16 DIY Ways To Turn Empty Cardboard Boxes Into Nifty Storage Solutions

Cardboard boxes are one of the most common packaging materials out there, but as a result, a large quantity of cardboard is trashed or recycled after a single use. While it certainly breaks down more quickly than plastic, cardboard is still a major source of waste, especially considering the rise in popularity of online shopping. According to data from Statista, the global consumption of paper and cardboard added up to over a whopping 414 million metric tons in 2022 and has increased tremendously over the years.

Even if you try to cut back on the amount of items you order online or choose to buy your essentials in bulk, it's likely that you and your family will still go through a fairly large amount of cardboard boxes over time. Luckily, however, cardboard is also one of the most versatile materials thanks to its simple but sturdy construction. Unlike a lot of other materials, it's also fairly easy to cut and bend into your desired shape, meaning that it can act as a fantastic base for your next DIY. You're likely familiar with the idea of using cardboard as a material to make your own children's toys or as a part of a school project, but the possibilities don't end there. With a bit of clever folding and gluing, you can easily transform your old boxes into fashionable organizers, perfect to help you tidy up your home. Here are 16 ways to turn cardboard boxes into storage solutions.

1. Decorative bathroom storage bins

Bathrooms are some of the smallest spaces in the house, so when it comes to organizing your vanity or the inside of your cabinets, simple items like baskets that can help to reduce visual clutter while keeping items in their desired places are your best option. Sure, you can buy baskets, but why not make them yourself? Take some empty cardboard boxes in your desired size, cut off the flaps, and cover the outside in contact or wrapping paper. Add in a fabric lining to finish everything off, and you're ready to stow away your extra toiletries, toilet paper, or washcloths. 

2. Fantasy-style storage box

While organizing your home might not be extremely fun, the items you use to organize don't have to be boring. With this DIY idea, you can transform a plain cardboard box into a decorative storage bin that's perfectly fit to your personal style. Begin by adding layers of papier-mâché to the outside of the box. Then, if you'd like to add on some texture, go in with some cold porcelain or air dry clay to create your designs. Finally, finish off with your paint of choice to pull everything together. You could also make a sliding lid out of another flat piece of cardboard if desired.

3. Shelf storage boxes with handles

Shelving units with cube systems offer a fantastic organizational solution, but if you're not a fan of the cube inserts on the market, consider making some out of materials you already have at home. If you have a cardboard box, some fabric or contact paper, a few studs, and some material to create a handle, you're good to go. Cover your box with your material of choice, glue it down or use the studs to secure it, and cut a handle shape out of a piece of leather, fabric, or ribbon. Once you secure the handle with studs, your project is complete.

4. Multi-level toiletries holder

If you're looking for something a bit more complex than a simple bin, consider trying your hand at making this multi-level toiletries holder. Take a tall cardboard box and cut a stair step shape into either side. Add two pieces of cardboard as dividers to keep each section separate, then cover the whole thing in rope to finish it off. The tall, back section is perfect for bottles like shampoo or hairspray, the middle can hold medium-sized bottles of skincare or hair oils, and the bottom is perfect for smaller bottles of serum or nail polish.

5. Simple toy shelves

At the end of the day, it's not uncommon for kids' rooms to look like a tornado swept through them and flung all of their favorite toys onto the floor. To help your child clean up this mess, it can help to give them a more interesting method to put away their toys than simply tossing them all into a chest. With this DIY shelf made out of a cardboard box, which you can make by turning the box on its side and using the removed flaps as shelves, you get a free storage method that allows your child to display their favorite toys.

6. Fabric organizer boxes

Sometimes, your existing materials just need a little bit of a facelift to transform them from trash into something you'll use every day. This DIY idea is one of the simplest out there, but it's perfect for crafters that need a place to store their materials. Take some pieces of fabric that would otherwise go to waste and cover your cardboard boxes. Finish everything off with some scrap ribbon or lace, and you have the perfect place to stow away your sewing supplies, balls of yarn, or additional fabric scraps that you could use in your next project.

7. Jute desk organizer

Keeping your papers organized, especially if you're trying to establish a productive office at home, can be a challenge, but this simple organizer can help to ensure that all are of your necessary documents are in one easy-to-find location. This DIY is perfect if you have narrower shipping boxes or cereal boxes that you're looking for a way to repurpose. Simply cut the top of the box down to your desired height, then cover it in a layer of jute to create a trendy bohemian look. Your organizer is ready to use from here, but feel free to add on additional decorations that align with your style.

