#380: Clutter Free Basics: What is Time Boxing?

#380: Clutter Free Basics: What is Time Boxing?

Have you ever noticed how time-consuming decluttering can be? Perhaps you’re caught in an endless cycle of decision fatigue and shame about clutter. You need time boxing!

This week, Kathi and Tonya Kubo, fearless leader of Clutter Free Academy on Facebook, continue their series on Clutter Free basics. In this episode, they discuss time boxing, a technique that leads to a decluttered home over time in just 15 minutes a day.

Using time boxing will help you live a sustainable, clutter free life. No more long days of decluttering and exhaustion, no kidding. You’ll also learn how time boxing helps you:

  • Avoid distractions that derail you
  • Involve your whole family in decluttering
  • Stay motivated and moving forward in your clutter free journey.

If you want to hear part 1 of Clutter Free Basics, click here.

Don’t miss next week’s third and final episode of Clutter Free Basics! Subscribe to have Kathi’s podcasts delivered to you every week.

If you want more support on your clutter free journey, check out Clutter Free for Life.

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.


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To share your thoughts:

Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one.

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Read along with the podcast!

Clutter Free Academy Podcast #380

Clutter Free Basics: What is Time Boxing?

<<intro music>>

Kathi – Well, hey friends! Welcome to Clutter Free Academy, where our goal is to help you take small doable steps to live every day with less clutter and more life. This is program number two of Clutter Free Basics, and I am here with the Queen of Clutter Free. I know you call me the queen. I call you the queen. What is that called? 

Tonya – It’s the Mutual Admiration Society.

Kathi – That’s right. We’re a matriarchy, ‘cause we’re both women. I love it. Okay, it’s Tonya Kubo, who is our fearless leader over at Clutter Free Academy on Facebook. If you’re not a part of that over there, make sure you do that. If you want to live a clutter free life, if you want to be on the journey that Tonya and I have been on, where we’ve changed our lives through decluttering. We so want to have you there. It was interesting, the other day Tonya, I know you saw this. I was praying one morning and God kept bringing the people of Clutter Free to my brain. I just needed to remind people. You are doing holy work here. Most people stumble blindly through their lives, just buying stuff at Dollar Tree. Can I tell you what makes me crazy right now? 

Tonya – What makes you crazy?

Kathi – These surprise boxes. Okay, now I kind of understand the clothing one. If you need to dress up for work and you want to look great and shopping makes you crazy, and you actually return the things that you don’t love, won’t use and wouldn’t buy, excellent. But these things like: You get a hair straightener! And a bottle of this kind of lotion! It makes me crazy that people are that unintentional. It’s almost like people need presents and surprises. Do you understand the psychology behind this, ‘cause I don’t.

Tonya – Well, I think part of it is, we have this society (and you know, social media is my thing) that watches hours of YouTube channels of people unboxing things that they have bought. So, I think it’s a way to get that feeling of, “Oh, I just get to undo all this stuff!” But then there’s this other idea, aside from “Oh, I got this amazing thing in the mail and I can look at it all.” There’s this other idea that, “This is carefully curated so when I go to the store, I don’t have to make any choices.” 

Kathi – Okay, that I can see where people would be falsely lulled into that idea.

Tonya – Well, and I want to say, for you, there’s clothing ones. There’s one for athletic clothes, and one for kids’ clothes and you know what? If I don’t have to drag my kids to the mall? You can pretty much sell me anything. Some of these beauty ones are interesting, because do you really need 4 different cheek colors? That is so subjective, that it would be very hard to get a box where everything would be useful. I’m going to confess, because I believe in full disclosure, but we just subscribed to one of these boxes. Lily, my nine-year-old…

Kathi – Oh, it’s for your kids!

Tonya – Well, it’s Japanese snack food. It’s edible, is my argument. I can buy into this. It’s not like it’s a bunch of toys or something she saw on YouTube. It’s called Tokyo Treats. 

