diy project: recycled cardboard organizer

After tossing all the holiday wrapping and boxes and looking sadly at my overflowing recycle bin, I am not embarrassed to admit that I dumpster dove in my own trash. I had this idea to create a much more affordable version of Vitra’s Uten.Silo organizer using the boxes that had served their purpose and been so close to facing their fate in the recycling bin. Not so fast.

My wall-mounted organizer sits above one of my worktables, keeping the tools I use most close at hand. The custom-sized and shaped boxes can be covered in any colored or patterned paper, or a mixture of the two. You can also configure the boxes in any arrangement, large or small. Best of all, it is potentially costless and clears up some much-needed space in the recycle bin and on the desktop. Enjoy! — Brenna of Paper & Ink

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Read the full how-to after the jump!


  • recycled boxes
  • paper to cover boxes
  • white glue or ModPodge
  • paintbrush
  • scissors or X-Acto knife
  • ruler
  • marker or pencil
  • hot glue gun and glue sticks
  • scrap piece of wood or heavy cardboard
  • tiny nails


1. Measure up the sides of the box, and mark with your pen the size that you want.

2. Cut the box to size leaving only four sides remaining. The four sides are as follows: 1. the bottom, 2. the right side, 3. the left side, and 4. the front.

3. Similar to wrapping a gift, cover each box in paper. First cut a piece of paper with plenty of extra paper on each side. Then paint ModPodge on the front panel of the box and set it on the paper, with the top opening of the box lining up along the edge of the paper. Smooth to adhere well. Brush the sides of the box with the ModPodge and wrap the paper around to cover.

4. To cover the bottom of the box, trim the ends of the paper covering the sides and cut parallel to the bottom of the box, creating a square flap to cover. Brush with glue and fold the flap up to cover the bottom. Trim the extra paper flush with the box.

5. To help adhere the boxes to the backing, leave at least a half-inch flap of paper on each of the sides to glue to the backing.

6. Repeat this process, covering all the boxes you will need for your organizer. Keep in mind that you can use the corners of the boxes for interesting triangular-shaped pockets.

7. Cover the piece of scrap wood or heavy cardboard with paper. Brush the entire surface with glue or ModPodge and smooth the paper on. Fold the edges behind and glue. This will be the base of the organizer on which you’ll mount the boxes.

8. Arrange the boxes on the backing.

9. Using the hot glue, squeeze a small line on the edge of the box that will sit against the backing. If the edge of the box is very thin, put the line of hot glue just inside the edge and let gravity help pull the hot glue to the backing.

10. Adhere all of the boxes to the backing with hot glue.

11. Use the white glue or ModPodge to adhere the paper flaps on the sides to the backing.

12. Mount the organizer on your wall with a couple small nails through the front and organize your stuff!

  1. ALEXANDRA says:

    great recycling project…I also have that ruler and every time I use it the same thought comes to mind: I wish i had had this back in Architecture school…fab tool!!

  2. Judy says:

    The best DIY! I love it and have everything to do it :D

  3. This could be exactly what’s needed in the kid’s rooms! Great idea and green too!

  4. Katie says:

    Wow! What a creative space saver! This is a really cool idea.

  5. aimee says:

    Woooo hooooo….love it!

  6. Such a great way to recycle and surprising attractive! Nice post!

  7. What a cool idea. Upcycling at its best!

  8. this is a fantastic idea!!! been thinking about getting something like this for my desk area!

  9. Sou says:

    Que ternura!

  10. Catherine says:

    Thank you – I made my own (less stylish and more colourful!) version of this today!

  11. Good idea! I will send it to my blog, my readers will came and see your tutorial here

  12. Fanta says:

    So awsome!!

  13. Marina says:

    I really loved this project!! Thanks for sharing :)

  14. Terry C says:

    What a nifty idea! I’ve been trying to think of something like this – this is great!
    Thanks for sharing with us!

  15. bonnie says:

    I’m going to do this and get wacky with it. Unlevel backing and bright colors should do the trick. I can hang it high so my kiddos don’t run off with my pens. Bookmarking. Hope to get back with you when I get it done.

  16. Courtney says:

    I absolutely love this idea. I am going to make it to organize my make up and make up brushes in the bathroom. My only question is what kind of paper did you use? I am thinking about using colorful wrapping paper or scrapbook paper. Do you think either of those would work? If not, what would you suggest?

  17. Kelsey says:

    I fell in love with the Uten.Silo a couple months ago after catching a glimpse of one in the background of a Youtube video. My first instinct was to look it up and order one immediately, but I quickly reasoned that it was simply too freakin’ cool to be in my price range, which Google helped confirm. So, thank you very, very much for sharing this tutorial. I can’t wait to make a Uten.Silo of my very own!

  18. parismonamour says:

    très beau et fonctionnel.
    personnalisable à souhait…
    pour ma part ce sera mt !

  19. Marta P. says:

    Being new to Pinterest, this is organizer is great!

  20. Pkae says:

    Not only a grand idea but great recycler! I have been saving Crystal Lite round AND oval containers for just something like this. Now I have no reason to wait. ;-)

  21. Susan says:

    I’ve been drooling over the Vitra Uten.Silo organizer for so long but they are too expensive for me. I have imagined making my own from card board but this step-by-step is just the perfect motivator! Thanks

  22. Perla says:

    This is just a perfect DIY for this weekend!! I would try one for my make up :D


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