Reimagining, a New Way

I like a tidy house, but I hate to throw things out. Okay, I don’t have a problem with used tissues or scraps for my compost bin but the part of my brain wired directly back to my four homesteading, pioneering grandparents looks at things and asks, “What can I do with this?”

The easy thing is to throw away, but we know where that is going. When did reduce, reuse, recycle shrink to recycle? We’re pretty good at the old recycling, especially here in Ireland where we don’t have to sort (at least not much), clean, squash or make much of an effort beyond chucking something into the nearest green bin. How much of it is actually effectively recycled, I don’t know. How much is shipped elsewhere, I also don’t know, but do know that that would reduce (oh, THERE’S the reduce!) whatever we gain from it.

So, this post is brought to you by a couple of things. One that I happened to read in a 10 day old newspaper still lying around (recycling or fire lighting? hmmm) entitled Repair. Remake. Reimagine. (you can read this Irish Times article here). Halfway through the month I still didn’t know that October is Reuse Month, but the concept resonates with me already. I realise that we in the developed world haven’t done much reusing, and reducing is not even a twinkle in anyone’s eye at this point.

A cushion cover sewn from the sheet used to clean up the paint spill. Zipper taken from an old cardigan. Bonus: a perfect match for the room!

The other was a blog I happened upon a couple of months ago, written by a woman who is aiming for a zero-waste household. I tried, but could not imagine it. It may be possible, but would be such a huge shift for us that it overwhelmed me, and we only put out one small bag of rubbish each week. Like many things, though, one small step can come out of it and what caught my attention was her use for those net bags that vegetables often come in (for us: citrus fruit, onions, garlic, sometimes kiwis, peaches or nectarines). She had made them into a pot scrubber and though I couldn’t rise to the challenge of going waste-free, I thought I could manage a pot scrubber. We have a handmade net pot scrubber (‘we’ being my husband as Santa put it in his stocking last year, in recognition of his impressive pot scrubbing skills) and it is wonderful, as pot scrubbers go: extremely effective, a perfect size and very kind to pots and hands.

So since then I have been squirrelling away those mesh bags and now, as I read about October being Reuse Month, the bags are starting to snake out of the tin in the kitchen drawer, so I know it’s time, but more on this later.

I am very blessed to live with someone who can fix almost anything: dishwasher, washing machine, oven, drainpipes, jewellery, bicycle tyres, leaky taps as well as wiring our extension and tuning the piano.  I do my share of repairs (at not quite the same level obviously) and when my children were small I found myself gluing and stitching the most amazing array of items. It makes sense to keep things, but we do struggle with what to keep and how long to keep it. The tin of electric stuff? The bag of plumbing pieces? Exactly how many buttons do we need? (the answer to that is easy: you can never have too many buttons!) We demolished our garage in order to extend our house, and had to fit the contents into a small garden shed. We did and even managed to boost our travel fund by selling various items we were actually finished with.

Remake and reimagine definitely suits us and our lifestyle, but I still think there is a lot to be said for reducing – not acquiring in the first place.

Tips for Repairing | Remaking | Reimagining

  • Learn some skills – you are very unlikely to get a repair person who will use your saved up screws or other bits. Men’s Sheds, sustainability projects and YouTube are all places to pick up some instruction.
  • Don’t be a hoarder. Don’t just throw things into a corner or the back of a wardrobe where you will someday have to dig through their dust-ridden, mouldy remains and actually throw them out.
  • Find an appropriate place to keep things you want to use: I have a stash of ribbon (many formerly used to help hang clothes, now snipped off) in a tin with my craft supplies. I use them for homemade Christmas decorations, embellishments on other stuff that gets created, or ties for gift bags. The key is that I know where exactly to put one when I get another one, and where to find them when I want them.
  • If you keep them and don’t use them, find another use for them (maybe someone else has an idea) or throw them out. Don’t overwhelm yourself, or your kids who have to sort through your stuff once you’re gone.

Some other ideas to be responsible and imaginative with your waste:

My apologies for the Dublin-centricity of many of these suggestions, but I am sure there are similar organisations world-wide.

  • Make use of your local charity shops but don’t dump rubbish on them – be sure items are clean and usable.
  • Liberty Recycling, a “social enterprise progressing people affected by drugs into mainstream employment” in Dublin takes textiles in all conditions – the perfect way to get rid of torn clothing that you won’t be using as rags yourself – and “sorts, grades and packs used clothing and footwear for reuse in clothes markets in developing countries and for reprocessing into products including mattresses and insulation. Surplus cotton material is cut and baled into cleaning wipes for local customers including Dublin Bus, motor factors and cleaning companies.” They pay per bag for other organisations (i.e. schools) collecting on their behalf, so there is a large positive social and environmental impact from the one organisation.
  • Camara, an international charity registered in Ireland, takes used computers and wipes them clean, refurbishes them if necessary, loads them with educational software and delivers them to schools in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Lesotho and Ireland. Camara also trains teachers and principals, and in some cases offers IT support. It is possible to drop just one computer to them, or arrange collection for an office-full.
  • ReCreate “is a national social enterprise that takes end of line and surplus stock from businesses and reuses them as arts materials. [The] warehouse is full to the brim with all types of fantastic arts materials such as paper, wool, plastics, fabric, tubing, foam and many other unusual and unexpected surprises.” Unless you are a business, this is not the place to donate goods, but it is helpful to source supplies for your own remake and repair projects and can be an inspiration for reimagining. We were delighted to find a long-awaited backsplash for our new bathroom sink: a white tile with a touch of opalescence that echoes the shower surround. My live-in handy person had it installed in no time. The upholstery fabric for my Players cigarette chair (found in a skip years ago and kept in our attic until I found both the fabric and the time to re-do it) and the hessian coffee sack that supports the seat were other happy finds in ReCreate. The coffee sack (washed first as that coffee smell is pretty strong) also showed up in bunting, which you can see here. Recreate is celebrating a Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Impact award by currently offering a 15 month membership for the price of 12 months.


The Crochet a Pot Holder From Produce Mesh Bags project:

The mesh is slippery and with all its holes can easily get tangled.

The short lengths are very pernickety: I can barely chain four and slip stitch them together with one length.

I change hook size a couple of times. After cutting the pieces into about two inch strips as the patterns suggested, I then cut them skinnier as this mesh seems coarser than what they were using. I try knotting the lengths together, or just adding them in as I crochet, which actually works marginally better.

After the first round, single crocheting eight times (did I actually make eight? I’m not even sure) the result is a tough little rat’s nest.

I futilely and frantically try to find the blog post that I didn’t bookmark for any further clarity or instructions.

I go do some gardening and reimagine all that mesh in my kitchen bin.


But I will leave you with an up cycling project that did work, a beautiful little sundress that transformed into an apron, a true domestic goddess.

2 thoughts on “Reimagining, a New Way

    1. It’s hard to find the balance isn’t it, Connie? Sometimes it’s good to keep stuff and it’s great when you need it, to have it. But then…. the mountain keeps growing! I may actually buy some netting especially for making pot scrubbers – I saw enough tutorials on how to do it while I was looking for that blog.


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