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The One To Zen Organizing Blog

Breathe in Calm, Breathe out Clutter

  • Writer's pictureJill Katz

10 Tips for Taking the Doom Out of Doom Boxes


Messy desk completely covered with boxe and papers

The Story


Have you ever had this experience? Your sister and her husband are coming over to stay for a week and your guest room is a mess. So the day before their arrival you run around the guest room throwing all the piles into boxes and bags which you stack in the closet or in the corner of the room.


Or how about this? You get home from dinner at a restaurant with the kids and you throw the restaurant tote filled with coloring books and other activities in the corner of the mudroom and then forget about it. 


Perhaps this happens to you? You go to a 3-day conference where you talk with colleagues and attend insightful presentations. You collect binders, handouts, business cards and swag. When you get home, you put the conference bag in the corner of your office where you proceed to look at it from time to time anxiously over the next few months.


As an organizer, I see these boxes and bags in many client’s homes in Home Offices, Guest rooms, Bedrooms, you name it. And this past year, I finally had a client give name to it: She referred to these bags as “Doom Bags” or "Doom Boxes."


Definition


When I got home I looked up the word “doom bag” which led me to its more common term, “doom box” which is defined as a:


“Box of various stuff, often gathered over time. Doom boxes originate from cleaning sprees under time pressure. Usually it is the intention of a doom box creator to postpone organizing the stuff in a doom box.” 


The term is even used an acronym  for "Didn't Organize, Only Moved". 


Why do doom boxes happen?


In order to make these doom boxes and bags go away, we need to first uncover why this phenomenon is happening. I have distilled it down to 3 reasons:


Closeup of woman with her hands over her ears, eyes closed, trying to keep out the sensory overwhelm
  • Overwhelm: Individuals with neurodiverse traits may struggle with executive functioning, making it challenging to plan and initiate tasks, such as decluttering. Difficulty making decisions is another reality for the neurodiverse brain. The thought of tackling a cluttered space can be overwhelming, leading to avoidance and the creation of Doom Boxes.


  • Hyperfocus: On the flip side, some neurodiverse individuals may hyperfocus on particular tasks or interests, making it difficult to shift attention to tidying up and decluttering. This intense focus can lead to the neglect of the physical environment.


  • Sensory Sensitivities: Some neurodiverse individuals are highly sensitive to their environments. The clutter in the home can create visual and tactile distractions that lead to discomfort, making it tempting to hide items away in boxes to reduce sensory overload.


So while doom bags can be created by all, we are more likely to see them in homes with neurodivergent people.


10 Tips To Help Banish Those Doom Boxes


OK, so now you know what doom boxes are and why they are accumulating in your home. So what’s the next step? Here are some tips to help you deal with or at least, make peace, with your doom boxes:


African American Woman hugging herself in an act of self love with a happy expression, smile & eyes closed

1. Embrace your neurodiversity

Doom Boxes showcase the way your mind works. You need to get items out of the way quickly to make space. This is not a moral failing!


2. Create Awareness

Awareness is the first step to decluttering. Make a list of areas where you want to eliminate piles of doom.


Attack those doom bags by breaking the work into smaller steps by setting a timer. Use the Pomodoro technique to maintain focus.


4. Use Sensory friendly containers/tools

Use gloves to handle annoying tactile messes, Take items out of their space one small pile at a time when decluttering so visual clutter doesn’t stop you from putting things away.


5. Rewards

Give yourself a treat for working through those doom bags: read a good book, eat a piece of chocolate, talk a walk in nature, whatever works as a healthy reward.


6. Accountability 

Work through the doom clutter with a friend, family member or professional organizer. Use an accountability app such as focusmate.


7. Create zones for special interests

If these items have a home, they are less likely to accumulate in doom bags and boxes.


8. Take photos of sentimental items

Take photos of sentimental items so you don’t feel you need to keep every single thing.


9. Create rules around categories that get you stuck

For example, showcase your birthday cards for the week or month of your birthday and then either discard or put in a special box dedicated to sentimental cards.


10. Experiment, by building on your other successes

Look at the most functional area of your home and think about how you made that area work for you and try to replicate the strategy. Don't beat yourself up about techniques that work for others but not for you. Remember to have a neurodiversity-focused approach which means it’s customized to fit your brain.


IN CONCLUSION

Remember, the goal is not just to eliminate Doom Boxes but to make peace with them. By acknowledging and working with the intricacies of your neurodiverse brain, you can create an organized and functional space that respects your unique self. So, next time you encounter a Doom Bag, approach it not with dread but with the understanding that it's a part of your journey towards a more harmonious living environment.


Do you have doom boxes in your home? Please share your story or tips with me in the comments section. I would love to hear about it!


4 Comments


Julie Bestry
Julie Bestry
Feb 19

I first heard the term "doom box" last year on TikTok, and it seemed to be a colorful Young Millennial/GenZ term (as so many of them are), but the more I dug into it, the clearer an idea I got of how younger people in the ADHD and neurodiverse communities refer to this concept. As a professional organizer, I've encountered clients with "scary rooms" and "nightmare areas" but a DOOM box really does articulate how the area came to be and what it represents. You've identified stellar ways of attacking the doom (and gloom) and helping get things straightened out. Great job!

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Jill Katz
Jill Katz
Feb 20
Replying to

Julie, this was definitely a term I learned from a young client and it really made me want to learn more! I agree that this term encapsulates so well that feeling of doom as it relates clutter.

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Linda Samuels
Linda Samuels
Feb 19

Wow! While I've encountered a lot of "Doom" boxes and bags when working with my clients, I never heard that term before. Fascinating! Doom - Didn't organize, only moved!


You gave a terrific description of what it is, why it can happen, and what to do about it. My mind is buzzing, thinking about that term. It's always fun to learn something new. Thank you, Jill!

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Jill Katz
Jill Katz
Feb 20
Replying to

Linda, yes- my mind was also buzzing when I first heard the term. This articulation really helped me to see the way my client was looking at her clutter. I am hoping that this post will banish some of that doom!

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