Yep, that. That, too.

I don’t believe my grandma has ever owned a piece of Tupperware. When I think of her putting away leftovers, it involves pouring endless amounts of Sunday sauce into endless rinsed out ricotta cheese containers. When I lived with her for a summer in college, she sent me to work with sandwiches wrapped in old bread bags. I never got the impression she did it to be thrifty, it was more like, “It’s here … why not?”

I hadn’t made the connection until recently, but I’m a lot like her in that way. I wish I could tell you that I take it to the next level and craft the hell out of the bottles and cans and tins we seem to manufacture in my home, but I don’t—there’s only so much time in the day. Like my grandma, it’s not about transforming the items creatively as much as it is finding another creative use for them. It doesn’t always have to look pretty; it just has to make sense and make life a bit easier.

1.Altoids Tin

I love my Altoids tins more than the mints themselves—they’re so perfect for corralling stuff that would be otherwise rumbling around the inside of my bag. The standard tins make great mini First Aid kits for Band-Aids and antiseptic wipes (I even squeeze in a spare pair of disposable contact lenses); I use the skinnier Arctic ones for hair clips and ties.

2.EOS Lip Balm Sphere

Take pain reliever or vitamins to go in these cute and colorful cases, keep them on your vanity to hold earrings and rings, or use them in Barbie’s dream house as clever storage furniture—a bedside “ottoman” that also holds her tiny shoes and accessories!

3.Oatmeal Container

One of my best friends works with toddlers as an Occupational Therapist, and she’s always full of skill-building upcycling suggestions. My all-time favorite is punching holes in the lid of an oatmeal container that you can keep in your diaper bag as an at-the-restaurant toy. Ask the waitress for a few straws and watch baby get busy trying to fit the straws into the slots. This got us through three meals a day on a 4-day beach vacation when my daughter was a year old.

4.Pringles Lids

These fit just-right beneath the can of shaving cream in the shower. Better they get rusty than my marble shelf.

5.Baby Wipes Tub

The Huggies brand, in particular, frequently features attractive designs. Sometimes I’ve just ripped the top off the tub and used the decorative container to hold toiletries on the bathroom counter or shelf, or stationery and stamps in the office. You can also just stuff an old tub with plastic grocery store bags and keep it in the car; pull out bags as needed.

6.Slider Pencil Box

This random school supply always makes it to June and finds a second life in my home. It fits nicely in the bathroom drawer as a holder for my daughter’s hair accessories; I also keep one in the car console to stow away receipts as soon as I buy something. If you’ve ever known the trauma of the Monopoly or Trivial Pursuit games toppling off the shelves and the pieces going everywhere, you will appreciate the value of keeping all the little doodads safer inside the box, inside one of these.

7.Bed-in-a-Bag Bags

I’m no expert on hermetic sealing, but these sturdy plastic zip-around bags are as good as gold when I need to store something random and squishy in the attic, like throw pillows, crib bedding, or old stuffed animals. You get similar smaller bags with a little handle when you buy baby shoes and boots like the Robeez brand—we use those as kid-friendly toiletry cases or when we’re taking my son’s Epi-Pen and Benadryl to go.

My grandma is so very proud!


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