I actually don’t mind that most things in Europe are small – tiny cars, itty bitty apartments, skinny streets. But one thing that drives me bonkers is the fact that milk is only sold by the liter.
I know this is totally a first world problem, and I realize that there are more important things to complain about. But, week after week of getting “the look” from the grocery cashier just wears me down. No, I am not nursing an army of baby cows back to health. I’m just trying to keep up with my milk-chugging boys, thankyouverymuch.
After said boys have consumed the liters, we then have the litter to look after. I obviously know by now to put it in the correct trash bin. But, all those cartons really add up, and I find myself annoyed and inevitably putting off the dreaded trip to the dumpster.
What to do? Well, in the spirit of Real Simple, find new uses for old things, of course!
I’ve collected a zillion and one scarves since moving to Germany, and the horde is getting a little to rambunctious for my OCD tastes. As part of my biannual deep clean, I wanted to make the menagerie into a pretty, neat grid that would facilitate my appreciation and usage of all the options.
But, even if you’re not a neck wear nut, you could use this upcycled milk carton doodad to corral any number of other loose items like jewelry, makeup, hair accessories, toiletries, ties, office supplies, etc.
Since I can’t seem to make anything without giving it the topographical treatment, you know there will be maps involved in this project. If you don’t have this same addiction, er I mean problem, you could use high quality wrapping paper or decorate simple brown paper. A nice hand-stamped design would be totally fab.
My apologies in advance for the poor lighting and creepy fingers. A hand model I am not, and my only time to get creative is well after the sun and sons have gone to bed. How else can I swipe my kid’s Lightning McQueen ruler without him knowing and obviously objecting?
All right, let’s git ‘er done.
- Clean, dry milk cartons*
- Box cutter or razor blade
- Clear packing tape
- Serious craft glue like E6000 or Uhu Kontakt Kraftkleber (optional)
- Clothespins (optional)
- Electrical or washi tape
- Old map, heavy duty wrapping paper, or decorated brown paper
*A note about the milk cartons… Rinse and dry them as soon as they’re empty. However, you still might discover some brilliant fuzzy friends when you open them up. No problem – just wash and dry again.
Also, the number of milk cartons is completely up to you. I used 15 because I like odd numbers, but don’t be afraid to make the grid smaller (especially if you have access to half gallon cartons) or larger. Something asymmetrical/abstract could be super cool, but only attempt this if you have less than 3 children and an excess of time and patience.
But, if you do try any funky shape variations, please do post a link to your project in the comments below.
Cut Your Cartons
Determine how deep you want your bins to be, and use your (pilfered-from-the-resident-six-year-old) ruler to mark each milk carton. Lop the tops off with a box cutter. Careful, now, those blades are wicked sharp!
Rinse and repeat.
Okay, no rinsing is required unless you discover the aforementioned fuzz inside the containers. Just keep cutting until you have as many headless milk cartons as you please.
Add the Adhesive
Arrange the cartons in the formation that suits your fancy. For me, this was 3×5. Once they’re set up, you might notice that some of your razor cuts came out uneven (or was that just me?). Use sharp scissors to trim the edges until it looks good (enough).
Cut off pieces of clear packing tape, roll them around your fingers, and wedge them between two cartons.
Optional: If you want the edges flush, you’ll need to use some strong craft glue (see Supplies, above, for recommendations) and clothespins to hold the seams in place. Allow the glue to dry overnight.
In any case, go to town again with the packing tape, wrapping it around the whole organizer in a giant sticky hug.
If you’re only stashing your organizer in a drawer and filling it with rubber bands and thumbtacks, feel free to stop here. But, if you want to make it pretty, it’s time to dive into the details.
Tear off tiny pieces of electrical tape (I used white) or washi tape (didn’t have any on hand) to conceal the carton corners. Cut strips out of your map big enough to cover the milk carton seams and extend as far down as you want. I knew each scarf would take up nearly an entire bin, so my map pieces are only about an inch wide.
Once you’ve arranged the strips how you like them, glue or tape the papers to cover the carton seams.
Wrap It Up
Treat your newly smoodged-together organizer as a Christmas present, and wrap that puppy up. A few tips..
- Trim the excess off your map so you’re not battling a paper dragon that keeps folding back on itself. Leave a margin of several inches all around.
- Attach the sides before you do the ends. This is because the ends are easy and the sides are a pain in the you-know-what.
- Speaking of the sides, start in the center of your milk carton formation, and work out from there.
- Cut small slits from the edge of the map to the top of the carton to line up with the seams between cartons (see second photo below). Fold down the flaps, and attach with tape or glue.
- The first side is the hardest, and things get easier from there.
- Once the sides are done, finish the ends as you would when wrapping a birthday present in a box (third photo).
Fill ‘er Up
Now it’s time to use your darling creation to organize! Stuff with scarves, and display with pride.
What would you fill your organizer with? Can you think of any other upcycle ideas for my myriad milk cartons?