By Leslie Scott, Re.Use.Full founder

As with many people, the pandemic life has meant diving into unknown territory. You see, I have four dogs, all of which eat canned dog food. This means I amass from 40-50 empty dog food cans a week. Initially, I was smashing them, just like my grandpa taught me to avoid wild animals getting their head stuck while trying to access some leftover morsels, but that left me with a wave of guilt every trash day. I decided there had to be a better way to keep them out of the landfill, but I’m not what you’d call a crafter—at all. In fact, I’d considered mastering making tissue paper marigolds for a float for CABA‘s Día de los Muertos Parade to be a miraculous achievement. But guilt is a powerful motivator, and I just knew there had to be easy projects even I could do.

OK, OK, Pinterest

I started my dog food can reuse quest on Google. I mean, where else would I start? That led me to many hours spent finally discovering what Pinterest was all about and on YouTube learning more about the different crafting techniques that look waaaaay easier than I found them to be (découpage, alcohol ink, magical things you could do with painter’s tape, and speaking of tape, this stuff called Washi tape, which I’ve yet to try). Next came the craft supply buying spree. Yes, I know it’s not very eco-friendly to order tons of stuff for delivery from Amazon, but it was pre-vaccine and still very scary to go out into the wild.

I became the proud owner of a dozen colors of twine, rolls of lace, embellished burlap and all kinds of paint. I learned there are myriad spray paint colors that I could use to transform an item formerly destined for the recycle bin in less than a minute. (That doesn’t count the vigorous scrubbing required to remove the label glue, however. Phew! Glad I finally found some good tips on that!) I now own a glue gun, metal files, a cordless drill that makes feel super empowered every time I use it, a set of metal punches, tin shears that cut a can like butter, an enormous ball peen hammer that would give Thor a run for his money and more. Eventually, I had so much stuff I had to buy large storage containers to put it all in. I even dove into dog-themed scrapbooking paper and paper punches.

The room I had designated as my office is now full of these newly purchased crafting supplies, and the new-to-me but very pre-loved desk is suffering from my ignorance on how to contain the various mediums I’ve been exploring. Now, it and my fingers are frequently stained with alcohol ink as I amass enough decorated cans to cover our high tops at our upcoming one-year anniversary celebration (stay tuned for details!),

and the window sill above my sink is lined with variously decorated cans filled with succulents.

While the heat got a lot of them, I also created an adorable hanging garden on my fence.

Every time I send a picture of a recently completed project to a crafting friend who just seemed to have been born knowing this stuff, she jokingly asks, “Who are you?!”

So, what’s next?

It’s been a fun learning journey, and I love the sense of accomplishment from all of these projects, but the boxes of cans keep piling up. Before the pandemic, I had been lured into the idea of candle-making by the glass jars one brand of yogurt was using. I thought, hey, I could eat the yogurt and give away the candles I make in the empty jars. Once, again, this resulted in a flurry of Amazon ordering. Well, folks, it was a lot harder than I thought, especially in the super tiny kitchen I was working in. I gave up. I kept the supplies, though, and was heartened when a professional candle maker commented that making candles in glass is really hard. While I haven’t made another attempt yet, she said metal was easier, and I think candles are the ultimate solution to freeing up enough space in my garage to finally park my compact car. While I confess I did briefly check out what it takes to start an Etsy shop (seriously, WHO AM I?!), I figured we would just add the Puppy Love line in the Re.Use.Full store on our site. I hope you’ll check it out and help me empty out my poor garage!

Are you experiencing that twang of guilt every time you toss a tin can in the recycle bin, too? Grab the kids and join us for this free Tin Can Creative Reuse workshop in partnership with ScrapsKC on July 10. I hope it inspires your ongoing tin can reuse journey, too!