Decluttering Cure

Try the “Box and Banish” Method to Handle Your Toughest Clutter

updated Sep 25, 2019
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Apartment Therapy’s September Sweep is a free 15-day decluttering program, guaranteed to leave you with a lighter, leaner home by the end of the month. Sign up here so you never miss a lesson, or go here to view all of the assignments so far.

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The three most dangerous words in the English language are “just in case.” That kind of speculative readiness feels like a productive thought, when applied to say, the clarinet you haven’t picked up since high school band (“maybe I’ll have a kid who wants to play…”), but the truth is: you’ll drown in clutter if you hang on to every item with a potential.

Still, some things really do come in handy down the line. And we have a simple solution for separating the useful from the hopeful when it comes to your “just in case” clutter: Box and banish.

“Box and banish” is a method you can use year-round to help you declutter odds and ends you’re not sure about keeping. And if you’re participating in the September Sweep, you’ve really been doing it all month long with your “maybes” box.

So let’s get started…

Credit: Minette Hand

Today’s Assignment:

First: Clear three things from your monster zone. These will be the last pieces we pull from the monster zone during this September Sweep—so make it count! Take those final three items and put them in your “sell,” “donate,” and “maybes” boxes.

We’ll deal with the sell and donate boxes tomorrow. But today, grab that box of “maybes” and then…

Do a “box and banish.”

Here’s how it works, generally: Leave a box some where out of the way, like in the bottom of your closet or under your desk. Then as you’re living your life, and you come across something that makes you think “do I even really need this?” you just put it in the box. No pressure to get rid of it right now—just put it in the box. (If you end up needing the thing later, you can just grab it from the box.) Eventually after some time, the box will fill up and that’s your cue to… get rid of everything inside it.

Yes, everything.

The box-and-banish is a great way to practice living with less. You survived however many weeks or months without needing that dress or that book. So send it off to another home.

So here’s what today’s September Sweep assignment looks like, instructionally: Leave yourself a reminder for a date two weeks from now, then close the lid on that maybes box and let it sit. When your reminder goes off in two weeks, take everything inside the box and find a better home for it. No ifs ands or buts.

How are you feeling? Only one day left in the Sweep!

All month long, we invite you to share your progress here in the comments and on Instagram with the #septembersweep hashtag. Or join our Apartment Therapists Facebook group to start your own conversation.

Just joining us? It’s not too late to sign up!

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