In 2016, my husband and I decided to sell our house and live full time in a fifth wheel RV. We chose to get rid of everything that didn’t fit in our camper, and I spent several months going through the process of sorting through my sentimental belongings and gradually letting most of them go.

One of the things I had a hard time deciding what to do with was scrapbooks and boxes of cards and letters I’d kept since childhood. I simply couldn’t justify keeping all of them when I looked at the items maybe once or twice per decade. But I also couldn’t bring myself to toss everything.

I ended up compromising by keeping just a few items to represent different chapters of my life and people I wanted to remember. For example, when I was growing up, my grandma used to send me a card in the mail about once per month with a five dollar bill inside. Most of these cards said pretty much the same thing – some variation of how the weather had been and how her garden was doing. I definitely treasure the memory of these cards, and I especially enjoy seeing her handwriting, but I didn’t need all of them, so I chose just a few to keep and recycled the rest.

To make it easy to store the mementoes I decided to keep, I made a set of memory boxes by taking apart old books and turning them into boxes.

Keepsake boxes I made out of old Reader’s Digest Condensed Books

In this article, I’ll show you how I made my memory boxes out of old Reader’s Digest Condensed Books that I bought secondhand. A part of me felt bad about destroying books, but I don’t feel as bad about Reader’s Digest Condensed Books because in my opinion, people should be reading the unabridged version of a book anyway! As an added bonus, these books have beautiful covers and look nice on a shelf. If you aren’t able to source any books locally, you can purchase vintage Reader’s Digest Condensed Books on eBay.

Step 1: Taking Apart the Books

The first thing I did was remove the pages from the covers. To do this, I ran a razor blade along the crease of the cover to release the pages. Some methods for creating boxes out of books involve cutting a hole the pages, but I decided to go ahead and remove the pages altogether and create new “walls” for the box to have a little more space inside each box.

Removing pages from a Readers Digest Condensed Book to make a keepsake box

Then I was left with an empty cover.

Cover of a Readers Digest Condensed Book with the pages removed
After I had removed the pages from all my books, I had a nice stack of pages. There are some neat ideas online for crafts made from book pages, but since I trying to get rid of things, not add more home decor to my house, and since I didn’t have much time for craft projects with getting ready to move, I ended up recycling them.
Pages removed from Readers Digest Condensed books

Step 2: Create the “Walls” of the Box

I chose to use foam board (a.k.a. foam core) (a thin layer of hard foam sandwiched between two pieces of cardboard) to create the “walls” of my keepsake boxes because it’s sturdy but easy to cut. First, I measured the thickness of the book when it was closed, and then I cut a strip of foam board to the same width. Then I folded the strip of foam board into a rectangle slightly smaller than the book, scoring the paper at each crease to help it fold neatly.

Foam board folded into a rectangle
Next, I glued the foam core to the back cover of the book. I used hot glue, but I would recommend E-6000 glue instead because hot glue can melt the foam, making it harder to work with.
Foam core glued to book cover

Step 3: Finishing the “Walls” of the box

The books I used had a first and last page that was the same color as the inside of the cover, so I used this paper to line the inside of the “walls” of the box and wrap around the raw edge of the foam board. If your books don’t have a page like that, you could use a regular page from the book to accomplish the same purpose.

To make outside of the box look nicer, I wrapped the “walls” of the box with a strip of wide white ribbon and hot glued it into place. The white ribbon simulates the look of pages.

Ribbon wrapped around the walls of the book box

Step 4: Creating a Hinge

To make the box studier, I made a hinge by hot gluing a strip of wide ribbon over the crease where the box’s lid attached.

Ribbon used as a hinge

The Finished Product

Finally, my book boxes were done!

Readers Digest Condensed Books turned into keepsake boxes

Here’s one filled with stuff I saved from high school:

Book Keepsake Box with stuff from high school

One more thing you could do would be to add a fastener of some sort. Ribbon and Velcro could be used for this purpose. I might add a fastener to mine at some point, but I haven’t had a problem with them staying closed on my bookshelves. Here they are now, seven years after I first made them:

Readers Digest Book Memory Boxes on a Shelf
Picture of finished book boxes with title text