Barbie is pure plastic, all those tiny little shoes, hairdryers etc. If they haven’t all gone into your vacuum cleaner by the time your kids are over playing with them, use them to make cute jewellery! Upcycled Barbie necklaces and bracelets are just so cute you’ll be fighting over who gets to wear them. 

What to do with all the small plastic toys? Make some jewellery!
Start by getting super glue and jewellery making items, any hobby store will have them. It is super easy to glue earring backing on barbie shoes, or make broaches by gluing on small toys.

barbie shoesThe earrings don’t have to match, you can have a shoe on one side and a tiny book on the other, kids love quirky earrings. If you’re making them as a gift for grandma then maybe make them match. You can also buy clip-on earring bases at the crafting store so that your kid can wear them. You can of course make rings using the same method. You will also find ring bases at your local crafting store.







Candle advent wreaths are beautifully romantic. You can upcycle one for a fraction of the price of buying a new one. I have found the bases for all of the ones I’ve made at charity shops. But if you can’t find one then you can always use a large plate or platter and four candle holders as a base. Just secure the candle holders to the base with tic-tac.

candle wreath retroThis beautiful upcycled wreath on the left has large decor so it didn’t take too long to make. The base is a vintage wire advent wreath frame. The fabric flowers are from an old twinkle light string that didn’t work and the rest of the decor, baubles etc. are all bought at charity shops. I made sure to only use plastic and fabric so that it could be easily stored and reused for years to come. I fastened everything to the base with wire which I bought at my local garden market.

Christmas baubles go in and out of fashion. Do you have some plastic ones that you don’t use anymore? You can upcycle baubles to beautiful christmas wreaths. They look festive and fun on your door.

Bauble wreath
First I wrapped the wreath with glittery string, then I glued the baubles on top

Start by finding or making a base. I have found mine in charity shops, but you can also make them from branches yourself.

Then get yourself a good glue gun. After going through a few cheap ones, I have discovered that quality does matter when it comes to glue guns. Go to a hardware store and get a good one and it will save you time and frustration.

Make sure before you start that you know how you’re going to hang the wreath up. A strong string or wire will do. Also make sure that you have the wreath on a flat surface and that the baubles don’t go below it so that it sits straight when hung up.

Kids love to upcycle, they can look at something and imagine it as something entirely different. Letting them have stuff they’re allowed to demolish and make something new out of is fun.

Kiddo upcycling
Kids of all ages can upcycle

I have had a few workshops with kids where I bring all sorts of garbage, broken toys, beads, jewelry and all sorts. Be sure to have tools, glue and such but keep it under supervision so they don’t go crazy with those chemicals. I have made a lot of mirrors with kids. It’s something that is easy to glue on and make look pretty almost regardless what you do. Mirrors can be found in abundance in charity shops. Just make sure before they start that you have a plan on how to hang it up, because they will want to display their art. Glue for mirrors can be bought at hardware stores, super glue will also work, but is more expensive. Making key chains and jewellery is also easy. The main thing here is to let the kids lead the way and help them achieve their goal.



Upcycling parent
Upcycling is a fun parent-child activity
Baby mirror
Mirrors are beautiful with toys

Do you have a collection of statues that don’t go together, tired of your living room or just want to have some creative fun? Buy some spray paint and gather your statues.

Charity shops are full of ugly old statues that no one wants and sadly many of them end up in landfills. I went out, bought lots of 90s black statues and home made porcelain at charity shops, a few spray cans and went outside. Spray paint is toxic and messy, so you do not want to do this inside your home. If you have a garage you could open the door and do it there, but be sure you are in a well ventilated area and that all ground is covered. I use old news papers under and do it outside. Just follow the directions on the spray can and go wild. Please have a look at the ones I made for inspiration. The ones below I first sprayed evenly in one colour and let dry. Then I took another colour and sprayed close up in one spot until the paint started dripping.

Upcycled flower pot
This was an ugly black 90s flower pot
Upcycled statue of Jesus
Jesus had been made at a porcelain class

How to make your own gift wrapping

Wrapping Christmas presents doesn’t have to cost you much money or harm the environment. There are many ways of packing gifts in environmentally friendly ways. You can of course buy reusable gift wraps or boxes, but making it yourself is more fun! I think sheet music looks so festive. If your kid is at music school, ask if you can take paper from the recycling bin (or if you’re brave, just go to your nearest music college and ask). I also love using my kids homework and drawings (you don’t have to keep all of them). Anything you’re about to put into the paper recycling over the year, take a moment to think, can this be used as gift wrapping? If it can, then store it away. I recommend that every home has a gift wrapping box somewhere to store materials. Save all bows and string as well in there, they’re reusable. I like to buy simple string from the gardening shop to wrap my gifts. I glue sheets of paper together (you can make your own glue if you’d like to be extra environmentally friendly) and then I try to avoid using sticky tape, but just bind the parcel together with string. Any natural string works. It’s also great to use left-over knitting yarn! Decorating isn’t a must, but it’s fun. I like to use buttons, beads, broken jewellery, toys… whatever I have that I’ve thought pretty enough to store in my gift wrapping box. If you’re more minimalistic than me then you can buy little things and toys for next to nothing at charity shops.

The most important thing is to be creative! Think out of the box and remember, it doesn’t have to look perfect.

Old toys create a vintage charm
Buttons can look pretty on parcels







How to upcycle gift wrapping

Personally I still receive a lot of gifts in “single use” gift wrapping. But I keep it and reuse it. Just unwrap carefully and glue a few together if you need a big sheet.



Upcycling vs recycling

Upcycling (or creative reuse) is not the same as recycling (downcycling). So what is upcycling? To upcycle is to transform waste material into products that are used. Recycling takes an item and brakes it down, extracting useful materials from it and creating something from scratch. By upcycling you prevent wasting useful materials by making use of existing ones, reducing consumption of new raw material. This results in reduction of energy used, air and water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Thereby making the world cleaner and healthier.
The process of upcycling takes a lot less energy and is much more environmentally friendly than downcycling. Upcycling in short, gives items more value, whereas recycling breaks things down and then makes new things of lesser value. A simple example is a newspaper. You can upcycle a newspaper into wrapping paper, thereby avoiding having to buy wrapping paper, reducing the demand for it which should lead to less being made. You could also recycle the paper which means shipping it to a recycling station and then making new paper or cardboard from it. Recycling takes energy, time and money whereas upcycling saves you all those things. Another example is secondhand clothing which can easily be reused, sometimes by fixing or altering slightly.

Upcycling or being thrifty

People in developing countries have effectively been upcycling for years, using old packaging and clothing in new ways, although more out of need than for the environment. But upcycling is now taking off in other countries, reflecting an increased interest in eco-friendly and locally sourced products.

The key to upcycling

The key thing is to see everything you don’t use, need or have to throw away as valuable material that can be put to use in some way. And if you don’t need it, try to find someone who does. There are plenty of local Facebook groups where you can advertise raw materials to give away. Let your imagination run wild and always stop to think before you throw anything away.