Thursday, June 2, 2011

Adaptation & Re-Design

It's no secret I have a "thing" about retail packaging. Whenever and wherever possible, we avoid purchasing items swathed in plastic or excess packaging. Unfortunately, many containers are unavoidable, so we plan re-uses and inevitably wind up with numerous and varied boxes, jars and tins. I've mentioned before that we re-use containers but not that I (sometimes) craft durable household items out of them with a few supplies like contact paper, decals and/or paint.

Contact paper has a number of household uses and comes in a wide variety of colours and designs. Its durability has both positive and negative aspects. Most contact paper is made of plastic and will not decompose in landfills. However, this plastic can significantly increase the life of other, less durable containers. Yes, I confess to plasticizing cardboard and tin, but I bought two rolls of contact paper long before the environmental impact of plastics was known so now, a few decades later, whether I decide to apply it or toss it, that paper's ultimate destiny is still the landfill. At least by applying it to something, it serves a practical purpose in the interim. If you prefer not to buy contact paper, similar re-design can be achieved with remnant cloth and glue.

Cardboard boxes are easily redesigned, and contact paper adds rigidity, durability, moisture-proofing and style to them. Fortified boxes can be used a number of ways – I like to organize drawers with them. A decades-old chocolate box (foreground below,) is still used to organize my cosmetic drawer.

Tin cans make excellent storage containers without any reinforcement but, frankly, they're too ugly to display. If its purpose is only to store shoe polish then it really doesn't matter; it'll be stowed out of sight anyway. But, if you want a canister for the kitchen or a garbage can for the sewing room, a little contact paper or paint can go a long way towards coordinating that tin can with home decor. The toilet plunger holder (background) was a coffee can I covered the same day as the "cosmetic organizer." Lined with a small plastic bag (to aid in cleaning and to keep the bottom from rusting,) this old coffee can still functions and looks decent – as much as a toilet plunger holder is able.

Our most re-used containers are glass jars. The majority don't get redesigned, as they're used mainly for temporary food storage and are rarely in view. Some foods, however, require longer storage in opaque containers. While I tried using contact paper on jars, it doesn't adhere well to glass, and peels when washed. Dark paint (left) works better and lasts a great deal longer. To add just a touch of embellishment to the plain thrift shop cookie jar, (right) bought for my very first home, I added a "sample" (read: free) decal which also ended up lasting for decades. It's begun peeling a little but, after thirty-seven years, that's forgivable.

The thing is, at heart, I'm happily frugal, utilitarian through and through, a hesitant consumer. So, as long as containers remain an inescapable part of shopping, it gratifies me to extend their life. The occasional redesign simply makes them last longer and look better, whatever their re-purpose.