Introducing a new concept – upusing!

Have you ever felt really frustrated because you couldn’t quite place a word you wanted and then felt so relieved when it eventually comes to you?  I had a concept floating around in my head and I decided there wasn’t a word out there that was working for me. I had a burning need to put a word to it though, so I made one up and here it is: upuse – ta-da!
I might not be quite the Oxford dictionary, but here is my definition of upuse:

To use something for more functions than it was originally intended for without altering or damaging the original object in any way.

The reason this was bugging me so much was because it is something I have started doing semi-regularly. The closest descriptions to it I could think of were making do, but I didn’t feel that was specific enough and upcycling but I think that implies that the item is altered in some way.
Some examples of upusing I have done around the house include:
  • I used to have large mixing bowls and similar sized serving bowls. It honestly had never occurred to me that I could use my serving bowls for mixing (or vice-versa), but the mixing bowls disappeared during my Year of Eco Challenges (read more here) when I was buying nothing new for myself and it didn’t take long to realise that my serving bowls, which were rarely used previously, would work just fine as mixing bowls. Now I make bread dough in them regularly. Incidentally it turns out after getting Mr ETL to read this post before I published it, he has been been doing some upusing of his own and we do still have them!
  • I used to put the plastic bags I brought home from the supermarket in a plastic bag dispenser. Now I use the dispenser to store and dispense reusable cloth wipes for use around the kitchen (read more here)!
  • I have written about this quite a few times on the blog, but I now use a freezer bag to keep food cool and hot and as a kind of thermal cooker – perfect for making yogurt in or to keep bread dough warm .
  • My kids decorated some mugs at a club last summer, which I haven’t used because we didn’t really have room for them on our shelf of mugs. I didn’t want to get rid of them, so now they are being used as attractive and personalised pen and pencil holders!
The benefits of upusing things:
  1. Looking at things with upusing goggles on might mean that you don’t need to buy something new (or replace something which is broken and can’t be repaired) if you find you could do the job with something you already have. 
  2. Upusing can also help guide decluttering – looking for the multiple uses in your stuff could help you identify duplicate equipment you might not have noticed before that you don’t really need.
  3. Upusing doesn’t alter or damage the object in anyway, so it means you can still use it for what it was originally intended for as well.
I’m sure this kind of thing happens all the time and I’d love to hear your examples of upusing!
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3 thoughts on “Introducing a new concept – upusing!

  • There's another blog called Assortment which is running an ongoing series of posts entitled 'With What You Have'. I think it's a brilliant way to approach family life. Upusing is a great new word. Thinking of what I have 'upused' – the first thing that comes to mind (because I'm in the kitchen) is a ceramic duck roaster. My husband had this before we were married. I think it's been used for its intended purpose a few times but we have also used it to roast chicken and my favourite use is to just use the ceramic part, without the rack, as a very large, deep casserole-type dish. I mostly use it for fruit crumbles. I can also see my shampoo bottle which has been upused as a washing-up liquid bottle because I buy washing-up liquid in bulk. There are jam jars for storage (very attractive with a label on) of both food and small utensils. Yes, upusing is a great idea!

  • Thanks for the tip about the blog – I'll take a look. Thanks also for sharing about the duck roaster – that's really interesting. I think kitchens are a hot spot for products which supposedly single-purpose but can actually be used for loads of things.

  • Hi Zoe – now that I think hard before buying anything new there are lots of things that have found a new purpose around here…like the dog's bed made from an old suitcase, old towels to wipe down the shower instead of using a window blade, and I've been making jewellery out of used guitar strings, to name a few. I call it upcycling.

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