Keeping Things Picked Up With A Hostage Box

Posted on August 31, 2012 by
Categories: Lifehacks,Organization
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 8 seconds

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Photo by Moi

I’ll start by saying this isn’t my idea. I saw a picture of something similar on Facebook and decided that I needed to give it a try.

A hostage box is a place where we put all the things that were left out, and they can only be redeemed by doing a chore. The purpose behind this is to get people in the habit of putting stuff away after it has been used.

My daughter, and to a certain extent myself, have a habit of not putting things away. After clearing piles of toys, papers, books and video games off the kitchen table so we could eat dinner, I watched my daughter dump everything into the living room. I decided it was time to give the hostage box a try.

How It Works

A hostage box is simply a storage container in which you place things that have been left out. They reside in the box until the person who owns them redeems them by doing a chore picked from the chore pocket.

Making A Hostage Box

I picked up the supplies for the hostage box at my local department store, and from what I had laying around. First was the box. I didn’t have one available, so I opted to purchase one that is somewhat see through. This allows people to see that the box isn’t empty.

I used packing tape to attach 3 sheet protectors to the box: one on top, to hold the rules, one on the side to label it the “hostage box” and one as a backdrop to the chores pouch.

I made the three signs on my computer, but you could just as easily handwrite on printer paper and put it in the protectors.

The chore pouch is made out of a pencil pouch from a previous school year. That is taped to the chore backdrop using packing tape.


Choosing The Chores

The chores were typed up on paper and put into the pouch, folded. They include the less-than-fun things for housecleaning or things that continually get whining.

For instance:

  • Practice your musical instrument 30 minutes without stopping
  • Clean the outside and base of the toilet
  • Wipe down one shelf in the fridge
  • Dust the kitchen lights
  • Vacuum the couches
  • Wash the car

There is also a single “get out of jail free” card in there as well that allows the redemption of an item with no chore.

Making It Fair

My husband is not participating in this experiment, but my daughter and I have some ground rules.

  • Bedrooms are off limits.
  • Things on our desks are off limits.
  • Mailboxes are off limits.
  • Items have to be left 10 minutes or longer before they are eligible for the box.
  • General use items like tape and scissors have to be put away immediately.

We also did a cleanup of our stuff first, then let the other person do a walk through before we started the initial collection. This gave us a clean slate to start from.

Results So Far…

I have been pleased. Stuff has stopped collecting in my kitchen and living room, and even I am remembering to put things away. The whole house seems better for the lack of clutter lying around.

My daughter has managed to snag me a couple of times as I left my iPad lying around. Since I work with it, I was prompt to redeem it from the box. She has redeemed a few items, but a few have been in the box for weeks. We may have to come up with a way to deal with objects that are obviously not wanted or used.


Do you have a way to put a lid on clutter? Share below.


Photo by Moi


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