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Mystery Boxes



You moved 5 years ago and there are those few still unpacked boxes. You threw a party and cleared off the table into a box that has not been unpacked. Your child moved out of his childhood room and some of his items were boxed up and put in the closet. When asked, “What are in those boxes?” the response is often, “I don’t know. It’s a mystery to me!”


Yet these mystery boxes continue to take up valuable real estate in your home year after year.


Take the time now to schedule some time to pull those mystery boxes out one at a time and go through them. Some of them can be a fast sort and can even be fun. When working with clients on these mystery boxes I often hear, “I had forgotten about that!” or “I wondered where that went.”


As you sort though the boxes group the items from those boxes into 3 smaller boxes labeled “keep”, “donate”, and “toss”. At the end of each work session take the keep items to the place where they are stored. Trash the toss and put the donate items into your donation bin. Immediately break down those bigger boxes that you sorted and put them into the recycling bin.


Voila! More open space in your home.


If you come across a big box that is mostly paper, it will take longer, and you may need to schedule more than one time to go through it. Even though it is tempting to think that since you have not investigated this box for years, it can just be dumped – don’t do it. Mixed in with now unimportant papers, to do lists, and old receipts you will very likely find paper with account numbers, your social security number, or old medical records that if you are not keeping should be shredded. You may also come across a car title or a burial plot deed.

So, take your time. Schedule multiple sessions and to keep yourself from feeling overwhelmed use your timer and set an ending time. If your sessions are days apart take time after each session to clean up and trash unneeded papers, put the papers that you need to shred in a shred box, and set up a “to file” folder. This will keep this project from yelling at you when you don’t have the time to work on it.

Over time the mysteries will be solved, and you will have reclaimed space you can use for planned storage.


If you want help or just some accountability in setting up projects or working your organizational plan join Diane Quintana and me on our Clear Space For You clutter support group.


Jonda S. Beattie, Professional Organizer owner of Time Space Organization, and co-owner of Release, Repurpose, Reorganize. She is based in the Metro-Atlanta area. As presenter, award-winning author, as well as a retired special education teacher she uses her listening skills, problem solving skills, knowledge of different learning techniques, ADHD specialty, and paper management skills to help clients tackle the toughest organizational issues. Jonda does hands on organizing and virtual organizing. For more of Jonda’s tips connect with her on Facebook.



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4 commentaires


O2E Assistant
O2E Assistant
20 avr. 2022

Great post! That "I don't know what's in there!" anxiety can be reframed as more of a treasure hunt. I love finding something that brings back memories, and mystery boxes are a great way to find stuff you didn't know you missed.

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Linda Samuels
Linda Samuels
18 avr. 2022

I love this idea of the "mystery box!" I've helped many clients sort theirs and it is amazing what they find. Very often the boxes include things they no longer want or need. When that happens, they easily let go and create more space. And when that happens, it feels so good and motivating, they keep doing more.


Your suggestion about how paper takes longer to process is a good one. Learning how to break down the 'harder' boxes into multiple sorting sessions will make the project less daunting and more doable.

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O2E Assistant
O2E Assistant
20 avr. 2022
En réponse à

That's smart. It's good to break up the monotony of paper with things that take less mental energy to go through.

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