Saturday Extra ~ The Untouchable Box, a guest post by Andréia

I have made some great progress with my decluttering, but a lovely chat I had with Colleen recently prompted a decision by which I want to improve my decluttering and help me evaluate better the real value of my objects and why I keep them.

As I was talking to Colleen she started to ask about things I don’t even want to talk about decluttering, let alone actually declutter them. They are in my bedroom in the lovely box. It is a 31 square centimetre box, covered in fabric with a lid.

I made a mistake with my decluttering. Instead of focusing on all the “easy” stuff I want to and am willing to declutter I kept focusing on the box. Talking to Colleen made me realize that I was willing to declutter a lot more, except that box.

Every time I thought of my overall decluttering I thought how painful it will be when I have to declutter this box. This line of thinking  literally puts a stop to the happy decluttering I have been doing (apart from the odd whining on the blog). I now realise what thinking about decluttering this box and its contents is doing to me emotionally. So I have decided to establish the untouchable box. This one box, in full sight, is small enough as to not constitute a burden in my bedroom or my life. It is nice looking and I am allowing myself the luxury of keeping it and never having to contemplating decluttering it if I don’t want to. No decluttering that box.

However, such a big compensation warrants some big sacrifice. So, as I have nominated that box and its contents “untouchable”, that means that everything else in my house can be contemplated for decluttering. If an item is not in use or if it does not agree with our lifestyles it is now fair game. So I set myself a rigid rule: no more keeping for sentimental reasons unless it fits in “the box”. If I want to fit it in “the box” because I feel it has emotional value, and there isn’t enough room, something else in “the box” will have to go. If it is too big and doesn’t fit in “the box” then it is too big to be kept only for sentimental reasons. Also, I can’t buy other boxes and I can’t cram things in there a mile high to keep them. The box must be able to close.

I can tell that my decision has already made me feel a lot better. My treasures are all safe, no one is going to touch them and I can declutter anything I want, because if I ever ran out of things to declutter I don’t have to touch my box. With this thought I feel like I freed myself from a burden. By allowing myself the freedom to keep my one small treasure box I gave myself a lot more freedom to declutter other stuff that I do not see as treasures, but are just there and I will look at them a lot more rationally. I can be more purposeful when I look at objects and with that, be more efficient when decluttering.

What I tried to say here is that we can allow ourselves to have our little treasures, but they have to be that, little. We have to be able to enjoy them when we want and, as it happens to me, keep them in sight and feel good having them there. I don’t know if I will ever declutter that box, I might, but for now. I have a 100 square meter house to declutter and only a 31 square centimeter of it that I am not touching.

The Weekend’s Mini Missions

Saturday – Clear the clutter from your kitchen workspace and keep it that way. Cooking is a big enough job without having to clear away before you can get started.

Sunday - Sunday is reserved for contemplating one particular item, of your choice, that is proving difficult for you to declutter. Whether that be for sentimental reasons, practical reasons, because the task is laborious or simply unpleasant, or because the items removal requires the cooperation of another person. That last category may mean that the item belongs to someone else who has to give their approval, it could also mean there is a joint decision to be made or it could mean that the task of removing it requires assistance from someone else. There is no need to act on this contemplation immediately, it is more about formulating a plan to act upon or simply making a decision one way or another.

“In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.” Brother David Steindl-Rast

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Continue reading with these posts:

  • Day 129 Learn to love the process of decluttering I no longer look at the decluttering process as a chore in fact I really enjoy it. I look for the positive in in every little effort I make. I no longer focus on the enormity of the task […]
  • Day 300 – Lice! A guest post by Cindy Bogard Yes, my youngest was sent home from school with lice. Don’t worry; I’ll wait while you say “eeewwwwww!!!!” and scratch your head like a crazy […]
  • Day 237 Getting carried away I know I still have a lot of stuff in my home to go through and get rid of. Stuff I have been avoiding to be quite honest because of the degree of difficulty. Now that I am almost into the […]
About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. What a brilliant post Andreia! Thank you. It’s amazing how hung up we can get over something and then let that stifle the rest. I’ve had several versions of ‘the box’ over the years., both in terms of it getting in the way and in having a treasures box. My most enduring ‘box’ (confession – I couldn’t even tell you what’s in it, haha) – is a wee antique blue suitcase that was my grans. It lives on the top shelf in my wardrobe.

