Taking Up Space



Christmas is over, all the gifts are unwrapped, and if you're anything like me, you have a pile of boxes sitting in your garage just taking up space.

This not only looks terrible, but can also be extremely dangerous and detrimental to your survival plan.

Many people keep the vast majority of their survival supplies in their garage and if your garage is cluttered and otherwise inaccessible, you will lose a lot of time if you have to evacuate your home.

Having all that clutter around makes it much more likely that you will trip and injure yourself.  Cardboard and paper are also a major fire hazard as they will take a spark easily, burn hot, and fast.

It is extremely important to keep your garage and any working space uncluttered and in proper order.

But the holidays often leave our trash bins overflowing and require multiple trips in order to get rid of all of that excess packaging.

So what are we to do with all of this cardboard?

The first step you want to take is to make sure that you have all of the boxes properly broken down.  Cut all of the tape, fold the boxes flat, and stack them in like-sized piles.  Once all of the boxes are broken down and stacked you can tie them off with twine in order to keep them neat and ordered.

This will drastically reduce the amount of floor space that is taken up and make them much easier to transport.

Your garage should now be a bit more manageable than before.

Unfortunately this still leaves you with more boxes than could possibly fit in a single trash bin.

Before you make a midnight run to a business dumpster ( which is illegal anyway) or take a trip to the city dump, you may want to consider these options:

1. Place the smaller boxes in a plastic storage tub and store them in the attic or an out of the way corner.  The plastic tub will keep insects and rodents from making a home in the cardboard (spiders just love the stuff for some reason) and will also keep it from getting wet which would make it unusable.

These smaller boxes can be used the following year for gift wrapping, which will save you a ton of money.   I would also store any left over gift bags  in the tub to keep them all together. Just be sure that the tub is clearly labeled.

2. If you find that most of your boxes fit into the “standard shipping” size category, you may want to try finding a business that buys used boxes.  EcoBox is a chain that I use to offload any excess boxes.  They don't give you much and they don't take all box sizes but if you are going to be tossing them anyway, you might as well make a little extra cash on them.

3. Compost them. Cardboard boxes make great compost! The key to using it in your compost pile is to make sure that it is broken down into small pieces. The smaller the pieces the quicker it will compost. Also, soaking the cardboard in water with a bit of liquid detergent will help to speed up the decomposition process.

4.  Add them to your survival supplies.  Cardboard is a great fire starter especially corrugated card board.  It doesn't take much to set it alight and the corrugation increase the airflow allowing it to burn very hot and very quickly.  Keep a container of thinly cut cardboard strips in a dry box  with waterproof matches to make an emergency fire kit.  As a tip you can dip the strips into wax to make them burn slower, hopefully giving you the time you need to get a roaring fire started.

5. If all else fails recycle it.  Cardboard makes up roughly 31% of all landfill waste.  So if you have a recycle bin use it, even it if takes a few weeks to fully rid yourself of it.  Also look at grocery stores near you  as many of them have public use recycle bins on site.

Can you think of anything else that you can use your leftover gift packaging for?

Check out these related articles from our site:

When space is an issue, improvise.

21 Garage Sale Items for Thrifty Preppers

SANITATION: Stay Clean, Stay Healthy, Survive

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  1. David Ozanne

    January 3, 2013 at 6:38 AM

    You can also check with local charities. I give all my paper and cardboard to the Union Gospel Mission and they sell it to support the work they do.

  2. Linda

    January 3, 2013 at 10:08 AM

    We shred all our receipts, old bills, used checkbooks (yes we still use those)etc. We till that into the veggie garden in the summer and fall. We save the cardboard to spread on the ground around the plants to cut down on weeds. The cardboard does need to be weighted down. It eventually will break down and we can till that into the garden also. We save the shredded stuff in plastic bags until time to till up the garden. Sometimes we use it under the regular mulch in the flower and shrub beds too. We ask for paper sacks whenever we shop someplace that offers them. Those can be used for our grandkids to draw and color on then reused to wrap their and their parents Christmas gifts.

    • Anne M

      December 27, 2013 at 6:35 PM

      These are some great ideas Linda. Thanks for sharing!

  3. JJM

    January 3, 2013 at 12:56 PM

    Our elementary school has several outdoor recycle bins that we visit a few times each year. Still guilty of trashing much paper & cardboard.
    Also, properly laid and secured down, newspaper and cardboard make excellant garden mulch/weed barrier.

  4. chris g

    January 3, 2013 at 6:14 PM

    Go to the library. Borrow the book “Lasagna Gardening.” You can use your shipping paper or cardboard boxes to start a garden bed project. We also use newspaper, shredded documents (aka= shred), ect. in our compost piles, garden beds and chickens’ nest boxes. My spouse gave me a “brick maker” (the burning kind not the building kind!) for the holidays, that uses shred. We use paper bags, from the store, to store and carry kindling – aka sticks – keeps it from getting everywhere in the house.

