How to Upcycle Holiday Items for Everyday Use

Think about repurposing unused or dated holiday items into your next DIY project.

By: Laura James

I'm guessing there are probably loads of holiday items collecting dust in the closets, basement and attic of your home. It’s easy to say, “Oh, but I’ll use it next year!” even if you haven’t used that decorative Santa serving tray since a distant relative gifted it to you five years ago, for example. As you spring clean your way through storage spaces, consider upcycling those holiday items into something more practical that you can use every day rather than once a year (or not at all).

milk and cookies on serving tray

Upcycled Serving Tray

Upcycle a holiday serving tray into a chic and neutral tray you can use every day.

Photo by: Laura James

Laura James

To give a Christmas tray a sleek update, cover the base with a simple graphic pattern, like this tan and gold herringbone. Next, paint the rest of the tray white. You can still leave milk and cookies on it for Santa on Christmas Eve, but now you can use it to serve breakfast in bed year round, too.

Santa serving tray

Santa Serving Tray

Upcycle unused holiday decor like this Santa tray into something more practical for everyday use.

Photo by: Laura James

Laura James



Mardi Gras beads

Mardi Gras Necklaces

Learn what you can make with Mardi Gras beads.

Photo by: Laura James

Laura James

Mardi Gras may not be a holiday you necessarily decorate for, but you probably have beaded necklaces sitting in a drawer somewhere from past celebrations. Upcycle beads into fun coasters in just a few steps.

beaded coasters

DIY Beaded Coasters

Turn old Mardi Gras beads into chic coasters in just a few steps.

Photo by: Laura James

Laura James

First, cut a beaded necklace in one spot so it becomes one long strand. Spiral it into a circular shape on a piece of felt. Trace the circular shape on the felt. Cut out the circle. Starting in the center of the felt circle, hot glue the string of beads into a spiral shape. Once you’ve filled the whole piece of felt, simply spray the coaster with gold spray paint. And now you have cute new coasters to put your drinks on.

decorative hooliday pails

Holiday Pails

Use holiday items you have lying around like decorative pails in your next craft project.

Photo by: Laura James

Laura James

Pails, cookie tins or other vessels from any holiday can become cute storage containers or planters with a quick paint job. 

gold and pink DIY planter

Painted Planter

Upcycle an old pail into a cute and vibrant planter with a gold and pink herringbone paint job.

Photo by: Laura James

Laura James

geometric pink and white pen holder

Painted Pen Holder

Give an old tin can a face lift with some paint and tape.

Photo by: Laura James

Laura James

Upcycled Container Gardens, Planters and Vases

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Take a Seat

Old wood chairs can easily be converted into holders for flowerpots; simply cut a hole in the seat and slip in the pot. Doll-sized chairs don't need any extra preparation because you can just set a small pot right on the seat. Potty chairs work the best because the hole is already there. Design by Nancy Ondra

Photo By: Nancy J. Ondra

Petunias in Pants

Hang old blue jeans along a fence or clothesline and fill them will annuals. No need to fill the entire legs with good topsoil, stuff the bottoms with unamended dirt, packing peanuts or old burlap bags.

Photo By: Jacquelyn McGilvray

Hat Trick

Give old hats new life as hanging gardens. Baseball hats make instant pot covers: Simply open the sizing tabs in back, slip the opening around the base of the plant and snap the tabs closed again. On straw, felt or fabric hats, cut a hole into the front or top and gently feed the plant stems through the hole. Design by Nancy Ondra

Photo By: Nancy J. Ondra

Desk Set

Turn an old desk or dresser into a charming garden by tucking small bushy and trailing plants into the partly opened drawers. Complete the look by popping plants into desk accessories, such as a pencil holder, an old telephone or a small desk lamp. Design by Nancy Ondra

Photo By: Nancy J. Ondra

It's In the Bag

Colorful purses and small tote bags make fun and fashionable plant holders. Lining them with plastic will keep the potting soil from staining the fabrics. Hang the handles from hooks, slip them over fence posts or dangle them from tree branches. Design by Nancy Ondra

