ARTICLE: “The Five Boxes Organizing Technique”

Wish you could find more time in the day? Feel so overwhelmed that you don’t think you even have time to stop and organize? You’re not alone. Consider these studies:

• More than 60 percent of American families would like to eat breakfast together more often, according to a survey by Roper Starch Worldwide. Only 11 percent eat breakfast together daily.
• In a Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey, 59 percent of Americans describe their lives as busy.
• 40 percent of Americans don’t feel they have enough time to make calls for the information they need, according to Bellcore.

Disorganization is a huge timewaster for many people. Daniel Rubenstein, an organizational consultant, estimates it takes the average professional 36 minutes a day to find things in the office. Multiply that by a person’s hourly salary, and an organization can spend thousands of dollars a year on disorganization. 

Summer is practically here, and soon kids will be on summer vacation. Before things get hectic, take an opportunity to step back and evaluate where you can organize your life. Kitchen? Basement? Attic? Bedroom? It takes time to make time! 

Try to tackle a single one-hour organizing project each weekend. Don’t attempt a huge task, such as the entire bedroom. Break the project down into manageable bite-sized chunks. For example, you could organize the top of the closet one weekend, your clothes another, your dresser another, under the bed next, etc. Schedule a one-hour declutter assault on your calendar every weekend so you don’t procrastinate or schedule over it.

When it’s time to begin your organizing task, don’t simply take everything out of the area, throw it on the floor, and try to put it away one piece at a time. You will run out of time and steam and shove everything back in again, only to be more disorganized than before. To avoid having an area that’s “half” organized, follow this simple technique.

The fixes boxes method helps you systematically declutter an area (drawer, shelf, cabinet, closet, box, room). Get five sturdy boxes. Label them:
1. Put Away—items that are out of place and should be put away
2. Give Away—items that are in good repair that you no longer want, need, or use. Give to charity, sell, or swap items
3. Store—items that are going to be used again in a reasonable amount of time, but you don’t use on a regular basis
4. Toss—items that are broken, old, worn, or in bad repair
5. Belongs here—will go back into the room, drawer, closet, or cabinet you’re organizing

Then take one item out at a time and put it into the appropriate box. If you’re going to organize for 1 hour, set an egg timer for 50 minutes. When it buzzes, use the last few minutes of your organizing session to put items away, put the charity items in the car, throw out the trash, or put boxes into storage. The time investment made in getting organized will repay you over and over in reduced stress, decreased frustration, and more time to spend with friends and family.

© 2000 Laura Stack. All rights reserved. You are free to use portions of this publication in your company newsletter, provided the following credit is listed at the bottom:

Laura M. Stack, MBA, CSP, is “The Productivity PRO,”® helping people leave the office earlier, with less stress, and more to show for it. She presents keynotes and seminars on time management, information overload, and personal productivity. Contact her at 303-471-7401 or visit her website at