The Art of Upcycling

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We sat down with Dinah Wulf of to learn the role that paper and packaging has in the upcycling and how it's influenced her lifestyle.

Q: Spring is often heralded as the perfect opportunity to tackle the to-do list. What are your favorite ways to get organized?

The first thing I do is purge. If I am organizing my craft room, for example, I look for items that I haven’t used in a while. Oftentimes, I’ll donate the supplies, give them away to my blog contributors or even do a mini-contest for my readers. Once those items are gone, it’s much easier to organize the rest. I have cubed shelves that hold cardboard file boxes with lids that keep everything out of sight and orderly.

Q: What are some simple, cost-effective ways to breathe new life into homes?

The best way to breathe new life into a home is to rearrange the furniture and artwork. The best part is that it doesn’t cost anything. For example, I recently moved and found some of my furniture was better utilized elsewhere. A one-time media console is now a dining room buffet, and a bathroom storage table I upcycled became a side table in my daughter’s nursery. You can also rearrange artwork and create gallery walls. To help create the best layout, cut the shape and size of your pictures and artwork out of newspaper or large kraft paper. Arrange the paper templates on the wall with tape so you get a good idea of placement and height before filling your wall with nail holes.

Q: Tell us more about your motto, “Repurpose, Reinvent.”

Five years ago, when I first started blogging, I wasn’t making any money. I had to get creative with my craft tutorials and DIY projects. Some, if not all, of them were made from recycled household items or furniture I found at thrift stores and yard sales. Over time, it became a passion. I found the hunt for these treasures just as exciting as transforming them. Today, repurpose through reinvention is a natural part of my thought process.

Q: Earth Day is a great reminder to reuse and recycle. What are the top three items in any home that should never go to waste, given their endless reuse opportunity?

Three things that I hoard (ha!) are sauce jars, cardboard tubes and cans. I have a bin of each that I keep in my craft room. Mason jars can be transformed into storage containers and gift containers. Cardboard tubes can be used for so many kids’ crafts that I do with my daughter. Lastly, cans can be transformed into party centerpieces or flower vases.

Q: What are some of your favorite trash-to-treasure transformations?

My favorite trash-to-treasure transformations are all thrift-store and garage-sale items that I rescued and upcycled into furniture for my daughter. I have upcycled play tables, play kitchen hutches and benches with book storage. The book-storage bench and the book-reading nook I made in her room are two of my most popular projects. All of these items my daughter still uses after several years.

Q: What advice do you have for homeowners on a budget looking to add some personal touches to their home?

Go on the hunt! You will be surprised at what you can find in the housewares section of a thrift store or a random garage sale in a nearby neighborhood. When you look for items, remember that the color and paint can be changed with little effort and skill.

Q: Looks matter, and so does gift presentation! How do you make sure gifts stand out without breaking the bank?

Keep a few stacks of colored paper on hand and only buy gift-wrapping paper without print. Natural brown wrapping paper is my go-to. I have transformed wrapped gifts into superheroes, jungles and even cartoon characters simply with colored paper I keep in my closet.

Q: Why is paper or paper-based packaging often a go-to material for you?

For a creative person like me, the transformation of paper and paper-based packaging is what excites me. Turning an old food box into a colorful gift bag or making paper flower embellishments to make my gift wrapping extra special are things that make me happy. The art of crafting brings pure enjoyment to me, and paper is my palette.

Q: How do you catalog your projects?

I catalog all my projects on my blog, and I keep an external hard drive of the thousands of photos I take. I also have a small suitcase that holds all the magazines that I have published projects in. I hope to one day frame and display them.

Q: How do you save your inspiration?

It’s all in my crazy head! I don’t usually make inspiration boards; rather, I come up with an idea and keep a handwritten list by my laptop. Some of my ideas make it on the blog, while others are pushed aside.

Q: What are some of the best ways to organize materials you use all the time (wrapping paper, craft tools, leftovers/scraps)?

I am fortunate enough to have an entire room dedicated to just that. The materials I have in my craft room are organized and grouped together in different containers. I even repurposed my daughter’s old crib bedspring into a craft organization station.

Q: How do you test project instructions? How often do you write out step-by-step instructions to be sure you’ve gotten the actions right?

All of my projects are written in a step-by-step tutorial format for my blog. I learn through experience, and over the years, I have written over a thousand tutorials! I also include mistakes I have made or tips to improve a step if needed. Nowadays, I know how to do things because I’ve already made the mistake in the past.

Q: People say not to loan out a book they actually want back. When do you gift books? When you do, are they books you’ve read or used, and does that add meaning to regifting or upcycling them?

I love to read and have many books. I don’t mind lending them out, and honestly when I do I don’t expect to get them back. The books I upcycle are ones that are damaged only. I also happen to have a collection of antique books that I will always keep and use only as home décor.

Q: What’s your favorite way to learn new techniques? Do you read up on them or experiment by hand?

I do a combination of both. I usually like to figure things out on my own through experience. However, if there is a more technical skill involved—for example, if I am working on a piece of furniture—I will look for a helpful DIY magazine article, book or online video.