by Kit Davey
Don't toss that can into the recycling bin! Use it in a home-decorating project.
I know, I know. I'm pushing the frugal decorating thing a bit too far, but trust me. There are dozens of clever ways to use cans around your home. And when you do, you'll save money, help our environment and add a touch of whimsy to your home.
Around the house ...
* Tuna fish cans make great votive-candle holders. Spray paint the cans gold or cover with a collage. You can give an antique-like look to the can by perforating it with tiny holes and applying "instant rust," available at craft stores. Place a little sand or a few pebbles in the bottom of the tin around the base of the candle.
* Some kids (and adults) like to collect refrigerator magnets. Why not use a big can to display your collection? You can put the can on top of the refrigerator, on the kitchen counter, on a bookshelf or on top of a dresser. You could even put it on your desk and use it like a mini-bulletin board.
* Speaking of refrigerator magnets ... Make your own by collecting a few orange-juice-can lids. Cut out a family photo, or a pretty picture from a postcard to fit within the edges of the lid. Use a glue gun to attach a magnet and voila — a tiny picture frame.
* Large olive-oil cans are usually printed with gorgeous type and designs. Why not use one as a small trash can or as a house-plant container?
* Has your child done something you're proud of lately? Make him/her a medal to honor the deed. Poke a hole in an orange-juice-can lid (they have nicely finished edges that prevent cuts), spray paint it gold and use a permanent marker to write "Homework Champion" or "World's Most Beautiful Smile" on the disk. Loop a length of wide ribbon through it and place it around your child's neck during a family ceremony.
* I love rusted things and have become addicted to using the product "Instant Rust" on old cans for decorating projects. Here's an alternative to the standard bulletin board: Cut out pairs of shapes from cans, like stars, hearts and dog bones. Any hardware store will carry metal cutters strong enough to cut into tin cans. The shapes should be about 1.5 to 3 inches tall. Hammer a nail through the middle of each shape and apply Instant Rust until you get the desired crusty look. Then hammer the shapes into the wall where you want to display your stuff, about 2 to 4 feet apart and stretch thin wire between the shapes. You can have several rows of wire, one on top of the other, or side by side. Use old-fashioned metal clips to hang photos, art, leaves or whatever from the wires.
* Here's another fun art project. Cut out shapes from large cans, such as hearts, spirals, stars or diamonds, flatten them with a hammer and apply Instant Rust. Attach a series of the shapes together with wire or a section of an old hanger. Decorate your shapes with buttons, keys, feathers or twigs and hang your tin-can mobile on the wall.
In the garden
* Poke a few holes with a hammer and a nail into the bottom of a large stewed-tomato can. Spray paint it a bright color and nail the can to the fence or to the wall of your garage to store your trowel and gloves in.
* Remove the top and bottom of tuna cans and use the cylinder to keep pumpkin or gourds off the ground.
* My clever neighbor, Jean, made a simple fruit picker from an old soup can and a broken broom handle. She attached the can to the handle with two screws. She holds it up under ripe fruit growing in high branches, gives it a gentle push and the fruit falls into the can.
* Scare fruit-destroying birds away with a sun-catching, clattering string of can lids. Save 20 or 30 lids and poke a hole near the edge of each one. Tie the disks at regular intervals to a length of twine and string it amongst your vegetables and fruit trees.
* Keep string and twine ready-to-use. Poke a hole into a tuna can and nail it above your potting table or work bench. Put a ball of twine in the can and thread the end through the hole in the can.
* Spray paint or let rust five or seven large cans, poke a few holes in the bottoms for drainage, nail to your fence and plant trailing ivy or annuals in them.
* Make a spreader for fertilizer. Poke 20 or 30 large holes into the bottom of a large fruit juice can. Place the can, holes facing down, on top of a plant saucer or paper plate and fill with fertilizer. Take out to your lawn, remove the plate and start spreading.