  5. Richard

    January 5, 2013 at 11:13 AM

    I use cardboard in the aisles of my garden, between the plant rows. It completely stops weeds from growing, minimizes dirt I track back into the house, and over the growing season, it decomposes enough to be part of the mulch. Make sure to use cardboard with minimal or no color printing if possible.

  6. Richter

    January 7, 2013 at 6:29 AM

    When we lived in the country, We take those boxes apart, Lay them out flat. Cutting some into Strips, we’d roll each strip up neatly, until each roll would just fit inside a Juice can, After we got as many cans filled with that Corrugated Cardboard, mom would pour used oil (From Oil Changes) onto some & Hot Wax on the others. The ones with Wax, she would place Corn-Cobs in the Center, like giant wicks. These made Great ‘ SMUG POTS for the Apple Trees. as well as heating some water we had stored for the cattle’s water the early winter, Sure beat the heck out of Chopping Ice when that tank froze over.
    But that Idea of mulch beds are a good one, So is using that corrugated board for Night-Crawlers (Giant Worms) as well as the other worms too.

  7. Bruce

    February 1, 2013 at 2:57 PM

    While I recycle most of my cardboard and paper products I save my medium sized corrugated cardboard to use as backstop material for my indoor BB/Pellet gun range. I have a tarp under the whole works so cleanup of the shredded cardboard is quick and easy. I only use corrugated because those steel BBs tend to bounce back if the backstop is too dense.

    Oh and those shredded boxes that fall onto my tarp go right into my pulp bucket and then pressed in my homemade PVC press. The compressed pellets make a fine firestarter/log substitute once they are thoroughly dried.

    • Elisabeth

      December 27, 2013 at 11:09 AM

      How long do they take to dry, Bruce? I was looking into making paper bricks, but Florida humidity means they take forever to dry (had one or two sprout mold- ew.)

      • Great Grey

        December 31, 2013 at 10:23 PM

        Elisabeth I would try only using 1/4-1/3 of the paper to speed up drying, and/or putting them in a solar oven (i.e a car maybe with a window just cracked no more then little finger size but, not if it make it a target for thieves).

  8. Graywolf12

    December 27, 2013 at 9:30 AM

    I take useable boxes and packing material such ad peanuts and bubble wrap to a local business that ships packages,that way everything is reused at least once. If the boxes are in bad shape I put then in our weekly recycle pick up container. Boxes that are used for shipping household appliances make good bottoms for raised bed gardens.

  9. Jay

    December 27, 2013 at 9:41 AM

    I used several of the boxes to make a solar oven for emergencies. They (along with the other materials needed such as aluminum foil, black tape and black paint) take up so little space and can be assembled in just a few minutes.

    The balance of the boxes are recycled or cut into strips for the emergency kits’ firestarters.

  10. Pat

    December 27, 2013 at 12:43 PM

    Cardboard can also be used as a weed blocker in your garden or flower bed. Remove the plastic tape and labels, lay it out, cover it with soil or your compost mix. As it gets wet and breaks down, it then becomes compost its self.

  11. Dad Was Right

    December 27, 2013 at 2:18 PM

    Killing weeds , grass , worms seem to love it. Useful to black out windows or door glass. In a secure location , with a plastic covering a very temporary , window glass stand in . Using several layers glued & /or stapled to a wood frame make a light sturdy shipping crate(within reason). Shipping & moving , storage containers . Padding or isolation material whole or shredded . As a mattress whole or shredded it is warm , depending on thickness & base soft to firm . As a fatigue mat it will work for some time . Useful thermal break beneath the feet also. Emergency insulation , sealing the ends probably yields Max efficiency . Children at times seem to enjoy larger boxes more than the gift itself .Good for children to draw , color on . Stand in for clothes hamper , trash can dry (wet plastic bag insert) , end table , stool , table , book shelf , Temporary plant container , With enhancements a temporary toilet . Produce fire logs , kindling . It actually is a structural material ,real furniture ect can be built from it ,if you have the time tools & supplies . A bit of advice , remove all labels & destroy. If you received goodies( televisions , DVD players , ammo , survival food /goods turn cartons inside out & bundle , large cartons cut into strips & bundle plain side out before you recycle . Many happy returns of the year !

  12. Kris

    December 27, 2013 at 6:20 PM

    I took my cardboard and made FIFO can storage racks out of them. I bought the first ones that I have from the Container Store then used one of them for a template. It works really well as long as the cardboard is not some of the flimsy stuff.

  13. nathan mcgraw

    December 27, 2013 at 7:19 PM

    save your short cans (such as tuna or cat food)cut the card board into strips slightly less than can height of your can. roll cardboard and insert in can. place a wick or cotton string into the center of the cardboard (to make it easy to light). melt soy wax or paraffin and fill the can with wax.this is water proof and burns a long time.

  14. Danny Lewis

    December 27, 2013 at 8:53 PM

    Card board boxes can be bound together tightly after being broken down and flatened out to make an archery target.

  15. Laura Greenwalt

    December 28, 2013 at 11:59 AM

    Strips of cardboard wound tightly into a tuna, or catfood can, and filled with wax are good cooking fuel for little collapsible stoves. Old GirlScout, and Boy Scout trick.

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