Miles Kington Remembered: Five apparently useless things you'd be mad to chuck out

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The Independent Online

Today I want to turn my attention to the urgent question of what to do with all those things around the home that have reached the end of their useful life but which you haven't got the heart to throw away.

In almost every soap dish in every house I know, for instance, there is a generous-sized cake of soap, and under that piece of soap there are one or two or more tiny slivers from the previous pieces of soap which someone hadn't the heart to throw away, hiding under the big soap like snails under a stone.

Is this true of your house?

I thought so.

You come to the point, don't you, where your piece of soap is too small to risk even taking into the bath, or so tiny that you start mislaying it in your armpit when in the shower, and you should by rights have sternly thrown it away, but there is some part of you that says: "Hold on! This little thing is pure soap! It is just as much soap as any other part of the cake! I will be infringing soap's basic rights if I throw this away! Also, there must be some use for it, if only I could think of it," and so you hang on to it and finally throw it away when it has become so soft and useless that it resembles more a bit of fish gut than anything else.

(There was a time when people would collect all their little slivers of soap and press them into one new, multi-coloured ball. However, it was so slimy and kept falling to bits so often that the idea was quietly dropped.)

Today, however, we have completed a survey of the 10 most common useless objects in the average household, that is, the 10 things that people find hardest to throw away, and we have come up with new and exciting uses for them. So cut this out and embroider it on your kitchen wall:

1 Empty matchboxes, or matchboxes that are almost empty except for used matches (see 5)

Empty matchboxes are ideal for reusing as gift boxes. You know when you have a present which is small yet quite valuable, like an earring or stash of cocaine, and you feel silly wrapping it in wrapping paper? Convert a matchbox using that tiny decorative bit of left-over gift paper you thought you'd never need, to encase it in a new glittery exterior!

2 Those useless slivers of left-over soap

They may look useless to you, but they are exactly the same size as the cakes of soap you get in hotels these days! Just put one in a matchbox newly converted to a gift box and place it in your guest room marked "Courtesy Guest Soap". Now you'll never have to waste a proper piece of soap on a guest again!

3 Little left-over bits of wrapping paper

For converting matchboxes (see 1) or – even better – for wallpapering doll's houses.

4 Corks from wine bottles

In the old days children used to use burnt cork to make up their faces. Why don't they still? In our household we also use corks to tie to the end of kitchen sink plug chains so that when the chain has snapped off from its fixture, as it always does, the little chain doesn't disappear beneath a gallon of unbearably hot or dirty washing-up water so that you can never again pull the plug out, but floats neatly to the top waiting to be pulled, like an aircraftman in his inflatable lifeboat patiently waiting to be rescued. Well, to be honest, we don't, but I can see it would be a great idea.

5 Small, used matches

Ideal for using as an emergency eye make-up stick, as substitute Rawlplugs, as units for stakes at card games, for making into ladders for hamsters' cages (using left-over dental floss as well, if you want to make it into a rope ladder), for converting into home-made cotton buds, for building huge models of St Paul's Cathedral, Houses of Parliament etc. (Just after they have burnt down. Otherwise, use clean new matchsticks...).

I'm sorry – I shall have to hold the other five over till tomorrow.