By Megan Wild
If you’re a fan of recycling, you’re going to love upcycling. While using something and then turning all or part of it into something else is fine, there are still a lot of chemical and energy processes involved in the process of recycling. Upcycling on the other hand, uses only your imagination and your energy to take an item and turn it into something even better.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of misconceptions and mistaken ideas out there concerning upcycling. Let’s discuss the top five here:
Common Misconception #1: You Have to Be a “Crafty” Person to Upcycle
It probably helps, but you don’t have to be crafty or even imaginative to create amazing upcycled items that you find at Goodwill. If you can do a computer search, you can upcycle. There are hundreds of sites out there with ideas and even complete instructions for upcycle projects at every level. Even if you’ve never created anything in your life, you’ll find something that appeals to your inner DIY-er.
Common Misconception #2: Upcycled Stuff Always Looks Homemade
For some people, the homemade look is the charm of upcycled items. However, there are many upcycled items you would never know had a prior life. Clothing is a perfect example. If you or someone you know can sew, old clothing that no longer fits or has tears and worn spots can provide fabric for something completely stylish and new. Remember the old muumuu? That’s a lot of fabric you could use for any number of things.
Common Misconception #3: Upcycling Takes Way Too Much Time
Upcycling takes as much time as you’re willing to devote to it. It can be as simple as hanging a folding chair on the wall to use for a shelf and closet or as complicated as turning an old piano into a shelving unit. Obviously, an older piece may require cleaning with detergent and water to remove any dirt or debris.
I recommend keeping in mind how much time you would like to spend on a project, and going from there! If you’ve ever used toilet paper rolls to keep your cords organized, an old toothbrush for cleaning or popsicles sticks to make art with your kids, you’ve already upcycled. How much time it takes is up to you.
Common Misconception #4: Upcycled Stuff Is Just Junk
Beauty — or junk — really is in the eye of the beholder. Goodwill is full of hidden gems just waiting to be given a second life. Some of the world’s most renowned art comes from what most people would consider junk. With a little imagination and some elbow grease, most anything can be turned into a one-of-a-kind custom piece that is unique to you.
Part of upcycling’s value comes from the ability to see beauty where other people see junk. But the finished product doesn’t have to have a shabby chic or even cottage look. You can amp up the look of an upcycled item by adding brilliant crystal knobs for an elegant and timeless look. Sanding and repainting your old garden furniture is upcycling, and the finished product can look brand new if you take the time to do it right.
Common Misconception #5: New Is Better
Most of the things we buy today are meant to be disposable, and society as a whole has accepted that. In the past, things were built to last. People didn’t have a lot of disposable income, so if something broke, tore or wore out, you fixed it.
Because of the high-quality craftsmanship, many old items found at Goodwill are still usable years later. An affordable bookshelf today is likely made from pressed wood and laminate — which may be cost effective, but lacking the quality and strength you’re looking for. So, instead of thinking that “new is better,” remember that treasures found at Goodwill are also new-to-you!
So use what you have. By upcycling, you can take an old, solid wood item and enhance it with some trim and a bit of color to achieve that high-dollar look you want without breaking the bank.
There are those who will always prefer new products over upcycled items. But whether you want to ease the load on landfills, save some cash or just appreciate the beauty and sentiment of upcycled items, the choice to repurpose and reuse is a rewarding and satisfactory one that benefits us all.
Goodwill is a great place to score some awesome items for your next upcycling project! When it comes to clothing especially, the possibilities are endless for what you can create.
About the Author: Megan Wild is an advocate of reusing and repurposing items to make them useful. When she’s not tearing materials apart and putting them back together, she’s writing about her home decor adventures on her blog, Your Wild Home.