If you get overwhelmed at the thought of decluttering an entire room, this week’s episode is just what you need! Kathi and Tonya Kubo, founder of the Clutter Free Academy Facebook Group, discuss the first of three Clutter Free basics: space boxing. This technique makes decluttering go faster, feel more doable and more satisfying.
In this episode, you’ll learn what space boxing is and hear real-life examples of how to use this tool in your home. You’ll also hear how space boxing:
- Helps you to stay focused when decluttering
- Empowers your kids to declutter their space
- Leads to greater function and a sense of peace in your home.
Don’t miss next week’s second episode of Clutter Free Basics! Subscribe to have Kathi’s podcasts delivered to you every week.
Kathi’s book, Clutter Free Home: Making Room for Your Life will be released next February. You can learn more and pre-order your copy on Amazon today.
To learn more about MOMcon, click here.
Transcript of Clutter Free Academy Podcast #379
Read along with the podcast!
Clutter Free Academy Podcast # 379
What is Space Boxing?
Kathi – Well, hey friends! Welcome to Clutter Free Academy, where our goal is to help you take small, do-able steps to live every day with less clutter and more life. Today, with me, is the founder of Clutter Free Academy on Facebook. You laugh every time I say that. Why is that?
Tonya – Because you’re the founder. You’re the one that called me and was like, “Hey, Tonya. I have this idea.” And I said, “Oh, okay.” And you just let me play.
Kathi – Yeah, but you actually did it. So, I just pop in there, dust on some clutter magic. It’s Tonya Kubo. You all know this. Now, Tonya, can I share with you what I think the most depressing sentence in the entire world is?
Tonya – Sure. I was in too good of a mood, anyway. Depress me.
Kathi – “I am going to declutter my kitchen today.” Or, “I’m going to gut my kitchen.” Or, “I’m going to organize my kitchen.” Any variation of that statement makes me want to curl up in a ball, rock back and forth and weep openly.
Tonya – Okay, so as the Clutter Free Queen, you have to explain that. I know our listeners. I love our listeners, but they all think that you wake up in the morning going, “I have nothing on the calendar. I am going to go declutter my entire first floor.”
Kathi – You know what people actually think? People think that I have no clutter. They think that Roger and I live in a sterile box. We never bring anything into our house. Let me dispel some myths. I spent the better part of a week gutting a closet. Back a few months ago, was our first time renting out our San Jose house on Airbnb. I feel like the house was really well organized, decluttered, beautiful.
Tonya – I’ve been there. It was nice.
Kathi – Thank you. The last two days before we got out of Dodge, though, was a lot of throwing things into closets and locking the doors. Just the reality of the situation. Guys, I will never be that naturally clutter free person. I feel a little bit like the people who are in a twelve step program, like Alcoholics Anonymous, and I’m not equating clutter with that. I’m not. At first, clutter is like minute by minute battle. Then it’s an hour by hour battle. Then it’s a day by day battle. Then, the thought of bringing clutter into my house becomes naturally easier for me to resist. There’s always a resistance there. I went to MOMCon, the MOPS big convention, and I said, “I should go through all the stuff and throw out anything I don’t want.” Then I’m like, “Ugh. It’ll just be easier to do it when I get home.” It’s like, “NO. No it will not be easier.” Everything you bring into your house is a bigger decision at that point. It’s just too much. I want to talk, today, about Clutter Free Basic Principles. If you’re just getting started with Clutter Free, here are some basics that it would be so helpful for you to know. Tonya and I want to give you, not just the how, but the why. So, the first thing we’re going to talk about is Space Boxing, which sounds very futuristic and very cool.
Tonya – Or violent. Depending on how you go.
Kathi – That’s right. Aliens in a ring. Tonya, I’m going to ask you. Can you give us what the basics of Space Boxing are?
Tonya – You pick a space and you don’t leave it during your clutter session. Let’s be clear, I’m not saying you don’t leave it for five days. Right? But you pick one designated area and you have everything you need with you to sort the stuff in that area, so that, you’re not like me and you’re not like, “Oh! This goes in this other room.” Then, when you’re in that other room, putting that thing away, suddenly, you’re like, “Oh, hey! I should declutter this right here.”
