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Dive In

Let’s talk about that box. It might be one of many boxes you’re unpacking after a move or it might be a box that’s been sitting in the back corner of your bedroom closet for years. It might be the overflowing in-box on your desk. It might be sentimental items from your youth or still-packaged up gifts from your wedding. Perhaps you don’t even know what’s in the box, but you do know that box (or all those boxes) contain myriad items and you just can’t stomach what it will take to sort through it. In any case, you’ve been putting this off for a long, long time. Here’s my advice: Dive in.

First things first. Turn on some soothing music or find a movie to keep you happily distracted. Collect your box opener and a trash can. Find a comfortable place to sit. Open up the box. Now, dive in. What do you see? If you see obvious trash, throw it away immediately. Now, find items that you already know where they belong. Put them in a pile: like with like, or those that will be stored in the same place. If you need to label your piles with a sticky note and a Sharpie, do so. Keep pulling things out of that box. Keep making piles.

When the box is empty, deal with the piles. Put them where they belong, deliver what needs to be delivered, remove the garbage and then break down the box for recycling.

It sounds simplistic, and it really is. We often put things off, like emptying pesky boxes, because we don’t want to make decisions. By diving in to that box, you’re taking on the job you’ve put off for a long time. It builds up on your mind as being very difficult, even painful. In most cases, the decision making isn’t as hard as you thought it would be and likely it won’t take as long as you thought it would.

If you have more than one box, maybe tell yourself you’ll deal with one box a week (or even one a day) until they’re done. If you have LOTS more boxes, give yourself a few hours on a Saturday to really make a dent in what needs to be gone through and then give yourself a few hours the following Saturday, and the next.

Your feeling of accomplishment will soon overtake the dread, fear and sense of failure for not dealing with things. You’ll be able to reclaim your own sense of adulthood because you’re managing difficult tasks like a boss.

I once had a client who had a garage completely full of boxes. When I asked what was holding her back from cleaning her garage, she confessed to having one big box of legal papers pertaining to an incident 25 years earlier. Not dealing with that box was keeping her from having a cleaned out space for her husband to park in. She thought about that box every day. After we talked about it for a bit, I said, “That box is not only cluttering your space, it’s cluttering your heart and your mind.” She soon dealt with each paper in that one box. By removing that “clot” or clutter from her garage, she was able to deal with everything else. She was able to throw away several loads of garbage and she donated countless bags of items. She organized the rest and cleared out the entire floor of her garage so finally, her husband had a place to park. It was truly a success story.

Tell me about your box. What are you delaying in dealing with and why? What will your life be like when you’ve dealt with the box?

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