We moved into our house about three years ago. Right away we unpacked everything in our master bedroom. Within the first week we put away the clothes and the furniture was in place.
But in a corner of our neatly arranged bedroom we still have one lonely box of stuff. Every now and then I move it to a different corner to make it less visible or when I need to vacuum but three years later it’s still on the floor.
This box represents a problem I’ve dealt with most of my life – procrastination. I put things off constantly…big things, little things, pretty much anything I don’t absolutely have to do. I procrastinate until either the task just doesn’t get done or it becomes so painful that I have no choice but to do it.
My box of stuff falls into that first category but is slowly creeping into the second because it’s sitting on my bedroom floor, a room that is pretty tidy except for that box. I have other unpacked boxes in the house but they are put away behind closed doors. This one is out in the open, in plain sight, taunting me.
Most people see procrastination as laziness or a lack of motivation and that may be the case, but for me it’s also about avoidance. I’ve convinced myself that unpacking that box will be time-consuming and painful.
So I’ve decided to examine the real reasons behind my unpacked-box problem. Also, I’ve made it one of my new year’s resolutions. (Yes, I know it’s November. See procrastination description above.)
1. It’ll Take Too Long
Whenever I think about unpacking that box I always assume it’s going to take forever. To be honest I don’t even remember exactly what’s in the box. I know I have some extra toothbrushes and travel-sized toothpaste.
I also think there may be some sentimental items in there. This is a minefield for me. Sentimental items suck me in turning a relatively simple job into an all day event. I just can’t seem to keep myself from walking down memory lane.
2. There are More Important Things to Do
The other part of the time excuse is when I point to all the other “more important things” I could be doing instead of emptying that box. There are things that really need to get done like laundry, cleaning, [insert other lame excuse here], etc. These are the everyday things that tend to pile up if you don’t take care of them, right?
And since I’ve already decided this box thing is going to take all day it would be irresponsible of me to dedicate that much time when I’d be neglecting my responsibilities (which I have no problem blowing off for almost any other reason).
3. Figuring Out Where to Put It (The Domino Effect)
The toothbrushes and the travel-sized toothpaste will need a new home. And most likely I’ll need to put that in the bathroom. So now it turns out I’ll have to reorganize a different room in my house to make space for the stuff in the box. This adds more work to something I already don’t want to do.
And since I know I have more in that box than bathroom supplies this seemingly small task will now have me running around the house scrambling to find places for everything else.
Procrastinators tend to be perfectionists. I feel that if things can’t be put away in exactly the right spot then it’s best to just leave it until I can reorganize my entire home to make room for it all. Or if I do need to purge, then I have to figure out the perfect person or charity that will be able to appreciate my used stuff.
The need for perfection is a big issue for a lot of people but procrastinators take it to a whole new level of crazy.
These are some of the mental gymnastics I go through to explain away my unpacked box. It takes time to convince myself that my procrastination is totally justified. If only I could apply that mental energy to actually getting things done…
So I decided to put my assumptions to the test. I kept track of exactly how long it took to empty the box. Most of the items were out and put away in two 30-minute sessions. The one sentimental item (yes, only one) took about 45 minutes to go through.
The rest of the stuff needs to be listed on Ebay. I’m not going to lie, the box is being put into the Ebay pile to list eventually. But at least it’s not sitting on my bedroom floor anymore. Baby steps.
What I Learned
Keeping track of my time and breaking the task up into different sessions made this less intimidating. Sometimes when tackling your stuff seems overwhelming, challenging your assumptions can get you unstuck and keep you moving forward. So after 3 years and roughly two hours the box is finally unpacked.
Now on to the unpacked boxes in the office. Wish me luck!
Do you have unpacked boxes or hot spots in your home? Try dedicating a fixed amount of time everyday to tackling it, maybe just 15 to 20 minutes. You’d be surprised at how this can add up over time. If you try it and want to share your results, leave a comment below.
Until next time, happy decluttering!