Ahh-choo! It's the universal sound of illness and allergies, and as cold and flu season rapidly approaches, what better time to consider the ways we can make the most of the many boxes of tissues in your future.

Tissue boxes have never been more beautiful, now that companies are taking care to make them décor friendly (some are even teaming up with well-known designers). I've seen everything from kid-friendly monsters to soothing river rocks to exotic flowers emblazoned on the cardboard tissue boxes in stores, and I've often marveled at their whimsy or beauty. So why not upcycle the design-savvy boxes into something new and useful once the tissue supply has run out?

If you need a hand thinking up crafty ways to reuse old tissue boxes, here are 5 quick and easy projects I love.

1. Gift tags

Make custom gift tags in a snap from empty tissue boxes. Cut any shape or size you want, add a hole near one edge with a hole punch, and attach it to a gift with a fabric ribbon. Just keep in mind that smaller patterns will look better than larger patterns, which easily lose the beauty of their repetition when you cut a panel into smaller pieces.

2. Place cards at dinner parties

If you're looking to green your dinner party, consider making place cards from items such as tissue boxes, which would otherwise end up in your recycling bin. Cut out two equal-sized pieces, and glue them together with the good sides facing out. The cards can be any shape or size you desire. Finish the edges by coloring with a non-toxic marker. You can also make double the cards by only using a single layer, and finishing the backside with images from magazines or clippings from newspapers, or you can use the "good" side of the cut-out as the back and glue a slip of paper to the front to print the guest's name on.

3. Postcards

I "borrowed" this idea from a Cheerios commercial, which features a little kid cutting out a postcard from the cereal box that reads "Cheer," to which he adds a personal message before he sends it off to Olympic figure skater Patrick Chan. (It's actually a really sweet commercial.) But you can do the same thing with tissue boxes. Just cut out one side panel, write the address on the right and your message on the left, add a stamp, and mail.

4. Little note cards Who doesn't like getting mail that isn't bills and junk mail? An unexpected note can go a long way to brightening a person's day, and you don't even need to buy expensive paper (or find a piece without a jelly smear on it). Just cut out a little card from an empty tissue box?you can even use one of the edges as the fold (could we make this any easier?). 5.Bookmarks The long sides of a tissue box are the perfect size for one large bookmark, or two skinny bookmarks. To jazz up the backside of the bookmark, use images and/or words from magazines to create a book-themed collage. And if you're making it for a friend, why not add his/her name and maybe even the title of a cherished book? Cara Smusiak writes on behalf of Naturally about how to live a more natural, organic and green lifestyle.