Have you noticed how much really useful stuff comes included with your purchases? Things like extra hardware, extra mounting pieces, clips, holddowns, and padding, single-use tools,etc. In fact, my idea of a good day is when I unpack something and have things left over.
Step 1: A Little Something Extra
The idea for this Instructable came as the result of my purchasing and assembling a steel storage rack for my garage. The manufacturer, bless him, thoughtfully included a bunch of extra hardware, including rubber feet in the event I didn't use castor wheels, end caps, and circular plastic wedges for holding the rack together. Lots of potentially valuable parts here.
Step 2: Not Only Useful, But Free, Too!
I don't know what these red things are called; I assume the manufacturer had a name for them. They were removed from a new washing machine. I don't have a use for them yet, but I am confident that one of these days, I'll need a red plastic cylinder with a hook on one end and there I'll be. The yellow cylinder came wrapped with paracord.
Step 3: Who Said What It Had to Be Used For?
The true test of genius is the ability to use something designed for one purpose for another. On the other hand, it's a fair assessment of insanity, too. But if it works, who cares? If your collection of various accoutrements, doo-dads, and geegaws is vast enough, sooner or later, you will have just the thing you need.
Step 4: Use and Reuse
I guard my collection of various useful gadgets (VUGs) like a mother hen does her chicks, and even after I put one to use, I don't forget it. If I dismantle the thing on which I put it, it goes back in the collection. These things look like handles, and I think they may have been on some kind of crate, but they have come in handy for a number of purposes; most recently one of them (and two metal pipe clamps) served as a hinge on a folding table. I found an actual hinge and back in the box it went.
Step 5: Tools and Other Stuff
Many purchases include tools and the like in them. I have found little spanner wrenches, Allen wrenches, screw drivers, gigantic rubber bands, oil, silicone grease, plastic shims, tiny zip-lock bags, packs of silica gel, decals, cable identification lettering, and rubber bumpers at one time or another. Any of those items are likely to come in handy.
Step 6: Classification and Storage
You can do what you want, it's your stuff, but it helps to classify it and store it so you can find something if you need it. For want of a better system, I recommend sorting your collection into the following groups: Metal stuff, plastic stuff, paper and wood stuff, tools, actualhardware, and everything else. You can further divide it into sub-categories but it's probably best if you don't. While searching for one thing, you may well encounter something else that works even better.
A friend of mine once invented the universal solvent; it would dissolve anything, He just couldn't find anything to keep it in. (<= JOKE)
Same thing here, you have all these neat things, you can't just throw it in a pile. You have to have something to keep it in. How about:
peanut butter jars, oatmeal boxes, plastic jugs, Gatorade bottles, Altoid tins, egg cartons, ice cube trays, cookie tins, pill bottles, plastic cups, detergent bottles, and a lot more.