How to recycle shoe boxes into decorative storage

Updated February 21, 2017

Old shoe boxes would be excellent for storage, if only they didn't look so much like old shoe boxes. This is where your creativity and imagination kick in. Decorating shoe boxes so that they become attractive and eye-catching storage boxes is a fun project that every member of the family can enjoy. Here are some simple tricks for reusing and recycling shoe boxes into decorative storage.

Decide on a theme; for example, a phase in life (newborn, toddler, memories), activity (sports, holiday, entertainment) or art style (floral, oriental, contemporary). Then gather your materials and decorate one or more shoe boxes.

Use plain old gift wrapping paper. Just wrap the bottom part as well as the lid by taping ordinary gift wrapping paper over the box. Choose occasion-specific paper designs for storing holiday-related items; for example, Easter-themed wrappers for boxes that will keep plastic Easter eggs or Easter decorations and accessories. Choose neutral paper designs for non-holiday related storage.

Use adhesive shelving paper (also called contact paper). Visit your local DIY shop for a wide assortment of prints. Because adhesive shelving paper is already pre-glued, covering and decorating a shoebox is simple and easy.

Use wallpaper. Again, a wide range of designs, colours and textures are available. Some wallpapers are pre-glued. Use white glue to stick regular wallpaper to the shoe box. Wallpaper borders work well for covering and decorating small shoe boxes. Try cutting out wallpaper designs and gluing them into a collage for a creative effect.

Use fabric. Decorate shoe boxes with recycled old sheets, shirts, dresses and linens. Working on one panel at a time, spread a thin layer of white glue and position the fabric as desired. Use small kitchen clips to help keep the fabric in place while it is drying.

Use newspaper and magazine cut-outs. Decorating with newspaper and magazine cut-outs is derived from the paper mache and decoupage art forms. Use this style for converting your old shoe boxes into bold and contemporary artistic statements.

Use images and prints. Print out your favourite images and glue them on to the shoebox as accents and focal points, turning an old cardboard box into a special container of treasures.

Use paint, permanent markers or crayons. Wrap the shoe box with plain craft paper or newsprint paper and draw your favourite colours and designs.

Use your creativity and imagination. Incorporate ribbons, beads, feathers, wool, dried botanicals, lace, glitter, foil, seeds, shells, buttons, trinkets, tokens and whatever else you feel like adding to make the box really special.

Add labels for easy identification of contents. Consider using adhesive photo corners so that you can easily and quickly change labels as necessary.


Standard white glue is sufficient for decorating shoeboxes, but for ease of application try spray-on glue, especially when decorating with fabric. Hot glue works well when adding bulky decorative items like buttons, trinkets or tokens.

For a polished and finished look, cover the insides of the box (and lid) with paper, felt or fabric.

Consider using the same decorations on several shoe boxes of different sizes for a cascading effect.

Things You'll Need

  • Old shoe boxes
  • Wrapping paper or fabric
  • Glue or adhesive tape
  • Paint, markers, crayons
  • Paste-on decorations
  • Scissors
  • Kitchen clips
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