Kathi – It’s the Give-a-Mouse-a-Cookie syndrome. It really is. It’s so easy to get distracted. You’re like, “Okay, I need to get this space done. I need to get this area done.” Then you’re off in another room and you’re like, “How did I get here? How did I even get here to do all the things?”
Tonya – The worst of it is, you end up feeling like you spent all day and not seeing any results.
Kathi – That’s so true. That is such a key point. When people say that they just declutter and declutter and declutter, and it doesn’t look like it’s making any difference, it’s because it’s not concentrated decluttering. It’s decluttering what has happened today. The surfaces, or something like that. But that’s all going to come back, because you have families and kids. There’s a certain amount of clutter that is in everyday life. Let’s talk about the Boxing Principle. So, I really believe, if you’re just getting started, one of your best tools is a roll of blue painter’s tape. What I want you to do with the tape, and this is especially helpful for kids, if you go tell your child to go clean their room, that is the adult equivalent of saying, “I’m going to spend today cleaning my kitchen.” I feel like kids do not have brains to be able to clean a huge section, so I feel like blue painter’s tape is really good in a couple of situations. One, if you get distracted easily. I know that a lot of my clutter people get distracted very easily. The other thing is with children. To say, “I want you to declutter this area.” You mark off the area and you help them declutter. Or, you say, “I want you to declutter this book shelf, or this drawer.” So, what we’re doing is, we’re saying, “This is a finite space.” In the next couple of episodes, we’re going to talk about the other two tools in order to really declutter. So, we’ve got the Space Boxing, the Time Boxing, and the Three Bag System. But, for today, I want you to think about, as you go through your rooms, and in my new book, The Clutter Free Home, each day, you are assigned to a different room. It’s not that I want you to declutter that room on that day. I want you to pick a space in that room. So, Tonya, if today was your kitchen day, what space in your kitchen would you declutter.
Tonya – I would declutter the cabinet underneath my hutch.
Kathi – Okay, fifteen minutes. How much do you think you can get done?
Tonya – I could finish the whole thing in fifteen minutes, because that’s where I keep my baking ware. So, you can imagine, when you’re putting away dishes quickly, that’s the spot that gets all out of control. All I have to do is go in there and really just nest everything. What I like to do when I’m doing that kind of decluttering is, just check your pans. If there’s a pan that has seen better days, it’s time to let that pan go.
Kathi – If you’d be embarrassed to lend it to somebody.
Tonya – Yeah, I have a couple of those. You know it’s bad if I can visualize them, right now.
Kathi – Exactly. We just threw out a cookie sheet for that exact reason. So, for me, it would be my storage containers. What I have come to finally understand is you cannot organize, whether it’s your Tupperware, SnapWare, Pyrex, whatever it is. You can’t organize it in the cupboard. I have to pull everything out every couple of weeks and just go through it. For some reason, lids multiply in there. I’m not quite sure how that happens. What I’ve come to understand is, just throw it away. Throw it away. They are never going to get reunited. It’s just not going to happen. I’ll never forget wondering where all my silverware went, and then one day, looking in the garbage and there was a paper plate with a fork. Not a plastic fork, a real fork. What?! I think my kids just, every once in a while, lost their minds. Or, they just thought, “It’s just easier to throw it away than putting in the sink.” I hope that’s not it. They don’t still do that, so that’s really good. So, if you were going to do your living room today, Tonya. I want to give some examples. What would you do in your living room?
Tonya – My living room is easy. So, we have an ottoman. It’s a cube with a lid and you shove stuff in it.
Kathi – A storage ottoman.
Tonya – A storage ottoman. See? There is words. I would go through those, because I’m sure there are random Lego pieces in there, and all sorts of crazy stuff.
Kathi – Right. This is a really good point. One of the things I want you to do, after you declutter that area, or that ottoman. I have fallen in love with my label maker again. I am in a deep relationship with my label maker.
Tonya – Does Roger know?
