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  • Writer's pictureErica Lucas

How to Use the Boundary Method to Declutter Faster

When we have too many items in one category, such as toys or clothes, it can be difficult to maintain home organization. These spaces appear disorganized, messy, and untidy. The boundary method of decluttering may solve those messy areas in your home - FASTER! 

As a general rule, boundary method helps you declutter faster by containing items together within the restrictions of a shelf, drawer, basket, or cube. If items do not fit, consider decluttering them in an effort to live with less. The physical boundary of a space force you to organize less items in it.

use the boundary of shelves and bins to keep clothes
organized closet using the boundary method


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What is the boundary method of decluttering?


The boundary method of decluttering forces you to limit the number of items you keep in a specific category. Sometimes referred to as the “container” method of decluttering as coined by Dana K. White, the boundary method contains items together within the designated space of a shelf, drawer, basket, or cube. The physical boundaries of a space in your home sets the boundaries for organization. 

How do I try the boundary method?

This decluttering method works best with categories to help you set boundaries on the number of items you want to manage in your home for each category. First, choose a category that you wish to organize in your home. Starter category suggestions (especially for busy moms, like me!) include toys, pants, kitchen utensils, and seaonsal decor. The next step is to create a keep pile of the items in the category. Instead of deciding what to declutter, decide what to keep first. This is known as Reverse Decluttering. 

Now, choose the space to organize and contain the category. Pants in a drawer, toys in a clear bin, seasonal decor in one Rubbermaid storage bin, kitchen utensils in a countertop canister offer a few examples of items and their boundaries. 

the canister limits the number of items kept
kitchen utensils in a countertop canister

Begin to organize the keep pile in the designated space. 

Lastly, evaluate the items you did not select to keep. What would your life look like without those items? Can you donate, repurpose, sell, or trash the items INSTEAD of trying to squeeze them into the organized space?

The threshold of deciding what to keep versus deciding how to let go of things drives the ownership of less stuff. 

If you are not ready to declutter the items you did not choose to keep, you can add them to the organized space. However, the boundary method only works when you respect the limitations of the physical space. If your goal is to live with less stuff, the boundary method can force the kind of decisions you may not make on your own. 

How does it differ from other organization and decluttering methodologies?


The boundary method differs from other decluttering methods because it forces physical limitations. Some decluttering methods guide your decisions to keep or donate based on use, such as the 90/90 rule of decluttering. The 90/90 rule of decluttering and minimalism suggests you declutter items you have not used in the last 90 days and do not expect to use in the next 90 days. Another method from a professional organizer is the Marie Kondo method, encourages you to find joy in items or to release them from your home. 

Good news! Different methods guide your decision making process and the boundary method does not take as much time as other methods. Therefore, you can declutter faster! 


What situations does the Boundary Decluttering Method work best in?


This decluttering method works well for almost every category in your home but works exceptionally well for toys in your living room, board games, books, video games, sentimental items, and kitchen utensils. Every home is different and determing which categories will fit best with the boundary method is an individual journey, even if you are not considering a minimalist lifestyle.

In our home, this method would not work well for piles of books placed in every room in our home. Reading is a part of our family culture and we have a large collection of books plus books from our local library. 


Are there areas of the home or types of items where this isn't the best method to use?


This method may not work well for decluttering and organizing papers. Paper clutter plagues many homes, and organizing life documents, certificates, insurance papers, and more can be overwhelming when using the boundary method. It may be easier to find the right storage bin for the amount of papers you kept versus trying to force papers into a certain boundary or container. Many times, paper ends up on the dining room table or kitchen counters because we do not have the right decluttering process for papers or the right container for paperwork. 

Also, the boundary method will not work to help you declutter when the number of items kept takes up more space than the boundary (shelf, cube, drawer). Even though you’ve decluttered, the boundary for a category may need to change. The boundary method can help you realize you need to organize items in a new space in your home with different physical boundaries. This method works if you have a large space or a small space to organize. 


What are your tips for using the boundary method in a closet space?


In a closet, the boundary method helps limit the number of items kept in each category. A shelf designated for sweaters may only hold 3 sweaters. If you have 5 sweaters, choosing which 3 to keep means you consider donating 2 sweaters. In order to own less, you have to want less. The boundary method helps you decide which items are your favorites to keep. 

How can I use this method for new items?

New hobbies and interests bring new things into our lives and homes. The one-in-one-out rule may not work to offset the addtional stuff because we do not necessarily quit old hobbies when finding new ones. The new category will need organization, a designated place in your home, and boundaries. When I first started gardening in 2019, I did not have many items. As the years passed, I added grow lights, shelves, mini greenhouses, heating pads for peppers, trays, and more. Over time, the boundary for this hobby changed from a small basket to 3 large Rubbermaid bins plus space in our outdoor shed. Those bins live in our basement storage area from June to February each year, as they are mostly items needed to start seedlings from February to June. 

Watch this VIDEO as use the Boundary Method of Decluttering to declutter my son's clothes faster!


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