Put Your Stuff In A Probation Box: How To Clear Clutter When You’re Scared


Do you have too much stuff, but feel conflicted about letting it go?

Part of you feels excited about clearing the clutter and enjoying the space, freedom, and mental clarity of an organized home.

But another part of you is nervous about stepping out of your comfort zone, and facing a future without clutter as your excuse.

Here’s a little trick that will give you a safety net as you step forward into your simpler, more organized life.

Put Your Stuff On Probation

Ready? Take a breath and follow these steps:

1. Start Anywhere

Great places to start include your closet, your kitchen, the living room, or your office. Each of these areas will have a large number of items that aren’t adding to your happiness, productivity or self-esteem.

But start wherever you feel drawn to make a change. Your natural motivation is a gift – use it.

2. Fill A Box

Look through your space and identify items you:

  1. Don’t use, and/or
  2. Don’t love.

Put them all into the box. That’s right – just plop them in without overthinking. Keep your actions fast and your energy high.

When the box is full or you’ve finished the space, tape up the box securely so it’s difficult to open.

3. ‘Date’ The Box

Write the date six months from now on your box. Use a thick sharpie and write in large, easy-to-read text.

For example, if you fill the box on March 1, 2011, then write September 1, 2011 on the box.

4. Give The Box To A Friend

Now that your box is filled with stuff you don’t use or love, take it to a friend’s house. Be kind and choose a friend who’s pretty organized and not struggling with clutter or hoarding issues of their own.

Say something along these lines to your friend:

I’m taking the first step toward releasing clutter from my life. I’ve filled this box with things I don’t need or love, but I’m nervous about getting rid of it. Could you please hold on to it for me, so I know it’s safe, until the date on the box. [Point to the date using an air steward gesture for emphasis.] On that date, please donate it to charity/put it into the trash [depending on the contents].

5. Get On With Your Life

Now head back home and get on with things.

If you find in the next six months that your life is empty without that ceramic turtle, then by all means return to your friend’s house and retrieve it.

More likely though, you’ll be happily enjoying the lightness and clarity of a more organized home. You’ll have moved on to other rooms, perhaps not needing probation boxes for these.

And you won’t give probation boxes another thought – until someone turns up at your house with one.

[Image: by lovelihood]

7 thoughts on “Put Your Stuff In A Probation Box: How To Clear Clutter When You’re Scared

  1. Michele Connolly says:

    Hi Nicole. This might help with your papers: Organize Your Paperwork.

    A lot of things we keep to save money, but they cost us in many other ways – frustration, space and outlook. Buying things when and if they’re needed can be cheaper than therapy!

    With clothes, one idea is to donate anything that doesn’t fit now, and treat yourself to new outfits when you lose weight. It’s a fantastic excuse to update your look!

    With the toys, unless they have sentimental appeal, why not donate them and let other kids enjoy them now. They’ll be plenty of toys for your son’s kids when the time comes.

  2. nicole says:

    I have the biggest issues with going through old papers, what to keep and what to get rid of. The other area is clothes that I can’t fit into, but hope to next season…… To top it all off I’m packing to move this is terrible. Oh yep thought of another, my some has two containers of hotwheels and legos he wants to keep for his kids. Ugh yep i have a problem lol

  3. Jennifer says:

    Great ideas! I think my problem is going to be finding a friend that doesn’t have the same problem :). I have found that out here in rural Nebraska – there is an over abundance of “collectors”. But I am getting better and this year I have given away quite a bit to the charities in the next town over. Still have more to go – but I am working in baby steps! Thanks for your posts!

  4. Nonnahs Driskill says:

    Why have I not incorporated this before?! Such a great idea. Most people know they can live without the stuff, but it is still scary to let go of so much stuff all at once.

    Thanks so much for the Probation Box solution.

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