Kathi – Roger does know and supports this little affair that I’m having. The reason that things get cluttered is because your space doesn’t have a purpose. To be able to say, “This is the drawer that we put the hot pads in.”, “This is the drawer we put the dishtowels in.” That means that the scissors don’t go in there. That means that the taco seasoning does not go in there. It gives it a purpose. Every space in your house is crying out for a purpose. So, once you declutter, you’ve marked it off. You’ve said, “I am going to do this one drawer, or this one ottoman, or this one shelf.” You’re doing to declutter it for fifteen minutes (and we’re going to talk about Time Boxing in our next thing) and then, once it’s down to its purpose, label it so that when somebody says, “Where do the dishtowels go?” Now, nobody has asked that question in the entire time I’ve lived here, because nobody’s put a dishtowel away except for me, but, “Where are the scissors?” They’re in the scissor drawer. Let me show you where the scissor drawer is, so when you’re done with them, you can put them back. Not to be pedantic, but to say, “When we put things away, we can actually find them again.” How has space boxing helped you to not be overwhelmed?
Tonya – So, like I said before, I was the queen of the Give-A-Mouse-A-Cookie syndrome. I remember my legs would hurt at the end of a decluttering session. It was all the walking back and forth. Just losing my place. I think the best part of Space Boxing is getting into a zone. Let’s take a drawer example, ’cause that’s where I started in my clutter free journey is just one kitchen drawer. I take out that drawer, and I’m like, “Okay!” I have my questions I ask. I start with, “What has to stay here?” because that’s what was just emotionally easier for me to know what I needed to get rid of. So, I start with “What has to stay here?” and I get that stuff aside. And then, as I’m going through, and making decisions of “Does this go in another room?”, “Does this go in the trash?” Every time I make a trash decision, it’s easier for me to make the next trash decision. I find that the emotional link is strongest the first few times I have to make that choice. If I have to leave that space and go somewhere else and come back, it’s like I’m starting over. Suddenly, I have a larger emotional drain on me, over this silly little drawer. So, if I can just stay put, I’m faster. I’m less exhausted, and, again, (this is something you taught me a million years ago) at the very least, my whole house can look like a hurricane just came through it, but I can open up that drawer and go, “Look at this! Look at my work!”
Kathi – The emotional pay off for having one space function how it should? When you have function, you have form. I want my drawer to function, but I also want it to be beautiful. That doesn’t mean I fold my towels into origami, it means that what is in there is supposed to be in there and there’s not a bunch of nonsense. So, when you have function, you have form. There is such a sense of peace when you go and open that drawer and it’s what it is supposed to be. Okay, so in the book The Clutter Free Home, what we ask you to do is spend 15 minutes in six different spaces, each week. Then you get a day off. Once a week, you deep declutter for an hour. So, for an hour, you’re going to need to pick more than one drawer, more than likely. It could be a closet or something like that. When you do that, make sure stick to that one area and you get it where it’s supposed to be. That’s when the payoff comes. Here’s the beautiful thing, Tonya, that I love. I have a drawer that’s scissors and rulers and things like that, so I know what goes in there, but once I’ve done that drawer, when I find scissors throughout the house, it’s so awesome to know, “I know where those go!” For some reason, we’ve had batteries, probably because we changed out so many things in our house when we remodeled, I’m finding batteries everywhere. But now, there is only one place for the batteries. It’s not the twelve different places. I think one of the things we do is, “Well, I was looking for the batteries to go with the fire alarm, so I’m going to put the batteries in a drawer nearest to the fire alarm.” That is a recipe for disaster. You need your batteries to all be in one place, so you know what batteries you have and you can find them. That is the beauty of space boxing. It makes me so happy I can’t even stand it. Tonya, thanks so much for being on with me in Clutter Free Academy.
Tonya – Thanks for having me.
Kathi – Tonya has so much wisdom by being in the group so much. She knows the struggles of the people there. That’s why I’m so grateful to have her on. Friends, I am grateful to have you. I learn as much from you as you ever do from me. I love that you are part of Clutter Free Academy. I’m Kathi Lipp. I’ve been here with Tonya Kubo. Now, go create the clutter free life you were always intended to live.
*see show notes in podcast post above for any mentioned items
Meet Our Guest
Tonya Kubo is the illustrious, fearless leader of Kathi Lipp’s Clutter Free Academy Facebook group. A speaker and writer, Tonya makes her home in the heart of California with her husband, Brian, their two spirited daughters and one very tolerant cat. Visit her at www.tonyakubo.com or www.GreatMoms.org