Kathi – This makes a lot of sense for you, because your family, they are Japan-o-philes. 

Tonya – Yes. My husband is half Japanese and daughters so desperately want to look way more Asian than they do.

Kathi – But your kids love to try new foods, so this part I understand. It’s the sending me a bunch of random…let’s say “stuff” (the word that actually comes to mind is very different). That’s not what the subject of today is about at all, but here’s the thing: I imagine that’s the stuff you’re going to be decluttering in eighteen months. You did not pick it. It is not meant for you. What it is, is somebody else’s overstocks that they’re trying to get rid of. I have a hard time with it. Now, I would love to hear from listeners if they’re saying, “Kathi, here’s the part that you don’t understand.” I’m sure there are parts I don’t understand. I remember somebody sent me one of these as a gift, and it was just a bunch of cheap junk. It was out of my house in just a couple of days. I appreciated the thought, but I didn’t appreciate the stuff. Don’t think I’m a horrible person. All of this comes down to time for me. Time and money, but today, I want to talk about time. Time is such an important aspect of decluttering. One of the things that we talked about: What’s the worst sentence in the world? “I’m going to declutter my kitchen today.” There’s not stop and start to it. It’s all day. To me, that sounds like, “From nine in the morning to five at night, my job is to declutter this kitchen.” Now, if you’re getting paid to do that at somebody else’s house? Good on you. I’m talking about myself. So, unless you’re moving, or remodeling, that kind of situation, I’m want to warn you off of that kind of sentence.  You wanted to say something, I can tell, Tonya.

Tonya – I did. I think that it’s very evolved of you to say, “Nine AM to five PM.” We get new members in Clutter Free Academy, and my heart breaks for them, because they will publicly declare, because we Clutter-y people love to self-declare and self-shame. Whatever we can do to punish ourselves, we seem to be gravitating towards that. But they’ll come in and they’re just like, “I got up at 5 am, and I’m going to go tackle my kitchen. I’m not going to bed until it’s done.” And I know, because I used to live that life, that they are talking about 5 am to 2 am. They’re lucky if they give themselves a bathroom break.

Kathi – Right! So, here’s the thing: There’s the fallacy of believing, “If I do that, then I don’t have to worry about my kitchen for weeks, or months, or years. If I can just get it perfect, it would stay perfect.” The problem is, humans live in your house. That’s the problem. 

Tonya – Yes! I think this is on our topic. Would I tell people? I try not to have a new member come in and I’m like, “No! You’re doing it wrong!” Even though, I would say that, but mean it from a place of, “Let me save you from yourself.” I encourage gentleness. Please be kind to yourself. That sounds incredibly ambitious. If you have the energy for that, that’s awesome, but I suggest Time Boxing, which I know we’re going to explain in a second, because, my personal experience is, those marathon sessions require weeks to recover from. I had to recover at such a level, that I couldn’t be bothered to put a napkin in the trash. So, after three weeks, the house looked worse than it did before I began.

Kathi – Yes! Don’t you think that in our “before and after” culture, that people want the Instagram photo. This is what it looked like, and this is what it looks like now. I do those photos, don’t get me wrong, because I feel like they’re inspirational, but when I’m going to share in one of our next newsletters, my downstairs closet, the before and after from that, people need to understand, that was over a week. That wasn’t in one day, and that’s just a closet! I’m not talking about a whole room.

Tonya – We see this in our Clutter Free for Life Membership program, where people think that it’s supposed to be a weekend job. A lot of people will join Clutter Free for Life membership once they realize that, in Clutter Free Academy, that they just need a little bit more. They need a little more support. They need a little more accountability, whatever that is. When people hear my talk about when I discovered Clutter Free, Abby was six months old and she just turned five. I’ve been on the journey for a while. I’ve moved a lot, and every time I move, I lose my mind again. Nothing fits to where I think it would, right? So, it does take time and it’s incremental change. I think that one of the beauties of having the podcast; having the blog, is that people can learn to appreciate that incremental change. 

