Written by: Laurie Malseed, Franchisee
As I ring in the new year, I want a fresh start in my home. It seems like in every room of my home there is at least one, if not more, piles that I am just waiting to “get to.”
I’ve read several “how-to get organized” columns in the past and always think that bits and pieces of them are great, but they often complicate things for me. I have 3 small children and no time. While I’m organizing, they’re making a mess. While I’m cleaning their mess, they’re undoing the 8 piles of whatever I just organized. As if organizing a house isn’t bad enough!
My challenge: Come up with a quick, easy, system that would make an overwhelming room (or closet, or cabinet) more manageable, and less emotionally stressful.
“A place for everything and everything in it’s place.”
Look at the simple mantra, “a place for everything and everything in it’s place.” Imagine if your home truly had a place for everything. You could simply take some time (not a ton of time) and walk around and put it all away. Boom. But that’s the problem. We don’t all have a place for everything!
The 4-Box Technique
Introducing the 4-box technique.
1. Simply take 4 boxes and label them as follows:
- Has a Place
- Needs a Place
2. To start, pick one room, cabinet, or closet to tackle. Just one! Don’t allow yourself to be overwhelmed by the thought of organizing your whole house all at once. Not only is it unrealistic in most cases, but it’s down right defeating. You’ll quit before you even start.
You can even choose the smallest room, cabinet, or closet to start with and then work your way up from there.
3. Now you have your room and your boxes. Simply begin by moving large stacks of items into one of the 4 labeled boxes. You’ll want to move quickly so don’t stop to make emotional decisions.
Avoid Emotional Decisions While Organizing
Emotional decisions include thoughts like, “but I might use this again sometime” or, “This was Jimmy’s favorite when he was a baby.”
Simply think to yourself, “Does this have a place?”, “Does this need a place?”, “Do I need to stash this away as a keepsake?”, or “Can I give this away?”.
If the last two boxes are scary for you, simply ask yourself the first two:
“Does this have a place?”
“Does this need a place?”
1. “Needs a Place” Box
Whether it be a basket, a magnet on the fridge, or in the trash. That’s right. The trash is a place too.
If you’ve got a pile of papers stacked up on the counter its probably safe to assume you want some of those papers, and the “place” you’ve put them is your counter. Quickly put the whole stack in the “Needs a Place” box.
Now, your counter is clear (that’s the finish line I was talking about!), and you have a clearly defined task for yourself: “Get a file holder for the counter”. Don’t worry about sifting through the pile until you have a fancy new organizer to file things in!
I would recommend heading out and purchasing said organizer pretty quickly however to avoid making the box your new “place”.
2. “Has a Place” Box
At first this might seem like a silly box. If the item already has a place, why would you have to put it in the box?
The best example I can think of for this comes in a toy illustration.
I store toys in various places throughout the house. Some toys are better suited for the bedrooms, most the playroom, some in a small basket in the school room for the baby. But it is inevitable that the bedroom toys make their way down to the living room, and the playroom toys get mixed with the bedroom toys.
The “Has a Place” box is simply a transportation device to move a bunch of items that have been misplaced from one end of the house to the other.
When the box is full, begin moving it throughout your home replacing the items that had been misplaced. Easy!
3. “Stash-Away” Box
This is a great box because it gives you permission to keep stuff. So often when organizing we are faced with the decision to toss something.
If you hesitate over something for any real amount of time (a minute or two) just keep it! But know that you will be faced with the task of finding a long term home for whatever you keep.
It could even be as simple as closing up your stash-away box, labeling it, and bringing it to the attic.
4. “Give-Away” Box
This is my favorite box. My family has been beyond blessed on several occasions by items that landed in someone’s Give-Away box. From household items, to baby clothes, to kids clothes and toys, it is truly helpful to receive something that you need from someone that they are no longer using.
Take a moment and ask yourself, “would someone else benefit more from the use of this RIGHT NOW than I will when I “might” use it again?”
If the answer is yes, than give it up. Chances are your giving spirit will not be forgotten when a need arises in your own life.
The 4-Box Technique on TV
A special thank-you to The Living Dayton Show for having me on to do an organization segment explaining the 4-Box Technique!