How to have an upcycled Christmas

Christmas decorations

Christmas is looming large in the calendar once again, and advice on festive cost-cutting will be relevant long after 2023 comes to an end. It’s doubtful many households will feel more prosperous next year than they do right now, while the increasingly high profile of environmental matters means recycling and upcycling are inevitably going to grow in popularity.

Upcycling can be a confusing concept for people who’ve grown up in a culture of fast fashion and disposable consumer goods. It flies in the face of the buy-use-discard philosophy pushed by everyone from clothing retailers to purveyors of festive trinkets. Yet upcycling offers a cost-effective way to enjoy Christmas, as well as potentially transforming your attitude to the inevitable January clear outs and tip runs…

In with the old…

Most of us have already put up our decorations by mid-December, but it’s worth revisiting the items which have been left in the garage/shed/loft to see if anything could be repurposed or upcycled. There are loads of opportunities here – old festive side plates might become a seasonal drip tray for large candles, while a threadbare strip of tinsel can be fashioned into anything from smaller tree decorations to card holders stretched across the wall.

…Out with the new?

Presents from friends and well-meaning relatives may be unwanted gifts, duplicates of existing items or simply not to your taste. Rather than consigning them to a drawer or landfill, write a list of who gave you which gifts and consider regifting them for upcoming birthdays or – with non-perishables – presents for next Christmas,. One person’s tat is another’s treasure, providing (and this is very important) you don’t regift something to the person who originally gave it to you!!

Granny knows best

The term ‘parlour games’ summons up images of sherry trifles and Morecambe & Wise in a grandparent’s lounge, yet these time-honoured games are both entertaining and upcycle-friendly. As an example, fill two Christmas stockings with two sets of identical but unwanted items (tinsel strips, baubles, spare dice) and see who can find nominated objects first purely by feeling them. This gives a new lease of life to tired decorative stockings and their contents.

Repair, don’t replace

If your seasonal table runner is looking threadbare, cut out squares of surplus material and stitch them over the holes to create a patchwork quilt of festive fabrics. If cardboard place 

mats are worn around the edges, trim them down; if an artificial wreath is shedding pieces, glue spare tinsel or acorns gathered from the park onto it to fashion a new design. Keeping things out of landfill is satisfying, eco-conscious and (in many instances) free.

Make upcycling a theme

In isolation, some of the above suggestions might seem eccentric. In tandem, they form a theme which may be enthusiastically embraced by other people also struggling with budgets. Encourage other people to assist in upcycling – donating unwanted items to Secret Santas, making small gifts rather than buying them, bringing their own kitchen utensils and gadgets to help serve the Christmas Day roast (so you don’t have to buy your own), and so forth.

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