In the southern world of the Irish Protestant, there is a second use for everything. You don't throw stuff away, because you're going to need it as soon as you do.
Plastic grocery bags are used for lining small trash cans, and taking out the kitty litter. They're also good for wrapping up your tennis shoes as you leave on a trip, and bringing back dirty laundry as you return. If your neighbor has a cutting off of their rose bush or their fig tree, nothing is better than those little sacks for getting your prize back home.
Empty jelly jars are used for rooting plants and drinking Kool-Aid. They also make nifty holders for buttons, beads, or air-gun pellets. This is a great repository for the safety pins that you get back from the cleaners.
Speaking of safety pins - when they come in from the cleaners they become "it." I keep them in the jelly jar because I use them daily. I'm always missing a button. They will hold your bra strap on when it breaks. They will morph into a jewelry clasp on demand. You can use them to unclump your mascara (this takes a bit of hand-eye coordination to avoid disaster). They remove splinters and pop blisters, and pry open itty-bitty stuff.
Cigar boxes have a multitude of uses. My husband has his Army insignia in one. I have one in my car that has all the little club pins and name tags from social and service organizations. It is also where I keep my fingernail clippers and my chapstick. Cat Nadeau is a local artist who makes pocketbooks out of cigar boxes. I won one at the Prevent Child Abuse auction, and I love it.
Coffee cans. I finally maxed out the number of coffee cans that my husband could use in the garage. Nuts, bolts, plastic doohickeys - all housed in coffee cans down in the garage. I guess it makes it look like I'm married to a highly caffeinated mechanic.
I even re-use the twisty ties from my bread wrapper. I also get these off of the clothes that come in from the cleaner. Twisties can be used in plant arrangements to shore up shaky arrangements. In conjunction with other craft-stuff, you can use twisties to make a Christmas wreath (but this one is a whole lot of work).
The one thing I cannot find a second use for is coat hangers. I am convinced these irritating contraptions are the spawn of Satan for the amount of aggravation they can cause.
They tangle on purpose. Just try getting the pants hanger out of the group on the rack. They all band together, and then three or four of them make an escape maneuver, flying all over the closet.
They purposefully time this action when you are in a hurry and need to go. They're difficult to throw away, because they tear through the garbage bags. They are difficult to recycle, because one escapes when you're trying to twisty-tie them together to avoid the flying hanger syndrome. Some stores now even let you take your new clothes home on the hanger.
I used to think it was punishment. Now, I figure it is their answer to not having to fight with the things at the cash register.
Denese Rodgers is executive director of Connecting Henry, a social-service, networking, partnership organization in Henry County.