Wednesday, April 30, 2014

How Long Should I Keep The Boxes? (A.K.A. My Little Hoarding Problem)

As I've worked on creating clutter-free closets, I've discovered evidence of a little hoarding problem: I keep boxes. The above picture is an example of a"stash" I found in my basement. I almost always save the boxes from kitchen appliances, decor items, dishes, and  electronics, and I feel guilty when I recycle them.

So whats wrong with keeping my boxes? I feel like my reasons are logical:

  1. If I have the box, I can return it.
  2. Original packaging protects fragile items better when you're moving. (which I certainly appreciated since we have moved 4 times in the past 7.5 years)
  3. I can resell it for more at a yard sale or on craigslist if it still has the original packaging.
  4. Boxes can be useful!
But Hubby doesn't agree. He just thinks they take up space... and I'm starting to realize he's right. It isn't hard to debunk each of the four reasons I rationalize saving my boxes.

The Justification: If I have the box, I can return it if it breaks.

True, saving the box makes returns easier when something breaks. I can think of two specific examples where I returned a broken product in the original box after a significant amount of time. One was a crock pot that showed signs of cracking. Kohl's took it back without issue, even though it was a wedding present and I didn't have the receipt (the yellow Kohl's tape on the package helped). The other was a baby Super Seat {affiliate link}. The tray cracked, and I was able to mail the whole seat back in the original box for a replacement.
Was it handy to have the box? Sure! But both were returned before I had them six months. And even then, I had to send a copy my Baby Registry in order for them to accept the return on the baby seat.

The Reality:

Most major retailers have anywhere from a 30 to 90 day return policy. And from what I can see, warranties don't require you to keep the original packaging. So, in most cases keeping the original box is not necessary. If anything, I could keep the box for three months and then chuck it.

The Justification: Original packaging protects fragile items better when you're moving.

We have moved four times since 2006, five if you count moving out of college for a few months before getting married and starting employment, so I certainly appreciated having the boxes for our breakables. I didn't even open our good chinaware until after we had moved some of it twice!

The Reality:

You can pack a lot more efficiently when everything is not in its original box. Towels, sheets, and tablecloths all make excellent protective wrapping when packing.
We got rid of a lot of those original boxes when we put our last house on the market. I still have the boxes our drinking glasses came in, but other than that, most of our boxes are gone. It was a sad day when Hubby convinced me to break down the beautiful (but empty) blue Wedgewood boxes for our fine China... but when I saw how much more space we had in our basement, I got over it.

The Justification: I can resell it for more at a yard sale or on Craigslist if it still has the original packaging.

Ok, this is probably mostly psychological. If I see something in its original packaging at a yard sale, I automatically think it's either been gently used or well cared for, and therefore I'm more likely to buy it.

The Reality:

In some circumstances, such as when you plan to resell an item within a few years, it makes sense to keep the box. A great example of this would be fast-changing technology like laptops or cameras.  However, for most other things, it shouldn't really make a difference if you keep the box. Case in point: I ended up selling an electric skillet, in the box, for three whole bucks at our last yard sale. Was it really worth saving the box? Probably not.

The Justification: Boxes are useful!

Boxes are a perfect inexpensive storage solution! There are many places around the house where you'll find boxes serving as useful storage and organization tools. Just look at what I made with plain old cardboard boxes here:

Or cracker boxes here:

Or in last week's Pantry Re-do, when I used a box to store my bulk grains.

The Reality:

Yes, boxes can be useful. But does that mean I need to keep every box that comes into my house? Boxes without a purpose turn into clutter, and clutter creates stress and a feeling of being unsettled. I'm learning that it's not worth it to keep a box "just in case." Unless I can think of an immediate use for a box, I need to recycle it.

A Few More Thoughts:

  • If it's a fragile seasonal item, like a holiday cookie jar or platter, I think its okay to keep the packaging but this is true only if it's stored in there for the majority of the year. 
  • I also keep certain baby items in their boxes, like our  play mat and the Johnny Jump-up {affiliate links}, to protect the cloth parts from getting dusty and musty in storage.
  • If something is still in its original box and you've used it less times than the number of years you've owned it, you should probably purge it! Sell it, donate it, whatever. I have some wedding presents down in my basement that fit that category. When we do our basement purge, I know where they're going!

What do you do?

How do you address boxes that come into your home? Do they go straight to the curb, or do you rationalize keeping them like I do? How do you decide what to keep and what to pitch? I'd love to hear from you!


  1. Hahaha. Let's just say, if you saw my stash, you (and certainly hubby!) Would feel better about yours! :) I just donated a bunch of my large ones to Sarah for packing, but my "hoarding" includes basically every container type imaginable, so I need to work on this. :) I often wish I did not have the storage space that I have so I wouldn't be able to keep it! Thanks for fessing up, and sharing your conclusions. Yours really seem so minimal, though!! :)

    1. Don't worry. ;-) The picture above is only part of my stash. We still have a bunch of moving boxes broken down in the crawl space, and I have a few empty diaper boxes stashed throughout the house (they're the next thing I need to seek out and purge). :) Lately, I've been trying to make a habit to throw any boxes I find right into the recycling bin. We're getting there, slowly but surely. :-)

  2. I do the same thing with boxes and empty jars, because I just never know when I may need them and if I use them for a project sometimes I need several that are the same size, so I have a collection of many of the same boxes and jars. This isn't helping, is it?! lol I love how you organized your bathroom with the compartments! Thanks for sharing.

    1. I hear ya, Marti! I love re-purposing, and I can definitely talk myself into saving everything.
      I don't have a good place to store them, so I'm my goal is not to keep boxes unless I have a specific use in mind.
      Thanks for stopping by and leaving some comment love! :)

  3. Plus boxes can be used to hold care packages for a family member or friend or used as creative toys (sometimes the box is more fun than the toy) for my little one. :)

    1. Are you an enabler to my hoarding problem, Susan? ;-)
      Kiddo likes boxes too! He had so much fun when we moved. If he plays with a box, we'll keep it for a few days before recycling it.

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  5. I've had similar problems with boxes I have and I've never really thought about some of the points you raised. I keep most of my boxes, especially if they are packaging for electronics. Reading your post made me realize that it's probably better if I compromise with keeping the boxes or not. From now on, I'll triage boxes if they are for keeps or for the bins. I really have to consider a utilitarian view with those kinds of things. Anyway, kudos to you for an amazing post and thank you so much for sharing!

    Thelma Bowman @ Quality Strapping

  6. Thank you, Thelma! It's tough to know what to save and what to keep sometimes, isn't it? Glad my post could help.

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