It's hard for me to buy a 5 gallon bucket of drywall mud (joint compound) without thinking ahead to what I'm going to do with the bucket once it's empty. One thing I will never do is throw one out. These buckets are useful for a range of purposes. They are strong, with handles meant to carry a heavy load of drywall mud, and you can't beat the price (free, assuming you needed the mud in the first place).
Even if you don't have need of a drywall mud, you can still buy new buckets for just a few dollars at home improvement stores. Paint and other liquids also come in 5 gallon buckets.
Here are some ideas on things you can do with the empty drywall mud buckets.
I own a number of toolboxes, but the one I seem to drag around the most is a 5 gallon bucket with a storage apron that drapes over the sides (inside and out). I can put almost every tool I need for most home improvement projects in that one bucket.
You can grow flowers, herbs and other plants in an old 5 gallon drywall mud bucket. Wash the bucket thoroughly with soap and water, Drill some small holes in the bottom for drainage. Fill the bucket with a few inches of small rocks or gravel, then add planting soil.
3. Garden & Yard Supplies
Keep your small garden and yard hand tools, gloves and other supplies in a separate drywall mud bucket. Carry the bucket with you to every chore so you'll always have what you need, when you need it. The buckets are waterproof, so you don't need to worry about water damage. If you ever find water building up inside the bucket, drill a few drain holes in the bottom.
4. Hardware Storage
Home improvement stores and hardware stores sell bucket storage organizers that can be stacked inside a 5 gallon bucket. Fill each compartment with different sized nails and screws and other fasteners, and you can carry the one bucket (rather than a bunch of boxes) to your project site.
5. Electrical Storage
A great way to store and retrieve Christmas lights and extension cords is sticking them in an old drywall mud bucket.
6. Shop Vacuum & Vacuum Cleaner Accessories
I have a 5 gallon bucket filled with various accessories needed for my shop vacuums and household vacuum cleaner. Without it, I seem to spend more time hunting for the right attachments than cleaning.
Multiple generations of low budget street musicians have relied on drywall mud buckets to carry their beat. Want proof? Check out this video
Old drywall mud buckets are strong. I weigh 190 pounds, and I feel completely safe sitting on an upside down bucket when working on the car or taking a short rest from some yard chore.
An upside down 5 gallon bucket is a great small storage table when working on any number of projects. Cover it with a small cloth and it can function as a side table.
Put a board across two upside down drywall mud buckets and you have an instant bench. Use the bench for holding plants or helping with some temporary project. Take it down when you're done.
11. Bucket Storage
That's right. If you've got more 5 gallon buckets than you need at the moment, stack the extras inside another bucket. They don't take up much room, and you'll always have a fresh bucket when you need it.