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     5 Boxes, A Bag And A List

The most common reason I hear from clients that prevent them from tackling an organizing project is “where do I get STARTED?” Many folks get overwhelmed at this stage, feel defeated, and don’t ever begin. With any large project, it is most effective to break it down into manageable steps, then focus on just one step at a time. The formula below provides a step-by-step PROCESS for tackling any organizing project. Five boxes, a Bag and a List is all you need to organize your home or office, one room or area at a time! Let’s get started.

Start with 5 large, easy to store cardboard BOXES or plastic bins. These boxes will become your decluttering tools for rooms to come! You also want a large trash bag, a couple of Sharpie markers, a pad of paper, a timer.

Commit the TIME to sort -- from 30 to 60 minutes to start. Schedule it into your calendar, do whatever you can to prevent any interruptions, and don't let anything get in the way of your appointment.

Assign each box a PURPOSE -- write on a piece of tape or tape a piece of paper on each box with these words (1 per box):
  • KEEP it
  • ROUTE it
  • GIVE it
  • SELL it
  • STORE it
  • TOSS it
Now you're ready to simplify your space...

Choose the space to declutter and set your timer for a PREDETERMINED time of 30 to 60 minutes. Allow for an additional 10 minutes for final clean up and routing misplaced items. If time is up before the room is finished, remember or mark where you stopped.

Line up your labeled boxes, trash bag, and keep the pad of paper close by. Start SORTING items beginning on the left side of the room and work left to right (just like you were writing on a piece of paper from left to right). Here’s what goes in each box...

Place in this box only those items that you love or can identify a specific purpose for current use. These are items that will be kept in the space you are CURRENTLY working in.

Collect items that you will be keeping, but do not belong in the THIS room. The goal is for you to stay focused on the room you have committed to. By placing items in this box that need to go to another space, rather than taking them now, will keep you from getting distracted in other rooms. This box will be dealt with later.

Collect treasures that are no longer needed or wanted, but are in good condition. This box can be DONATED to your favorite organization. There are many worthy organizations who will pick up your discarded treasures, saving you the time and physical work of loading it in your car.

With the popularity of auction sites like eBay, you can easily make MONEY on the treasures that you uncover. If you don’t have an interest in learning how to sell on-line, you can take your items to a local ‘auction drop-shop’ or ‘trading post’, as they are commonly called. For a percentage of the final sale price, the drop shop will handle the selling process for you. If you have no interest in selling your items, eliminate this box.

Collect items you are unsure of (keep or purge), close up the box at the end of this decluttering session, and place a scheduled toss/donate date on the box. If items in this box are not accessed by that date, you have just proven to yourself that the items inside are not needed or MISSED. After the dispose of date, deliver the box unopened to the charity of your choice.

Use the trash bag to collect trash, items that are in poor repair, non-sellable/givable items, or you have no idea WHAT it is.

While decluttering, you may remember TASKS you haven't completed and be tempted to act on them. Don’t be distracted from your current project of decluttering to handle a ‘To do’. Add the ‘To do’ to your list and forget it for now. Stay focused on the current project of decluttering your space.

When the timer goes off, use the clean up time to go through your BOXES. Empty the "keep it" box in the space where they go. Empty the "route it" box by taking these items out of the space you were just working in and put them away in the spaces where they go. Throw out the items in the "toss it" bag –- get this stuff out of your space immediately! Store the "store it" box in a place where you have access if needed, and you can see the toss-by date. Schedule a time to donate the "give it" box and decide the best venue for selling your "sell it" items (i.e., consignment store, auction drop-shop, do-it-yourself auction selling, garage sale).

Move on to the next to-do on your list. Continue this process CONSISTENTLY in 30 to 60-minute time blocks and you’ll soon have a newly decluttered space that you can enjoy again.


Janet Nusbaum, of Simplified Spaces, is an Organizing Consultant, Senior Move Manager, Author and Speaker. Janet loves creating order out of chaos. She has waded through all kinds of clutter and mayhem since 2003 to bring serenity and order to frazzled parents, overwhelmed households, cluttered offices, and transitioning seniors and families. She is the author of “Mom, Can I Help Around the House: A Simple Step-by-step System for Teaching Your Children Life-long Skills for Pitching in and Picking up” Visit her website at www.SimplifiedSpaces.net.

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