All the pretty boxes: Upcycling hacks for electronics packaging–the Tribbles in your closet!

Over the better part of a decade my husband and I had accumulated stacks of handsome, sturdy die-cut boxes for MacBooks and MacBook Airs, ChromeBooks and Surface tablets, iPhones and iPads and iPods. Long after some of those gizmos had died or passed into obsolescence, we hung onto the Original Packaging as if it were some kind of totem.

Just in case.

Deep down we knew we’d never use them again, but they were too lovely to just throw away. The MacBook boxes, like the machines, were particularly sleek specimens of graphic design and precision engineering.

Then one day I went to the hardware store to buy some of those giant plastic storage containers, the kind you put wool blankets and ski pants in. As I lugged these monsters to the cash register, the absurdity of it all hit me: When I got home I was going to fill the bins with other boxes–EMPTY BOXES– which had multiplied like Tribbles in my closets.tribbs

It was nuts.

So what to do with all this glossy cardboard and perfectly molded plastic designed for the one singular purpose of protecting a shiny newborn gadget during its journey from factory floor to grasping hands?

I took all the boxes and laid them out. For the first time since I’d bought the MacBooks, I pried open the rectangular containers and disassembled the pieces. They were heavy duty, coated in glossy white paper. They reminded me of Chinese lacquer boxes.Then I made an amazing discovery. They were lined in black foam padding. Mixed media. A recycling no-no. IMG_4630

But perhaps useful as … a doggy bed?


Ok, no. But turning them this way and that, I realized they would make wonderful drawer compartments for my buffet. A minimalist nest in which to organize and protect my random collection of butter knives and serving utensils. Ta-da!

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The inner packaging presented a bigger challenge because each piece is custom-designed to fit hand-in-glove with an electronic gadget. The Surface had come in a recycled cardboard shell, which could be composted or recycled again. Hats off! But the Apple plasticware still has me stumped. Desk organizers? Each contains a couple of pockets that might be useful repositories for paperclips, stamps, pens, and flash drives. However, because the insert’s primary purpose was to cradle a laptop, most of its real estate is too shallow to hold much more than a few postcards or envelopes.

IMG_4429Worse, the plastic is imprinted with the #6 recycling triangle symbol. That means it’s polystyrene (PS), a.k.a. styrofoam, which is notoriously difficult to recycle. Many municipal recycling programs, including mine, won’t even accept it. PS also poses a health risk, leaching potentially toxic chemicals, especially when heated.

Gee, thanks, Apple.

I’m not a crafty Rosie O’Donnell type, but I’ll give it a shot. How about shadowboxes for mementos?IMG_4635

That’s a typesetter’s “L” and my treasured 1980s NYC MTA subway watch by Drenttel Doyle Partners, btw.

Moving on… getting into the Halloween spirit, I did MacGyver a ChromeCast box into a cyclops mask.









… After!




I really don’t understand why my kids always say I am NOT COOL.

Coolness, like creativity, is in the eye of the beholder. IMG_4617


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