20 at-home organization projects to tackle in 15 minutes or less
It’s not the easiest thing in the world to muster up motivation right now, or to have any sort of an attention span to accomplish things while your phone dings with endless notifications and (hopefully) your job and (possibly) your kids compete for scraps of your attention. I, for one, am finding my ambitious quarantine to-do lists going completely undone, mostly because everything feels like a Herculean effort at this moment due to a combination of overwhelm, grief, and fear.
Organizing the home, however, can bring a sense of calm to chaos, which is very much needed right now. “Since we can’t control what is going on in the outside world, getting things organized is a way to control what is going on at home,” says Rachel Rosenthal, the founder of organizing company Rachel and Company. “And trust me, there aren’t just physical benefits to organization. There are truly many emotional ones—like feeling less stressed.”
To reap these benefits, your best bet might be to break broad goals down into bite-sized chunks that you can spread throughout the day, week, or month. “Most people, when they think about organizing their home, feel so overwhelmed that they don’t know where to start,” says Shira Gill, an organizer, coach, and the proprietor of Shira Gill Home. To remedy this, she likes an idea she’s hashtagged #15minwin, wherein you tackle one small task for a set amount of time. “Set a timer for 15 minutes,” she says. “It just helps get your brain on board and out of resistance.”
Below, 20 such low-pressure projects—or home organization hacks—to tackle today, tomorrow, or whenever the motivation strikes.
20 small projects to sprinkle in throughout your day for a small win, according to 3 organization experts
Shira Gill, organizer, coach, and proprietor of Shira Gill Home
1. redesign your nightstand
Gill notes that your nightstand might be worth making over, given it’s the first thing you see in the morning and the last thing you see at night. “Do a clean sweep to clear coffee mugs, old magazines, etc., give it a good wipe down, and then replace the clutter with one or two pretty or stylish things that are more intentional, like a candle or a plant,” she says.
2. make room for (and then organIZE) your new food stocks
If your fridge and freezer look anything like mine right now, well, *scream emoji.* “Remove anything that’s expired, gone bad, or gross, and wipe things down,” says Gill. “Then you can put things back in broad categories, so put all of the fruit together, the dairy together, the condiments together.” If tackling the entire thing at once seems overwhelming, try doing one shelf at a time instead. (Need more direction? Try these RD-approved tips for getting your fridge ready for its shelfie.)
3. curate your sock or underwear drawer
Gill says a lot of people dismiss these areas as unimportant because nobody sees them. However, she points out, these are the items you put on your body every single day and therefore they might be worth some care. “Invest in fewer, better things and clear the clutter, like the old dingy socks and underwear that don’t feel great and the mismatched socks,” she advises. “After years in the field, I’ve seen that people typically have lots of random stuff in their underwear drawer, too—old receipts, makeup, passports. Take a few minutes to relocate those items as well.”
4. clear your Medicine cabinet of anything not used daily
“This is one of those areas where people are typically mortified if someone comes over and needs a Band-Aid and things go spilling out onto their head,” Gill says. She recommends taking everything out and seeing what you can get rid of, recycle, or relocate. You should trash, for example, expired medications, supplements, and beauty products. “Typically, beauty and cosmetic products expire within about a year,” she says. Then, reserve the space for everyday items such as your toothbrush, face wash, contact lens solution, and deodorant. Everything else should find a new home.
5. organize or create Kids’ cubbies
If you have children, organization projects which involve their stuff can be a good way to (temporarily) distract them from screen time, to a productive end. “My kids always have so much nonsense in their school backpacks, like old school forms, things they need to recycle, and notes from friends,” Gill says. “They basically dumped everything out, recycled most of it, and put back the things that they will need to eventually bring back to school.” You can do the same with lunch boxes as well.
“My kids also have a little art/homework cubby at home, which is great to dump and review,” she says. If you don’t have a similar space, now might be a good time to make one. “Grab a bin or box or cubby that can corral current projects, homework assignments, and art,” Gill says. “That way, each child has a designated place to put those projects when it’s cleanup time and they don’t end up cluttering your counters,” says Gill.
6. do bite-sized edits with your wee ones
You can also help them clear their clutter through micro-edits. “Make sure it’s one category at a time, otherwise it can get overwhelming for you and your child,” she says, noting that you should narrow a project down to, say, organizing puzzles versus organizing the entire playroom. “Whenever I’m doing this with my kids, I’ll say, ‘Get out all of your tops from your dresser.’ Then I’ll set up a donation bag and tell them to put anything they don’t like or that doesn’t fit into that donation bag,” says Gill. “I find kids are really quick, intuitive decision-makers if you set them up for success.”
