Upcycling has a lot of benefits. It’s good for the environment, it’s very cost-effective, and it can be really fun. But is upcycling a good hobby for everyone?
Upcycling is the process of turning things that would be considered trash into useable items. While it’s a good hobby for a lot of people, some people don’t like upcycling and prefer doing other things as their hobbies instead.
So what is it that makes people like upcycling and others not like it? And is it the right hobby for you?
What is Upcycling?
Throwing out an old ottoman? How about some clothes that don’t fit anymore? Usually, our habit is to trash or recycle unwanted or worn-out items. Upcycling takes a different spin on things.
Instead of getting rid of things we would normally consider trash, upcycling is the process of turning those items into something useful. Usually, you do it yourself, but there are actually businesses that make money upcycling things.
A quick Google or Pinterest search of “How to upcycle ___” and then you fill in the blank will bring up loads of ideas on how to turn your trash into treasure.
Upcycling is seen as very environmentally friendly because you cut out the reprocessing that recycling requires. Instead, you turn one thing into another and it all stays right in your own home.
Popular things to upcycle are:
- Old clothes (into pillows, blankets, bags, etc.)
- Glass jars (for candle holders, storage containers, etc.)
- Reclaimed wood (for just about anything, from furniture to accent walls to tables,etc.)
- Plastic bottles (there are SO many ways to upcycle these, it blows my mind)
Even though there are items that are popular to upcycle, almost anything can be upcycled. And odds are, there are people who have upcycled the same item, and the information on how they did it is on the internet.
Some things can even be upcycled multiple times, if done well. And other things can be upcycled into multiple products. For example, an old car could be upcycled into a handbag, a desk, an accent garden, and a belt all at the same time. With a little bit of creativity, almost anything can be turned into something useful and something beautiful.
What You Need to Upcycle
Upcycling is kind of like reverse crafts. When making crafts, you think about a project you want to do, and then you go out and buy the supplies you need to make it. With upcycling, you start with the materials and then come up with a project that would be useful to you or someone else.
Sometimes, you do need extra supplies, and you fill for sure need tools at some point in time or another. So it’s good to understand what you’re going to need to do upcycling as a hobby in the first place.
General tools you’re going to need include (but are not limited to):
- A saw
- Hot glue
- Paint (boy, do you need paint!)
- Wood stain
- A drill
- Sting (like twine or yarn)
- Measuring tape
- A box cutter or utility knife
Most upcycle DIY projects include at least some of these tools, if not all of them. Since upcycling is kind of a cross between crafts and home improvement, a standard toolset will include elements from both categories.
Another thing you’re going to need is an eye for design. I mean, most people can think of practical uses for old trash, but for upcycling to really be good, you need to be able to take raw materials and create something quality out of them.
There are a lot of people who just are super “crafty,” and that’s totally okay, but upcycling does require a little bit of skill to do well.
You also need time. Unlike going down to the store and buying your next table, you’re literally making it out of something that wasn’t even meant to be a table in the first place! Speaking from experience in that exact scenario, you’re going to need a good chunk of time to upcycle old items.
My dad would always say that when he’s working on a project, he gives himself three times as much time as he thinks he needs to accomplish it, and that’s usually just the right amount.
That’s how upcycling can be.
One of the reasons it takes so much time is because you may not know all of the materials you need. When you’re making a craft or even building a shed, you’re usually following some sort of a plan.
Upcycling requires a little bit more imagination, and while you can do really awesome planning for your project, you may get halfway through and realize that you need more supplies.
In that case, you end up making multiple trips to the store to get what you need, and that can make even a simple project take a really long time.
Don’t get me wrong, upcycling can be really fun, and really rewarding because you’re making something useful. But it does require time, effort, and sometimes money. So it needs to be something you’re interested in to be a successful hobby.
Upcycling as a Hobby
Upcycling seems to fit a few different kinds of personalities. Some do it as a hobby because they enjoy making things with their hands. Others make a hobby out of upcycling because they’re very environmentally conscious.
Whatever the case, here are some things you might end up doing as the result of making upcycling a hobby.
Wandering junkyards. Junkyards are a great place to get materials because you can get things for either free or really cheap. I know of upcycling hobbyists who really enjoy going through local junkyards of sorts to find supplies. Sometimes they don’t even have an objective in mind, they just like seeing junk and thinking of ways it could be used.
Spending a lot of time at thrift stores. Similar to junkyards, thrift stores can be a great place to get materials at really inexpensive prices. And you can usually find a few that are close to you.
There are a couple of upsides of going to thrift stores. Firstly, most thrift stores won’t sell things that are in really bad condition, which means that you have good bones to work with when you’re working on your projects.
The other benefit is that many thrift stores have charitable causes and donate things to the needy. So you get a do a double-good by helping the environment and helping out the needy.
Collecting, well…trash. If you’re upcycling, you’re probably collecting things that are considered by most, trash. For one reason or another, you might save junk you plan to use in the future.
You might have an idea that requires more materials, but they’re materials you don’t have yet. So you set the item aside until you have what you need to work on the project.
Or maybe you have everything you need, but you haven’t set aside the time to work on the project. Either way, those items may sit in your garage, yard, or shed until you’ve carved out the time and resources to do the project.
Upcycling as Something Besides a Hobby
Now, if you’re interested in upcycling, you don’t need to do it as a hobby. Maybe you don’t do it because you like it, you do it more out of necessity. This is totally fine as well.
Maybe you just want to be thrifty, so instead of going out and getting materials to upcycle, you just upcycle what you were planning to throw out originally.
If we’re being honest, most people who upcycle probably fall under this category. They only upcycle when they have trash. They don’t go out and look for it.
But there’s also another kind of upcycler who isn’t a hobbyist or utilitarian. And that the person who upcycles for a business. There are many ways people have made money by upcycling, and we actually have an article on how you can start your own upcycling business yourself here.
It can be very profitable to upcycle for money, and many people do it for their livelihood. So this is another reason you could upcycle for more than “just because.”
Is Upcycling the Right Hobby for You?
So the real question is, is upcycling right for you? And now that you know a little bit about what upcycling entails, you probably have a good idea of whether it’s a good hobby for you.
Is it a good hobby for everyone? Probably not. I think everyone should do it when they have items they’re throwing out. But turning it into a hobby that you spend most of your free time doing might be a little bit much.
Some people prefer other things. Like hiking, or reading, or exercising. And that’s okay, not everyone likes working with their hands.
But if you do, it might be a good hobby for you. If you like designing things, building things, solving puzzles, being creative and imaginative, or if you like doing things to help the environment–it might be a great hobby for you.