Kathi – Exactly, and in my book, The Clutter Free Home, which releases February 2020, we talk about how each day, (except for one day a week, I want you to have one day when you don’t have to even think about stuff) but every day, I want you to do two things. Fifteen minutes of decluttering and then five minutes of dealing with the stuff. That’s the important part, because here’s what I used to do: I’d declutter, and everything I’d decluttered would be on the kitchen table. My kids would go through it and they would find all the treasures, and nothing left my house. We’re going to talk about the system for decluttering in our next episode, but here’s what I want you to do. We talked about Space Boxing last time. Space boxing is picking one cupboard; one drawer; one bookshelf; one area of your carpet. If you need to mark it off with blue painter’s tape, you can do that. You only declutter that one area. I had somebody ask me, “What if you’re done decluttering before your fifteen minutes?” and I’m like, “Huzzah!” You can start on the next thing, or you can be done. Those are your beautiful, beautiful options. I love them. So, how has Time Boxing helped you, Tonya, to stay on top of things?

Tonya – I believe that work expands to fill the amount of time that you allot to it.

Kathi – Is that The Peter Principle? I can’t remember what it’s called, but I think it’s The Peter Principle. 

Tonya – It’s probably some kind of principle. Somebody said it once, and I was like, “Oh my gosh, that is the motto of my life.” So, by setting a timer, I am much more focused. I don’t let anything interrupt me. If I get a text, or a Facebook notification, my email dings? I’m not stopping that. That can wait for fifteen minutes. The other thing that it has done for me, is that it really does enroll my family. We’ll all do a fifteen minute sprint. The kids get excited and the bell goes off and we do big cheer. We do crazy cheers at my house for the silliest things. It works. 

Kathi – Cheering is beautiful, and by the way, The Peter Principle is rising to the level of your incompetence. I’m sure there’s something very Freudian about what I just did there. It’s so true. You can do anything for fifteen minutes, but if you’ve tried to declutter all day long, or you’ve tried to declutter for a couple of hours, what you’ll notice, is you’ll start to make less decisions the more tired you get. So, for fifteen minutes, you can make big, good decisions. You can even do it for up to an hour. But, after an hour, you are going to have decision fatigue. You’re going to be done making all those decisions and you’re going to start hanging on to things for later. You’re going to start wanting to do things for later. That’s not what I want for you. I want you to have small wins every single day, so this becomes part of your life. That’s so important to us over at Clutter Free Academy, that you experience the wins so you want to keep going.

Tonya – I googled it! It’s The Parkinson’s Law.

Kathi – Thank you! I feel so much better.

Tonya – You were close.

Kathi – I got the ‘p’ right. There we go. So, here’s what I want you to do: Fifteen minutes of focused decluttering. Five minutes of dealing with the things you’ve decluttered, whether that’s trash, or give aways. We’re going to talk about that in our next episode. How do you deal with all the things? So, we’re going to give you some great insight into that. Tonya, thank you so much for helping me shed the light and show the greatness of Space Boxing and Time Boxing. 

Tonya – Thanks for letting me.

Kathi – Absolutely. Friends, thank you for being here. You’ve been listening to Clutter Free Academy. I’m Kathi Lipp. Now, go life the clutter free life you were always designed to live.


*see show notes in podcast post above for any mentioned items

Meet Our Guest

Tonya Kubo

Tonya Kubo

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

#379: Clutter Free Basics: What is Space Boxing?

#379: Clutter Free Basics: What is Space Boxing?

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.


We would love to stay connected.

To share your thoughts:

Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one.

Subscribe on iTunes or subscribe to our newsletter now.

Transcript of Clutter Free Academy Podcast #379

Read along with the podcast!

Clutter Free Academy Podcast # 379

What is Space Boxing?

<<intro music>>

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

Tonya Kubo

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

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