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They’re big, heavy eyesores that get dumped on your front porch every year. And—in my house at least—they usually end up collecting dust in the basement or garage because of a nagging fear that I may need to look someone’s number up the old-fashioned way some day.
Obviously, if you want to ditch your old phone books once and for all, you should be sure to recycle them instead of just throwing them in the trash. But if you’re crafty, your collection of outdated directories might just be a treasure trove of untapped resources.
Here are 17 clever ways I found that you can repurpose a phone book.
1. Book Balls
We’ll start with a beautiful craft from Muslin & Merlot that can be used as a Christmas ornament or perhaps a year-round decoration you put inside a bowl on your dinner table. These only require a few additional items, including styrofoam balls, a glue gun, a pencil and a scalloped circle paper punch.
2. Drummer’s Practice Pad
As an amateur drummer myself, I can tell you practice pads are always good to have around. A crafty person at Instructables came up with a way to turn a useless phone book into a practice snare drum, using just some packing tape, masking tape and sandpaper.
3. Secret Safe
Hasn’t everyone wanted to have one of those fake books that actually has a secret safe inside it? It’s like one step down from the wall safe behind the painting that movie villains always have!
I found several good DIY recipes online for making a secret safe out of a phone book (or any book), including one step-by-step video. For each of them, it seems cling wrap, Mod Podge and a utility knife are must-haves. What burglar would think to check for valuables in an old phone book of all places? Here’s the DIY from Vivid Please:
4. Fire Starters
Paper of any kind makes a great way to start a fire during these chilly winter months—and you won’t find a much bigger supply of scrap paper than in a phone book! The best way to start fires with phone book paper is to roll the pages up tightly like little logs or just ball them up.
There are several tutorials online for making paper wreaths but this one from A Little Tipsy was made specifically using an unwanted phone book. Blogger Michelle Barneck said you can make the whole thing for less than $5 with just a few common crafting ingredients! This would look great with a coat of spray paint, too.
A quick Google search will show you that scrap paper from phone books or newspapers can be used as mulch. One Pinterest post I found recommended tearing pages out and laying them down, six to eight pages thick, in a flower bed under a thin layer of normal mulch. This acts as a shield to prevent grass coming through the flower bed and the paper is biodegradable. Since the pages contain ink, it’s best to use this one for your decorative gardens rather than your vegetable garden.
One craft that can be useful and attractive are coasters made out of recycled paper. The blog Saved by Love Creations has a pretty easy how-to guide for making coasters out of newspapers—but the same idea can be followed with phone book pages.
8. Kneeling Pad
If your knees often get tired when you’re working in the garden, take a phone book or two, wrap them in plastic wrap or duct tape to waterproof them, then kneel on them. This can also double as a doorstop when not in use as a kneeling pad!
9. Paper Flowers
You can find directions for making paper flowers across the internet, but I found two that were specifically for making them out of phone book pages.
First, Jonathan Fong at Hometalk came up with a step-by-step guide to making gorgeous roses from the Yellow Pages. If origami is more your thing, DIY Inspired has a guide to folding phone book pages into flowers.
10. Clean Your Windows
It turns out that phone books, like newspapers, are great to clean your windows with! Apparently the paper ensures you won’t leave streaks on the glass.
11. Business Card Holder
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a working link that explained how to make these really trendy looking business-card holders but it looks as if the maker just rolled up phone books tightly, applied a metallic band around the middle and stuck cards in the slots between the pages. Very cool!
12. Star Ornaments
Paper stars are another neat origami project that can be made using phone book pages. Follow this guide from Songket Affairs and simply add some twine and a hook to one point to turn them into Christmas ornaments.
13. Refrigerator Magnets
Another cool craft from DIY Inspired, these flower-shaped magnets can easily be made using phone book pages. You’ll need a few tools, including bottle caps, magnets, a flower paper punch and Mod Podge.
14. Paper Mache Bowl
Paper mache is a classic artform and you can make some nice projects using phone book pages. Crafting a Green World has a guide to making paper mache bowls.
15. Pen Organizer
This is one of the coolest—and toughest-to-make—crafts I’ve seen online using phone books. Chica & Jo gives you all the steps to turning an unwanted phone book into a desk organizer that will also be a conversation starter. You’ll need an X-Acto knife, hot glue gun and Mod Podge.
16. Candle-Holding Centerpiece
Speaking of conversation starters, Reduce, Reuse, Redecorate came up with a neat centerpiece that can hold votive candles—and it’s made entirely of a phone book!
17. High Art
OK, so not everyone has the artistic skills—or the sheer number of spare phone books—to pull this one off but artist Jonathan Callan made a beautiful sculpture out of, you guessed it, phone books! Italian artist Gemis Luciani has also made a number of interesting sculptures using copies of the Yellow Pages.
So before you throw that phone book into the recycling bin, maybe try making something awesome out of it!