Use a ‘Maybe Box’ to Declutter With Less Stress

Use a ‘Maybe Box’ to Declutter With Less Stress

So much of the advice out there for decluttering calls on you to make instantaneous decisions about what stays and what goes—and expects you to put a lot of stuff in that “goes” category. There is certainly a good reason to try to do this with speed: The less time you spend considering something’s fate, the less time you have to get sentimental or start worrying about the unlikely event you’ll need it in the future. That said, some possessions really do pose a bit of a conundrum, and you need to take some additional time to think over what you should do with them. That’s where your “maybe box” comes in.

What is a “maybe box”?

While all the different organizing and decluttering methods out there have their own protocols, they have something in common: You’re sorting your stuff into three piles—keep, donate, toss—and occasionally a fourth, which is sell. Typically, you do this with boxes of some kind, to make everything easier and clear the space you’re working on right away.

Next time, add one more box: Adding a “maybe keep” box gives you an opportunity to put a few items in a kind-of purgatory while you reflect on their fate, but still clears the space you’re working on and doesn’t hold you up from continuing your decluttering work.

How to use your maybe box

When you’re decluttering, you should always be working in small sections, focusing on a shelf, a drawer, or a specific space in a room so you don’t get overwhelmed. Doing that, you’re placing items into their corresponding boxes, usually deciding whether to keep, throw, or donate them. When you pick up something you end up deliberating about, though, it slows you way down as you ponder it, its potential future uses, and its personal meaning to you. Instead of doing that, toss it into the maybe box, which you’ll revisit later, so you can stay focused and keep grinding on the space in front of you.

Set a period of time—like a month—where you won’t open the box or even acknowledge it. Only open the box if there is a specific item you actually need during that time (which will be proof the thing was actually necessary and shouldn’t get tossed). At the end of the time period, go back to the box and reconsider everything in there, asking yourself if you found yourself needing it, missing it, or forgetting about it entirely. Whatever you forgot can be gotten rid of and you can do that with a little more confidence after proving to yourself you didn’t really need it or care about it that much at all. As long as they have a designated spot to be stored, you can hold onto anything you found yourself missing badly.

Doing a little experiment like this will help with indecision and guilt related to getting rid of certain things, but will also keep the space you’re working on clear of junk in the interim, so you don’t sacrifice immediate results while you figure it all out. Just try to select an opaque box so you can’t see the items inside—being reminded of their existence will bias you a little. Instead, find something you can’t see through and can stash somewhere out of the way.

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