Get Organized in 5, 15 or 30 Minutes

From Family Circle

If your home is looking, well, a little less than spick-and-span, you may blame it on not having enough time for the type of marathon cleaning sessions you imagine are essential to an organized house. And sure—if we all had four hours to clean twice a week, our houses would probably look great most of the time. But if your cleaning sessions only arrive in blocks of a few minutes, don't delay—you can accomplish plenty in the time it takes for your coffee to brew in the morning.

If you only have 5 minutes

  • Clear out the spice rack. Toss anything that's discolored, lost its scent or flavor, or is more than one year old. Keep a permanent marker handy to date spices.
  • Set up automatic bill pay. When a monthly expense arrives, find the company website where you can sign in and designate the payment option. Once the amount is scheduled, you no longer have to think about it.
  • Set up an inbox and outbox on your desk. Everything that needs attention goes on top in the inbox. Put what you want to hold onto in the outbox for filing and recycle the rest. Pro tip: wait until the outbox is full before filing.
  • Neaten the hall closet. Designate a single small bin for family gloves and mittens, one for hats and another for scarves. If you have an additional five minutes, hang outerwear according to type and length—shorter casual jackets on one side and longer dressy styles on the other—so they're easy to find. Check that a few extra hangers are on hand for company.
  • Do a quickie clothes-closet makeover. Face all hangers in the same direction to reduce wardrobe search time, and group like items together. It's easier to find your favorite shirt if you know it's hanging with the rest of your button-downs.

If you have 15 minutes

  • Stop junk mail and unwanted catalogs. Register online with the Direct Marketing Association. 
  • Straighten up a shelf. Remove everything, dust it and put its contents in groups or pairings, weeding out as you go. This technique works everywhere, from bookshelves in the family room to dishes and glassware in the kitchen.
  • Spiff up the laundry room. Consolidate half-empty bottles and wipe away any drips. Mount a storage rack over the washing machine. 
  • Pick up a room. Set aside a bin or basket to corral stray stuff. Put misplaced items into the bin and store in a closet or out-of-the-way spot. Later, carry the container room to room and put things back in their proper places. This also means you can have an in-house lost and found where family members will know to look for missing belongings.
  • Stage a pantry mini-makeover. Arrange cans of similar items together for easy access. Next, transfer rice and pastas from boxes and bags into labeled clear plastic containers so you can quickly assess when you need to stock up.
  • Use the shredder. Place a file or tub near your desk—or under a table where you open mail—for papers containing personal information, like a Social Security number or birth date. Wait until it's full, then shred. Set a timer for 15 minutes. If you tackle this task in short increments, it won't be as tedious.
  • Round up recipes. Gather clippings and favorite printouts in a binder, and organize by category (appetizers, desserts) with tabbed dividers. Or snap photos of recipes and upload to a folder on your computer along with web pages for dishes you find online. 

If you have 30 minutes

  • Plan a weekly menu and grocery list. Give yourself extra time if you like to pore over cookbooks and online recipes. Flag any recipes you plan to try that week.
  • Tidy up the garage. Reduce clutter by getting items off the floor. Hang bicycles from hooks, and stow basketballs, bats and other sports equipment in wire ball bins. Do the same with gardening gear and tools like rakes and shovels.
  • Organize your jewelry box. Spread out everything on a flat surface. Set aside pieces that you no longer want, to give away or donate. Sort what's left according to type—bracelets in one compartment, necklaces in another. 
  • Get rid of half your closet. Quickly flip through each garment and pull out anything ill-fitting or that you haven't worn in a year. Toss rejects into shopping bags for future donation. Arrange the rest by category and further sort by season and color. Pro tip: your closet will look neater if you use one type of hanger.
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