Photo: James Bombales
You know that small organizing task you’ve been meaning to do, but have been putting off for months? It might be storing winter clothing, discarding dried-out nail polish or installing a corner caddy in your shower.
The key to overcoming these bouts of procrastination is likely tucked away in your purse or pocket. “Use your cell phone to set a 10-minute timer with a two-minute warning when completing organization tasks,” says Stephanie Butler, Owner and Senior Consultant at Serenity Organizing Solutions. “If you put aside 10 minutes every day, within three weeks it’ll become a new habit for you.”
If you’re looking to make a 10-minute clutter sweep part of your routine, Butler suggests penciling it into your schedule at a regular time. To get started, we asked Butler to brainstorm easy organizing tasks that can be accomplished in 10 minutes or less. Here are her top 10 picks.
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1. The Car
“Ask yourself, ‘Does this need to live in my car, or was I being lazy and didn’t put it back where it belongs?’” If you have a large or extremely messy vehicle, Butler recommends dividing it into zones and spreading the work out over multiple days. “You can organize the trunk, back seat, front seat, center console and then the glove box.”
2. The Medicine Cabinet
“Go through your medications and get rid of anything that’s expired,” says Butler. “Once you’ve done that, make sure your first aid kit is up-to-date.” Write down a list of any products you need to replace and store the kit in an area of your home that is easy to access. “As for toiletries and makeup, if you’re not using it, get rid of it.” Some beauty products have surprisingly short shelf lives. Mascara, for example, should be tossed after three months.
3. The Junk Drawer
“Take everything out and then sort like items with like,” says Butler. “The junk drawer might be full of batteries, when in fact, your batteries are supposed to be stored in a container in the closet. Bring these things back to their ‘home’ and your junk drawer will instantly feel 50 to 60 percent lighter.” Goodbye grocery receipts from 2009, hello easy-to-open storage space.
“This is a great task to do regularly, I would suggest doing it every quarter,” says Butler. Tupperware lids and containers are just like socks — they go missing without explanation, abandoning their mates, and leaving you without a vessel for that leftover takeout. “Put all the lids with their containers and whatever doesn’t match is garbage,” explains Butler.
5. The Spice Rack
“This is a job that might take more than 10 minutes, but again, you can spread it out over several days,” says Butler. “First, make sure all of your spices are in similar containers. This makes them easier to put away.” Next, whip out your trusty label maker or a sheet of peel-and-stick labels and a Sharpie. “Then it’s time to alphabetize your spices — a lot of them look similar, so if you label your spices, you won’t have to open each jar to take a whiff.”
We all have that one friend with an inbox of 1,641 unread messages. “Take 10 minutes to create folders that will make it easy to find exactly what you’re looking for,” suggests Butler. You can then sort through your inbox and file emails into their proper folders. “If it’s not important, it’s time to delete it.”
“I think we’re all great at doing laundry, but not getting the laundry into the dresser or the closet right away,” laughs Butler. Start your cell phone timer once the dryer stops and you’ll see just how little time it takes to put everything away. “This is especially important if you’ve got a large family and do laundry multiple times per week. Make it a priority to put the laundry away.”
8. Phone Storage
You don’t even have to leave the couch to complete this task! “We only have so much storage on our phones. Delete apps you don’t use, transfer photos over to your computer, or store things in the Cloud to free up more space,” says Butler. Now you’ll finally be able to update to the latest version of iOS.
9. The Refrigerator
“You should be doing this weekly — check for leftovers or anything that may have been forgotten about in a tupperware container,” says Butler. She suggests investing in erasable food storage labels to keep track of dates and avoid putting your health at risk. “When in doubt, throw it out.”
10. The Dishwasher
“This should be a daily routine, but I recommend turning on the dishwasher before you go to bed and unloading it in the morning when you wake up,” says Butler. Running your appliances at night can lower your electricity, gas and water bills. She also recommends doing a sweep of the house every evening — put stray cups in the dishwasher, corral all the remotes in one basket, and pop those throw blankets back in the ottoman. “When you wake up to clutter it impedes on your mental health. It’s much better to have a fresh start,” says Butler.