How I recycled Paris.

Carolyn and her family in Paris earlier this year.

Are you a DIY-er? I was in Paris recently…don’t you just love the way that rolls off the tongue! I’d never been before and was so enamoured by the beauty of, well, EVERYTHING, that I found myself keeping strange (yet decidedly Parisienne!) things I would usually discard without a second blink: A train ticket. Tourist brochures. A newspaper – which I couldn’t even read mind you, but the words looked so darn beautiful.

And then, in a last ditch attempt of clinging to the whole experience a little longer, I snuck the ‘complimentary’ in-flight Air France magazine into my bag on the flight back home. I arrived home with an already bulging suitcase now crammed even further with seemingly unnecessary items that I could neither read nor show off as an acceptable souvenir of my trip. And still I couldn’t part with them. But what to do with it all?

“R-e-c-y-c-l-i-n-g bin.” My husband said very slowly and deliberately – like I had suffered amnesia and was suddenly struggling with both English and what item goes in which coloured bin.

“These represent…um, well…precious memories!” I was aghast at the disrespect. “I want to make something beautiful out of it,” I retorted, making it up as I went along.

I had to do something with them now. My honour (read: stubborn refusal to let go) depended on it.

Let me just say here: the world seems to be divided into two lots of people, the ones who are handy at creating, fixing and making stuff.  And the ones who aren’t.

As an eco friendly, up-cycling, re-use everything fan – I would like to think I am the former. But a sudden extreme loss of enthusiasm when any project looks like it might take longer than 15 minutes and it ends up on the I’ll-finish-that-later shelf. Later of course being a fictional time that never happens in real life. That said, when it comes to a quick creative fix, I am the go-to-girl for anything. ANYTHING I tell you. Here are some of my favourite DIY tips:

– Massive pimple on your cheek that you can’t hide? Eyeliner pencil + translucent powder = beauty spot. Voila!

– Shine up a diamond ring to brilliance with toothbrush and toothpaste.

– Cover those grey hairs sparkling through a re-growth: If you have dark hair, sparingly coat strands with a brown/black mascara.  If blonde, dust a little baby powder or loose face powder directly onto the area and finish off with a brush of bronzing powder to blend.

– Scrunched up newspaper sparkles up windows and mirrors better than anything I have ever bought in a spray bottle.

– Don’t throw away that sock missing a twin – it makes a great dusting cloth. Slip it on your hand. Run it over the tops of shelves, around TV screens, ornaments and picture frames. Give it a shake out the back door to remove the dust when you are finished and toss it in the wash. House dust is 70% dead skin anyway…

I warned you I was full of it!

Back to my pile of Parisienne souvenires: Do I succumb to defeat and toss it all in the recycle bin? Or do I create something beautiful as threatened?

Pass the scissors. Boil up some flour and water. Hand me that ugly canvas I recently bought at a garage sale for $7 – and quicker than you could say “Paper mâchéing stuff is more therapeutic than I imagined it would be,” the daily ‘Le Monde’ newspaper has taken on a new – albeit soggy – life.

So inspired was I by how quickly it began to take the form of something, even slightly, artistic I found myself pacing as it dried and then painting some little doo-dahs on it at 11pm that night. A quick cutting out of the magazine and the ‘Welcome to Paris’ brochures with my daughter the next day (with a few pages of sheet music thrown in there to make the theme more relevant to her) and the French newspaper was ready to hang. Voila! Yesterday’s news never looked so good.

Carolyn Donovan is a fashion loving, reducing-reusing-upcycling crazy eco warrior… and self-confessed twitter addict. She is also the author of ‘Chooks in Stilettos (An Honest Look at the Glamorous Side of Life)’, Journey of a Princess and the soon to be released Greenies in Stilettos (How to Save the World Without Really Trying). You can read more about Carolyn here or follow her on twitter here.

What is your best handy hint for up-cycling? The one that makes people say, “I never would have thought of that!”

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