How and Where to Store Recyclables You Plan to Re-purpose

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If there is one organization rule to put to memory, it would be this: Make a dedicated place for everything you use in the space in which you use it. Toothpaste in the bathroom drawer with the toothbrush. Knives in the kitchen by the cutting board. Clothing in your room where you get dressed.

Easy, right?

But what about the other stuff? Like cardboard boxes, plastic bags, paper bags, gift bags, and shopping bags? All the things that could be taken to the recycle bin, but that you want to re-use or re-purpose.

How do you keep these orderly? And where should you put them?

How and Where to Store Recyclables You Plan to Re-purpose

How and where to store your recyclable items (without the feeling of clutter and chaos) that you want to repurpose, such as plastic bags, paper bags, carboard boxes, and shopping bags

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There are three methods that work well for dealing with these items, but first, a warning:

Do Not Do What I Did

After a perusal of pinterest one day, I was completely inspired to start creating art with recyclables. Everything can be re-purposed! All you need is enough cutting and gluing and painting! Even toilet paper tubes can be art! It’s crazy!

Picture Credit:
Picture Credit: Zakka 81

But do you know what’s really crazy? My husband opening up a bathroom drawer three months later to find an overflowing amount of empty toilet paper rolls.

“Why is this drawer filled with garbage?”

“Because you can re-use them to make crafts. I saw it on pinterest.”

“Toilet paper rolls!?”

“Yes, I wanted to make this really cool wall art I saw where you make slices and paint them…you’d just have to see it. It’s cute!”

“Are you really going to do that?”

“Well, I think we would both like some more art for our walls.”

“Well, when? Because this is taking over the bathroom.”

“Eh… I don’t know.”

And when we finally got down to the source of the problem (my delusions that I would ever actually do that) I was able to move on and stop hoarding toilet paper rolls.

So, ask yourself those questions before you start storing a particular item, and you will save yourself some trouble.


Method 1: Divide and Conquer

Think about how you plan to re-use each item and put it in a location where you will be using it. If you can’t think of a practical way you will re-use an item, then recycle it. The last thing you need is to make a place to store something that you won’t actually be re-purposing (see warning above).

Here are some storage place examples for commonly re-purposed items:

Reusable shopping bags: put them in the trunk of your car or hang them on the back of a seat after you unload the groceries, or hang them on a nail in a coat closet, garage, or pantry. This way they will be close at hand the next time you go shopping.

Do you forget to take them back out to the car? Put them on the door knob so you will see them the next time you go out.

Bag hooks for in the car

Plastic shopping bags: Some people use cabinet door bag collectors, or those sock-like tubes to organize them. I personally keep these under my kitchen sink in a larger more durable bag.  I keep them there because it’s easy to put them away after going shopping and they are handy for when I re-use them to pack lunches in. If I ever get too many, I take a bag stuffed with other bags to recycling.

Gift bags: Do you also have a place in your home where you store wrapping paper, tissues, or tape? Perhaps you could collect them in one place for a gift wrapping center. I tuck smaller gift bags into a large gift bag and tuck them into the back of a craft supply/games closet because I don’t have very many or use them very often, but if you have more, you can use an assortment of racks on the back of the door to organize these items.

behind the door gift wrapping center
Picture Credit: The Chronicles of Home

Cardboard boxes: I love online shopping. The only downside is oddly shaped boxes cluttering my home. If I don’t re-purpose them or recycle them right away, it can get out of hand. Boxes are handy for wrapping gifts, mailing a package, school projects, or donating to someone who is moving. A simple solution is taking a larger box that fits your space and breaking down all the other boxes to fit inside that box. Break it down until it is flat and sit them up next to each other so you can easily find the size you need. If a broken down and bended box is too big to fit in your storage box, move it over to your recycle bin. Don’t waste time cutting the pieces down. Keep your storage box in your garage or closet out of the way, but still close enough to use. I try to keep saving cardboard to a minimum. As soon as the larger box is full, I donate it, repurpose it, or recycle it soon.

Paper bags: Do you use them to put donation clothes in? Put them in the closet. Do you use them to pack lunches? Put them in a kitchen drawer. Do you use them when going shopping? Put them near where you hang your jacket or purse. Use them for all these things? Put a little bit in each place. You will spend less time searching for them when you need them. You can use wall-mounted magazine racks, or drill a plastic desktop file box to a wall- make sure you get the large size.

File boxes to store bags
Picture and idea credit: Everyday Organizing

They work perfectly for storing smaller items like gift bags, paper bags, and smaller reusable cloth shopping bags or cinch bags. The plus side to these is that they don’t take up valuable floor space.


Method 2: All for one and one for all

If it makes more sense for your family and your space to keep all these supplies in one area, consider using multiples of the same container. You can use bins, laundry sorters, or totes. Put them together in a neat row and add some cute labels to make them aesthetically pleasing and functional.

Use a large garbage can to organize cardboard and boxes

Use laundry bags to store craft and school cardboard, gift bags, for projects

Do you need a more custom solution? You can DIY your own containers out of corrugated plastic.

DIY sorting bins
Image source and DIY Instructions: ManMade


  • Whichever solution you choose, make sure it is easy to put stuff away in. Don’t make it so you have to perfectly fold or roll items to fit. You will never keep that up, and neither will your family.
  • Put a label on each container so family members can add to and take away from it with ease.
  • If a bin or rack ever begins to overflow, take the excess to recycling.


Method 3: Choose Saving Your Sanity over Saving Your Recyclables

Truly consider why you want to keep each item and weigh it out in your mind. Is it worth the space, frustration, and energy? Are you only keeping this item out of guilt or fear? Are you sick of these items cluttering up your life?

You have permission to send them straight to recycling.

For example, If you are keeping shoe boxes because you have a fear that someday your kid will need a shoebox for their 5th grade diorama and you won’t have one, stop the mom guilt and remember that there are plenty of ways to get your hands on one if the need arises.

  • Make a plea online. With Facebook friends, local Facebook groups, and freecycle or craigslist, someone is bound to have what you need.
  • Go to the recycling center and ask them for one.
  • Buy new shoes. Oh no! Another reason to buy shoes. Darn.

On the other hand, if your child’s teacher has their students regularly do class projects with cardboard, perhaps it is worth it for you to store boxes.

You decide. But remember that your sanity is a precious and sometimes fragile thing. :p

How do you organize these supplies in your home? Let us know in the comments.












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