The “Box and Banish” Method Is a Simple, Effective Way to Eliminate Clutter

published Sep 29, 2023
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Closet full of clothes and a white cardboard box labeled "Maybes" on the bottom shelf
Credit: Sarah Crowley

Apartment Therapy’s Decluttering Cure is a free two-week decluttering program that’ll help you achieve a tidier home. Sign up here and get all 14 assignments delivered to your inbox.

Since the beginning of our Decluttering Cure journey, you’ve made a ton of decisions — some tough, others easy. (And maybe some that were even kind of fun?) You’ve sorted through your stuff — deciphering what could stay or go, and what needs to be relocated — utilizing the outboxes we created on day one. 

Those outboxes you established are probably filling up or already full at this point, so now we’ll take action to clear them out. Today’s the day we’ll address the “maybe” box.

Day 12: Practice the “box and banish” method.

Have you heard of the “box and banish” method? It’s a simple yet effective decluttering strategy that we’ll practice in today’s assignment. 

What is the “box and banish” method?

It’s a decluttering method in which you take a box, put it in an unused spot in your home, and fill it with items you aren’t sure whether you want to keep or toss. When the box is full, you’ll keep it closed and put it away, only returning to access things you want or need. In the end, you’ll take the box and get rid of it.

In the case of the Decluttering Cure, this box is the “maybe” outbox you set up on day one and has been filling up along the way. (Congrats! You’ve already got the first part of this assignment down.) Once this box is full of all the items you’re unsure of, we’re going to let it sit shut in the back of your closet or any other spot you won’t frequent as much for exactly six weeks. 

During these six weeks, you’ll go about your daily life and, if you notice that something you need during this time was put in the box or you can’t stop thinking of an item you put in there that you don’t want to part with, then — and only then — can you access the box to pull that item out. I urge you to act quickly and take out what came to mind and not spend any time looking around the contents of the box.

When the six weeks have passed, you’re going to get rid of everything that remains in the box. Yes, everything. Because in over a month, the items that remained didn’t cross your mind, and you already took out the ones that did. All that’s left are things that no longer serve you, but could probably benefit someone else.

So tomorrow, we’ll go over what to do with everything you’ve just decluttered — including how to get it into someone else’s hands.

What’s going in your “maybe” box to sit for six weeks? Tell us in the comments.

More ways to participate in the Decluttering Cure:

The Cure Program is a tradition here at Apartment Therapy — it happens every January, April, and September. Click here to learn more about the year-round program and when to sign up.