Controlling Your Clutter – The Box Method
One thing that causes the most trouble, and can make the biggest difference in a short period of time, is clutter. “My house isn’t dirty, it’s just a bit
cluttered” we say, knowing that it would be easy to keep it a lot cleaner if there were less clutter, but not knowing quite what to do about it. One of the easiest ways to reduce clutter in your home is, of course, to use large bean bag chairs or big bean bags as your primary furniture. Of course that isn’t always an available option, which is why we have come up with this handy guide on how to reduce clutter.
Clutter may be useless trash that no one has bothered to throw away, but more likely it is GREAT STUFF that just keeps piling up until we don’t use any of
it because we can never find what we want when we want it. Or maybe your problem is paper: books, magazines, and loose papers that never made their way to
a filing system or the waste basket. Whatever it is, today you will get the tools to start working on it.
Many people will take a logical step and start at one corner of the room, sorting items into little piles and running the “found items” to their rightful
places. Piles may be useful for the items that belong in the immediate area, but you need something more for the items that are calling you to other areas
of the house – boxes are suggested in many of the systems, and they’re right. You may not need to go out and get boxes, you may have suitable containers,
but you do need to think about it and get the containers lined up before you start your decluttering project.
THROW AWAY – the most important container could be your garbage can, a plastic garbage bag, or another large container for all of the items that you don’t
have a good use for and that you wouldn’t expect someone else to want. If it’s not nice enough to sell, it’s probably not worth giving to anyone – in fact,
if you couldn’t sell it, is it worth keeping for yourself? Remember, the items that are placed here will never be in your way again, you will never have to
decide what to do with them, they will never have to be cleaned or picked up again–almost incentive to put everything here, right?
GIVE AWAY/ SELL – another important container, because it gets the clutter out of your home, could be a large box. You place everything in it that is too
good to throw away, that might come in handy someday, but haven’t yet, that some person who doesn’t have your resources might need…. If you have some
masking tape and a pen, you can mark the items as you place them in the box or at the end of the decluttering session. Mark where you plan to give it away
or the price if you plan to sell it. It is a known fact that you are more likely to actually HAVE the sale if you are not overwhelmed by the task of
pricing everything at once. DO IT NOW! This is ink on masking tape, not written in stone. Don’t get bogged down with pricing. You can always change a few
prices the day of the sale if you change your mind. It’s still easier than pricing everything that day.
PUT AWAY – this is the anti-sidetracking tool that keeps you from running all over the house in the middle of the project. You may choose to use more than
one box for this – one for each room in the house, one for each category (a clothes basket for laundry, another box for hats, coats and mittens, one for
dirty dishes, etc.) or as many as seem useful for YOUR purposes. If the area you are doing is small, one basket with a handle may make it easier to cart
everything back to its place.
STORAGE – not all systems include this box. It could be one of the categories in the PUT AWAY box. I did want to mention that storage is for seasonal or
occasional use items – not everything you don’t know what else to do with or that you never use. Holiday supplies, seasonal sports equipment, seasonal
clothing, decorating supplies (the wallpaper brush and paint roller aren’t used often, but they are used), are storage items. I’m sure you can think of
many categories. (Think of a few and email any you’d like to share.) You can use anything for sorting, but use the covered plastic boxes if possible for
long term storage (more than a month) to protect your items. Different systems suggest using letters and numbers to mark each box. I’m simpler than that
even – I mark by category and if one thing takes up two or more boxes I break down the category (Christmas decorations are divided into indoor, tree, and
outdoor items). If the box is half empty, I may put two categories into one box and mark both (a general holidays box could contain decorations from July
4th, Thanksgiving and Columbus Day since I only have a few for each holiday). If you expect to have changes, use paper labels that you can peel off and
replace as your storage needs change.
PURGATORY – Nothing may return from the PURGATORY box unless it has an immediate use in your home. If it’s still in the box in one year, it HAS to go into the THROW AWAY or
GIVE AWAY/SELL box and be dealt with. (Don’t cheat!) Tape the date to the box, tape it shut and forget about it for now. Remember, if you put something
into this box it’s unfinished business. You still HAVE to deal with it later. You’ve only postponed the inevitable. But if you need time to think or to
break the bond, use this box!
NEEDS REPAIRS – There are some items that you put off repairing from decade to decade, and let’s face it, if you don’t bother to get it fixed, you don’t
really need it. This box should have a sheet of paper attached where you will write your PLAN for repairing each item. If it is just a matter of calling a
service or dropping it off, set a date on the calendar when you will do it, or put it on your shopping list so you will remember to take the item next time
you are running errands or pick up the parts you need, or write the number and put it with your bills so next time you are doing desk work you will
remember to call. If you have to save up money, add the item to your budget and give yourself a deadline. If you plan to do the repair yourself, it may
help to put the item in the area you will be using to repair it or with the tools. If it’s not worth repairing, it’s not worth keeping! You may not need
all of the boxes; you may need others. Get them and get going.
You will want to plan a time for decluttering – either a large block of time once a week, or a small block every day. Get started now – choose an area where
decluttering will do you the most good (where clutter gets in your way the most, or where you WOULD entertain guests if you weren’t so embarrassed,
whatever). Either select an area that is small enough to finish in one session or set a timer and get as much done as possible before it goes off. Remember
that you have to deal with the boxes when you are finished – so don’t set the timer for a whole hour if you have to do something else in an hour. You may
want to work in 10 or 20 minute spurts of decluttering followed by whatever time it takes to put the items from the boxes away. Then start decluttering
again (either immediately or later depending on your schedule and your endurance). Unless you are interrupted by an emergency (heart attack, fire,…) do
NOT stash the boxes. It only works if you take care of the boxes as you go. You don’t want to be overwhelmed by the huge overfilled boxes.