will be a hanging decoration, threading with beads, dream-catchers, making dolls/teddy clothes or accessories and wrapping around things in general.
Nuts & bolts & old bits of electrical/technical equipment – great for junk modelling, construction crafts, and making robots, magical creatures & sculptures
Wool & Yarn – instead of buying new, why not keep an eye out in charity shops for donated balls of wool. You might need to buy new for particular projects, but wool can come in handy for lots of craft projects for which you might not need a great deal. Fabrics can also be sourced in this way and it’s also possible to save random fabrics from old sheets, pillowcases or worn cushion covers, outgrown children’s clothes, curtains and so on.
Glass jars, ramekins, tins etc – aim for a variety of shapes and sizes. These can be re-purposed in so many ways from decorating with tissue paper & PVA and water, or washi tape, or just used for storage of small items like buttons, beads, gems, ribbons and so on.
Fabric Flowers/Decorative items from old dressing up kits – add to pictures/painting & collages, fabric crafts, dolls’ clothes, flower crowns, masks.
Wax crayons – these can be melted into various shapes using silicone baking trays.
Tissue paper – there is always an abundance of tissue paper making its way into our homes from gift wrapping and so on. Great for decopatch/PVA & water decorating activities (link).
Envelopes – you can cover up any original writing by decorating with stickers etc to personalise, and even make your own stickers! – link
Plastic envelope sleeves – increasingly these are made from biodegradable materials which is a very good thing, but if you do still come across some plastic film ones when purchasing greetings cards and so on, do consider saving them for later – they can be used to store your own art-work as a kind of frame or protective barrier. Maybe even make them into an actual frame?
Decorative papers – either cut out of magazines, or salvaged from half-used origami craft sets – these are handy for collage, art journaling, paper-cutting, flower-making – so many ideas!
Toilet rolls & kitchen rolls – a children’s craft staple! (Quarantine the toilet rolls for hygiene purposes first before using if you like).
Tissue boxes – great for robots (join together with pipe-cleaners or something similar)! Or a vase – make some tissue paper flowers to go in them… even cut the top off, paint the inside and use for a miniature diorama. Shoe boxes are good for this too!
Cupcake cases – turn them into flowers!
Toothbrushes – use them in painting, working with clay, or messy play activities for creating textures in paint or clay (they can be sterilised beforehand in boiling water or just give them a good wash & quarantine).
Old Jewellery – anything slightly broken, old or from children’s play-sets that will never be used or anything that snaps apart completely – the charms and beads can be saved and used for many different crafts; either re-purposed as new jewellery, or add them to an entirely different craft all together!
Old/Broken Crockery – can be (safely) smashed up to be used for mosaic making.
Bubblewrap – useful for wet felting & can be used to make patterns in paint too!
‘Just the thing’ for a rainy-day craft
There will be plenty of other items not on this list that enter our homes – not least via packaging for everyday products, and most things can be turned into something unexpected and new with a little imagination and a few basic craft materials such as paint, PVA and/or a hot glue gun. 😊
It can be so much fun to get that ‘a-ha’ lightbulb moment when you suddenly see how an ‘about to be discarded’ object can gain a new purpose in life… and children can be especially good at this – I have been so surprised and delighted some of the creations I’ve seen children come up with over the years created out of everyday objects – everything from fantastical creatures to highly engineered spacecraft from nuts & bolts, a Japanese bullet train from plastic milk bottles and electrical tape, a mechanical venus-fly trap using tomato cane, scraps of wood, nuts & bolts and tooth-picks for the ‘teeth’, to a tiny ‘ideas dispenser’ made from a used tic-tac box, to be called upon when at a loose end and in need of something to do… the possibilities really are limitless, and even if a little effort is required to save & store, the moment will always come when you have ‘just the thing’ for that handy, inexpensive, rainy-day (or any-day!) craft at home!
© 2021 Abigail Cole, find more creative ideas at Abigail’s website Forgetful Fairy Art Studio.
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