Reader Ryan submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:
My wife and I have an ongoing disagreement that we want you to settle. One of us has a cardboard box with stuff in it sitting against the wall in our shared home office. One of us thinks the objects are “put away” because they are in the box. Another of us thinks the stuff needs to be “put away” into a cabinet or in a drawer because a cardboard box is not “put away.” Which of us has it right?
Wow, an opportunity to be an arbitrator! I feel honored that you thought to turn to me for advice.
At Unclutterer, we say that there should be a place for everything and everything should be in its place. In your situation, one of you believes that the cardboard box is in its place against the wall and that the stuff inside of the box is in its place, too. The other of you believes that the cardboard box and the stuff inside of it are all out of place and they need new places to live. Which means both of you are “right” according to your personal perspectives. However, I only agree with one of you.
In my opinion, cardboard is a temporary storage solution. It can get damp, mold and mildew can grow in it, and you can’t see into it easily. Cardboard boxes are great for moving and for holding things over the short term that you’re considering purging, but not for keeping important things over a long period of time.
Since I don’t think that cardboard is a good long-term storage solution, I’m going to side with the person who believes that the things are out of place. I wouldn’t see any problem with replacing the cardboard box with a file cabinet or a cupboard to better protect the items inside the box. My view is that if you’ve made the decision that an object isn’t clutter and that it is worth being in your home, then you should respect that object and protect it (as best as you can, and within reason) from physical damage. Also, it’s easier to find things when you can see them. Usually when things are in boxes they’re all jumbled and it takes longer than necessary to find what you need.
Thank you, Ryan, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column. Be sure to check out the comments to this post to see our readers’ thoughts on your situation.
Do you have a question relating to organizing, cleaning, home and office projects, productivity, or any problems you think the Unclutterer team could help you solve? To submit your questions to Ask Unclutterer, go to our contact page and type your question in the content field. Please list the subject of your e-mail as “Ask Unclutterer.” If you feel comfortable sharing images of the spaces that trouble you, let us know about them. The more information we have about your specific issue, the better.