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Up cycle Trash into Gorgeous Gift boxes and Picture Frames

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New ways to enjoy pictures and give gifts

Get into a happy space with these simple, easy DIY  ideas.


People really appreciate something unique made personally by you. Bring new life to discarded items. You get to save the trash as well as the cash.
See your loved ones at a glance on the wall instead of scrolling through endless pictures on  a mobile device. Tangible versus digital sentiments indeed. Even our gardener, the cleaning lady and preschool children now have digital pictures to share with us. We peer at a tiny flickering image on their mobile phones for an instant and then the loved one is switched off. Long gone are the days of family portraits mounted in expensive frames. So how about something in between?

Photo frames from lids

A picture tells a thousand words, so to have a mobile phone equipped with a camera can save many words and capture special moments forever. Sometimes it is good to have some of your favourite pictures printed out. Once mounted on the wall, they can be enjoyed every time you pass by or stare at the wall behind your office desk. These days it is fashionable to "re purpose" old items and using old windows, lids or even boxes and plates to mount your pictures makes an impact. Here are some ideas to keep the children busy on a boring afternoon. (When the batteries on their gadgets are busy recharging!)


Make picture frames out of food container lids


Most types of plastic containers can be recycled. But before you toss out plastic lids, try giving them a new lease of life. Lids come in attractive colours in a variety of shapes and sizes. Start collecting them, choosing the colours that you like. In your spare time you can make a delightful cluster of picture frames. Here you have the basic idea. Find some old photographs. In the old days many of us kept reject pictures from the photos we had developed and printed. Place a suitable lid over the area that you like the most and draw around it with a pen or pencil. Cut it out and pop the picture inside the lid.


Make sure that the glue you use does not affect the picture. Some strong-smelling glue can seep through paper and erode the print. I made this mistake, so test the glue before you use it. The safest option is to use a few pieces of thin double-sided tape. Put a few strips of double-sided mirror tape behind the lid, on the flat side. You can also use “prestik” putty to attach the lid to the wall, cupboard door or window pane. Arrange the pictures in a row or a cluster where they can easily be seen.


Prepare a surprise for somebody special in your life


Set up a group of pictures to make a memorable gift for a loved one. Mount them on the wall, especially above their desk. I had so much pleasure browsing through our old boo-boo photos I found discarded in a box. Even the smallest face in the corner of a badly composed landscape can be transformed into a miniature portrait framed inside the lid of a Coca Cola bottle. We page through dusty photo albums, but here is a way to share so many precious moments and special friends simultaneously. Not even on Facebook!


My Mom's relationship with her pictures - typical of elderly people

Older people especially, love to keep photos of their loved ones where they can see them every day. My 94-year-old Mother pastes the photos she receives from her family and friends all over the house, as you can see. Some of her doors are totally covered - the wallpaper effect. She laughs. Nobody is left out and everything we have sent her over the years can be found. Some rest quietly in photo albums but most of them are out on a wall or a door! This is where I got this idea of putting the box of old family photos to good use.


Digital is out for elderly people who often have poor eyesight. Mom refuses to use or even look at a mobile phone and fiddle with all those little buttons. She sees perfectly well and does a challenging crossword puzzle every day. When she looks up to find the right words, her favourite people are all there.  The family pictures of all her loved ones, both past and present seem to keep her company. They generate a feel good factor. We offered to buy her a digital photo frame for Christmas. She had a cadenza. The next year we bought one, to play family videos she could watch in bed. She never switched it on because she didn't know how to!

Save a tree, use paper once and save money

make gift boxes


Do you also get upset when all the expensive shiny paper gets ripped off a gift and thrown in the trash? That’s why we all like to buy gift bags and they are often given out a few times – often back to you! Before taking your paper waste to the recycling centre, think about using some of the old grocery cartons and magazine pictures for making these attractive gift boxes. We can make our own gift boxes and fill them with lovely homemade gifts. It’s called up cycling!


A picture tells a thousand words. Some of the magazines we keep have beautiful pictures but nobody sees them when they are stashed in a long forgotten box. We can make a variety of gift boxes or carry bags out of cardboard boxes of different shapes and sizes. Save those cereal boxes, tea boxes and the like. Cover them with your favourite magazine pictures. You also find wise or witty comments from magazines or advertisements that add to the theme. It is amazing how personal they become when you select appropriate images and captions for specific people.
Start now, with a collection of pictures and even advertisements that appeal to you. Some of them have beautiful illustrations. Tear the pages that you like out and keep them in a folder. Soon the bug will bite and you will be surrounded in paper, cardboard and glue. The children can join in and make some of their own gift packaging. What a change from ordering Mom to wrap their gifts for them!

Gift boxes from trash

Trim the boxes to form the shapes you require. You can curve the sides, for instance. Then get to work with all your pictures and paste your cut-outs onto the boxes. It is best that the pictures overlap slightly. Use the stick-type glue or paper adhesive, for the best coverage. Make sure there is enough glue on all the sides of each piece of paper you stick into place. Add some streaks of glue to the middle of larger pictures to help secure them. Begin with the base of the box and fold a large piece of paper around the edges, as if wrapping the box. Then glue pictures over the folded edges on the sides. This overlapping process keeps it looking neat and professional. The top of the box can be trimmed afterwards of you can fold the paper covering over the cut edge.


Lastly, make two holes on each side at the top, using an office paper punch. Thread through some old pieces of string or ribbon for handles and secure them with a knot. Think of the money you can save by not having to buy gift wrap. These boxes also save time, for packing up a few quick gifts.

recycled gift packaging

Now make your own unique gift tags to  add some bling!  Use some of the scraps from the pictures you cut out. Paste them onto the cardboard flaps that were cut off of the boxes you used. Find unusual odds and ends to paste on top - like sequins, shiny foil paper, bows, buttons, strips of lace, dried leaves or even a feather. Once decorated, punch a hole, add some ribbon or string and you have some gift tags. Make a lot of these so they are always around to grab when you are in a hurry.

If you enjoy keeping old containers, take a look at what you can do with old CD covers and spindles. Loads more fun and games to enjoy.

Cd spindles
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