Shoebox Storage Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Shoebox Storage

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Some shoeboxes being used as storage.
My shoebox
Shoebox of lies
Shoebox of lies

- Barenaked Ladies

Probably one of the most versatile of the planet's storage solutions, the humble shoebox has met the storage needs of generations.

Like shoes, shoeboxes come in all sizes, but without exception, they are cuboids and made from moulded cardboard. They can be undecorated with a separate lid or emblazoned with advertising for the contents. In recent years, a number of footwear manufacturers have taken to providing their shoes in boxes with 'hinged' lids which are a perfect solution to the lost lid problem which can occur with some older shoeboxes.

What's in Yours?

Since the cardboard box was first invented in England in 1817, it has been a preferred method to meet all manner of storage requirements.

The first and most basic use of the box is that for which it was made: storing shoes. All shoeboxes will have a panel at one end which will have the shoe style, size and sometimes the recommended retail price of the enclosed shoes. This panel is designed for stock control and identification of the box at the retailers, where they can be kept according to style and size for rapid access at the request of a customer. This is also useful if you intend to store your shoes in the original box, although some people will actually photograph the shoes themselves to display on the end panel. Boxes can be placed in a closet or on a shelf in much the same way the retailer will store them, but you may choose to have them displayed by style: stilettos, flats, working shoes, trainers, or by colour.

Assuming you are not Imelda Marcos and do not collect wardrobes full of shoes, you will probably remove the shoes from the box when you get home and discard it in your recycling bin, but this isn't always the case. There is something strangely attractive about a shoebox which invites the owner to re-use it. It may be something to do with the manufacture of the box itself, with all those folds and moulded edges, the sturdiness, or just the fact that you can't actually see into the box that makes you want to keep it and reuse it. Whatever it is, most homes in the land will have a shoe box full of treasures.

And it's true
You must have been something special to me
'Cuz after all this time
I kept your picture in my shoebox.
- Brie Larson

Shoeboxes are traditionally the storage facility for old family snapshots and many are handed from generation to generation. The downside of this is that the photographs contained rarely hold any information about who, where or why the shot was taken. The end result is therefore one of boxes of anonymous photographs at the back of closets and lofts; or, alternatively, boxes of 'not quite good enough for the album' photographs. Unless you are going to dump these photographs, a shoebox is a perfect little filing cabinet.

Other shoe boxes find themselves cast as the barracks for hundreds of little toys1. These items are generally small soldiers or action figures and will never, ever, fit again into the original packaging - therefore, the shoebox offers the perfect solution and is suitable for storing under beds and in the bottom of wardrobes or in attics.

Although alternative safe or strong boxes can be purchased which are less perishable than the shoebox, many people will nevertheless keep the document shoebox. This isn't an ideal facility for the storage of important documents, but that doesn't seem to phase those who use it. In the document shoebox people keep things such as insurance details, birth certificates, grave papers, passports and other important legal type documents. This is particularly perilous in the event of a fire, flood or other catastrophe; but again, the convenience of the shoebox to fit into a drawer, wardrobe or other closet appears to over-ride the obvious dangers.

A variation on the document shoe box is the one that contains love letters and mementos from a love affair, lost love or indeed just a happier time. These can be particularly precious and can include cinema ticket stubs, Valentine and other cards, matchbooks or other small freebies from a favoured restaurant or hotel. The danger is the box can be used to induce melancholy and yearning for the past, but on the plus side it can be used as an aid to rekindle happier thoughts. Care should therefore be taken when opening such a shoebox.

Even more bizarrely, some households have been known to keep the family jewels and/or vast amounts of cash in a shoebox under the bed. There are two well thought-out reasons for this. The first, and most obvious reason, being that everyone knows burglars would never think of looking in an old shoebox for valuables. The second is slightly more obtuse in that there are still quite a number of people who do not trust the banking system. These people, for reasons best known to themselves, will not deposit their savings with a high street bank, but prefer instead the intimacy and security of a shoebox with 24-hour access in the event of an emergency. They also benefit from not having a load of PINs to memorise in order to gain the easy access to their funds. Unfortunately, the security of the shoebox has always been an issue, and burglars, despite what some people think, do search for shoeboxes and will make off with the family fortune if it's held therein.

In a similar vein, more than a few shoeboxes are used for storage of small business accounts. End of year accounts can provide more than the shoebox full of receipts, however. One researcher reported that such boxes have, on occasion, been known to contain an errant love letter or indeed photograph. So, due care and attention should be taken when handing a shoe box to a third party for business purposes.

A more noble purpose for the humble shoebox has emerged in recent years, brought about by hardships in developing and war-torn countries. Several charities operate an annual shoebox appeal where contributors can fill a shoebox with small useful gifts for people in need. The gifts can be simple, such as scarves, a toothbrush, T-shirt, pencils, writing paper, and the shoeboxes need to be no bigger than the specified size for shipping purposes, but this is a really clever way to re-use the shoe box and benefit others.

Make it Special

If you plan to store something in the shoebox you've just brought home from the shops, you may like to dress it up a bit before use. Découpage makes for an interesting craft shoebox. Coloured paint or pens can design a pretty toy storage shoebox. If you are devoid of inspiration, you can always cover it with wrapping paper. If the contents of your shoe box are colourful, and tidy, you could even cut a 'window' in the end panel, this can be sealed with clear plastic and makes for an interesting and attractive display.

1The sort of toys that come in moulded plastic or small cardboard packages with labels such as: 'One Hundred Pieces: Not suitable for children under three years'.

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