    • Hi Fruitcake! Thanks for commenting! I decided to let that box quiet because it was causing me mental clutter. And I decided that I can keep some treasures. The thing is I did not want to be covered in stuff. So setting a specific place, that was nice to look at and it was no burden to me. I am feeling more happy and free in my decluttering after the box was established.

    • Fruitcake – my ‘box’ only appeared in the house a couple of months ago. It defies all rules of decluttering but it sits on my laundry shelf and it makes me smile. A few months ago my husband was doing some yard work at our first home, which we kept as a rental. We’d lived there for 9 years. As Adrian was pulling out a shrub he found one faded yellow Banana’s-In-Pyjamas gumboot toddler size. These were my son’s – he is now a strapping six foot 18 year old. I can actually remember the day when I realised I couldn’t find his other gumboot as it wasn’t with the other one in wardrobe. So many years later it surfaced, his name written on the back as he often proudly wore them to daycare.

      Obviously he doesn’t fit them and we only have the one, it serves no purpose, but I don’t plan to throw it out either. Like I said earlier, it makes me smile.

  2. This post really rang a bell for me, Andreia. I too have gotten stalled in my decluttering by trying to figure out how to let go of certain things. I finally – finally! – remembered to do the easy things first. And if I still want to keep certain things when I get to them, I will 🙂 Thank you for putting this into a post!

    • Hi Jo H! I am glad I helped. Colleen has said this over and over again, but sometimes we forget that the easy stuff must come first. We are allowed to keep treasures, we can allow ourselves that, as long as it is reasonable 😉 . And I did not want to let my treasures go. I wanted to keep some things, but I felt they needed a boundary. I have a problem with clutter: I, sometimes didn’t know what treasures were, and I tended to keep stuff that really was just trash. Now with that insight I got from Colleen I let my treasures, things I bought a box to store, things which I chose to keep when I was decluttering lots of other things, sit quietly in my room.

  3. I fully support the “untouchable box” idea! It’s sanctuary for the most sentimental (and otherwise useless) personal keepsakes, what a soothing idea for slow declutterer’s like myself. AND the best part is, the rules can change when I’m ready, maybe the untouchable box will be okay to visit some time down the road, who knows, but the pressure is lifted for now.

    • Thanks Creative Me! Taking the pressure off was very good for me. I don’t know about how long I will keep the box, but it is a way to feel control and to evaluate better other things I have.

  4. Great post, Andreia. Giving yourself permission to have one container to hold your treasures, that certainly takes the pressure off. I like too that you set that as your limit. Now you can move forward and not feel bogged down.

  5. Andreia, this is a great post. See this is an example of how we are all different in how we approach things yet we can get past the roadblocks once we figure out what they are. I’m so glad you figured this out. To me there is nothing wrong with your untouchable box.

    • Hi Deb J! Thank you for your support. I came about this post because Colleen was asking me about some stuff I had talked to her about some time back back and I realized I did not want to declutter nor talk about that stuff. Then I thought I had so much stuff I needed to let go, clothes, objects, big furniture, things that I had already decided to declutter, but I had to act on it. Why waste my time on a box I did not want to touch?

  6. I had a similar though not the same type of breakthrough this week. When things are organized then if something is lost, it is really lost. If I always put my keys on the hook and they are not on the hook, and my house is neat and a quick survey shows I didn’t put them somewhere else, they are missing. GONE! No clutter means nowhere else to look.

