“Upcycling” is a fancy new word for an older item that has been altered or repurposed to become something completely different and useful. It’s not only good for the planet (saves landfill), but it is also a way for you to add inventory to your store with some old dust collectors and a little creativity!

I inherited cartons full of ceramic “Precious Moments” figures when my parents passed away several years ago. If that brand isn’t familiar, it was the Beanie Babies of the 1970s: ceramic knickknack statuettes of cute little big-eyed children in poses that were either endearing or, well, creepy, that served as décor or statement pieces. For a certain generation, they were the easy gift to give because chances are there was a PM statuette made for an occasion, profession, activity or feeling. Granddaughter’s graduation? Cute little ceramic tyke in an oversized gown and crooked cap. First Communion? Cute kids praying at the rail. It was a 3D greeting card.

Rare Precious Moments, Precious Moments, Vintage Precious Moments, Select Precious Moments With Boxes, Family Figurines image 1

Unlike greeting cards, however, you couldn’t just fold them and stack them in a Banker’s Box. These little varmints choked curio cabinets, shelves and credenzas until eventually they wound up in my garage and I couldn’t give the damn things away. But, because I’m a sentimental sucker, I can’t bring myself to throw them out.

I had a brainstorm a few weeks ago that I would repaint them, transforming them from little innocents into ironically funny or downright horrific creatures. A little cowboy becomes Carl from “The Walking Dead.” A little girl with a bright flowery wreath becomes Florence Pugh from “Midsommar.” Mulder and Scully. Starfleet Officers. Mario and friggin’ Luigi. I’m a genius!


But not the first one. To my simultaneous dismay and encouragement, I discovered that hundreds of people were already doing it. And doing it well. The Facebook Group “Altered Moments” has 130,000 members who share and sell their work. Most of it on, you guessed it, Etsy. Type “Altered Moments” or “Repurposed Precious Moments” into the Etsy search bar and you’ll find cute Pennywise the Clown, cute Cousin Eddie from “Christmas Vacation”, cute Norman Bates, etc.

A statue of a couple of people Description automatically generated A toy figurine of a child Description automatically generated

If you can paint, you can do this too. Vintage PM figurines can be had for as little as a few dollars, and the repaints command between $35-$50 on Etsy. You can also offer commissions at a higher price.

These are hardly the only example of upcycling discarded items into one-of-a-kind pieces. With a few stitches and some ingenuity, worn out old clothing can be transformed into haute couture.


Sewing old jeans or t-shirts into patchwork quilts are nothing new, but the same approach can be used to create fun backpacks, handbags or yes, even “new” jeans. Enter “upcycled jeans” into the Etsy search bar and you’ll be amazed at the innovative and creative uses Etsy shop owners have for those faded Wranglers.

Below are a couple of creative re-uses: one Etsy shopkeeper creates customized chew toys for dogs, and another turns old jeans into absorbent cocktail coasters:

Denim personalized dog bone toy with squeakers . image 1 Coaster / Cup Quilts Patchworked from Deconstructed Recycled Jeans image 1


Upcycling doesn’t have to be limited to décor or fashion. With audiobooks and tablet reading on the rise, there are stacks and stacks of books gathering dust in someone’s attic or in the back of an old bookstore/money laundering front. Etsy creators transform these old books into one-of-a-kind spiral bound journals.

With a modestly priced spiral punch and binding coils (be careful not to accidentally purchase the more common plastic comb binders, typically used for presentations), you can make these journals very simply by sandwiching blank paper between the front and back covers of a faded old novel. Some creators even use some of the interior pages (especially if they are illustrated) as dividers.

This is a very simple and quick project that can turn a dollar store find into a unique, $20-$25 sale to a buyer who wants their journal to be as original as the thoughts they write in it.

Upcycled Germania Kalender Vintage Book into Journal/Sketchbook image 1 UPCYCLED JOURNALS: The Busy Book, Handmade, Upcycled, Repurposed, Journal, Last Minute, Blank Pages, Storybook, Diary, Sketchbook image 1


If you have an oversupply of something, chances are there is a way to convert them into something useful. And if you make a lot of them, you will not only have a healthy inventory, but eventually become a recognized source for that particular item. Several of the above examples are by Etsy shopkeepers with multiple five-star reviews and dozens of listings of similar but unique items.

Upcycling items can be as simple as dying a military belt with bright rainbow colors, making it both utilitarian and fashionable. Wrap old rope or paracords around soda cans and make can koozies. Cut wine bottles and convert them into wind chimes or candle holders. The possibilities are only limited to your imagination and how much extra stuff you have around the house.

A group of wrenches on a white surface Description automatically generated Colouring Pencil Earring Studs Upcycled earrings jewellery hexagon Gift Ladies Upcycling Crayon Wooden wood craft drawing Handmade Bristol image 1


If you can’t find enough of a particular discarded item to create a line, consider the literal meaning of “One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.”

4x6 assemblage art, Hanging Out with a Bunch of Squares, primitive folk art by Elizabeth Rosen image 1 Dream Art Assemblage Wall Art Found Objects Art image 1

“Assemblage” is the assembly of found or discarded items with little of no relation to each other and then combined to create something unique. It doesn’t have to be useful at all, it can simply serve as an art piece.

The Facebook Group “The Art of Assemblage & Found Object” is a mind-bending collection of art pieces created by novices who just started putting odds and ends together to established artists who transform junk into wondrous works of art. On this page you’ll find whimsical wall art made of discarded keys, Victorian time machines and crazy-looking robots.

And of course, type “assemblage” into the Etsy search bar and you’ll find no shortage of similar artisans making their wares available for discerning collectors and home decorators.

Etsy is focusing on the word “handmade” when it comes to their shops, and upcycling is a great way to kill two birds with one stone. You can declutter your own space while creating something of beauty for someone else’s, or that one unique useful item that someone really needs. Either way, you’ll doing well by doing good.

Leave a Comment