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My favorite part of the "reduce, reuse, recycle" mantra is reuse. I feel clever and creative when I find new ways to use containers that hold the food and other items I buy at my grocery store. I also feel a little resourceful because I am not spending money on plastic containers from the home organization aisle. In my efforts to go green and save some dough, I have run across some very useful container repurposing ideas that will help you be a proud reuser.
Plastic formula containers with a flip up lid store craft supplies such as kid scissors, crayons and glue sticks. Label each container with a picture and word describing its contents to encourage independent clean up. These containers can also be used as canisters. If you buy oatmeal in a large container and do not have the space in your kitchen pantry in which to store that large container then fill the formula container with oatmeal and store the larger container in another location. Even more ingenious, the Similac containers have a scoop which snaps into its own storage space in the lid so you also have a devoted scoop for measuring oatmeal — no more getting out the measuring cup whenever you crave a bowl of oatmeal. For first aid supplies store band-aids, antibiotic ointment, tweezers and eye wash cup in one place so you’ll be ready for any small emergency.
Empty wipes containers store longer craft supplies such as colored pencils, regular pencils, pens and markers. Another perk: wipes containers and formula containers are stackable. Wipes containers also are great for storing puzzles without boxes and small groups of toys such as Polly Pockets, dinosaurs and Matchbox cars. Decorate it with hearts and sparkles for a sweet and sturdy Valentine mailbox.
Snack Go-Paks containers from the Oreos and Teddy Grahams are multifunctional containers, too. They fit nicely in a plastic caddy so you can load them up with markers, colored pencils, crayons, scissors and glue sticks for a portable art system. These containers are also work great for their original purpose of snacks on the go; so refill them with cookies, crackers or veggies for those car trips and save some money on prepackaged snacks.
Baby food containers and jars are also a great solution for small craft items such as google eyes, beads and sequins and hardware items such as screws, bolts, nuts and hooks. If you have a shelf in your craft or tool area, glue the tops of the baby food jars to the underside of the shelf and then you can screw the jar into the lid to create floating storage. This frees up your surface space for tasks in progress and allows you to easily see what you have stored in your jars. They also work great for painting projects. Dole out the amount of paint necessary for the project at hand and if your child loses interest before the project is complete, simply screw the lid on and the paint will not dry out.
Plastic bottles and jugs have a couple of noteworthy uses. If you need a funnel just cut the spout end off of one of these containers and Voila! — a funnel in a hurry. This might come in handy for you in the kitchen or for your kids during outside water play. Use what’s left for an impromptu flowerpot or water critter observatory. A plastic jug works well as a scoop when you cut off the bottom for scooping items from tight spaces such as ash from a fireplace or Legos from the toilet. Hey, you never know.
I know there are more clever uses for the items I have listed and more items that I did not list that have clever uses. So do not accept these ideas as the only way, but let it inspire you to think outside the box, err…container, before you toss your empty food containers in the trash. Take it a step further, and buy items not only because it is the food you like but also because it’s packed in a way that encourages a reuse lifestyle.
Amy Keeling Walton is owner of The Neat Freak Professional Organizing in Bardstown. If you have a question for this column, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.