Thinking Inside the Box

Thinking Inside the Box

inside boxThinking outside the box, of course, means thinking creatively outside of conventional constraints. I’d like to make a case for thinking inside the box.  I’m not referring to a conceptual box, but an actual physical box. To be creative, you definitely want to think outside the conceptual box, but, to get organized, let’s get back to the box.

In a recent post I recommended using cardboard banker boxes to GET organized and clear boxes and containers to STAY organized. The value of the clear containers is almost self-evident: reveal, don’t conceal, but I want to focus on the cardboard boxes.

Clients know that the first thing we do is set up a table, quickly followed by making cardboard banker boxes. Providing boxes may seem like an unnecessary step to getting organized, but here are some reasons why it’s not.

Room to work

When getting organized you will need room to work, more than you think. By getting smaller loose items into boxes with lids, you can stack them vertically and free up horizontal space.


Having several boxes means you can contain several general categories at once. These categories may include loose paper, office supplies, clothes, décor, keepsakes, books, media, etc.  Because these categories have been contained in labeled boxes, you can focus on one category at a time. To STAY organized, it’s best to have containers clear for maximum findability. Conversely, to GET organized, it’s best to have opaque boxes, so you are not distracted by the other categories, that you are not currently focusing on.


I have read that some organizers use another technique to limit distraction. They will cover an area that is not being addressed with a sheet, so the client can focus on just one small area at a time.  My problem with the sheet technique, is that it doesn’t offer a means of prioritization. When you have all your boxes categorized, however, you can easily choose, which category you are going to focus on first. Having things sorted first, gives you a better idea of where you stand.

Manageable Stages

In our busy days, it may not be possible to organize cluttered room all at once, but boxes make it possible to attack the project in effective, manageable stages. Having everything sorted into categories is a giant step forward. If you get to just one or two categories, no problem. Boxes make it easy to return to where you left off. Loose piles don’t.


Don’t write on the boxes. Use labels. You don’t want the contents to get too comfortable. You WILL be emptying them. Then you can reuse the boxes multiple times, as you move on to other cluttered rooms.


There’s a ton of tools out there to STAY organized, but not so many to GET organized. Banker boxes are one of my favorites. What’s yours?

Comments 7

  1. Post

    I never thought of the getting organized process as creative, but I will say this. It’s good to start with a goal for getting organized, then it becomes less about what you are giving up and more about what you are gaining. You may then come up with some creative ways to purge some of those barriers that are blocking your goals. Keep your eye on the prize.

  2. I love the idea and reasoning behind clear vs. opaque boxes. I certainly wouldn’t want bankers boxes around forever, but agree with Gay that colorful storage containers make everything more fun 🙂 Great post – very well written!

  3. I’ve seen Matt and his team in action and they not only help you get you organized quickly and efficiently, they also teach you how to stay organized.

  4. Great point about using labels instead of writing on boxes themselves ie, not letting stuff get too comfortable in the boxes. I am very guilty of this – put it in a box and forget about it for months or sometimes years!

    Thanks for another useful post!

  5. Post

    Thanks. Yes, I’m all about middle ground. You might not have the time to process everything into beautiful boxes, but you don’t have to leave things in piles either.

  6. Reveal, don’t conceal. Makes a lot of sense.

    Clear containers are also incentive to KEEP it organized since it’s all in clear view.

    Great advice!

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