What is a Doom Box? Hint: It’s NOT just for ADHD people.

A Doom Box among other cardboard boxes

What is a Doom Box?

DOOM stands for Didn’t Organise, Only Moved. It’s the equivalent of a junk drawer – full of the miscellany of life which doesn’t have an obvious home. We all know that cutlery goes in the cutlery drawer and shampoo in the bathroom, but what about your passport or deceased pet’s collar? How about the Allen key that came with your bed, or the torch you need batteries for? 

Not only is DOOM a handy acronym, it describes the sense of dread and overwhelm around dealing with these collections.

Some people have multiple Doom Boxes, some have Doom Bags, some even have Doom Rooms. (i.e. the garage or spare room)

Why are Doom Boxes created?

They occur in the following situations:

1. Tidying up, and wanting to put things away rather than have them on display in your living spaces. So they are put into tubs, boxes or bags and stored all together in a miscellaneous fashion.

2. The ‘too hard basket’ of a tidy-up or decluttering session. The items left behind are too difficult to make a decision on (Keep or chuck? Where to store?) so they are grouped together and left to deal with later.

3. Shifting house or renovating, where in haste, items are gathered together randomly.

4. Travelling and day trips, whereby bags are put together and then never unpacked, so they sit as time capsules of a certain event or time period.

Why are Doom Boxes hard to deal with?

– They’re usually comprised of deferred decisions. Items you didn’t know what to do with then – and those decisions are often still difficult now

– They contain a mixture of items and categories, so each thing needs to have a different set of questions applied. When decluttering the clothing category we might ask “does it fit?” and “is it wearable?” but a Doom Box contains multiple categories so there is no one-size-fits all treatment of the items. Therefore it is mentally exhausting.

– Their contents belong in different parts of the house, or should be donated to different charities, so there is physical and logistical fatigue as well.

The above makes for a very overwhelming task.

Are Doom Boxes an ADHD thing?

Yes, but they are also an everybody thing. We all do it. Everyone has a junk drawer, or a spare room where things are shoved. ADHD people may have more doom boxes than the average. Either way, it’s not a moral failing. 

Are Doom Boxes bad?

While they are not a sign of failure, they are very unhelpful. Since things are not stored intuitively (although the tub may have made sense at the time of creation), and are often not labelled helpfully – because who has time to put 30 things on a label – you will never find what’s in them. Which is particularly annoying when you are looking for that passport the day before an international flight. Or when you keep purchasing torches, or whatever it is you have haphazardly stored.

How can I deal with Doom Boxes?

Systems! You need zones and categories in your house. Make a decision on where you are storing important documents, memorabilia, tools, etc. So to return to the initial example, your passport should go with important documents or maybe with your travel stuff – whatever makes the most sense to you – so you can find it when you need it. If you are not sure where to store it, put it with either travel or important documents, and place a note in the alternative spot stating “passport kept in XXX”. The extra reference can be a life-saver.

Your dead pet’s collar goes with memorabilia. Or if you plan to use it again, with pet supplies. Your Allen key with tools and your torch with hardware or camping. Etc.

This all sounds overwhelming , right? Maybe try opening and peeking in the box before you start chipping away at it, to reduce the doom factor. You could also enlist a friend or Professional Organiser to ensure it happens. Accountability will be a key factor in getting this done – no doubt you have been putting it off for some time. Bite size chunks are OK, you don’t need to deal with 10 Doom Boxes in one afternoon.

Look at this post for a practical guide on getting started with the boxes of Doom. You could also look at How To Declutter Without Making A Mess if you have limited capacity for a messy task.

How can I avoid Doom Boxes in the future?

– Again, it’s about systems. A place for everything means everything in its place. If you know where to put something away, maintenance is easy. This is where labelling is important – it takes memory and guesswork out of the equation. 

– Stop the shop! The more belongings we have, the more we have to manage. 

– Think about an OHIO policy – Only Handle it Once. Make a decision on each item rather than put it in a tub ‘for later’. It’s not always possible as some items are more complex, but definitely something to aim for.

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