When is a box just a box and when is it a useful item to hold on to? I know you didn’t wake up asking yourself that question this morning, but it is a question I am faced with almost daily when working with clients in my organizing business.
People are always wondering whether they should keep shoe boxes, gift boxes, computer boxes, jewelry boxes, Lego boxes and shipping boxes. Here are some things to consider.
Some people prefer to keep their shoes stored in their original boxes to protect them. Other people will forget about a pair of shoes if they can’t see them sitting on the floor or on a shelf. If you want to keep shoes in a box to keep them clean and to make them easy to stack, there are a couple of options. Some people take a photo of their shoes and glue it to the outside of the box, others will replace the original cardboard shoe box with a clear plastic one to make it easy to see the contents inside. Whatever you decide is fine if it works for you. The only thing that isn’t okay is keeping empty shoe boxes on the floor or shelves of your closet where they are collecting dust or taking up valuable space.
I fully support reusing gift packaging whenever possible, and I always recommend people save a variety of nice gift boxes so they don’t have to run out to the store every time they need to wrap a birthday or holiday present. However, there is no need to save every shirt box you’ve ever been given. One bin or box of different-size boxes is sufficient. Recycle the rest or re-purpose them to store other items. And the same goes for shipping boxes. Keep a few different sizes on hand, but don’t let your garage or basement become a repository of cardboard boxes.
Likewise, it is not necessary to keep every jewelry box you have received. People like to hold on to these for sentimental reasons or because the boxes are pretty, which I can understand, but it’s better to keep a few of the very special ones for storage or moving purposes and toss the rest. You won’t miss them!
Computer boxes are also tempting for people to keep indefinitely. Some people reason that if they have to return their computer or have it repaired, the box will come in handy. But once you have your device up and running smoothly for a few weeks, it’s probably safe to discard the box. In the unlikely event that you need to ship your computer off for repair, you can find another box to pack it in.
If you’re holding on to your computer box because it has important identification material printed on the side, cut that portion from the box and file it with your other papers or take a photo and file it electronically. The only valid reason to keep tech boxes is if you frequently upgrade your devices and sell your used items. In that case, keeping the original packaging will probably increase their value.
Television boxes are also likely to be stashed away for safekeeping but never used again. I do understand that it’s difficult for movers to load, transport and unload large, flat-screen TVs. However, if you don’t plan to move in the next few years, it’s probably not worth holding on to the television box, especially if you have limited storage space. You can hold on to the receipt for your purchase and the identifying information on the box, but keeping a huge box to possibly move your large flat-screen TV — which may be obsolete a couple of years from now — is not worth it.
Kids are geniuses at arguing that it is absolutely necessary to keep every Lego, Playmobil and Barbie box. They say that they need to reference the photos or want to duplicate the scene, but don’t let them convince you. It’s enough that so many of our houses have been taken over by toys; we don’t also need to store the boxes they came in. Instead, keep the accompanying instruction booklets or take a photo of the front of the box. And if you’re considering keeping the boxes for when you eventually give the sets away, don’t. You will never go to the trouble of collecting all the proper pieces. Let them go.
To sum it up: Don’t keep boxes “just in case.” Use those that fit your current needs and save a few for future use, but clear out the excess. You will be surprised at the space you create.
Anzia is a freelance writer and owner of Neatnik. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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