If you haven't realized it already, I kind of have a thing for organization. Not only do I love to tackle a good organization project, but I also like to talk about organizing and write about organizing and hear what other people have to say about organizing too. And many times when I'm in a discussion with people about organization, they end up telling me the same thing:
"I would love to get organized, but I don't have a lot of time."
And oh, I so hear you. It can take a lot of time to declutter and organize all of our stuff. But we're busy people. We may have work obligations and church or community activities and family time and sports and lessons and hobbies and, well, life! So what do we do when we want to get organized but can't seem to find a big chunk of time in our schedule to do so?
How to Get Organized When You Don't Have a Lot of Time
When we've been going through a particularly busy stretch in our lives and I was feeling frazzled and unorganized, I would start by telling myself one simple thing:
1. Commit to 15 minutes.
No matter how busy we are, almost all of us could find a way to carve out 15 minutes in our schedule. Yes, it may mean cutting down on time spent on Facebook or Instagram. It may mean waking up a few minutes earlier or heading to bed a few minutes later. But I've found if I can commit to just 15 minutes of organization each day, it really can make a big difference over time.
2. Make a list.
On the first day of my commitment, I use my 15 minutes to make an action plan. I take a piece of paper and write down a list of organization tasks that can be done around my house in about 15 minutes. If a job will take longer than 15 minutes, I simply break it down into smaller pieces. Some examples of these 15 minute jobs may be things like:
- clean out a junk drawer
- go through my kitchen utensils
- go through my tupperware containers
- sort out one drawer of clothing
- clean out one toy bin
- sort through my cleaning supplies
Some tasks you may have to do more than once. For example, we have several toy bins in our house, so I would just try to tackle one per day until I get through them all.
To help get you started with your list, I've created a printable with a bunch of ideas + some blank spaces to add some items of your own. You can download it below.
3. Set a timer.
Each day, then, I choose one item from my list to tackle. I set a timer on my phone for 15 minutes and commit to focusing only on my organization project for that chunk of time. If the 15 minutes is up and I'm not finished with the job, I decide whether I have a few extra minutes to finish it or if I need to finish it up the next day. (I am always amazed at how often I find I have the few extra minutes to finish the task-- sometimes the biggest battle is getting past that mental block and getting started!)
4. Purge ruthlessly.
When I'm doing my 15 minute organizing stints, I try to purge as much as possible. If I find items that are broken, stained, or worn out, I toss them. If it's something I just don't use anymore but it is in good shape, I try to donate it. (Keeping a "donate" box in an inconspicuous place in our house helps me do a better job at this. Then whenever it gets full, I just drop it at the nearest donation center.)
I know it is sometimes hard to part with things, particularly items that are still in good working order. But I've found that the more I purge and get rid of the clutter, the easier it is to keep my spaces organized. If I'm just putting everything I have into prettier boxes, I'm not organizing; I'm just rearranging my clutter. And when that happens, it's a lot easier for things to become cluttered and unorganized again, so I have become a RUTHLESS purger!!! 🙂
5. Find a place for everything.
I've found that when each item has its own "home" to go back to, I'm a lot more likely to keep everything organized. If I'm having trouble finding a spot for something, it usually means that I haven't purged as ruthlessly as I should have (see #4!) or I need to get more creative with the way I use my space.
(If you live in a small space, I know exactly how you feel! We lived in a tiny townhouse for 7 years, and I learned to get very creative with the limited space I had. You can see my tips for small space organization in this post.)
But what if I need more bins or boxes?!
Many times when I'm doing my 15 minute organizing stints, I'll find that I need some sort of bin or storage container to help corral the items I'm trying to organize. When this happens, I first try to look around my house to see if I have any containers that will work. (Oftentimes I do because I am a bit of a storage container nut! 😉 ) They don't have to be fancy or pretty. I've used shoeboxes or Amazon boxes. I've even cut off the bottoms of cereal boxes to hold smaller items. (Sometimes I'll wrap them in wrapping paper if I really want them to look cute.)
But organization does not equal spending tons of money on pretty bins. (Remember, we don't want to just rearrange our clutter!) If and only if I have searched high and low in my house and used my creative brain as much as I could and still do not have the container I need, then I will make a note in my planner or on my phone to pick up a bin at the store. But most of the time, I can use something I already have, and I bet you can too!
(I organized this bathroom cabinet using only items I had on hand-- total cost of $0!!)
So are you ready to take the 15 minute challenge?! If organization is really an area you want to get a handle on this year, I encourage you to print out my list above, add some of your own ideas, and commit to 15 minutes of organization per day. (Bonus points if you can convince the hubby and kiddos to join the fun! I am not above bribery. Just sayin'. 😉 )
I know it may not seem like 15 minutes is much time to accomplish some of those daunting tasks, but I'm always amazed at how much I accomplish when I am consistent and take baby steps every single day. And if I can do it, I promise that you can do it too!!
Looking for more organizing tips and tricks? These posts may help: