Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom ~ The Two Boxes

Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom


There are two boxes that I need to keep me organized and decluttered. Just two boxes. It’s a simple system, and it might help keep you on the right path too.

Box #1, which lives in the bottom of our least-used closet, is not actually one box, but an ever changing parade of boxes and paper bags, and is the Thrift Store Bag. Anything not needed, not wanted, etc. goes into this bag. I never make a sweep of the house looking for things to take to the thrift store; they just accumulate day after day, week after week. When the bag / box is full, I take it to my van. The next time I pass by the thrift store, I make a quick stop.

Box #2 lives in the back of my van. I know that a lot of us struggle to find place to stash items that need to be returned to the store or given back to a friend or dropped off at an out-of-the-way recycling place. This box is my solution. Instead of storing this sort of thing like a runway by my front door, or worse, cluttering my desk further,  I immediately take items that need to be go elsewhere to the box in the van. I look in the box often enough that I have a mental picture of what’s in there and where it ultimately belongs. The wonderfulness of this system is how easy it makes returning things to their rightful homes. What I need is always with me. I never pull into the parking lot of a store and then slap my forehead because I forgot an item I need to return; it’s always with me.

Two cardboard boxes make my life so much smoother. Do you have a simple technique for keeping yourself organized?

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter some items from a closet that is over full, making it difficult to keep organised.

Eco Tip for the Day

Consider ways use to your car less, such as planning ahead, forgoing unnecessary trips, walking more and ride sharing. My car is in the shop for repairs this week and I am managing just fine without it.

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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  1. Hi Cindy, fabulous post and a great idea to keep organised and ready. I use a couple of large paper bags I got from Ikea. They are really big and roomy and can hold various sized goodies. Last time I filled it was with books and papers for the school to use in their Library. When the bag gets ratty I just rip it up and bury it in the garden bed to break down. Win Win. Every now and then someone suggests a trip to Ikea and I eagerly agree and say ‘Yes I need a few bags’. The looks on the faces of my friends as I grab 2 or 3 brown paper bags at 20c each is quite priceless!! Sometimes I buy a few candles or a pkt of tea-lights but that is usually it, until we are leaving and then I go get some ginger snaps or a pkt of the meatball sauce Yum just love that sauce!!! Have a beautiful day 🙂 🙂 🙂

  2. Cindy, this is a great idea. I do something similar but my two boxes are a bag in the floor of my closet and a box in the shed. I think I may change the one from the shed to my closet too. And I may change it from a box to a carryall bag. The box isn’t working that well and the bag I’m thinking about will last a good long while. I no longer have much in the way of big things to get rid of.

  3. The 2 box idea is great idea, for sure. I have a one box method based on the GTD system. Everything goes in there to be processed (hopefully by the end of each day), but not clothes. Now that I am on a mission to further declutter I am going to try to add a few boxes like you recommend. Thanks for this post!

  4. Great idea, Cindy! I use a Trader Joe’s paper bag which sits in a closet. Sometimes it grows to two bags before I send them off to bless someone else.

  5. To go along with Colleen’s eco-tip, this month celebrates the second year that Dan and I have only had one car. It was one of our first 365 things to go, and we’ve done just fine without it.

    • Maybe I should be a bit more honest. We’ve done just fine without it because we have a car that we’re able to borrow and probably do so three times a month for a couple of hours. What this tells me is that we only need a second car for about 100 hours a year. Clearly, not enough to justify purchasing an additional vehicle. And a big THANK YOU to our next-door-neighbors, my parents, who willingly loan us a vehicle when needs dictate.

    • Good for you Cindy. We are managing with one car but we do have a motorbike as well. Steve rides it to work most days and that saves a lot of fuel. We are even coping with the one car while having Bridget at home who doesn’t have a car of her own. It is unfortunately getting used a lot more though. Only nine more weeks of that, all going to plan.

      • Thanks Colleen. Dan rides his bike to work, to get his hair cut, and to the (very) few stores that he shops at. And – my favorite – once a year he rides to Central Market on my birthday and brings a big bunch of flowers home on his bike.

        • Hi Cindy, Dan’s bike is run by manpower though, Steve’s is a Triumph. His work is 30km from our house. A little far to ride a bicycle everyday. Although I am sure some people do.

  6. It is so encouraging to visit this blog each day! We don’t often use our guest bedroom, so I’ve been piling things up in there for the thrift store. Not very tidy, but each pile is temporary.

    I weeded out a bunch of paperwork from our file cabinet today. It was my second time doing that recently and it needs one more pass. My husband had his birth certificate hiding in a subfolder of his job folder, so I rescued it and will put it in the safety deposit box where it is supposed to live. He’s usually tidy and sensible, but he’s weirdly bad at storing important documents. For a long time, he thought the best place for the bonds was with the printer paper.

    Might get to do the closet this weekend since my husband is taking Friday off, but if he’s not up for sorting through his things, better not to force it. Despite all my decluttering lately, I still probably have more things than him.

  7. Good post as usual Cindy.
    I only have one box these days as most clutter that is left goes to the thrift shop. Anything I decide to sell on eBay is just left in its usual place until I get around to it. I generally don’t buy anything these days and when I do it is after a lot of deliberation which generally negates the need for a returns box in the car. I do return library box but I walk there as it is only a couple of blocks from my house.
    Every now and again I reinstate an Undecided Box in my garage in which I put items I am having a trial separation from. This is a great way to decide whether things are really useful to me or not. They either end up sold on eBay, taken to the thrift shop or put back where they came from.

    • Colleen – I’m just wondering about how you say that anything you decide to sell on eBay is left in its usual place. Obviously you were never a clutterbug and you’ve be decluttering steadily for several years so you probably never had a space congestion situation – I could do the same at this point except for all the ballet and tap costumes which I am listing at the moment – but I tend to list items then put them in a box or basket or something, its like when I decide somethings going I need it out of sight already. It’s probably a variation on my “out box”. Are you ok still having the item sitting around?

      BTW listing costumes going well, lots of interest and bids. Yes a lot of work to list and manage the auctions but they only have to sell once. I am probably listing more each night than I should (for my sanity’s sake) but Adrian is away this week and it keeps me busy, plus it is the optimum time of year to be selling. A week or so from now I will probably be bemoaning that I’m snowed under in packaging and posting but its going to be great to have even fewer things to own.

      • Hi Moni, I used to have an eBay box but I have much fewer items I care to sell these days. Earlier I used to gather them up into a box in the garage until I could summon up the desire to list them. Now it is just a thing here and a thing there. I get them out, photograph and list them and put them back until the auction ends. If they sell I send them on, if not I decide whether I will list them again, donate or keep them. So if I leave them out of site in the area where they would normally belong. Nothing untidy or annoying about that.

        There is nothing like having some auctions with bids to inspire you to list some more. The effort involved in listing aways feels less amid the elation of successful auctions.

  8. LOL – when I first came to 365 Less Things, I didn’t realise that readers had these ‘out boxes’ and I was baffled at how they managed to get something out of the house and rehoused every day. I was dashing all over the place dropping stuff to the assorted recycling points, goodwill shops etc trying to keep up. Fortunately I had so much stuff that I decided that I had to make it worth while so I’d do a bag of clothes or books or whatever. Then along the way I realised that it was making the decision and moving the item out of active (or more likely inactive duty) in a pending-exit location. Whew! I got a lot done in that early time and I was all like “wow, I don’t know how these peoples keep up the pace”. Much more sane to have a box system!

    • Hi Moni! As I have decluttered a lot before I got here, I knew I would never be able to get an item out of the house and re-housed every single day. I kind of imagined that Colleen might be able to do it. I can see you were very efficient! 😀 I am sure loads of things were decluttered really fast!!! 😉

      • Andreia – I was like a little cluttered hamster on a very fast wheel. I couldn’t figure out why I was struggling to keep up and everyone else seemed so relaxed. Yes Colleen sort of walks on water as far as decluttering goes. But yes, I did get a lot done in those days – so that’s a good thing, although it is funny now looking back.

        • Funny analogy!!! You made me laugh with the “a little cluttered hamster on a very fast wheel” 😀 😀 😀

    • Hi Moni, that method would have been bad for the environment with all that fuel wasted driving out to deliver donations etc all over the place. I used to wait until I had a car boot load of stuff before I ran off to the thrift shop.

