An “Outbox” Is a Proven Way to Make Decluttering Less Stressful — Here’s How to Make It Work

updated Feb 3, 2020
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Credit: Liz Calka

The hardest part of decluttering is making choices about what should stay and what should go. That’s why your best weapon in The War Against Stuff is a simple little thing we like to call “the outbox.”

The outbox has been a staple of our decluttering method for many, many years — mainly because it just works. It’s not a garbage or donation pile — it’s more like decluttering purgatory. A place for things to just sit (at least a week, or maybe even until the end of the month) while you loosen your attachment to them. Once something has been in the outbox for a while, you’ll see the object for what it truly is: either a treasure to hang onto, or a relic to rid yourself of.

This post is about setting up that outbox and setting yourself up for success.

Your Assignment: Set up an outbox and put one thing in it.

Your outbox doesn’t need to be an actual box. It can be a bag (those big IKEA bags are clutch), an unused room, the space under a table, or just any designated nook or corner. Some place that’s a little out-of-the-way that you can allow to be messy for a little while.

Once you’ve got your outbox set up, I want you to add one thing to it. Look around your home and zero in on one item you’re thinking about letting go of — a trinket, a kitchen tool, a platter, anything — then put it in the outbox with abandon. Don’t think about it too much, just… into the outbox. You’re not getting rid of the thing (yet, or maybe ever), so don’t hesitate to put something in the outbox if it crosses your mind.

Once you’ve got your item in your outbox, you’re done for the day!

As you declutter different areas of your space, you can put things you’re getting rid of, or just thinking about getting rid of, into the outbox.

When the box is full or it’s the end of the month, it’s time to empty your outbox. (That’s when you decide what you want to keep, donate, or sell.) But for now, just set it up and feel good about putting that first item in, knowing you’re on your way to letting go of things you don’t need.

This post originally ran on Apartment Therapy. See it there: The “Outbox” Method is a Proven Way to Make Decluttering Less Stressful