The One Thing in Your Closet You Should Just Toss Right Now

published Oct 15, 2018
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(Image credit: Liz Calka)

When I made the decision to move last month, I made peace with the fact that, for weeks, my life and its contents would feel like The Upside Down from “Stranger Things.” Books I normally have access to would be stacked into cardboard boxes. Mugs and plates would be carefully wrapped in newspaper and I’d either resort to paper plates and plastic cups—or takeout. Clothes would be folded away and I wouldn’t have anything to wear to work except for a pair of jeans and three button-up shirts. Packing is emotionally and physically exhausting, but I figured that if I did it the right way, unpacking shouldn’t be any worse.

Spoiler: Unpacking was much, much worse. Packing started out smoothly. My and my husband’s belongings were thoughtfully packed and labeled, and since we had over a month to assign our entire life into 50 cardboard boxes, I figured, “This time we’re doing it right.”

But this time—like all the other times I’ve moved—I did not do it right.

The problem is that I always pack a box (or boxes) of stuff that doesn’t belong anywhere. Some if it I do need, some of it I definitely don’t. It’s a mix of necessities and, well, garbage. You know that box, it’s the one that holds postage stamps, a handful of Band-Aids, a recipe torn from a cooking magazine, a birthday card, your sewing kit, some credit card you still need to activate, a lone Christmas tree ornament. It’s all stuff you probably had in your junk drawer; stuff that makes you think, “I’ll deal with those things later.”

But the lesson here? You will not deal with the box later. You’ll pass by that box every single morning and night and feel pangs of anxiety until you hide the box and pretend it doesn’t exist. The box sits in your garage, closet, or under your bed collecting dust until the next time you have to move. If you have this box in your home the best advice I can give you is to just throw it away—today!

(Image credit: Elena Nichizhenova/Shutterstock)

But! I could have totally prevented this nightmare from happening.

Sure, the obvious answer is that I need to be more organized in my daily life! But since life is messy and imperfect, I have to be honest and lenient with myself: I’m never going to deal with the contents of this box later and I’m likely not going to use anything in the box later, either.

So next time, instead of packing this odds and ends box, I’m going to donate or throw out as much as I can so that the box doesn’t even exist. If I don’t think I’m actually going to use what I would usually put in this box within the next six months, away it goes. (I did this with the current moving box—albeit after I moved—and it felt so good!)

And if I do end up with a collection of mismatched things (again, because life is imperfect), instead of labeling that box “Living Room” or “Bedroom,” I’m going to list every single item on the box itself. It seems tedious (it is, let’s be real), but at least next time I unpack, I’ll have a better sense of what to do with that box of belongings. Doing inventory before moving will saves me time, and allows me to prep ahead and plan to purchase furniture with more storage space (like this bed!). Either way, there will be a significant difference when unpacking—the phantom of my disorganization won’t follow me from my old place, and I will finally, really feel like my new space is actually a blank slate.

This post has been updated on October 25, 2019—LS

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