ADHD Center for Success
The Four Box Method
By CoachRudy Rodriguez, LCSW
Do you find yourself challenged, anxious and even overwhelmed by the thought of attempting to declutter your home or office? You are not alone in this matter. This simple and practical Four Box Method may be the answer.
One day when my girlfriend offered to help me clean out my Tupperware drawer. I had multiple containers and lids but many of them didn’t seem to match. This is easy, I thought. Simply shuffle through the drawer and match lids to the container, right? NOT! Laurie and I removed ALL the contents of the Tupperware drawer. Then we sat on the floor and systematically matched lids to containers. Once this task was complete we replaced the matched containers back in the drawer and immediately tossed out the rest. I was forced to let go of a few lids that I was sure would come in handy someday. This exercise was one more reminder that my mind does not function like my girlfriend’s brain and led me to develop my Four Box method.
Fueled and inspired by my Tupperware success, I confidently jumped into my next decluttering project – my multi-purposed bookshelf. My four-shelves bookshelf had become home to a variety of things including loose papers, a stack of folders, assorted mementos, photos, misplaced objects, and books., Thus, my Four Box Method was born.
The Four Box Method is a simple, effective and systematic strategy for decluttering most areas of your home or office. But, before I introduce you to this system, let’s begin by exploring the nature of clutter. Clutter often begins when…
As you know, clutter generally begins with a small number of misplaced items strewn about here and there. “Oh, no big deal” you may think. However, after a while, the items increase in volume, and we stop seeing the growth of the misplaced items. It’s amazing how we can walk past or even step over our clutter without seeing it. It’s as if we develop a blind spot to our own clutter, and it generally continues to grow until we finally acknowledge the moderate or expansive volume of ‘stuff’ that has collected. This is when our sense of overwhelm, sets in and we feel paralysis, anxiety, a sense of powerlessness and lack of motivation.
An integral part of clutter management would be its prevention but that would be too obvious and not the default nature of the clutter person. Over the course of my coaching career, I have learned that there are a few essential steps to address clutter management, especially for those of us with ADHD and/or challenged with executive function deficiencies.
Now that we’ve set the context for our clutter problem let’s proceed to detail the ‘plan of attack’.
As one would assume, the Four Box Method begins with having ( at least) four boxes at hand. For best results, I recommend you consider file boxes which are easily found at office supply stores or moving companies such as U-Haul.
Now that you have your boxes in place, you are ready to engage in the first step to decluttering – the ‘sorting process’. When sorting I recommend you start with a small manageable number of items. There are a few advantages to this approach –
The Sorting Process
The Four Boxes are designated as follows:
Box #1 – The KEEP box
Box #2 – The “I’m NOT SURE box”
Box #3 – The TRASH box
Box #4 – can actually become multiple secondary boxes as needed
I will demonstrate how to use the Four Box Method using the multi-purposed bookshelf as an example.
To Keep, or Not to Keep…
If you find yourself indecisive about some items that you’ve placed in Box #2, you’re not alone. There may be some things that you honestly cannot decide whether to hold on to or let go of. I get that but do not allow your indecision be your guide. Otherwise, you’re likely to simply move things around your home or office and find yourself surrounded by clutter. However, it you honestly find yourself indecisive about contents in box #2, here’s my suggestion:
It seems our nature to constantly bring ‘stuff’ into our home or office but we are not so good at removing or let go of things in return. Thus, I would suggest a general goal of tossing out 2/3 of everything you sort. Yes, that’s a lot of stuff, but look around your home or office and take an honest inventory. When was the last time you used that item? When was the last time you explored that stack in the corner or read that article that you put aside to read ‘later’?
Now close imagine for a moment that a magic organizing genie had visited your house or office one day while you were away. Upon returning, imagine opening the doorway, walking in and seeing things in their proper place. Imagine that you can sit comfortably on your sofa and eat at your dining room table. Imagine that your ‘stacks’ have disappeared or that they’ve been organized. Imagine looking at your kitchen, and your bedroom. Now, imagine that all this ‘is’ possible for you. And finally, imagine looking around the new, organized look and feel of your home or office. How does this make you feel? I’ve heard my clients express feeling such as freeing, relaxing, welcoming, warm and simply ‘wonderful’.
Some Final Thoughts…
Clutter management is possible but it takes time and practice. I have worked with some clients for weeks or months to achieve a goal of decluttering one corner, one surface, one closet or one room at a time. It truly gets easier with time but let’s also not fool ourselves. The act of decluttering is only one half of clutter management. The other half is the regular (daily) maintenance to keep it uncluttered, orderly and freeing. But that’s another article.
If you find yourself stuck, having trouble getting started with decluttering, not to worry. The Four Box Method is a process of taking one step at a time towards creating freedom, order and comfort into your life. Several years ago during my coach training, we were taught, “One step at a time, each step informing the next”. Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying too much at first. Don’t start by attempting to declutter an entire room. Start small – start with one box, one shelf, one corner, one stack. Don’t start with an entire day of decluttering. Start with fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes will often seem reasonable and less likely to feel overwhelming. Once you’ve spent only fifteen minutes of decluttering, you’ll most likely want to continue once you’ve started. However, if after fifteen minutes you’re still not feeling it, then stop, take a break and come back to it later or try fifteen minutes again tomorrow.
Follow the Sorting Process of The Four Boxes and I can almost assure you that you will experience some level of progress, some of the level of success at decluttering your home or office.
CoachRudy Rodriguez, LCSW is Founder of the ADHD Center for Success. He is a Life Coach specializing in adult ADHD, productivity and organization-time management. He began working with ADHD in 1981 and was diagnosed with ADHD in 1993.
You can learn more about CoachRudy at https://adhdceneterforsuccess.com