Been thinking a lot about photo albums lately, since we’ve had a few for sale in the Untrash shop over the past few months and recently received a large donation of them—empty, brand new ones and empty used ones of all sizes (where someone took out all the previous contents)—the kinds with pages of photo-safe clear pockets, some in colorful 3-ring binders. I looked at the donation boxes thinking, ‘Are these ever going to get used?’ ‘Does anyone store their photos in albums any more?’ With most people these days taking photos with their phone, storing them online/on computer and, if they want an album, creating and printing photo “books” via services like Shutterfly, why would anyone want these dinosaurs? Who needs the clutter? But perfectly good binders and the accompanying perfectly good pocket pages should not end up in the landfill.
Following are some ideas I came up with for repurposing empty photo albums, followed by a few ideas I found online. (For things to do with old photos that you don’t want to keep or throw away, check out my blog post here.)
10 Reuse Ideas for Empty Photo Albums (with clear, plastic pockets)
- Storing and organizing business cards, especially the albums with 3″ x 5″ or 4″ x 6″-sized pockets
- Storing and organizing a sticker collection and/or die-cut collection of letters, numbers, shapes, etc. (wish I’d have thought of this back in my scrapbooking days– organizers created and marketed for paper crafts are expensive!)
- Storing/organizing recipes (cooking spills can be easily wiped off the plastic pages)
- Smaller, pocket-sized albums of just a few pages are a great way to pass on copies of old photos to a friend or relative, perhaps as a gift, photos you don’t want to keep but know they’d enjoy, especially someone with whom you can’t share the photos digitally.
- Gift card organizer, if you get a lot and tend to misplace them or don’t want them taking up room in a wallet
- For extended family members that live far away from each other, empty photo albums are a great “base” for making a personalized book for children to help them learn about their extended family, using the pockets for photos as well as to slip in descriptive words in adjacent pockets, perhaps on 4 x 6 cards. That way when everyone gets together, the little ones will feel more comfortable and can be excited to see the people they’ve been looking at in the “book”, and know about everyone’s connections to each other.
- If it’s a ring-binder style of photo album, use it as a design book if you’re redoing a room or two in your home. Use the clear pockets to hold paint swatches/fabric scraps/wallpaper samples; add paper divider pockets in which to store ideas you’ve torn from magazines; add notebook paper for your own notes. It’s like “Pinterest in a binder,” a good supplement to anything you might have saved digitally, especially for the tactile aspect.
8. Storing and organizing receipts
9. Gift idea for a loved one: Turn the empty album into an interactive book. Create separate pages with themes such as “Family Vacations” or “Grandchildren’s Birthdays” and let your loved one add their own photos, postcards, written recollections and other memories throughout each page. Add blank cards with little prompts like “What was your favorite part of this trip?” or “What do you remember most about Grandpa?” which will allow them to reflect on their experiences while creating something they can cherish.
10. Coupon organizer (great idea for both the pocket-sized and larger-sized albums)
Please share any other ideas in the comments below! And, if these ideas have inspired you but you don’t have any albums to reuse, visit your nearest creative reuse shop/center (like Untrash Creative Reuse) to see if they have any bargain-price, pre-loved albums; some creative reuse shops have online stores as well as in-person shopping!