I used a 'maybe box' when decluttering – and my home has never felt more organized

This simple trick transformed the way I think about clutter – here's what I learned and how it could benefit you too

Scandinavian decor with open plan space
(Image credit: JDP Interiors / Bess Friday)

Living in a compact urban home means my space is at a premium – and nothing takes up shelf and cupboard space quite like clutter. 

When it comes to home organization ideas and organizing a small apartment, experts have shared a host of ways to accentuate a space: from mastering a streamlined storage system to investing in dual-function furniture. However, while these tips helped, I will admit that clutter was (by far) my biggest nemesis.

I never intended to acquire so much 'clutter,' but after a few months in my apartment, I began to feel frustrated by the lack of space in my cupboards. Overflowing baskets and crammed shelves made it hard to find what I was looking for in almost every room – until I realized I had to adopt a new mindset.

After trying and failing to find a shampoo I had stocked in my cupboard, I decided to investigate the decluttering tips that have worked for other people, and so, I sought consolation from my most organized friend. This was when she shared the concept of the aptly named maybe box

Scandinavian living room with dark wood floor and white walls

(Image credit: Davide Lovatti / Future)

To create a 'maybe box,' you should take a container and fill it with things you want to get rid of but that you are finding hard to part with. These don't need to be sentimental things, but just those hard-to-get-rid-of items that you feel like you might use 'one day.'

After filling your box, place it somewhere out of the way (I put mine in a drawer under my bed) and set an alert in your calendar to re-evaluate the box in six months' time. My friend said that six months is the official timeframe to follow, but I admit that I set a four-month reminder because I didn't want to take up the room under my bed for too long. 

After four months, I pulled out the box and revisited its contents – almost all of which I decided to get rid of that day. I also got rid of the box (because those bedroom storage ideas are precious, after all). 

White bedding, wooden bedside table

(Image credit: Still Johnson /C.W. Newell)

The 'maybe box' has changed how I go about organizing small spaces, but of course, it will work in every sized home. But what exactly made it so successful? Laura Price, an expert from The Home Organisation, says that the secret is in the time frame.

'Often, things that end up in the maybe pile will languish there forever, so by giving yourself a timeframe, you're putting limits on it which force you to decide at some point,' Laura says. 

The expert adds that choosing a time frame is particularly useful for organizing clothes after a change in your lifestyle. 'With clothes, especially following the massive change in our lifestyles since the pandemic, it's sometimes hard to know what you still want to wear. A three-month or six-month time frame can help,' she says. 

If it's not been worn by then, it's time for it to go. It's often a good idea to keep your maybe clothes in your closet [as opposed to a physical box]. You can just turn the hangers round to face the other way, and turn them back when they get worn, so you can easily see what made the cut – and what hasn't. 

Small bedroom storage with white painted wardrobe and patterned rug

(Image credit: Studio Peake)

In other areas of the home, however, the 'maybe box' concept will work well. 

'You'll probably find that the additional space you get from clearing those things out far outweighs their benefits, and you'll be happy to say goodbye when the time comes.'

Megan Slack
Head of Celebrity Style News

Megan is the Head of Celebrity Style News at Homes & Gardens. She first joined Future Plc as a News Writer across their interiors titles, including Livingetc and Real Homes, before becoming H&G's News Editor in April 2022. She now leads the Celebrity/ News team. Before joining Future, Megan worked as a News Explainer at The Telegraph, following her MA in International Journalism at the University of Leeds. During her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, she gained writing experience in the US while studying in New York. Megan also focused on travel writing during her time living in Paris, where she produced content for a French travel site. She currently lives in London with her antique typewriter and an expansive collection of houseplants.