      • Colleen – I KNEW you would say that – the good news is that I incorporated it into trips to the bank, post office, deliveries about town for work.

  9. Great post, Cindy. I utilize a bag, I think that a box would be better though. I keep it tucked away, but if I am doing a lot of decluttering during the day, it may stay out for a while. Once I drop off a bag at the donation center, I start another one. It challenges me to see if I can find enough to fill up yet another bag. I have gotten rid of a lot of stuff, but I know there is more that needs to be considered. Even with all of the donating that I have done, I have also had two sales at a local flea market location. It offers more traffic, so hopefully more potential for selling things. I have 2-3 boxes of items left over from the last sale and I plan to do one more sale. Whatever does not sale the next time, will be permanently out of my home and off to the donation center. I have sold only a few items on e-bay. Mostly they were items that belonged to the kids. It is amazing that there are people out there who will buy or take off of your hands just about anything. Before my last move, I needed to find someone who was willing to take a piano off of my hands. It needed alot of TLC, to include needing to be rebanded and it needed the keys put back on. I did a little research and managed to find someone who refinished about one piano a year and was willing to come look at it. Once he looked at it, he was willing to take it. I was ever so happy because I could not stand the thought of just disposing of it, that would have been awful.

    • Jen – I know what you mean about pianos I once saw a picture of one that had been left outside and inevitably vandals got to it was quite sad given that it could have been refurbished and had a whole new lease of life in it. The problem with piano’s is that they’re so heavy, so they become a bit of a burden to own and re-house. We directed my daughter towards a digital piano as they are a lot lighter and more compact – we got it off trademe and it is the best thing we’ve ever bought her!

      • My kids enjoy an electric piano and have gotten a lot of use out of it. One of my sons actually saved the majority of the money himself to buy it and it meant so much to him to be able to purchase it. I agree, some of the old pianos, especially upright pianos are so heavy and cumbersome. It was passed down to my spouse who enjoyed playing on it as a child. By the time, he got it though, it was in need of much repair. The objective was to refinish the wood and then have someone actually repair the remainder of the working parts. The wood refinishing got done, but sadly, the other parts were never repaired. It followed us on a few moves, but remained in the garage, because I never had a place in my house to put it. I guess I always thought I would eventually end up in a house with a place to put it. However, I came to the realization that it was never to be. After my husband called other family members to see if anyone wanted it, and no one did, it was time for it to go. I was overjoyed when we were able to find a home for it. The man who took it, said he would normally finish them and find a church or school to give it to and in return he might be given the job of tuning it for them in years to come. A happy ending!

  10. This two-box system sounds very organized and appealing to me, and I shall keep it in mind. At the moment I feel I am still in such early stages of decluttering that I am ending up with a car load of things to drop off each time, so I think I need to set up a staging area in the garage for processing all the items. I now have a big pile of unnecessary “storage solutions” in the shape of empty baskets and boxes, so I shall use them to collect the donations. Today I have added several more things that can leave this house, including a small drawer unit, a few more clothes and about six wallets. What was I thinking in keeping all of those?

    • Hi Christine,
      just enjoy the early stages of decluttering! And: take pictures!!
      I just discovered some pictures from my early decluttering days three/four years ago and was amazed at the sheer amounts of stuff that I was able to release and that I really haven’t missed so far. There was a lot of decluttering in bulk at the beginning, now not so much anymore but everything is running more smoothly most of the time. I often felt like a failure in the beginning because I thought the work would never get done but looking back now I realize that I’ve done a lot – sometimes in big bites, sometimes in nibbles. There are advantages in every stage of decluttering. Enjoy all of them as you evolve! (Which you will! I think all the people who comment here regularly are the best evidence that once you dive in you not only change for the better but for good.)

      • Oh yes, I regret not having taken pictures. I really can’t remember what everything looked like when there was still more stuff around.

  11. Every now and again I get a cardboard box from a local market and fill it up with my decluttered stuff, put it in the car and take it to its destiny. I don’t get the box back, I usually just get another box from the market and proceed to fill it up again. Sometimes I just fill a plastic bag and give it away. It is a good system that Cindy presented in this post though. I am inclined to do it just to be rid of the box waiting inside the house to be filled up. 😉

  12. Just the post I needed to read today. I use the two box system, too! Tony, those two boxes represent two project “lists” for next actions for me on GTD. Last week though my hub’n told me that when we only have one car that I can’t keep stuff in it. I attempted to share the logic of having the things for errands with me when I go out, but he stood firm. It’ll be awhile before we’ll be sharing a ride. He goes south to work and I drive north.

