Published on February 23, 2019

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Photography by Cody Guilfoyle

Welcome to Don’t Toss It, a new series that spotlights tips and tricks to give your old items new life. Despite the Marie Kondo craze and our sudden cultural fascination with decluttering, throwing things away isn’t always the best solution. In the spirit of exploring easy ways to be more sustainable, we’re sharing low-lift upcycling projects that even the most inexperienced of DIY-ers can tackle.

 

My apartment is essentially a graveyard for things that should have been thrown in the trash. Ombre paint chip strips have found a home on my gallery wall. Dead flowers (sorry, dried flowers) have taken the place of any living blooms, much to my roommate’s chagrin. And when it comes to the vessels I have adorning every available surface, they’re largely trash. Well technically, they’re upcycled trash: I have a thing for hoarding empty candle jars.

The root of my obsession with repurposing every glass and ceramic jar stems—as most things in my life are wont to do—from a borderline insane fear I have of accidentally tossing something I’ll one day have a use for. This fear is the reason I still own low-rise jeans. Except, in this case, repurposing old candle jars has proved incredibly fruitful; not to mention, more sustainable and budget-friendly.

Candles tend to run fairly expensive, and it seems a shame to waste them after they’re burnt out. Especially when they come in such pretty containers. Whether repurposed for organizational or ornamental functions, there are so many uses for old candle jars. The main problem is figuring out how to get them clean.

This is the method I have found to be most effective:

  1. Remove any stickers.
  2. Pop your finished candles in the freezer for a minimum of 24 hours.
  3. Using a sharp knife, carefully jab at the wax to break it into pieces; once these fall out (usually taking the wick with them), your candle should be wax-free.
  4. Soak in a sink of warm, soapy water for an hour or so. Scrub with an old sponge or toothbrush to get rid of residue and soot. In more dire cases, you can also use Goo Gone.
  5. To really sanitize, run the now-empty jars through the dishwasher.  

Convinced yet? Here are a few ways to reuse candle jars in every room of your home.

Succulent Planters

More often than not, plants bought at garden centers don’t come in the most interesting pots. If you have a terra-cotta candle jar, use it to re-pot your succulents and other hard-to-kill greenery. These tiny planters make a great addition to an empty windowsill.

Cotton Beauty Product Holders

Are your medicine and under-sink cabinets cluttered with boxes of Q-tips and plastic tubes of cotton pads? Use sleek glass jars to organize them in style. You’ll be able to use them to decorate your bathroom vanity without worrying about anything clashing with your aesthetic.

Coffee Table Centerpiece

Larger candle jars make the perfect containers for things like shells or polaroids and, in turn, are a great centerpiece for your living room coffee table or end table. I collect matchboxes (because I am a cliche) and store them all in one frosted glass vessel that once housed a three-wick candle.

Entryway Catchall

If your entryway doesn’t have room for much more than a mounted picture ledge, use a smaller jar to hold things like keys and that one lipstick you always grab before running out the door.

Glassware

Aside from two massive water glasses sourced from IKEA, every single cup in my kitchen used to be a candle. I love the mismatched look, and if your style errs more eclectic, collecting an assortment of glass jars in different shapes, colors, and sizes is a budget-friendly way to build out your kitchenware inventory. Plus, they’ll look pretty great on open shelving.

Desktop Organizer

If you work from home, eschew traditional office supplies—which can often feel a bit cold and corporate—for something a little more style-driven. Chic ceramic candle holders make great catchalls for necessities like writing utensils or paper clips.

See more genius ways to recycle in style:
10 Creative Ways to Upcycle Old Textiles
Everything in This Irish Cottage Has Been Upcycled or DIY’d
How One Person Finds Home Decor Treasures in Other People’s Trash

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