Photo By: Nancy J. Ondra

Shoe Bootie

Leather or plastic sneakers, shoes and boots make adorable holders for individual flowering or foliage plants. Sit them on the ground, prop them up on a rack or hang them on a wall or fence. Design by Nancy Ondra

Photo By: Nancy J. Ondra

Teacup Garden

Old teacups and saucers make great little flower pots. Simply drill a hole in the bottom of the cup, plant the flower and place on a saucer. Design by Tiffany Threadgould

Let It Lure You In

Turn a tackle box into a unique container. Display some lures in the upper tray or plant those sections too. Bait buckets, cricket cages, traps and fishing baskets also work well for holding plants. Design by Nancy Ondra

Photo By: Nancy J. Ondra

Rustic Elegance

For a little Western flair, place an arrangement or flowering plant in an old cowboy boot.

Photo By: Photo Credit: Ralph Kylloe ©2013 Gibbs Smith, Rustic Elegance, Ralph Kylloe

Pails and Buckets

Plastic, metal or wooden buckets are ideal for displaying all kinds of flowering and foliage favorites. Smaller pails are perfect for individual plants; bigger buckets are great for large single plants or colorful combinations. Design by Nancy Ondra

Photo By: Nancy J. Ondra

For the Birds

Old birdcages, birdhouses and feeders make fun and fanciful containers for displaying pretty plants. Abandoned nests, bird figurines, feathers and other avian accessories help to complete the theme. Design by Nancy Ondra

Photo By: Nancy J. Ondra

Pallet Meets Shutters

This moveable, raised-bed garden was built using a wood shipping pallet, old shutters and casters. Design by Joanne Palmisano

Photo By: Susan Teare ©Susan Teare

Grocery Garden

Old or reproduction food tins make terrific pots for annual flowers or houseplants. Group them by a theme, such as candy, coffee or veggies, or mix them up for a quaint and colorful collection. Design by Nancy Ondra

Photo By: Nancy J. Ondra

Paint Cans

Recycle old paint cans or buy metal paint cans at hardware stores and home centers. To dress them up, drizzle craft paint around the top rim and add some drips down the sides. Cover with a coat of polyurethane to stop the cans from rusting, or leave them untreated and enjoy the rusty, rustic look that develops within a few months. Design by Nancy Ondra

Photo By: Nancy J. Ondra

More Paint Cans

Another option is to paint the whole can in different colors. Fill the bottom of the can with old wine corks for drainage then add soil and your favorite herbs. Paint stirrer sticks are used as plant markers. Design by Tiffany Threadgould

Clementine Box

Repurpose a fruit crate by turning it into a countertop herb garden. Design by Joanne Palmisano

The options are endless for painted pails. You can spray paint them a metallic finish and top with a neon color, for example, or you can use painter's tape to create a geometric pattern in white and one of Pantone's Colors of the Year rose quartz.

chocolate box

Heart-Shaped Chocolate Box

Save old chocolate boxes and turn them into your next craft project.

Photo by: Laura James

Laura James

A heart-shaped box of chocolates from Valentine’s Day can last long after you’ve eaten all of the chocolates and the petals have fallen from the accompanying flowers. With a little creativity and basic craft supplies, you can upcycle the lid of a chocolate box into a chic coffee table catch-all tray.


Trace chocolate box lid on craft paper to get interior surface.

Photo by: Laura James

Laura James

To make this tray, start by simply tracing the box onto craft paper of your choice.

cutting craft paper

Cut Paper

Cut craft paper that will become surface of upcycled tray.

Photo by: Laura James

Laura James

Then cut out the heart shape and trim it to fit inside the lid.


Paint Lid

Paint the lid of a chocolate box to turn into a coffee table tray.

Photo by: Laura James

Laura James

Before inserting the paper, paint the inside and outside of the box navy blue or any color you want.

heart-shaped coffee table tray

Upcycled Coffee Table Tray

Use a chocolate box to make this cute heart-shaped coffee table catch-all tray.

Photo by: Laura James

Laura James

After letting the paint dry, glue the craft paper to the bottom of the lid. In less than an hour, you have a cute new tray to hold TV remotes, candles, plants and other decorative items.

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