During allergy season I go through box after box of tissues. And while I hate using up all those paper tissues, I think the only earth-friendly way I’m willing to mop up a constantly running nose is to buy recycled tissue — to me, handkerchiefs are, well, icky (although I am a bit tempted by the products from Hankybook) — and that still leaves me with a lot of used tissues and tissue boxes.
The least I can do is put the empty boxes to good use. And luckily, if you think outside the, er, box, you can find plenty of ways to use them. Here are a few ways that I’ve found to put these sturdy little cardboard cubes and rectangles to good use.
1. Plastic Bag Dispenser: Even though I try to be scrupulous about toting my reusable shopping bags to the supermarket, sometimes I don’t have them on hand, so I end up amassing a stash of plastic shopping bags. I stuff them into an empty tissue box and keep them under the sink so I can grab and go when I need that plastic bag for disposing of kitty litter or rounding up the trash in my car.
2. Holiday Card Drop: For Valentine’s Day, Halloween and other occasions, the kids at my daughter’s preschool always exchange cards or tiny gifts. In the days before the holiday they’ll decorate boxes to use as “mailboxes.” The larger, rectangular tissue boxes, with their built-in opening, are the perfect receptacles. The children can decorate them by wrapping them with paper or painting them.
3. Money Collector: For bake sales or other fundraising events, a square or rectangular tissue box is the perfect vessel for collecting change or small-bill donations. Wrap it in paper and then cut out around the opening, and make a sign for the front of the box explaining what the funds will be used for.
4. Car Trash Receptacle: A large tissue box can serve as a trashcan for a car; it’ll keep dirty napkins, food wrappers, receipts and other scraps corralled until you can pitch the whole box in the trash.
5. Giant Blocks: Want to make a cool block set? Spread the word amongst friends and family to save tissue boxes of all shapes and sizes. Then wrap each in used wrapping paper or newspaper and let your kids paint and decorate them as you see fit. The big blocks are particularly fun for toddler-aged kids who will love knocking down giant towers and walls, without the fear of getting hurt.
6. Rag Holder: I like to cut up old, stained T-shirts into little squares to use as cleaning rags, and I’ve found that an old tissue box is the perfect way to corral them all. You can put a nail in the wall of the closet in which you keep your cleaning supplies, and spear the box onto the nail, so it hangs within easy reach.
7. Kids’ Crafts: Like any other box, a tissue box has limitless possibilities in the eyes of a creative kid. I’ve seen a wealth of tissue-box projects ranging from monster feet to a guitar to a marshmallow catapult.
What creative ways have you put empty tissue boxes to good use? Share your best ideas in the comments below!
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When I'm not making lists, I'm taking care of my two daughters, volunteering in my community, and writing articles about food and cooking — I'm the author of three cookbooks: Ramen to the Rescue, Tortillas to the Rescue, and Quinoa Cuisine (co-written with Kelley Sparwasser), and my fourth, Homemade Condiments, will be available in Fall 2013.