I hit the ground running this morning…and nearly killed myself falling over piles stacked around various parts of my house. Some were actually neatly stacked and organized—waiting for attention, completion or simply relocation. After my near death experience which involved a fast moving shih tsu and a Christmas tree (don’t ask), I decided the time had come to re-utilize one of my favorite decluttering/organizing tools – THE PROJECT BOX (or boxes and boxes, if you prefer).
It’s a simple concept. We moms (and men…and kids) all have projects in various stages of completion. Whether it is a sewing project, a scrapbooking thing, jewelry making, magazine clipping, paper sorting, coupons, whatever—they require horizontal space. The problem comes in when that horizontal space is the floor…or mom’s desk…or the kitchen counter…or…say…every horizontal space in the house?
Project boxes are simply containerization for projects. For example…I have a number of photo albums in process right now. Two daughters married in the last four years and moved out of state. Three grandchildren born. Launched another to college. Surgery. Aging parents needing help….NO TIME.
Breathe. Weddings require so much stuff (and paperwork!). I bought 2 fairly large (18”x 16” x 10”), yet very pretty boxes at Joanne’s (at 50% off) and put ALL the paraphernalia (extra programs, sheet music, guest book, momentos) in the box. One for each wedding. If and when I have time, I will eventually make an album…maybe…but in the meantime, all the “stuff” is contained, looks lovely on the shelf and—this is key—is ACCESSIBLE. So when my dear friend called to find out who did Linzy’s makeup and hair for her wedding day and how much it cost—it’s in the box. When looking for a missing address—and knowing this person attended the wedding—the guest list is in the box. When someone hands me pictures – or a disk with pictures that they took at my daughter’s wedding—it goes in the BOX. If I actually get around to printing out pictures from the wedding—they go IN THE BOX! You get the drift.
When my girls were young, I taught them the concept of “the project box” and it has come in handy for a variety of things. Shannon’s (working) mermaid tail project which required multiple materials and attempts at creating a water-resistant surface needed a larger box—IKEA to the rescue—pretty, brightly colored or neutral and various sizes—and most importantly…CHEAP.
Here are some of the project boxes I currently have going:
In the small “shoebox” sized boxes that look attractive on shelves:
Various pictures and momentos divided by trip/event/time period and one for “I’ll figure it out eventually”. These are great—I can take a box off the shelf while watching TV and work on it…at bedtime it all goes back in the box and onto the shelf.
In another pretty box on the shelf is all my photo album supplies—acid safe pen for writing who, what and when on the back of the picture, clear photo pages, red eye pen, scissors, post it pads. The empty three ring binders that will hold those eventually-filled photo pages sit on the shelf above them—barely discernable from those already completed.
Other boxes include:
A variety of computer media (disks, hard drives, USB’s, jump drives) that need to be checked for anything important and eventually discarded.
A Christmas ornament project
Christmas crafts to do with the girls
Supplies for making homemade vanilla and all the labeling supplies
A beading project for Star’s window treatment
Stationary and list of Thank you notes to write (this one can backfire on you—be careful—not cool to find your handwritten thank you notes to everyone who helped make your daughter’s wedding happen—written 3 years ago.
Memorabilia that needs to be sorted and eventually put in albums or “memory boxes” (I keep this box on the floor under my desk so I can throw things in there easily as they come across my desk—a playbill, tickets from a concert (accompanying pics trapped in my camera and will eventually make their way to uploading—or the box of miscellaneous computer media to check before discarding!)
Tape recordings of my grandmother, now living with Jesus, waiting for this coming summer when I can transfer them to the computer and burn to DVD’s so my mom, her sister and my girls can all have copies and hear her wisdom. It was very important to me to keep these safe—a well labeled project box is GREAT for these kinds of things.
Disks and smart cards of pictures that have yet to be uploaded or printed (so I don’t mix them up with those that have been—again)
Favorite family recipes I want to handwrite onto index cards for my daughters.
These boxes can be used in any room of the house. If you get attractive boxes (available at many stores—IKEA in particular—you can stack them in a corner and they are an attractive addition to the room rather than a distraction. As a project is completed, change the label and repurpose for the next project. It also helps me keep a visual “to do” list and helps me limit starting something new until something “old” is completed. Because they are so easily accessible (and easy to put away), it makes it much more realistic to work on a project in those rare “spare” moments or when watching a movie—or recovering from surgery/illness.
Another use for attractive boxes – or baskets – keep one in the corner of your closet or bedroom—line it with a trash bag—when getting dressed and finding that shirt that just doesn’t fit right anymore or taking off those shoes that killed your feet all afternoon—toss directly in the box/basket for donation. It’s good to keep one of these in the laundry room if you can. If there is a standard place to put the “don’t want it anymore’s” it makes it WAAAAAY easier to keep the piles down and the clutter at bay. Once a month, (or three or 12) gather up all the “donation” bags from the boxes/baskets and away they go! If you’re donating to a Thrift Shop you can toss anything from stuffed animals to books in there and they will sort after receiving it. Everyone wins!
Project boxes can be small and especially portable–I use a number of “boxes” that are a little larger than a sheet of paper–some are even 3 ring inside. These are especially good for “grab and go” when you know you’ll be cooling your heels in a doctor’s waiting room or sitting in an airport. I even have one called “portable office” that I can take in my car or when traveling that has everything from paper clips to a mini stapler and various colored highlighters and post-it notes. Have project box, will travel! The real beauty of these things is that you won’t lose little bits of paper and sticky notes when you are moving it around, putting it in or taking it out of a carry bag, etc. – because it’s a BOX! These are handy for kids working on things like a research paper where there are index cards, etc. involved. Paper dolls travel nicely too 🙂 Keep one in the car (they fit under the seat–unless you have a seatwarmer–then, just don’t 😉 Put a coloring book and crayons for little ones should you get stuck in traffic, for example.
Bottom line – containerize, containerize, containerize. But this is CRITICAL for those of us who are HIGHLY visual—LABEL EACH AND EVERY BOX—I guarantee– if you don’t do THIS (and a post it note will suffice if needed) you WILL forget what’s inside and spend months searching frantically for something that is only inches away from you…don’t ask me how I know this 😉