Cleaning & Organizing
22 Extraordinary Uses for the Junk in Your Garage
Find double duty for your recycling, sports gear, hardware, and more while bringing organization and order to your garage.
How do you move weeds, pruned branches, rocks, and the like from your garden? No need to spend on a pricey pushcart or wheelbarrow that’s also heavy and unwieldy, especially on hills. Instead, repurpose your kids’ flying saucer sled. Attach a rope to one handle and you’ll have a sturdy sledge that pulls easily across grass and paths. If you have kids, come winter, this is one garden tool that will still find plenty of use. Check out more extraordinary uses for objects you have lying around at home.
If you have an old golf bag on wheels, use it to store and caddy long workshop or garden tools, which fit neatly in the main compartment, and hand tools, which can be clipped to the outside. The pockets hold screws and bolts, or seeds, shears, and other smaller items. And if you discover any tees inside one of those pockets, they can be put to use too. Wooden or plastic tees make great color-coded markers for newly seeded gardens.
Rescue these from the recycling; there’s plenty more you could be doing with them. Make a bag dispenser by trimming off the bottom and top end of a 2-liter bottle, then mounting it with screws upside down (put washers under the screw heads to keep them from pulling through the plastic). Fill with recycled bags (squeeze the air out of them first). Dispense twine the same way, using a 1-liter bottle and letting the cord come out the bottom.
Containers cut in half keep craft or workshop materials organized, or make a handy, durable funnel for pouring paints. You can also feed the birds by carving a large hole in a clean jug, then filling with birdseed. Or you can create a watering can by drilling about a dozen tiny holes just below the spout of a jug. Check out some more clever uses for empty plastic bottles.
Empty cardboard tubes
Cover an empty paper towel or toilet paper roll with transparent tape, sticky side out, and hang to get rid of pesky flies and mosquitoes. Or you can keep string orderly by cutting a notch into each end of a toilet paper tube. Secure one end of the string in one notch, wrap the string tightly around the tube, and then secure the other end in the other notch. Do the same with holiday lights; or put small strands of lights or garlands inside cardboard tubes and seal with masking tape. You can also use cut tube rings as starting pots for seedlings. Finally, avoid scarring the trunk of a young tree when you are whacking weeds; cut a cardboard mailing tube in half lengthwise and tie around the trunk. Here are even more uses for cardboard tubes.
Use clean frozen juice cans to transform the deep, wide pockets of a nail pouch into a convenient tote for wrenches, pliers, and screwdrivers. Remove the bottom of the can as well as the top, and glue or tape the cylinders together to keep them from shifting around. Or try making backyard reflectors. Just remove the bottom of a large empty can with a can opener and take off any label. Then use tin snips to cut the can in half lengthwise. You’ve just made two reflectors.
If your garage or basement is too damp, try this easy-to-make dehumidifier. Fill an empty coffee can with salt and leave it in a corner where it will be undisturbed. Replace the salt at monthly intervals or as needed. You can also keep small items like screws, nuts, and nails handy by drilling a hole near the top of empty coffee cans so you can hang them on nails in your workshop wall. Label the cans with masking tape so you will know what’s inside. Here are some household items you should never leave in your garage.
In the garden, lay several sheets of newsprint over soil and then cover with mulch; they’ll help retain moisture and suffocate weeds. Ripen end-of-season tomatoes perfectly by wrapping in a couple sheets of newspaper once they’re off the vine; store in an airtight container in a dark cabinet or closet, checking every few days. Or add wet, shredded paper to compost to remove odor.
Here’s a low-cost alternative for gardening kneepads: Use a scrap from an old closed-cell foam camping mat. This will protect your knees just as well as the fancy models in gardening catalogs. It’s tough, shock absorbing, and easy to clean with soap and water. If you or your kids don’t have an old pad to cut up, check with your local Boy Scout troop or a university outdoor program. Here are some items you might have stashed in your garage that are actually really valuable.
The secret weapon against messy tools is the cooking oil spray you keep in the kitchen cabinet. Spray a coat on a shovel or trowel before using it, and clay soil will slide right off. Spray the blades and underside of your lawn mower, and wet grass won’t stick to them. Here are some more household items you had no idea you could reuse.