As much of a habit it is for me to take reusable canvas bags when I go grocery shopping, there are still times I forget them and reluctantly accept plastic bags at the register. When this happens enough to accumulate a sizable collection (i.e., I can’t stuff them inside one bag any more), I return them to the store. Meanwhile, rather than let them merely take up space in the closet, I try to make them useful in various ways around the apartment. If your plastic bag problem is anything like mine, you might find the following storage options and usage ideas helpful.
The best storage location for extra plastic bags depends on your habits. You’ll want them easily accessible and in a few consistent locations, rather than scattered everywhere. I currently store mine in a cloth bag hung from the hall closet rod, but another popular idea is to use an empty tissue box as a handy (and recyclable) dispenser. This also keeps you from accumulating too many before either using or returning them to the store for recycling.
Home Improvement and Cleaning Uses
Have you ever had a nasty mess you didn’t want to touch, or broken out the bleach only to discover you’re out of cleaning gloves? Plastic bags make useful, adjustable-size gloves you can use to clean up a mess and then throw away guilt-free. Here are a few more ideas:
- Applying and spreading sticky wax or greasy furniture polish on any of your small-space furniture becomes much easier and neater when you place plastic bags over your hands.
- Paint cleanup is a breeze when you line paint buckets and trays with plastic bags. You can also store messy brushes in them when you take a break.
- Peeling vegetables and other food prep creates less mess when you do it right over a plastic bag. Gather up the bag of food scraps and add them to your compost bin or the trash.
- Are you tired of cookbooks getting splattered with grease, sauce, or water spots while you’re cooking? Wrap them in a plastic bag, leaving only your recipe exposed.
- When you’re walking your dog outside, stash a few plastic bags in your pocket to keep the sidewalks clean and your neighbors happy.
Anyone who lives out of a suitcase for a few days will learn to appreciate the usefulness of plastic bags. I always pack a handful of them for isolating worn clothes from clean ones, keeping outdoor shoes from getting everything else dirty, and holding wet bathing suits and towels that don’t have time to dry.
When you’re traveling a lot in the rain, keep a few plastic bags near your apartment door and in your car to slip over wet umbrellas and prevent them from dripping all over your floors.
The topic of traveling leads to another place you can make good use of plastic bags: your patio or balcony garden. Before leaving home for a few days during dry weather, cover your plants loosely with plastic bags to retain their moisture and keep them thriving.
- Make large pots compatible with smaller plants by stuffing plastic in the bottom (without hindering drainage).
- If you grow small fruit trees or vines, tying bags around them helps protect almost-ripe produce from bugs.
- Any of your plants will benefit from a makeshift plastic bag cover whenever the forecast indicates a possibility of overnight frost.
Miscellaneous Household Uses
Plastic bags make themselves useful any time you need to protect, isolate, or store items on a temporary basis. Searching the Web, I’ve also encountered numerous unconventional uses for plastic shopping bags I probably wouldn’t have thought of on my own. Here are a few most applicable to small-space living:
- Create a cozy homemade bed for your pet by stuffing an old pillowcase with plastic bag ‘cushioning’ and sewing it up.
- Is your car exposed to the elements in an open car port or parking area through the winter? Avoid de-icing car mirrors and windshield wipers by wrapping them in plastic bags overnight. Sure, it might look a little tacky, but it works.
- Colorful, solid plastic bags can even help you wrap a last-minute present when you don’t have time to grab wrapping paper. Triple-wrap the item in plastic bags, tie the handles together on the top, and cut the loops to create a ‘bow.’ It’s not fancy, but it will earn you points for creativity!
Plastic Bags Aren’t Bad
The more you can avoid accumulating plastic bags in the first place, the better, but having a few extra doesn’t mean you’re on the fast track to becoming a hoarder, or destroying the environment. Unlike other ‘junk’ that just takes up space without proving itself useful, plastic bags that inevitably make their way into your apartment can become helpful tools that save you both time and money.
What are some ways you’ve utilizes those pesky plastic bags?