Posted in Christian living

Repurposing me

Father-in-law’s wooden puzzle from childhood

Repurposing appears to be all the rage now days. 

What today’s savvy crafter or decorator calls repurposing – using something old or that could  be discarded for an entirely new purpose – is what we used to call just reusing what we had lying around the house or garage.  My parents were experts at reusing.  Both of them grew up during the Great Depression and money was not just tight, in some instances it was practically non-existent, so they learned from their parents to reuse everything possible.

Maybe that’s why my father had an over-sized two-car garage full of all kinds of bits and pieces:  old electrical wiring and plugs, any kind of old screws, nuts, bolts, or nails, jars, pieces of lumber/tile/whatever, string/rope/twine, parts for this and parts from that, and on and on and on.  My parents only threw something away when it was totally unusable.  And many times that whatsit that Dad had saved in the garage came handy for fixing or fabricating something else.

Fast forward to current times.  Everyone is ‘repurposing.’  You can find scads of ideas on Pinterest and there are entire websites dedicated to reusing, remaking, and repurposing all kinds of things.  I noticed some really great ideas and some incredulous ones as well (like turning an old baby Grand piano into a fountain) on this Twisted Sifter site. And I regularly check out interesting reusing ideas on the Facebook page Hometalk.

Mother’s childhood cabinet

I’ve repurposed a number of things right here at Mama’s Empty Nest now that I have more time on my hands.  After my mom passed away, I inherited one of her toys – a child-sized wooden cabinet that she put her play dishes in as a little girl.  It gathered dust in my basement for several years because I just didn’t know what I wanted to do with it. 

One day I brought it upstairs, cleaned and polished it and found a spot in my dining room for it.   I repurposed it by adorning it with some vintage doilies and various tea-related items in addition to special tea cups and saucers and my mother-in-law’s antique cream pitchers and was happy with the result.  I especially like that it reminds me not only of my mom and my mother-in-law but also the friends and family who gave me the gifts it now holds.

Repurpose Win #1.

After my father passed, my sisters and I faced the monumental task of cleaning out our parents’ home and garage – not an easy job in lots of ways.  In the garage, I found the old insulated dairy box that used to stand on our porch for the milkman to deposit our weekly bottles of milk in when I was a kid.  It was still in relatively decent shape, and since neither one of my sisters wanted it, it came home with me.  Of course, it too found a dusty spot in my basement to hide.  This summer, I repurposed it into a flower pot container for pretty red geraniums on my front porch.

Old milk box back on the porch

Repurpose Win #2.

For years, my hubby has kept a wooden puzzle in an old cardboard stationary box of his mother’s.  The puzzle is most unique in that it is printed on both sides – one side is the face of a clock in Roman numerals, the other gives the seasons of the year, names of the months, and how many days each month has.  The puzzle is special to us because it was a boyhood toy for my father-in-law who was born in 1898 (yes, you read that right!).  Instead of being hidden away in a box, this little bit of family history now rests inside a glass frame and hangs on my husband’s study wall (see photo at top).

Repurpose Win #3.

So repurposing – I’ve been up for it.  I’ve managed it.  There are still some items in my home that I have plans to reuse in one way or another.  That’s the easy aspect of repurposing.  Just go online, look up ideas, scan a few magazines, voila! You’ve got an idea what to do and how to do it.

But when it comes to life?  How do you repurpose that?  Not so easy.  That’s something I’ve been struggling with for over a year now.  Altering your life is so much more difficult than altering an object.  Finding a new purpose for yourself proves harder than finding a new purpose for an old, dusty thing.

This passage of scripture from 2 Timothy 2:20-21 which I read in The Message the other day encouraged me:   “In a well-furnished kitchen there are not only crystal goblets and silver platters, but waste cans and compost buckets—some containers used to serve fine meals, others to take out the garbage. Become the kind of container God can use to present any and every kind of gift to his guests for their blessing.”

With God’s guidance and according to His purpose, I believe He’s repurposing me, altering my container so I can be used to bless others.

And I’m hoping.  And praying.  And waiting for Repurpose Win #4.

“Living involves tearing up one rough draft after another.” ~Author Unknown



Mama of this empty nest, I’m content to live a quiet, country life with my husband of 40+ years and to view the gorgeous sunsets off my own back yard deck. Mama to three adults and Nana to adorable grandchildren, my empty nest fills up again with noise and laughter when they all return 'home'. A former English teacher, reporter/editor, education director for a non-profit organization, and stay at home mom, I retired after a season of substitute teaching at a private academy. Now I enjoy time spent with my grandchildren and family and writing words that seem to pour out of my soul or wandering around the countryside with my camera. Foremost, my faith sustains me as I meander through the empty nest stage of life. My favorite scripture is 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

16 thoughts on “Repurposing me

  1. I like your lovely repurposed items! Sometimes we don’t feel like we’re living “on purpose,” but we never know when something we say will be the words someone else needs to hear. It can be as simple as that, and we aren’t even aware of it.


  2. What brilliant ideas, Cindy! 🙂 I especially love the milk tin you’ve turned into a flower bin on your front porch. That’s great! And I bet your little GRANDCHILD will love coming over and seeing all the pretty blooms right at his or her height someday!!! 🙂 CONGRATULATIONS again!!!


  3. This is such a thought provoking post Cindy! It makes me think of all the good things objects can be transformed to. I am using old flat irons (the ones before electric ones) as door stops. That’s about as creative as I can get. Your ideas are simply wonderful!


  4. That little cabinet is absolutely adorable. I love that you’re repurposing. And I can identify with folks who lived through the Depression keeping EVERYTHING.


    1. My mother kept three of her cherished childhood ‘toys’ and as it turns out, she had three of us daughters. I got this sweet little cabinet, oldest sister got Mom’s little wooden rocking chair, and my middle sis got the tiny wooden tricycle. I knew you’d identify with me on the keeping everything due to Depression era parents. They taught me well because even now, I still hesitate before throwing something away and consider if it can be used again.


  5. Ohhh, I love the cabinet with the teacups, etc….that is just beautiful! 🙂 I have a small teacup collection myself. I would probably have a room full if I could afford it!


    1. My mom’s toy cabinet seemed just perfect for the things I have in it. I have a teacup and teapot collection too – most were gifts given to me. But I’ve instructed my family to stop gifting me with them because I ran out of room. :-O


    1. Andy, that’s so neat to hear you were a home delivery milk man!! I wish I had one of those glass milk bottles the milk came in too, but I don’t. Lots of nice memories from the good ol’ days, huh? Well…except for you fighting off the dogs! 😀


  6. Repurposing. I used to get so annoyed when this word, and ‘going green’ first came into use several years ago. Back in the day we did it as a lifestyle because it was the right thing to do and made good sense, and now these young whippersnappers are trying to make it a new fangled fad instead of wisdom. I also get annoyed when I think to myself that I should “bloom where I am planted.” I get cranky. I don’t want to bloom where I’m planted, I want to bloom somewhere else, doing something else – anything but this sitting still and waiting. Your post struck home today. . .


    1. Yep, me too – like they invented repurposing…something I grew up with because as you said it made good sense and was the right thing to do. As far as the sitting still and waiting, you know I’m still there with you [big sigh]. But in the meantime, I can still be the container God can use for His purpose.


  7. Love this post! Being a vessel that God can use for his purpose each day, not necessarily having a clue what each day will bring at times… what a grand adventure! The more I live this life, the more I love it. Nicely done!


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