The Write Stuff

Turn a cereal box and scratch paper into a bound notebook
  • Click through the slideshow to see how to turn cereal boxes and scratch paper into notebooks. | Photo by Lori Eanes


    A pad of paper is my raft in a sea of mental chaos, indispensable for grocery lists, brainstorms, and random to-dos. However, I've been wondering if it would be better to digitize my lifeboat.  

    Paper production is notoriously bad for the environment. It promotes deforestation and monoculture farming, and its pulp mills pollute vast stretches of coast worldwide. But electronic devices are also wasteful and energy intensive, so the choice between digital and tactile isn't clear-cut. 

    To break the tie, I decided to investigate which is the better tool for organizing my thoughts. I reached out to Clive Thompson, author of the book Smarter Than You Think: How Technology Is Changing Our Minds for the Better, figuring he probably ditched the paper habit long ago. I figured wrong. "To organize the structure of an argument, I really need paper," he told me. "I can use all those wonderful swoopy arrows to connect stuff."

    Writing is also more likely to etch ideas into our memory. College students who take notes longhand write less but remember more than those who type their notes on a laptop, according to a study published this April in Psychological Science. Apparently, writing by hand necessitates a lot of paraphrasing and summarizing, which causes us to process the information as we record it.

    Newly confident about my tactile preference, I made a notebook out of a stack of scrap paper and a cereal box. I cut the cardboard down to size, folded it, and attached the paper with needle and thread. I added some decorative paper to the outside for a bit of flair. 

  • repurpose cereal box notebook DIY

    What You'll Need:

    • Cereal box
    • Ruler
    • X-Acto knife
    • Paper 
    • Glue stick or spray mount
    • Bone folder
    • Button
    • Embroidery floss
    • Embroidery needle
    • Scissors
    • Decorative paper


    CONSTRUCTION TIME: 45 minutes (The cutting and sewing require some precision.)


  • Repurpose: Cereal box to notebook

    STEP 1: Open and flatten the cereal box.

  • Repurpose: Cereal box to notebook

    STEP 2: With a ruler and an X-Acto knife, cut out a rectangle long enough to cover the outside of the notebook (you'll be folding it in half in Step 4) from the front or the back of the cereal box.

  • Repurpose: Cereal box to notebook

    STEP 3: Glue or spray mount a sheet of paper to the printed side of the cardboard to hide the design on the cereal box, or leave it as is.

  • Repurpose: Cereal box to notebook

    STEP 4: Using a bone folder, fold the cereal box piece in half to create the cover.

  • Repurpose: Cereal box to notebook

    STEP 5: Sew the button on with embroidery floss, leaving about 2 feet of floss.

  • Repurpose: Cereal box to notebook

    STEP 6: Cut the interior pages for the notebook so they're a half inch smaller than the cover as a whole. Stack them together, fold the pages in half, and sew the paper into the cover along the crease.

  • Repurpose: Cereal box to notebook

    STEP 7: Using gluestick or spray mount, add decorative paper to the spine.

  • Repurpose: Cereal box to notebook

    STEP 8: Wrap the extra floss around the notebook and wind the loose end around the button to close.


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