7. tackle your closet in baby steps
Gill is known for her closet makeovers, and if you really want to get into the weeds, she offers a virtual closet makeover program which starts on March 30th. If you’re more interested in a quick fix, however, she offers a few options. “Just eliminating excess hangers instantly creates space,” she says. “You can also group things by type and category, so put all of your formal or occasional stuff in the back of your closet and your loungewear front and center.”
You can also, she adds, just do a quick sweep to see if there are random things you want to relocate to another area in your home, if there are objects you can or should very obviously donate, etc. “Most people wear only 20% of their closet, so just take some time to really look at it with fresh eyes and evaluate what you’re going to be wearing and using in the future,” she says.
What you probably want to avoid, says Gill, is trying to sort through everything in one fell swoop. Instead, take it category by category (e.g., shorts). “That way, you can do a quick edit and get back to work feeling like you accomplished something,” she says. “That’s my overarching advice—instead of unearthing an entire room or a massive project, take it one small section at a time. It should not feel like you’re biting off more than you can chew.”
Lisa Ruff, director of business development, NEAT Method
1. show your towels some love
“One drawer, cabinet, or pile of paperwork can give you a quick win and sense of accomplishment,” says Ruff. “We suggest going through your kitchen dish towel drawer. Pull out worn-out towels to recycle, then fold the keepers.”
2. WINNOW DOWN your Child’s artwork
“Going through child artwork is another great quick project,” Ruff says. “Separate the artwork into two piles: recycle and keep. Then file away the ‘keep.'” (In those aforementioned cubby holes, perhaps!)
3. Spice it up, or rather, down
“Edit your spice collection by checking expiration dates and condensing doubles,” Ruff suggests.
4. tackle the dreaded Email inbox
If you’re not sick of your devices yet, now might also be a good time to tackle the chaos of your digital realm. “Your email inbox could use a bit of love right now,” says Ruff. “Archive, file, or delete unnecessary emails, then unsubscribe from newsletters or brands you no longer want to follow.”
5. organize your Family board games
Ruff echoes Gill in suggesting you spearhead small organization projects in which the whole family can participate. “A great project to do with kids right now is to organize family board games,” she says. “Gather them all in one place, sort through any extra pieces you have laying around and figure out where they belong, decide whether the games are still age-appropriate—and if they aren’t, set them aside to donate or give to family/friends the next time you’re able to leave home,” she says. “Then play a game!”
6. gather your tax documents
“Even though tax deadlines have been extended, now is the time to gather all the necessary documents,” Ruff says. “Go through your email to ensure you have all donation receipts or bank statements that were electronically sent.” Then, she says, start to think about next year. “Create an envelope or folder now, label it 2020, and place it somewhere accessible.”
Rachel Rosenthal, founder of organizing company Rachel and Company
1. Declutter your water bottles
Rosenthal asks, “Do you really need that old, plastic one from the gift bag you haven’t ever used?” (The answer is “no.”)
2. Organize the apps and photos on your phone
Like Ruff, Rosenthal suggests turning your attention to digital spaces—specifically, your phone. “This is one that we always put off but now that you have the time, it is the perfect opportunity,” she says. “I recommend doing organizing the apps and photos in small chunks so that you get through it all without wanting to throw your phone away!” Need help sorting through your billions of photos? There’s an app (several, in fact) for that.
3. clean out your car
“Since we aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, it is a great time to clean out the backseat pockets, your truck, and the front console,” suggests Rosenthal. “Create an emergency kit, and [if you have children], also put together a kit for when the kids are in the car. [Fill it] with things like to-go games and CDs.”
4. get rid of depleted art supplies
“Get the kids involved and survey the house for all your art supplies,” Rosenthal suggests. “Let them help based on their age. See if the markers are all working, see if all the pieces to the puzzle are there, and more.”
5. Organize your desk or where you are working from home
“When you have a messy and cluttered desk and spend too much time searching for misplaced items, it can weigh heavy on a person,” says Rosenthal. “The frustration and stress that comes from the physical clutter clouds other thoughts—like what you are trying to get done—because it is not only wasting your time but also taking up your visual space and making it difficult to focus on the task at hand.” Try these five desk-organization hacks to get started.
6. GET your linen closet IN ORDER
“Time to make sure you have all the beds that you have the sheets for,” says Rosenthal. “Review linens to see if they are stained or not in use.” If you have kids, she suggests enlisting them to help with the folding and reviewing.
7. Organize your party supplies
While you aren’t going to be having anyone over in the near future, now is a good time to do an inventory of the party supplies you have on hand. “Do you actually need five tablecloths?” Rosenthal asks. If not, maybe bid one farewell by using it to throw one last soiree, at home with whoever is stuck inside with you (even if that’s only, well, you).
PSA: Cleaning isn’t disinfecting, and now’s the time to learn the difference. Plus, here’s how to make your air purifier and your candles play nice.
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