Last year, I received a subscription to Birchbox as a Christmas gift. Birchbox is a nice little subscription service; every month, you receive a box full of sample-size health and beauty aid products. So, in addition to my new collection of shaving creams and such, I also have 12 sturdy little cardboard boxes.
The boxes that were used to ship products to customers are great — they’re made of sturdy cardboard and feature a slide-out drawer. I haven’t thrown a single one away, as they seem so darn useful. Yet, until very recently, they were still stacked on my dresser, unused. In other words, they were clutter. I didn’t like that I was keeping them around only for their potential, so I came up with a useful idea for what I could actually do with them.
For many years, I’ve been a fan of David Seah. He’s a designer and developer whose productivity tools I use regularly. Recently David wrote on his blog about what he called “Project Shoebox,” and it struck me as the perfect application for my collection of boxes.
David recalls an excerpt from Twyla Tharp’s book The Creative Habit. In the book she explains that when she begins a new endeavor, she puts all of the inspirational, related material into a big box. Could this practice be applied to productivity or personal organization?
After ordering several boxes and a shelving unit, David began filling the boxes. However, he didn’t simply create the categories you might expect, like “electronics,” “photos” or “office supplies.” Instead, he took a different approach. Hey explained:
“I started with a heap of old boxes filled with gew-gaws and trinkets, and just started moving similar things into the new boxes. It took about three hours to collect everything, box, then label with Post-It® notes. I didn’t think too hard about the categories, making them up based on my own sense of whimsy.”
Sound haphazard? I tried it myself, and was pleased with the results. My boxes now contain things like travel treasures, notebooks, stamps, other desktop paper goods, and things that remind me of the kids. I even have a box labeled “flying things” that contains a tiny RC helicopter, its repair kit, a wind-up duck, and a balsa wood plane kit.
Like David, I’m happy to have a place to keep my “gadgets and gizmos in one place.” My stack of boxes reside in my office so they’re not cluttering up the house. Most importantly, they allow me to keep the personal things that I love off my desk and taking up room, yet still organized and accessible. While going through what I put together my daughter remarked, “It’s like a dad museum!” I thought that was sweet, and entirely accurate.
I’m glad to finally be putting my Birchbox boxes to use. Some folks are more clever with these things than I am, but that’s okay. I think my new filing/storage system/personal museum is going to work out fine.