8. Cardboard treasure chest

Because cardboard boxes are fairly easy to fold, you can explore plenty of different shapes and designs beyond a plain storage bin. With the help of some duct tape, for example, you can make your very own cardboard treasure chest, perfect for storage in a child's room or as an addition to your next themed party. Use a simple box for the bottom half, then create a slightly-rounded lid for the top by securing pieces of cardboard to each other with duct tape. Tape the two pieces together, then finish everything off with some drawn-on wood grain and a keyhole for a pirate look.

9. Dollhouse-style storage shelf

Dollhouse-style storage shelves are nothing new and can act as a fantastic multi-use piece of furniture, but if you're not willing to shell out the cash, you can make your own with spare cardboard boxes. The exact specifications of this shelf are fully customizable to your needs and the materials you have on hand, but to make it sturdier, consider attaching your pieces to each other with cuts rather than tape. Also add pieces at the top that look like triangular roofs. This shelf probably won't be strong enough to hold heavier objects like books, but it can certainly still work as toy storage.

10. Drawer dividers

If you find that your drawers tend to quickly become filled with the most random objects, it might be time to invest in some organizers that make things easy to find. However, because the options on the market may not fit the exact specifications you need based on the shape of your drawers, it's often better to just make your own. Cut down some pieces of cardboard to fit into your drawers, then personalize them to your heart's content. Create a grid pattern to store socks in your dresser, use larger sections for crafting supplies, or even make your own silverware organizer to keep your kitchen tidy.

11. Mini drawer organizer

If you're not working with a lot of concealed storage space, perhaps because you have a desk with no drawers or a cramped bathroom vanity, a set of miniature drawers will be your best friend. These tiny organizers allow you to stow away your most-used items, helping to reduce visual clutter without taking up a ton of room or making it difficult for you to access what you need. If you decide to build your own with some cardboard boxes, you also have the freedom to customize the exact shape and size of your miniature drawers to better fit your organizational needs.

12. Magazine holder

Print magazines might not be as common as they were before the boom of digital subscriptions, but that doesn't mean that magazine holders have lost their organizational functionality. To make you own, cut the sides of a narrow box at a 45 degree angle, then cover the entire thing in contact or wrapping paper. Add a handle onto the back and you have the perfect organizer to stow on a bookshelf or on your desk. Use your magazine holder for its original intended purpose or use it as a spot to store documents, crafting supplies like card stock, or assignments for school.

13. Desktop pen holder

Arguably the best part about DIY projects is being able to customize the final product exactly to your liking, and this pen holder tower is a perfect example. By cutting down a box into some smaller pieces of cardboard, you can create your own desktop organizer that's the perfect fit for your space. This option is tall and thin, ideal if you have more vertical room but are working with a narrower desk, but the same idea can easily be flipped the other direction if you have the opposite organizational struggle and need something to fit under a shelf or in a shallow drawer.

14. Papier-mâché wall shelf

If you have the patience and materials necessary, there are plenty of projects that transform old cardboard boxes into impressive pieces of furniture that rival those expensive items available in-store. This shelving unit is the perfect example. Mold your cardboard box into your desired shape with some tape. Go over everything with a couple layers of papier-mâché to provide texture and reinforce the build. Finally, finish off your project with some paint in your color of choice to cover up the materials and give your shelf a more polished look.

15. Divided desktop organizer

Sometimes, a simple desktop organizer is all you need. To create a two-section desktop organizer that can hold your pens and other essentials, grab a small cardboard box and an additional piece of scrap cardboard. Cut the piece of cardboard down and tape it into the middle of the box to make a divider, then decorate the outside with patterned paper, making sure to fully tape or glue down the edges so it won't peel up. For an added bit of interest, you can also repurpose popsicle sticks to create a border around the edges of your desktop organizer.

16. Phone holder

When it comes to making organizers out of old cardboard boxes, your only limit is your creativity. If you're willing to get a bit more complex with your design, this phone holder with a mini drawer is perfect for keeping your essentials nearby, whether you use it on your desk at work, on your bedside table, or by the couch. The design contains four basic parts: the slanted phone holder section, the mini drawer, the side shelf, and the bottom piece that ensures everything sits flat. With some clever gluing, cutting, and taping, you can build this organizer on your own with surprisingly little effort.