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  • Writer's pictureJulie Sweany

It's just a shoebox . . .

When I was young, I remember thinking how valuable a shoebox was. I couldn’t imagine ever throwing one away. It was a place to store treasures. After Christmas, I would carefully place small gifts and money that I had received to keep them safe – and private! Shoeboxes became a room for my dollhouse and a closet for my Barbie clothes.

In February, a shoebox became the extremely important receptacle of Valentines. It was a class project for everyone to decorate their box. I would get my pink and red and white construction paper, scissors, and a bottle of Elmer’s glue. (I hate to date myself, but that was way before glue sticks!) I would carefully fold the paper in half and cut out perfect shaped hearts of every size – then glue them on. We had to put our name on the box, so I would practice my most perfect lettering. Last, I would carefully cut the slit so my classmates could insert their valentines into my box.

Then I got to work on my Valentines. My mom always bought me a box for the class. I had to read each message and decide who was to get which one. I’m sure I always put way too much meaning into the silly sayings that appeared – but it was, after all, a message from me. I over-valued each message from my classmates in the same way, as so many of us did at that age.

As I grew up and became a parent, the value of the shoebox did not diminish. At some point in school, my children were always given the assignment to make a diorama project. Out came a shoebox and the work began. It was the perfect venue to stage a 3D representation of a historical event!

When my daughter was tasked with trying to make some sense out of her extremely messy closet, shoeboxes came to the rescue. I provided her with a variety of shapes and sizes and a label maker. While some of the boxes were used for belts, or socks, (or even cotillion gloves), others were actually used for, well, shoes. We took a picture of each shoe and glued it to the outside of the box. Some might think this is going a little overboard on the organization spectrum – but it really did help her stay organized!

Currently, the shelf in my garage holds the majority of the shoeboxes in my life. The days of Covid have given me extra time to sort through everything and throw away what I didn’t need or want. My shoebox collection contains random tools and bits of hardware, jewelry making supplies and other odds and ends. And as you might expect, a cherished few still contain mementos of years gone by.

So next time you purchase a pair of shoes you might think of the humble box they come in as a bonus. Be creative. It could become a lego corral, a doll’s bed, a craft project, a cache of love letters, or a just container for little things that have no place to call home. The only limitations are your imagination and your shoe size. So whether you believe in recycling or up-cycling, don’t underestimate the value of the shoebox - and a label-maker!


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