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Deck the Halls for Less

Recycle everyday things around the house to make holiday ornaments, decorations

I come from a long line of creative repurposers—people who have a knack for reusing things and transforming would-be throwaway items into, well, something else.

I'm certain I inherited the skill from my dear grandmother, Ellen Yeager. Raising a family of five during the Great Depression, Ellen learned to repurpose items as a matter of daily necessity, even survival. She had a natural gift for it. Later in her life, when the family's financial condition improved, repurposing became pure sport.

Grandma had a particular passion for recycling everyday objects into clever decorative craft items. Most of these creations served no earthly purpose other than the joy she received from making them.

Coffee cans were ensconced in poodle-shaped crocheted covers to conceal spare rolls of toilet paper in the bathroom. Plastic soda bottles were transformed into colorful wind-catching pinwheels and impaled on stakes in the backyard. A bleach bottle was painted pink to look like a happy piggy and positioned atop the fridge, emblazoned with the words: "Open it, and you'll look just like me!"

At Christmastime, Ellen's craftiness was in full zenith. She fashioned wreaths from folded IBM computer punch cards—a Midwestern take on origami, I suppose. Eight tiny reindeer were made from toilet-paper rolls with pipe-cleaner legs and antlers.

My personal favorite, hung in the doorway, was a festive yuletide disco ball made of glitter-covered specimen cups from Grandpa Yeager's urological visits. I could never bring myself to kiss my bride-to-be underneath that mock mistletoe.

Might you transform candles from Christmases past into a glowing centerpiece for the dining room table? Do you recycle leftover wrapping paper into your own special holiday creations?

Be creative—but be cheap. Make Grandma Yeager proud, and deck the halls for less this year.

Jeff Yeager is the author of the book, "The Ultimate Cheapskate's Road Map to True Riches." His Web site is

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