    My box for the thrift store is in the laundry room, on the way to the garage. It’s just about ready for a trip out of here, along with three others that I loaded up while decluttering our storage room.

    Tonight I’m continuing my quest to declutter my home office and storage room. I thought when we moved I’d done a good job of getting rid of stuff, but I’m amazed at how much more that I really need to deal with. Thanks for the motivation to keep it up!

  13. Having a ‘staging spot’ doesn’t work well for me as I put things there and tend to forget them. My preference is a modification of Moni’s Declutter Hampster system. For example, Monday is recycle pickup day, so on Sunday I look to declutter something recyclable. Tuesday is garbage day so on Monday I look for something that should be thrown away. Wednesday is our day to run errands in town so on Tuesday I look for something to go to the Thrift Store. If I’m going to a meeting, I look for something that is going to that group. If friends are coming over, I look for something to send home with them. This gets stuff out of here RIGHT NOW. This approach was also helpful with my husband who WAS a reluctant declutterer – seeing things go out a stitch at a time was far less intimidating than seeing huge bags and boxes of stuff disappearing.

    • Love the gold nugget you tucked in at the end there Wendy B:

      “This approach was also helpful with my husband who WAS a reluctant declutterer – seeing things go out a stitch at a time was far less intimidating than seeing huge bags and boxes of stuff disappearing.”

      For those who are struggling to get family on board consider this brilliant idea!!! I’m sure there are lots of folks just looking for strategies like this to get family/housemates to join the decluttering revolution.

  14. I love hearing other people’s solutions to issues like this – thanks, Cindy!

  15. I do like the idea of organizing the stuff that needs to be decluttered. And I do usually have a box for items that are destined for the thriftstore. Its prettymuch the only place I go regulary that I need a car for. All other stuff gets baged as fabrics need to be donated in a closed bag, and the stuff that needs returning usually stays in the bag it came in (came into the house with, I try to use mostly reusable bags, I have an army of them) and gos straight back in the basket under the pram. I suppose it is like the box in Cindy’s car! 😉

    Thanks to my baby (and the big heavy pram) I don’t use my car much these days, as the getting the pram in and out of the hatch is a lot of work, and it really puts me off of going places with the car. Luckily i live in a small town so most things are in walking distance. ( nowadays thats about 8 km back and forth)

  16. I have one box in my entry buffet cupboard. There’s a few lingering items that I can’t work out how best to get rid of (like hoely stockings – someone should want them for plants, but alas on freecycle no one is interested). I put any returns (to people or stores) in little paper bags on the counter top – the visual clutter annoys me, so I get them ‘home’ ASAP. Then, some of those migrate to my car if it’ll be used to get rid of them. Great system – makes me feel like I can ‘easily’ declutter.

    PS Colleen, I have a blog now!! So I nominated you for a lovely blogger award – so hopefully people will take my recommendation of your blog, and follow you! (sadly, not many of my posts are decluttering themed, seems I have so little to declutter…)

  17. Love all the ideas. My ‘box’ is a shelf in a cupboard in the spare room and there’s usually a bag or a box (always something that is not coming back either) on the shelf. eBay stuff goes here too until we can work up to it. If the shelf is too full or I’m in an impatient mood I’ll shove hubby’s stuff to go in his wardrobe so he has to deal with it, naughty of me I know but…..
    Right now though I’m totally off shelf so to speak, there’s a box of craft stuff under the coats at the front door waiting to go to a specific place, a printer waiting for someone to come and get it, a cupboard in the hall that didn’t sell last week locally, a chair floating about upstairs that I can’t decide what to do with – I’ve been on a furniture re-arranging spree, oh and there’s a desk in the spare room to go as well….
    On a plus note though, hubs listed some eBay stuff today he found in the garage and cleared his desk and filing trays – yay, long overdue 🙂

    By the way, what’s the GTD system mentioned a couple of times?