A Beginners Guide To Upcycling – 10 Ideas for Reusing Old Stuff

Upcycling has surged in popularity over the past decade because of a renewed interested in retro and old items.

Upcycling is the creative process of turning everyday objects (furniture, clothes, etc) into new and often exciting objects you couldn’t buy in any shop.

Anything can be upcycled to create something for the house, garden or even car! You can use whatever you find such as old jeans, shirts, pillows, balls, pallets, corks, cutlery, books etc.

Can anyone upcycle?

YES! Anyone who has a small amount of time to spend and a little imagination can join the wonderful world of upcycling. You can either think of something you want for the house and find old items you can use. Or, you can grab those old boots you were going to throw away and think how they can be repurposed.


For those still uncertain and shaking their heads at the idea of spending time on old junk, know there are quite a few benefits to upcycling:

  • It is another form of recycling
  • You’re saving the environment by not throwing things away, less landfill space
  • The house can have cool homemade items in
  • Can save you buying new things

What Do I Need?

Apart from any old items you can find, there are a few bits and bobs that you should have for any upcycling tasks. Most you will have in the house already but some you might need to buy.

  • Sharp knife
  • Scissors (fabric scissors as well)
  • Craft glue
  • Needle and thread
  • Hammer

Keep reading and I will give you my beginners’ guide to upcycling ideas and how to go about completing them in a few short steps. Good luck!

#1. Trash Can Planters

Trash can planters


Upcycle those old, unsightly trash cans into planters for your spring flowers.


Buying planters at the local garden centre can be extremely expensive. Finding something you want, bringing it home and paying over the odds can be a pain. Upcycling old trash cans looks a little different and costs a lot less. The only money you really have to spend is on the potting soil.

How to:

  1. Take an old trash can and with a sharp knife poke a hole in the bottom. This allows for drainage whenever you water your plants
  2. Keep those old water and soda bottles! Adding another upcycling step into the mix, use these bottles to fill up half of the trash can.
  3. Add in your potting soil. The old bottles will take up a lot of room meaning your trash can won’t be ridiculously heavy.
  4. Add in your favorite plants or flowers!

#2. Recycled Candles

New Candles


Using the leftover bits of candles to make a brand new candle.


For any house that uses a lot of candles, one of the most annoying jobs is throwing away leftover bits because the wick is all but gone. Sometimes quite a lot is left and it feels like a big waste of resources and money. Upcycling them into a brand new candle not only saves waste but also makes a great looking new candle with different layers and smells.

How to:

  1. Collect any old candles that have had the wick burnt away, keep them somewhere safe like the back of a kitchen cupboard
  2. For this you will need one clean jar. This can be an old mason jar you have recently cleaned for a bit more upcycling
  3. Put a new candle wick in the new jar. Put the old candle jar in boiling water to get it to melt. This can take a while, get a cup of coffee on the go. Pour the melted wax into the new jar, make sure the new wick is kept above the wax, you can do this by taping it over the top
  4. Let the wax completely cool. Repeat the steps with every old candle until your jar is full with wax!

Related: check out this article on candle making kits.

#3. Rake Wine Glass Holder

Rake wine glass holder


Have an old garden rake that’s had its day? Are you a wine fan? Mix the two and turn the rake into a wine glass holder.


Rakes take a bit of a beating in the garden, some people tend to buy a new rake for the new season which means there are quite a few rusting, older rakes needing a new home. Upcycling rakes allows for less landfill space being taken up by something that looks great hanging in the kitchen.

#4. Milk Bottle Watering Can

Milk bottle watering can


Use an old milk bottle to water your plants.


Everyone has empty milk bottles, usually one or two a week. Most people throw their milk bottles into the recycling bin, which is great as they can be reconstituted into new items. However upcycling takes less time and energy; turning milk bottles into watering cans is the easiest task listed here.

How to:

  1. Collect any old milk bottle, the 4 pint bottles are best
  2. Clean the bottle thoroughly, you don’t want any milk residue getting on your precious flowers
  3. Get the milk bottle lid, pop several holes into it using a sharp knife or scissors
  4. Fill the bottle up with water, screw on the lid and water away!

#5. Pallet Wood Sofa

Pallet Wood Sofa


Use any old pallets, that are usually taken to the tip, to create the ideal furniture for inside and out.


This is the perfect upcycling project which can save space on a landfill. They can usually be recycled but that takes time and energy which can be spent making old pallets into something great. These look especially chic as outdoor furniture, thrown together with a few cushions and throws.

