Try the Shoebox Method to Declutter and Organize Your Home Without the Stress
Decluttering and organizing one’s home can become paralyzing especially when there is so much decluttering and purging to be done.
What do you do when it looks like there is no end in sight to your messy home?
How and where do you begin when there are piles of clutter everywhere?
You begin little by little, inch by inch.
And no, you don’t have to dedicate a whole day to this method.
In fact, you only need to set aside a few minutes each day.
Disclosure: This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience (which means if you make a purchase after clicking a link I will earn a small commission but it won’t cost you a penny more)! Click here to read my full disclosure policy.
Who Should Use the Shoebox Method
First, let’s go over who should use the shoebox method.
While anyone can use it, it really is designed for the following people:
- You have an extremely cluttered home
- If you are easily overwhelmed by the thought of decluttering
- You are hesitant to purge all at once
- Don’t have the time to declutter all at once (else you will leave a bigger mess)
- Do not know where to start
- If you are a serial procrastinator
If any of the above describes you, then you should definitely try this system out (preferably for a few weeks to see a difference.) Let’s go over how to do this.
The Shoebox Method
Filling the Box
The Shoebox method is a slow but steady way to declutter your home.
To begin, all that it requires is a shoebox or something similar in size.
You can find plastic bins like the one below in dollar stores and Walmart for very cheap.
Once you have your shoebox or bin, the next thing you will want to do is set a time every day, yes, every day, including weekends to do this procedure.
And don’t worry, it is not going to take you all day.
It should take you 30 minutes at most to complete.
To start, you are going to pick a small space that needs to be decluttered and put as many of those items into your box until it is filled.
So, if something doesn’t fit in your box, you don’t have to declutter it (yet).
Emptying the Shoebox
After you fill your box, it is time to go through the items.
First, you’ll want to get rid of anything that needs to be trashed like damaged and broken items.
Purge items that have expired like coupons, makeup, or medications.
You’ll also want to remove anything you no longer need or use like baby-proof gadgets if you have kids that have outgrown that stage.
I gave away lots of outlet covers when the boys could be trusted.
Don’t forget to get rid of multiple “just in case (JIC) items.” One JIC item is okay but no more than that.
Once you’ve removed the above items, you will want to remove those items that don’t belong in the space you found them.
If something belongs in another room like the bathroom or kitchen, then move it to that location.
And don’t worry if it is going to add to a mess in that location. Just try to store it as best you can for now.
Now, let’s go back to the items that are left in the box.
These should be items that are meant to be stored in the space you found them.
So, as best as you can, replace, fold, and/or organize these items in the original spot.
And that’s it.
Your one and only goal is to empty your box every day.
Now let’s talk about what kinds of items you should be putting into your box.
What You Should Put in Your Shoebox
Below are some common areas and items you will be using this method.
- junk drawers – kitchen or elsewhere
- bathroom vanities
- grooming items
- desk supplies
You are not limited to just these items or spaces.
If you have a spot that is cluttered with items that you can fit in your box then go for it.
As I said above, you are going to need to dedicate at least 30 minutes each day. That’s just 2% of your entire day. You can do this. I promise.
If you use a planner, enter this 30-minute block every day.
When you start to declutter for the day, keep track of the time it takes you to empty the box.
Use a timer if you must.
After a couple of weeks, you should start to see a difference around your home.
Now, if you are able to empty and organize your box and items within 15 minutes and you have another 30 minutes to spare, then try the method again.
But if you are already feeling overwhelmed by the first 15 minutes, then save it for the next day.
Keep doing this method every day and in every room and space in your home including the garage and basement (if you have one).
Once you have covered every inch of your home, it’s time for graduation.
My hope is that after a few weeks, your spaces will start to look much better but eventually you will run out of “smallish” things to declutter.
When this becomes the case, it is time to graduate from the shoebox to something a little larger like a milk crate <– like this one.
Using the same steps for the shoebox method, you are now going to tackle things that are a little bigger.
So what kind of items are we talking about? Below is a list you can include in your crate.
clothinglike shirts and shorts
- large kitchen utensils and gadgets
- large personal grooming items like shampoo, lotion
- multimedia collections including CDs and DVDs
Now, dealing with bigger items may require you to spend a little more than 30 minutes.
If this is the case and you absolutely can’t afford to spend more than 30 minutes, then just stop for the day and finish it the next day.
That means your decluttering and organizing goal has now shifted.
For the shoebox, your goal is to completely empty it every day.
Now, instead of completely emptying your crate, you only need to spend 30 minutes and not a minute more if you absolutely can’t.
Again, after a few weeks, your rooms and spaces should begin looking much better.
In fact, you can begin decluttering without the help of the box.
However, if you still have much to declutter and using the box method helps keep the overwhelm to a minimum, then just graduate to a bigger box like a medium-sized moving box. You can add items like:
- bulky sweaters
- linens like towels and blankets
- kitchen appliances
- larger books
- pantry items
- board games
So Why Should You Try the Shoebox Method
First, this process makes decluttering less overwhelming. It is a very low-stress obligation you can do in minutes.
It also eliminates a lot of the excuses for getting it done.
By doing this every day, you are picking up good habits and practicing how to organize.
And by starting out small, you won’t be left with a bigger mess than when you started.
Again, this is meant to be a very simple and doable process.
So don’t wait. Start your decluttering action plan today.
Final Thoughts on Using This Strategy
So, let me also cover two rules you should always use whenever you declutter regardless of any method you use.
The first is to always maintain the room/space’s tidiness once you’ve decluttered it.
For example, don’t fill up that junk drawer with stuff once you have purged it.
It can be very easy to shove things in places when it appears bare, clean and can hold more stuff.
And two, try your very best to limit your spending on frivolous items.
It doesn’t make sense to get rid of items only to replace them with other items you don’t need.
So remember, start out small and keep decluttering on a daily basis.
Once you run out of small objects to declutter then switch to a bigger box.
As you get in the habit of doing this every day, you can (if you choose to), take on a little more and speed up the process.
Take things step-by-step and continue upgrading box sizes as you run out of items to declutter.
Slowly but surely, you will start to see your efforts pay off, and what a great motivator that will be as you take on larger items.
If you’d like to hear more about using this method, click the play button below to listen to my podcast interview with Stephanie of MamaMinimalist.
Related and Useful Articles for Home Organization
- How to Organize a Small Bathroom
- Paperwork Organization
- Organizing Your
Clothing– Whittling Down Your Wardrobe