Unless you’ve been living under a rock for a few years, you’ll know that the ‘eco-movement’ has made its way into homes. While the most ambitious among us are designing are homes to use renewable sources of energy or going totally off-grid, the rest of us are doing small but significant things to work in harmony with the planet while we’re making a home for ourselves.

For example, have you noticed how trendy ‘upcycling’ has become? Upcycling is the process of re-using items that have been discarded in a way that creates an object of higher quality or value than it used to be, meaning less is destined for the landfill site.

There have been entire television programmes dedicated to upcycling (such as “Money for Nothing”, “Kevin’s Supersized Salvage” and “Kirstie’s Fill Your House for Free”), and there are hundreds (if not thousands) of DIY, home and craft blogs that post tips and tutorials for transforming your old items into things that are unique and useful.

But how much do you know about transforming old items in your home? Here’s everything you need to know before you dive in…

What can you upcycle?

The great thing about upcycling is that pretty much anything can be transformed. For example, pallet boxes can be turned into coffee tables, chest of drawers can be fitted with a bathroom sink, and even old wooden shutters can be placed behind a bed to make a headboard.

So, dig around in your attic, see what’s in the garden shed or simply look at a piece of household furniture and question whether you could be using it in a different way. If you don’t have a great deal available to transform, consider visiting flea markets and auctions, or see what’s being given away online – with a little imagination, you can transform pretty much anything!

What shouldn’t you attempt to transform?

While there are lots of things you can transform, there are one or two household items that are best left as they are, recycled properly, or replaced if you need a new one.

For instance, you’ll be hard pushed to transform sofa cushions into a comfortable mattress. So if you need a better night’s sleep, get online and buy yourself a decent mattress from Divan Beds Centre. That said, you can use your old mattress and transform it into something else – just look how these matrress springs have been used, for instance.

Also, there are some things that are safer to properly dispose of rather than pulling apart, such as microwaves – the high voltage capacitor can carry a lethal charge and the magnetron can emit dangerous emissions if you attempt to dissemble it.

What skills do you need?

If you’re going to give upcycling a try, you’ll need some creative flair and a good imagination! It can be tricky to see beyond the way we typically use everyday items, so you’ll need to develop your eye for looking at things in a different way.

There’s no doubt you’ll also need to be handy with a set of tools, paints or any other equipment necessary to transform an item into something new, but don’t worry – you’ll get better over time.

Finally, you’ll need to be the kind of person who’s willing to try something new and fail: lots of transformation projects go wrong, but the important thing is to learn from it and apply those lessons to your next project. That way, you won’t be adding any more waste to a landfill site and will be the kind of person that can make beautiful, useful things from any old thing instead!