How to Get Organized When You Don’t Have a Lot of Time

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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.

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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.

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(Click here to download your free organizing tasks printable!)

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!)

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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!!! 🙂

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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.)

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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!

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(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!!

Happy organizing!

29 Comments

  1. Oohh! I love this. If we only set aside 15 mins each day than we can start getting things done! So true. One of my goals this year is to read more. I’m aiming for 20 mins before bed. So far, so good.

    1. justagirlabby says:

      Such a great goal… Love it! Thanks so much for stopping by, Kimberly! Have a great weekend!

      ~Abby =)

  2. I like the 15 minute idea. Usually once I get started I can go longer. It helps for me to be in a “purging mood” as well. I really want to declutter this year. We have a garage sale every other summer and this is our year so I need things for the sale !!

    1. justagirlabby says:

      I am the same way, Holly! It’s much less intimidating to get started when you tell yourself it’s only 15 minutes! 🙂 Hope you’re having a great week!

      ~Abby =)

  3. Wow, I really needed to be reminded of this right now. Most of our house is in pretty good shape, but there are those black holes that I just never get around to. With the new year I get really excited about getting everything clean and in place, but it’s overwhelming thinking about doing ALL of it. I will start tonight with 15 minutes. Thank you Abby!

    1. justagirlabby says:

      It really does make it seem so much less overwhelming! Have a wonderful week and happy organizing! 🙂

      ~Abby =)

  4. Abby, great post and so relevant for me. We are bulging in a tiny apartment, hubby has aversion to tossing anything he ‘might’ need. I have been covertly putting those items in a donate box. I tried the garage sale approach, only to find he brought things back in. All this STUFF robs my peace.

    1. justagirlabby says:

      So glad it was helpful for you, Lynne! Have a wonderful week! <3

      ~Abby =)

  5. 15 minutes is just right for tackling small areas and staying motivated! I like to listen to podcasts and keep reminding myself to just make progress when I’m organizing and purging with limited time. Thanks for the printable!

    1. justagirlabby says:

      Yes! Love that idea! Have a great week, Misty!

      ~Abby =)

  6. Sandra Womack says:

    Love your post! Thanks for helping me get organized!

    1. justagirlabby says:

      So glad it was helpful, Sandra!

      ~Abby =)

  7. bhavi palrecha says:

    awesome post.well done

  8. Christy @ 11 Magnolia Lane says:

    Baby steps–so practical and doable! You’ve inspired to me to go organize my tupperware shelf, which is truly frightening. Thanks for linking up again at Operation: Organization!

    1. justagirlabby says:

      Lol! Oh, tupperware… ALWAYS a challenge! Thanks so much for hosting! <3

      ~Abby =)

  9. Shari Carter says:

    I love that you broke it down into time increments! What a great idea and so helpful! Thank you so much for sharing!

    1. justagirlabby says:

      It really helps me so much! Glad it was helpful for you, Shari!

      ~Abby =)

  10. This is so helpful!!

    Alexa // www,allthingsalexanicole.com

    1. justagirlabby says:

      So glad it was helpful for you, Alexa!

      ~Abby =)

  11. Aimee Hadden says:

    Totally agree that we can’t organize by rearranging clutter! It’s amazing how that small block of time can quickly add up and produce RESULTS. Great post!

    1. justagirlabby says:

      It really does! Have a wonderful week, Aimee!

      ~Abby =)

  12. Emphi Yap says:

    OMG, I think I should start planning for this.
    Thanks for the ideas.

    1. justagirlabby says:

      So glad it was helpful for you! 🙂

      ~Abby =)

  13. Claire Toups says:

    Hi Abby! I’ve recently found your blog, and fallen in love! Yesterday I finished your 7-day organization challenge. And i have also started you 10-day starting a blog course. I’m taking your advice and meeting other bloggers. If you’d like please check out my blog Dancing on a Blog Post.

    1. justagirlabby says:

      Thanks so much for sharing your blog with me, CLaire! It is looking FABULOUS! Love your theme… So clean and crisp! Keep up the awesome work!

      ~Abby =)

  14. Leila Hays says:

    I can totally do 15 minutes.

    What I do find myself doing is saying, oh, well I’ll sell that, and then never selling it. But I can’t seem to bring myself to donate it when I know it’s got some resale value.

    It’s kinda funny since I’m so ruthless about helping my clients purge their closets, but I can’t seem to purge my son’s toys!

    1. justagirlabby says:

      I feel like I am constantly purging toys! It never ends! 🙂

      ~Abby =)

  15. Abby, I absolutely LOVE that pantry. I have been playing with an idea of how to decorate the pantry in the new house we chose and when I saw this post I was like “Who beat me to it?” The colors, containers, labels, etc… The only thing I hadn’t landed on was wallpaper.

    I know your post is about organizing and I did pin it to my organizing board but its the intro photo that drew me in.

    I can’t wait to read more of your blog and see more of your home as I have time. I am sure I will be an avid reader from now on for sure.

    1. justagirlabby says:

      Thank you, Tina! <3

      ~Abby =)

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