The first step to organizing is decluttering—deciding what you want to keep and what you are ready to part with. But most people don’t even get to step two, organizing, because the thought of letting go of their stuff seems daunting. Fortunately there’s a secret step in between decluttering and organizing: the box.
The box, the bag, the closet, the basement—wherever and whatever you store your “I’m not sure I can go without these” items doesn’t matter. What matters is that you return to this spot three, six, or twelve months later and make a decision: keep or toss.
The Box: a box, bag, or space in your home where you can “hide” your stuff—in an organized, mobile, ready-to-pick-up-and-toss container.
How to Use The Box:
DECLUTTER: go through each room, one by one, every corner and closet and dresser and drawer, and pull out every single item.
KEEP OR TOSS: Put what you’re certainyou want to keep in one pile. Then, create two more piles from there: what you’re certain you want to toss, and what you’re uncertain you want to toss. Maybe you feel like you might need it later, or it would be good to have just in case.
JUST-IN-CASE ITEMS and LATER ITEMS: take the items you’re feeling uncertain about tossing, and place all of those items in a designated space. But this space must be a place you don’t often use, like a basement closet, an unused drawer, a spot in your garage.
WAIT. If you absolutely need something from the later box, then you should go grab it. If you realize it’s valuable, return it to your home and keep it. If three, six, or twelve months has elapsed and you haven’t used these items, then you know—TOSS or RECYCLE or DONATE them. If you haven’t used them throughout all four seasons, you are probably not likely to use them at all.
Sometimes, we keep items just in case, thinking we’ll need them later. But when later rolls around and we still haven’t used them, we have proof that we don’t need these items after all. In fact, someone else might benefit from you donating these items, and it would do us all a world of good if you donated, recycled, or tossed them.
When it doubt, place items in a hidden spot, and only return if you need to use them, or if a certain amount of time has elapsed so that you can finally get rid of them.