Keeping My Family Organized (and My Counters Junk-Free) :: The Treasure Box


Kids love birthday party favors, little trinkets from the Dollar Store, goodies from that school party, and those prizes they win for summer reading or from a week of great behavior. Oh, and they also like to collect rocks. So many rocks. 

I’m sure your counters are clear, but mine are not. They are littered with my children’s treasures (which I affectionately refer to as “junk”) that they found or won or Grandma gave them. Just this summer, I finally threw away all the junk from the school Valentine’s Day party bags. You know, the ones full of valentines that moms everywhere spent hours thinking up clever little sayings like “you’re a gem” with a ring pop attached and “you’re ex-straw special” with a silly straw.

My strategy for years has been to gradually throw away an item or two at a time when my kids weren’t looking. Then when they ask where their favorite silly straw is, I feign surprise and act shocked that they lost something so valuable. This strategy has a major flaw, though, because it takes effort on my part and many days or weeks to purge the stuff without those very observant little munchkins noticing. 

use a treasure box to keep your counters junk-free!

Last week I was in Hobby Lobby and this magical idea came to me. I saw this ridiculous unicorn box on a clearance end cap, and I swear the words “treasure box” popped into my head. It’s just like how the junk in my kitchen pops up — seemingly out of nowhere. I bought that unicorn box, along with two other similar ones, and marched home to present my girls with their new treasure boxes, much to their joy and delight.

Soon, it will be my joy and delight when my counters are junk-free. Here’s how it works:

Pick a fun box.

The size of the box obviously impacts how much stuff can be stored inside it. I picked fairly large ones, but depending on your space availability, you may want something smaller. Paper mache photo boxes are a good choice if you need to display your boxes, because they come in pretty prints and patterns or can be decorated by your kid(s).

How to keep your counters junk-free :: the treasure box
The magical unicorn treasure box

“A place for everything”

My mom loved that phrase, “A place for everything, and everything in its place,” when I was growing up. I have also done my best to have a place for everything in my home. That’s the problem with the “treasures” — they don’t fit in any category so they don’t have a place. I explained to my kids that small items that you love that don’t have a place can now go in the treasure box.

For example, one of my daughters has her assortment of Frozen Pez dispensers in her treasure box. Another daughter has a collection of “gems” she dug out of a mound of clay when she got a gem dig kit for her birthday. Both take up little space, are precious to them, and regularly end up on the kitchen or bathroom counter because they don’t have a place. Now they do.

Once it’s full . . . purge.

I explained that once the box is full, they have to get rid of something old to put in something new. If the item isn’t of great value to them, they need to throw it away (or I’ll do it for them)! This is a great way to subtly teach kids to manage their own possessions, even at a young age.

Keep the treasures hidden.

Everyone knows that the best treasure is a hidden treasure. I explained to my kids that the treasure boxes need to be kept out of sight. They chose to keep them under the bed. I made a rule that if the treasure box gets left out, the penalty is that I take something out and throw it away (I know, I know, I’m heartless). To my great joy, that tacky unicorn box has remained remarkably well-hidden so far.

This is my new strategy for managing all the little junk items that accompany raising kids. It also allows them to feel ownership of their things and learn to manage their possessions. What are your tips for managing all the junk and keeping your family organized? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

This post was originally published on August 12, 2020.
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Mallory M
Mallory grew up in Oklahoma, met her husband Dave in college there, and they have lived in Maryland, Michigan, and now Alabama since getting married in 2008. She graduated from Michigan State University with a PhD in Exercise Physiology in 2014, and her family then moved to Birmingham so she could start a job as a college professor. She is mom to five great kids ages ten and under, and considers it a tremendous joy to get to invest in the lives of both her kids and her students. In her free time, Mallory enjoys family walks around the neighborhood, reading to her kids, bargain hunting, home improvement projects, and being involved in the children’s and missions ministries at her church.


  1. I had a “treasure box” when my boys were young, but just one. If they left something out, I put it into the box and in order to get it out, they had to do a chore or pay $1 (which went into the allowance jar so they got it back anyway). It worked for a while, they left their things out less because they didn’t want to do the chore or pay $1.

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