Upcycling and Repurposing Tips to Give Your Spring Cleaning Sustainable Twist

Spring cleaning is a beloved annual ritual across households as millions purge their closets and drawers of junk they no longer need. Although some items are donated or sold in garage sales, most end up in landfills, with severe consequences for the planet. What if there was a more sustainable way to clean out your house? For instance, you could upcycle and repurpose certain goods, giving them a second life instead of tossing them out. An old bucket or container can become a planter, a broken candle can be remade, and old decoration items can be reused one way or another if only you let your imagination expand.

Here’s why spring cleaning with sustainability in mind is a good thing. Repurposing old items not only gives them a second lease on life but reduces your footprint as well. If you think some things cannot be repurposed, donating them to the nearest recycling center is the second best option. So read on to know why and how you can adopt zero-waste upcycling tips for reusing your belongings during spring cleaning.

Upcycling and Repurposing: More Than a Trend

Americans have a serious waste problem. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, people generated 292.4 million tons of garbage in 2018 — 4.9 pounds of trash per person every day. This is a substantial increase from the 88.1 million tons discarded in 1960.

Textiles make up a significant portion of generated waste. About 85% of clothes and other fabrics are landfilled and incinerated, while only 15% are recycled and reused. This waste amount increases exponentially around the holidays when gifting, and packaging adds to mounds of garbage.

Also Read: How to Reduce Your Waste During the Holiday Season

On the bright side, many people want to reduce waste, recycle, and purchase environmentally friendly products. In a OnePoll survey commissioned by Core Hydration, most respondents ask themselves four times weekly if something is recyclable. At the same time, three in five people say they try upcycling and reusing items as often as possible.

Upcycling is turning your trash into new treasures. Whereas recycling is an expensive process of breaking items down to their basic elements, you can upcycle goods at home. So, why should you upcycle and repurpose while spring cleaning?

Overflowing landfills spill into fragile ecosystems, degrading habitats and harming wildlife while contaminating necessary elements on the planet such as air, water, and soil. It also has negative health implications for marginalized communities and people living in low-income neighborhoods. Upcycling is a beneficial way to reduce waste by reusing old things, saving you a few bucks on buying new items while lessening the burden on the environment.

What Can You Upcycle and Repurpose?

Look around your house at the objects you no longer need or want. Can you think of ways to use them differently? Upcycling and repurposing household goods in an eco-friendly manner requires creativity and a keen interest in improving the earth.

Some of the most common materials you can reuse include:

  • Glass jars or bottles
  • Tin containers or cans
  • Plastic bottles
  • Clothes and other fabrics
  • Wood
  • Cardboard boxes
  • Styrofoam
  • Food
  • Rope

Getting rid of things without a purpose in your life feels good, but if you can find new reasons to keep them, you’ll do a favor to the environment. You could turn a rattan basket into a lampshade or attach wood ladders to create a clothing rack. The possibilities are endless, you need to see the scope for imagination.

6 Upcycling Tips for Spring Cleaning

Upcycling and repurposing are great choices for making spring cleaning more sustainable. With these six practical reuse tips, you can make a difference for the planet by breathing a second life into your belongings.

Reuse Old Clothes

Repurposing old clothes is one of the easiest ways to spring clean more sustainably. Clothes have numerous dual purposes, including dust rags, wrappings for delicate objects, furniture polishing cloths, scrubbing materials, and more.

You can even take old denim and create reusable tote bags for groceries or a new bed for your pet. All you need are scissors, a sewing machine, and stuffing to get it done. Or you can turn an old towel into a planter, all you need is an old fabric and concrete.

Upcycle Containers as Storage

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when spring cleaning your garage and home. You can organize small sections over a weekend or call on people to assist. Start by determining what you have, what you plan to keep, and where you’ll store them, setting aside items you no longer need.

Is there anything in the trash pile you can still use? For instance, empty paint cans can keep your screwdrivers, hammers, wrenches, and paintbrushes in one place. You could upcycle mason jars, coffee containers, and spice jars to preserve dry pantry goods in the kitchen. Likewise, decorated cardboard shoe boxes make attractive storage bins for photographs or arts and crafts.

Give Old Furniture a Facelift

If you’ve inherited an antique furnishing you can’t part with, freshen it up by refinishing it. Young people love old furniture, with studies showing 87% of 18-to-24-year-olds were interested in shopping for secondhand pieces in 2023.

Of course, repurposing furniture requires sanding the piece down, removing old paint, applying fresh stain or color, and resealing it for long-lasting use — a process taking several days or weeks. But the results never disappoint.

Upcycling Tips for Spring Cleaning - Old Furniture Makeover

Image: Basil Belle

Donate Unwanted Belongings

Instead of throwing away unwanted clothes and accessories, consider donating them to someone in need. According to Goodwill Industries International’s sustainability manager, Goodwill received 107 million donations, amounting to 5.7 billion tons in 2021. However, only 30% of donations are high-quality enough for Goodwill to sell them on the floor.

Otherwise, the more sustainable option is to hold onto the item and upcycle it as something else. Some clothing brands also have a buyback or recycling program, collecting old purchases and reusing the materials in new products. This may be worth investigating before you donate or trash your unwanted goods.

Repurpose Wood Pallets

If you recently received a delivery of fresh mulch, stone, or other materials, you could find yourself with leftover wood pallets. Fortunately, you can upcycle and repurpose these versatile items in several ways for your home and garden.

Do you have experience building things? Wood pallets are durable enough to create a stunning coffee table or outdoor patio chairs. Others turn them into visually stunning storage bins, merging the rustic and modern farmhouse look beautifully. Extra uses for wood pallets include raised garden beds, vertical gardens, plant stands, wall art, signs, and open shelves.

Upcycling Tips for Spring Cleaning - raised garden bed from wood pellets

Image: Kellogg Garden


You might not consider last night’s leftovers something you can upcycle or repurpose, but they make the best compost for your garden. Repurpose your wood pallet into a compost bin to turn old food scraps into organic matter.

Compost improves plant health and increases growth by enhancing the soil’s biological and chemical properties. It also promotes deeper root systems to prevent erosion. To avoid foul odors, add carbon-rich brown materials to offset nitrogen outputs.

Upcycle for Eco-Friendly Spring Cleaning

Many people look forward to spring cleaning as the seasons change. However, upcycling and repurposing for greater sustainability puts a nice twist on the process. Consider the environment as you go through your belongings and decide what can still serve a purpose in your life. These upcycling tips for spring cleaning will help you with repurposing old items and help the planet.

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