    I am missing an important paper right now. And I realized that my decluttering is stalled because every stack I sort and don’t find that paper is one step closer to having to admit it may be gone for good. So I don’t go into those clutter zones. I keep those little stacks of hope. I freely admit that if I had been clutter free in the first place this paper might not have gone missing. But since I don’t know where it is I am reluctant to clear away anything that might bring me closer to accepting that it is gone.

    Now that I realize this I hope I might be able to slowly attack the paper monster.

    • Hi Delores! I decided to keep the box to have order and to keep my important things in one place I could visit whenever the mode takes me. When we have no clutter it is easier to keep things organized and to not misplace stuff. I hope you find your misplaced paper, but I guess if you think it is gone, it probably is.

  7. very good Post, Andréia. I tend to forget as well that I dont need to pressure myself. Because for me the “easy stuff” is not that obvious anymore, decluttering happens accidentally nowadays. I still have a couple of items that I would declutter if it wasnt for memories and the “just in case”, like a couple of bags, or so. But as long as I have the space and am comfortable with my home in general, I wont force anything drastic. allow yourself some safety strategies, like the untouchable box. I think its a very good idea.

    • Don’t pressure yourself Lena! That was what I was doing and it was getting me contrary results to what I was aiming, which was to declutter things that I did not need nor want in my house any more. I did not give myself some room to maneuver and it was really bad being so strict with myself. I decided I could stop that to an limited extent, hence the box. So allowing myself to have my treasures was good for me.

  8. Wow Andreia! I enjoy reading your words. Your post today has ticked a few ‘boxes ‘ in my mind. I dont have a treasures box as you have, but i think it is a good idea to place items that are hard to make decisions about in a box until time and emotions allow. i recently tried to declutter some photos, it was an emotional time and it only ended in tears. So the box sits in the lounge room until I have the courage to face it again. The truth is, if someone else took the box and disposed of it, i would not be upset or feel loss. it is just i dont want to deal with the responsiblity of getting rid of those photos!
    Colleen is very perceptive and a wonderful lady. ( even though she beat me at Upwords yesterday!)

    • Sore loser! 😉

    • Hi Wendy F! I went through what you described when I thought about getting rid of the box. I am not into suffering and I have loads of other things I can declutter without thinking, so why put myself through this pain? If someone has a mental problem and hoards, then it is a problem. But that is not my case. I want to keep that and only that, no suffering, no pain. I just want the joy of being rid of stuff that I look at and think: “What are you doing in my house?” or “What are you?” or “You are awful, I don’t know why ever you are still here…” or “Oh God! I hadn’t seen this t-shirt in 3 years, I did not even remember it was still here…” and so on and so forth. Easy 😀 .

  9. Hi Andreia – I did read this this morning but was rushing out the door. Some time ago, probably early in my decluttering efforts, Colleen suggested I get a box for each of my daughters for whatever they wanted to keep because it had precious memories to them, but they didn’t want in their rooms but they didn’t want to throw out. But they don’t get to fill another box, just this one box, and if they want to add something and there isn’t any room left, well its up to them what they get rid of. It works well.

    There are some items which are precious forever and there are items which are precious in the here and now but attachment fades with distance. I view this method as a trial seperation. The girls feel happy because their boxes are off limit and they are in control of what goes in them. Works really well.

    • Hi Moni! My box has contents from my teenage years (almost everything). I know I might get rid of some things in that box at a later time, but most of it really are for keeps. It is good you allow your girls to have their boxes and sort what is treasure and what isn’t. You are saving them a lot of grief and clutter in the future, because if they get to choose what to keep and think calmly their decisions, they will not feel “deprived” of their treasures in the future. 🙂

  10. I enjoyed the post, Andreia. My grandmother gave me a jewelry box that is about 6″ square that was used by one of my great grandmothers; I don’t remember which. The box isn’t particularly well made and I’ve been wondering whether to declutter it or not. I think I’ll keep it for now and continue to store sentimental items in it, I don’t need to force a decision that I might regret.

