We all know of the sour economic news of rising unemployment and plunging consumer confidence. For many of us, a recession is a time to re-examine our patterns of behavior, from spending habits to finding cost-cutting innovative ways to run our lives.

But the recession also leads us to a time of creation and innovation. Claims Amar Bhide, professor of business at Columbia Business School,

No doubt that innovators across the country are hard at work as opportunity bangs at the door. It wouldn’t be surprising to look back on this period as a starting point for a new generation of entrepreneurs.

“What were the worst of times for the economy as a whole turned out to be one of the best times for resourceful and opportunistic entrepreneurs.”

But we can also be innovators. We just have to think in different ways, look at a problem from a different angle. You can really stretch your dollar by reusing and reinventing items around your house. It’s good for the environment and saves you from going out and spending money on it.

Here are just a few examples that I do at home:

  • Plastic Newspaper sleeves:
    • disposable lunch bags–add food, knot the top.
    • animal waste while on “walkies!”–invert over your hand, scoop, and pull over the waste and tie. (check for holes first)
    • wrap shoes for travel–one shoe per bag works very well.
    • weave a purse!–OK, I don’t do this, but I have heard people do that.  But check out this great website, EcoFriendly Purses, for purses made from all sorts of things.
  • CDs:
    • hang from trees to scare birds from your garden.
    • use broken pieces as tiles for a cute mosaic look.
    • make an adorable children’s clock by adding clockworks to the center hole.
    • mount them along driveways as reflectors. No more running off the driveway!
    • pull ribbon thru center hole, and tie on a package for a shiny pretty backdrop for your bow.
  • Wash out Ziplocs, invert, and air dry to reuse (don’t use ones that stored raw meat, though).
  • Cut up scrap printer paper into squares to use for note-taking.
  • Tin cans/coffee cans are great for holding nails, screws, etc in the garage.
  • Egg cartons make handy bead holders for crafters.

There are so many ideas that it’s impossible to list them all. We’d love to hear some of your innovative ideas!