When I was a child, I knew that we couldn’t always get every single toy on the shelf that we wanted. We weren’t the richest family on the block, nor were we the poorest — we did well for ourselves but we certainly weren’t swimming in pools of Evian. It therefore seemed only too sensible to me at a very young age that the best way to get something new was to take something that you already had and make something new out of it.

This only grew by leaps and bounds as I grew older and I realized that people frequently would throw out parts and goods that were trash to them but which could be used quite well for other things that I liked. I remember well how my parents were amused when they saw people buying special cardboard boxes in which they would organize and store their receipts for tax purposes — wasn’t that why it was a good idea to save shoe boxes?

This website lists twenty two different ways that one can take advantage of an Altoids tin and make it into something else. I was once a big fan of Altoids but quit snacking on them for a few reasons — one of which was that they are not vegan, and the second of which is that they are not kosher certified. (Given the meaty ingredient in them, they certainly would need to be certified!)

Nevertheless, for a good long time I was both a consumer of Altoids and a cigarette smoker as well as someone who hated the sight of cigarette butts littered all over the ground. I had read somewhere that in Japan, everyone carried portable ash trays with them and so I used my Altoid tins for that exact purpose — until they got to be so unbearably stinky that I had to recycle them and replace them with newer ones. Fortunately for me, I went through so many Altoids on a weekly basis that I could easily and quickly replace one stinky ashtray with a fresh clean one any time I wanted to do so.

I was recently in a Borders bookstore looking at their dollar calendar selection and when I went to check out, I noticed that they had tins of Altoids for sale. I told the cashier about the article I saw about different uses for Altoids tins and though I couldn’t recall any at the time, I mentioned to him how I used to use them for a portable ashtray and his eyes lit up. “Really?” he said, “I really could use an ashtray!”

When you take out the trash, pay careful attention to what you are throwing away and know that what you are discarding now could be on top of someone’s treasure heap tomorrow.


        1. Ah, David — the temptation has never stopped ringing! I have not followed through, however — and for that I am pleased. When I wrote that it had been several months since my last cigarette — it had been about September of 2003. Guess that means closer to 7 years — the human mind tends to do simple math whenever possible, I think, so I just did 2011-2003 = 8 🙂

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