Leftover plastic bottles, coffee filters, that emptied tin can; they all share a secret: There's more than one way to use them all! Here are our best tips on how to get the most of the goods in your home.
Make a matching set of vessels by painting metal cans in muted hues. We refinished soup, tomato, and coffee tins in assorted sizes, and fitted them with drinking glasses to prevent rusting. Now you have containers for all your knickknacks.
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Another functional project for the mighty coffee tin? Turn one into a homemade water gauge for the outside sprinkler. At the height of summer, lawns need about 1 1/2 inches of water a week (shrubbery and garden beds require 2 to 2 1/2 inches) to stay green and healthy. Next time, you'll know just how long to run the sprinkler.
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Cooking an omelet? Don't throw away the eggshells or the carton! You can use eggshells as pots to start seeds and coffee-stirrer tags as plant markers.
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Plain white paper filters become bright, colorful table decorations. To make varying colors, play around with different saturations and mixes of dye.
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Have an emptied plastic jug? Large and small bottles can be rinsed and cut to create stands and portable holders for paint -- especially useful for jobs that require working on a ladder.
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Pretty pots can do more than hold flowers on an outdoor table. They can be used to protect dips and other dishes from party-crashing insects.
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Moving dry ingredients from bags to airtight glass jars helps keep them fresh -- but transferring them into the containers can get messy. If you don't have a small funnel handy, use an envelope. Cut a generous portion off a corner, then snip off its tip and curl it into a cone. For large amounts, use big manila envelopes.
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If you do have funnels -- and find you don't need to use them often -- you can use them to rein in unruly balls of twine. For this, hammer a nail through each funnel near the top lip, attaching it to the wall of a shed or back of a door. Place a ball of twine or string in each one; run the ends out the spouts.
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Here's a trick for squeezing lemons sans an actual squeezer: Use a pair of sturdy tongs. Cut the fruit in half, and place a piece between the prongs. Working over a pitcher, squeeze the open end of the tongs with both hands. When finished, pour the juice through a sieve.
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Here's a convenient way to transport flats of blooms: Start with a large paper bag that has handles. Cut the bag along both long sides of a side panel. Repeat on the other side. Fold cut panels in to create more support at the base of the carrier, and trim any excess paper.
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Decorating jars of homemade preserves is a cinch with cupcake wrappers, and they come in all colors and prints. Invert two (for opacity), and place them on top of your jar. Use a rubber band to hold them in place; tie with waxed twine or ribbon, then simply remove the rubber band.
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To clean a pair of scissors without cutting yourself, squeeze lemon juice over the blade (white vinegar works, too). Then sprinkle with coarse salt, and rub with a cork. Rinse with water, and wipe dry to prevent rusting.
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And for the wine bottle it came with: Decant olive oil into the dark-tinted bottle for easy access, and keep the rest in a dark, cool place away from sun exposure.
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There are so many uses for the toothpick. One of our favorites is using them to clear the fine holes in a strainer or garlic press. And for color-frilled toothpicks, use them to identify grilled burgers (rare, medium, or well-done) and highlight vegetarian appetizers.
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The zest of this citrus fruit livens up a recipe, but there's so much more it can do. Namely, polish copper (dipped in a small dish of coarse salt and rubbed over the tarnish), whiten linens (fill a large pot with water, add a few lemon slices, and bring to a boil; turn off heat, add linens, and let soak for up to an hour; remove, and launder as usual), and cleaning your house from top to bottom (mix a half cup of baking soda with enough liquid dish soap to make a paste; spread on half a lemon, and use it to scrub basins, bathtubs, and stainless-steel sinks).