How to:

  1. Start collecting old pallets, ask friends for any they have spare. You will need around 9 for a decent sized sofa
  2. Cut your pallets until they are all the same width. A good size would be around 27 inches each
  3. Either collect cushions or make your own!
  4. Secure the backs of the pallets with a few screws, check out the picture below

#6. Piano Bar

Piano Bar

Description: Turning an old, unused piano into a fully functional bar.

Turning an old, unused piano into a fully functional bar.


Pianos are a bit of a sad case when they are unused. They can be left for years with no playing and within a short amount of time can lose their tune and left to rot. Recycling them seems such a waste as they are completely destroyed so the wood can be repurposed. Upcycling turns these great instruments into something awesome for the house.

How to:

  1. Remove all the old hardware from inside the piano, this includes all the keys. It will take a while, some DIY enthusiasts take the hammer to task while others use a wrench. The choice is up to you
  2. Cut the side and remove the panel. Unwind the strings
  3. You can add shelves and cubby holes
  4. Put in your favorite drinks, glasses and bar memorabilia

#7. DIY Laptop Case

DIY Laptop Case


Use your favorite jumpers, shirts, any old material to create a personalised laptop case.


Laptop cases in stores can be expensive, sometimes you can buy ones made from recycled materials but again, they can be pricey. Using upcycling ideas, your new laptop case can be made from almost anything and show off your personality. Love jeans and denim, rip up your old trousers and get sewing. Love leather? Maybe take some old shoes and restyle them.

How to:

  1. Measure your laptop accurately
  2. Take any fabrics that you like, you can either use just one or a range of anything you like
  3. Take a pen and tape to mark out on the fabric where you want to cut. Use fabric scissors to get an accurate cut
  4. Use a needle and thread or sewing machine to overlap one side to create a case. Attach a zip or button hole

Watch this video for a nice easy tutorial:

#8. Gumball Fish Tank

Gumball Fish Tank

Description: Make a funky looking aquarium using an old gumball machine.

Make a funky looking aquarium using an old gumball machine.


A gumball machine is one of those old presents someone bought you randomly and you have no idea what to do with it. Most people end up chucking them in the bin or putting them in recycling. A way to save energy and waste is by upcycling them into a retro-looking aquarium. This is also a great project to do with kids.

How to:

  1. Take your gumball completely apart
  2. Make the globe watertight. To do this you have to create a plug to stop water from entering the coin mechanism. You can use a quarter-inch thick piece of acrylic. This must be fit exactly the size of the hole for the coin as you need this to be completely watertight
  3. Drill some holes upwards through the coin mechanism into the globe for the pump and filtration tubes. You need three tubes for unfiltered water, filtered water and air
  4. Assemble and decorate as you see fit

#9. Credit Card Guitar Picks

Credit Card Guitar Picks

Description: For any music lovers out there, picks made of your old cards.

For any music lovers out there, picks made of your old cards.


For any guitar player who is on a bit of a budget and needs some picks in a hurry. Most people cut up old credit cards and chuck them in the bin. This is a great way of saving waste and energy.

How to:

  1. Using a permanent marker such as a sharpie, trace a guitar pick you have multiple times over a credit card. I can usually get at least 4 from one card
  2. Cut out the guitar pick tracing very carefully
  3. Done. It really is that easy

#10. Sweater Stool

Sweater Stool

Description: Fashion your old looking stool into a new design with jumpers.

Fashion your old looking stool into a new design with jumpers.


Sweaters are a great material as they can be hard wearing and have some pretty awesome designs. If you have grown out of a top or decided it’s just not for you anymore, don’t throw it into recycling; upcycle it into a piece of furniture.

How to:

  1. Find a stool that looks a little worn and could do with a bit of TLC
  2. Clean, sand and paint the stool so it looks fresh
  3. Unscrew the padded top
  4. Pull sweater over the top and pull tight. Using a staple gun, staple the edges
  5. Trim sweater and screw the padded top back on


Upcycling is one of the best projects to get into to help the environment. Recycling uses energy to break down items to create new products whereas upcycling adds to old items. It’s great for the world, perfect for those wishing for a new project, easy to pick up and adds a little homemade goodness to any house.

These are only 10 upcycling ideas; there are literally thousands out there that use any materials found within the house. If you have a little spare time and some creativity in your blood, get out your craft knife, scissors and measuring tape and find something to upcycle now!