    My good news is that my husband agreed to go through a closet with me today. He only kept about 1/3rd of the stuff he was storing in the closet; it is much tidier now.

    • Hi Rebecca J! Good thing your husband decided to pitch in. I have noticed that my husband does not help me regularly with my declutter efforts, but when he does, he is very efficient 😉 . Keep the jewellery box for now and maybe forever. Declutter is not about struggle or suffering. It is about, as was posted earlier this week, feel good about your home and with yourself. If you have an object which you use and appreciate, keep it. The things I keep in my box make me feel good. I only felt anguish when I thought of decluttering it. As I have decluttered happily lots and lots of things, I decided I was not a hoarder and was not keeping it to become one in a pile. That is how I decided it was my treasure (or “my precious” 😀 ).

  11. So happy for you Andreia! You have made a decision that will help you move forward in the decluttering and have also realised that it’s ok to keep the things that really mean the most. The rest of your journey to serenity will be comparatively easy 🙂

    • Hi Megan S! Thank you for your support and I hope serenity will be with me when I continually tackle my bedroom 😀 .

  12. The “sacred box”. Totally understandable, and very neat. What an incredible idea! As far as the mini missions, my kitchen counters are (finally) all clear and I cannot tell you all what a difference it makes mentally. Have a great weekend!

  13. Andreia, this is a great post. I applaud the decision to have ‘the box’. I suppose we could expand this concept to ‘the bookcase’ where we can keep the books we want, but we can’t keep any more books than will fit in ‘the bookcase’. My goal is to have that rule for the yarn and fibers I use for spinning, weaving and knitting: ‘one cabinet’. We’ve done just that with the games and puzzles: ‘one (smallish) cabinet’.

    • Hi Willow! As a book lover and sometimes book hoarder I think I understand where you are going with “the bookcase”. I have toyed with that idea myself, but as I have decluttered some books, I am no ready to set a number. Not yet. However, your idea is great and I think I might think about it and put it to use. Thanks for your support! 🙂

      • Andreia – you are a genius – I’m a book hoarder. Ok a reformed book hoarder. Wow.
        I wonder how many other mini forms of hoarding there are?

        • There must be thousand of forms of hoardings, but no one to admit theirs freely like ourselves. And I am a genius, tahnk you! And we are so modest!!! 😀 😀 😀

  14. Good news on the Ninja Mouse – it was found hiding under the refridgerator, amidst much hysterics my husband rescued him in a cardboard box and took him the reserve area with native trees etc that is not far from our house.

  15. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to allow yourself to have a few ‘treasures’. I think decluttering is all about getting rid of the unnecessary items, the useless items, the ones which just take up space, the ones we don’t use – so that we can fully enjoy those we do use or would like to use if we weren’t drowning in clutter. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying objects per se – there are items which I won’t ever even consider decluttering because I believe its perfectly okay to keep them. Decluttering shouldn’t make you feel like you have to throw everything out and only keep food and a few items of clothing in your house. It should give you the means to enjoy time with others either by reclaiming that dining table back to have a family meal, or by the sofa no longer being a dumping ground for coats/jackets/paperwork/letters etc so you can all sit down to watch a film, it should give you the means to enjoy a hobby, if that’s sewing or craft then it should give you space to do that and not feel overwhelmed by the amount of craft/sewing things you have. Or free up the garage so you can get that bike fixed and get riding again…you get the picture. So I guess to sum up how I feel, I see decluttering as a way forward towards enjoying life more, but decluttering doesn’t mean necessarily getting rid of everything; having an empty room shouldn’t be the end goal but instead a space in which you can enjoy a few of your favourite things, with your favourite people.

    Anyway that’s just my take/philosophy on it 🙂


  1. […] and lots of bits and pieces. One of the first things I did to help me declutter was to establish my “Untouchable box”. So, treasures secure, time to tackle whatever else was in the […]