Homes can be made from all kinds of materials, from straw, to wood, to brick. But some people can't afford anything fancy like that and they have to make do with cardboard.
A character who has to improvise a shelter from a cardboard box is still effectively homeless, but technically speaking, it is a "home". If this trope gets Played for Laughs, its owner will treat it with the same dignity and respect commanded by an actual home (maybe even a Big Fancy House), and expect any visitors to do the same.
May be a Mundane Luxury. Compare Horrible Housing, which is at least in a building, but is still used to mark its inhabitants as poor. Sleeping in a tent is perhaps more common among Real Life homeless people than a cardboard box, but the more desperate cardboard box is more commonly portrayed by writers of fiction.
- Blattodea: Chiyuri used to sleep inside a cardboard box next to a bridge, and while taking shelter with Setsuna in a warehouse during the Zombie Apocalypse the girls also sleep in boxes. This relates to her Creepy Cockroach motif, as she's fond of enclosed spaces.
- Hekikai No Aion: Seine lives in a cardboard since she's Really 700 Years Old and has no family. Even after Tatsuya took her home, she still insists to sleep inside her beloved cardboard.
- One of Blackletter's first victims in Doc Sidhe lives a refrigerator box. A paragraph or so is devoted to how comfortable it is and he considers himself lucky to have secured it.
- In The Powerpuff Girls Movie it's where the girls discover Jojo, Professor Utonium's lab monkey (who would turn into the villain Mojo Jojo), when they first run into him.
- A homeless man is found dead from an overdose in a refrigerator box in LA Zombie. It is way Bigger on the Inside.
- In Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco the lost pets spend their first night in San Francisco sleeping in a cardboard box that Shadow finds.
- In Darkman, Westlake takes shelter in a cardboard box after escaping from the hospital. When the box blows away during a storm, he is driven to seek out the remains of his old laboratory.
- Multiple episodes of Law & Order deal with the homeless, some of who live in the "traditional" cardboard box.
- One episode of Scrubs saw JD on a date trying to impress a girl. First he ran over an opossum and took it to the vet. As they pulled out of their parking spot at the animal hospital, he ran over a homeless man in a cardboard box. It got worse from there.
- A recurring In Living Color! sketch, "This Old Box" (a parody of the DIY series This Old House), featured Damon Wayans as a homeless man showing viewers how to renovate one's cardboard box.
- Parodied in an Indonesian sketch show. it shows a homeless person who lives in a mansion, made out of cardboards.
- Spitting Image: referenced in the 80s House Price Slum song. A parody of The Madness song "Our House", it's about a family who followed Margaret Thatcher's advice and got a "great big loan" to buy a house only for the market to collapse when they attempted to sell it (Our house, didn't work out like we planned/Our house, prices dropped by fifty grand), leaving them with no way to pay the mortgage and subsequently getting their home repossessed by the bank (Our house, threw us out and changed the locks/Our house, it is now a cardboard box).
- Profit has a twist on this. The title character's domineering and abusive father would force him to sleep in a cardboard box in the basement as a punishment. As an adult, in spite of being a powerful and wealthy yuppie, Profit will frequently go down to his basement and sleep in a cardboard box.
- This is parodied by The Austin Lounge Lizards in the song "Love In a Refrigerator Box".
- Used metaphorically in "Living In A Box" by the British group... erm, Living In A Box to describe the singer's state of mind.
- "Weird Al" Yankovic:
- As part of the Hilariously Abusive Childhood Al describes in "When I Was Your Age", he claims that "There were seventy three of us living in a cardboard box" when he was a kid. And he had apparently needed to sell his internal organs just to pay the rent on it!
- "Albuquerque" opens with Al flashing back to "way back when I was just a little bitty boy living in a box under the stairs in the corner of the basement of the house half a block down the street from Jerry's Bait Shop (you know the place)."
- One artifact of particular power in Unknown Armies is the Cardboard Palace, a pocket dimension based out of a series of boxes. It expands and contracts as boxes are linked and destroyed.
- In Werewolf: The Apocalypse the Bone Gnawers have a rite that turns a cardboard box (or other improvised shelter)into a warm, weatherproof shelter. It can even function as a place of healing on a good enough roll.
- If you fail to meet a payment deadline in Recettear, you will be shown a scene where Recette gets kicked out of her home, and the next screen shows a cardboard box labeled "Recette's House". Then she wakes up and realizes it was All Just a Dream, and you can try again.
- Your spaceship hub of LittleBigPlanet is made of cardboard.
- In Crush Crush, Cat Girl Quill lives in a cardboard box until the player character crushes it underfoot.
- Card City Nights: Apparently, Loafer has a cardboard fort in the Dark Alley, according to The Kid:
Loafer comes here to sleep in a little cardboard fort she built. It's got a phone, and TV and everything.
- In Five Nights at Freddy's: Security Breach, the worst ending has Gregory flee the PizzaPlex and fall asleep in a cardboard box in an alley, using a newspaper reporting on missing children as a blanket. Then Vanny shows up, implying he'll be the next missing kid.
- SCP Foundation: SCP-647 is a living cardboard box that invokes this trope to lure vagrants inside, after which it closes itself and digests them. If it's gone long enough without eating, it will add blankets, food, and liquor to the disguise to make itself even more attractive to them.
- Used by Cleolinda Jones in her Mary Sue meme fill, when creating a Sue that parodies as many Harry Potter Mary Sues as possible. "Cleo Sue", as she's known, is introduced as a poor orphan who is living in a cardboard box until "some weird guy with a long beard" stops by to tell her she's a witch.
- In There Will Be Brawl, Solid Snake of Metal Gear is an insane hobo living in a cardboard box. This is a Mythology Gag, in reference to both the games (where a silly mechanic allows you to hide in a box) and Escape from New York.
- Chester A. Bum of Bum Reviews lives in a box, and once sued someone for a better box.
- One episode of Tiny Toon Adventures is a parody of Citizen Kane, which has a scene where Montana Max is shown to live in a cardboard box until his family wins the lottery.
- Furrball lives inside a cardboard box whenever he's not an unfortunate pet of Elmyra Duff.
- In the Mission Hill episode "Happy Birthday, Kevin (or Happy Birthday, Douchebag)", Kevin accidentally bumps into a cardboard box on the sidewalk and a homeless man jumps out of it.
Homeless Man: Hey! You smashed my porch! That is a fine, expensive porch! Pay me! Hey, pay me, yuppie man! Hey hey, I'm talkin' to you!
- In the Bad Future Dot sees in the ReBoot episode "Identity Crisis, Part 2," future Phong lives in a cardboard box in an alley.
- In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Can You Spare A Dime?", Squidward is homeless (after quitting his job and being unable to find another one) and living in a cardboard box. That is, until the repo man comes to repossess it.
- Taken up to eleven in Frisky Dingo, where Xander Crews runs a *homeless outreach centre* out of a couple of cardboard boxes in one episode...until he shoots his employee of the month with a flare gun and almost kills her. ("How's THAT for snacktime?!")
- On Futurama, Fry asks if fridges still come in cardboard boxes (after being thrown out of the Planet Express office, where he'd been living since being unfrozen). Bender says yes, "but the rents are outrageous."
- An Imagine Spot that happens during an episode of DuckTales (1987) ("Down and Out in Duckburg") where, long story short, Uncle Scrooge was broke, he imagines a parody of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous which focused on him living on the street and his cardboard house, which his butler tried to maintain spick-span (and an Overly-Long Gag of him continuously answering to the reporter, in a somewhat-exasperated tone, that there was nothing else but cardboard involved in the house's construction).
- The kids' two-story, multi-room fort in Bob's Burgers episode "Fort Night".
- Hamilton from Maggie and the Ferocious Beast lives inside a cardboard box, though it's apparently big enough on the inside to serve as his entire house. He has a bed in there, at least.