Getting organized can sound exhausting, especially if your house is filled with heaps and piles of stuff. Maybe it’s on the counters. Maybe it’s on your dining room table (and every other table in your home). Maybe it’s your entire closet.
Wherever the clutter resides, you’re finding it incredibly frustrating. Because for one, clutter is all you can find—your keys, your home insurance policy, that bill that’s due any day now, not so much.
And rest assured you’re not alone.
For many of Hatcher’s clients, the most intimidating and overwhelming part of getting organized is figuring out where to start. “As clutter starts to pile up, it is very easy for it to grow into something that seems daunting and like a task that you’ll never be able to complete,” she said.
Holly Blakey, owner of Breathing Room Organization, noted that many of us feel like we have to organize everything right now, or we have to organize things perfectly.
And all of this means that we never actually do it. We think about organizing. We think about how nice it’ll be to find the things we need, to have a few clean, clutter-free surfaces.
Yet we feel paralyzed.
But getting organized doesn’t have to be such a burden, and it doesn’t have to take a long time. You can do it in 5 minutes or less. Sure, you can’t exactly declutter your garage in that time. But by starting small, you’ll still make lots of progress, and gain momentum to tackle the more stubborn projects.
Below, you’ll find a range of tips to get organized in 5 minutes or less. You can even set your timer as a fun challenge.
Create a home for misplaced or lost items. This tip comes from professional organizer Shira Gill. She noted that this can be as simple as putting a small bowl by the front door for your keys, or placing a basket in your office for bills and mail. “Creating order will boost your productivity and make all aspects of your life more efficient,” Gill said.
Create a mail station. At her own home, Hatcher has three bins that are labeled “Shred, File, and Outgoing.” She typically goes through each one weekly. “Creating labels and placing these baskets near the front door only took a few minutes and now my mail system feels so much more manageable each day.”
Have a “find a home” bin. Keep this bin in an entryway, laundry room, or mudroom—basically anywhere you unload your bags and pockets, Blakey said. She suggested putting miscellaneous items in it throughout the week. For instance, for Blakey, those items include a lot of kids’ stuff, such as little toys, hair ties, and knick knacks from backpacks and pockets.
Then pick one day, and spend 5 minutes putting everything back into its home. Blakey’s day is Saturday.
“This is a lifesaver for avoiding clutter on counters, and also gives you the peace of knowing you have a designated day to put everything away. Saves time and sanity!”
Discard condiments. Rachel Rosenthal, an organizing expert and founder of Rachel and Company, suggested discarding any expired or unwanted condiments, sauces, and spreads. Then group the remaining condiments together, so you can actually find them.
Categorize your fridge. If you’d like to organize your fridge further, Gill suggested grouping similar items together so they’re easy to access (and you don’t forget about them). She shared these recommendations: Store fruit and veggies in produce crisper drawers for freshness; milk and diary products at the back of the fridge where it’s coldest; and meat in a separate bin or drawer.
“Get rid of bulky packaging whenever possible, and consider labeled bins for meat and dairy if you don’t have shelves or drawers that work well.”
Go through your wallet, purse, brief case, or gym bag. Throw out trash, and put back items in their proper places (like junk mail, important papers, and dirty clothes).
Tackle one category on your shelf. Rosenthal recommended choosing one category on your pantry shelf (e.g., cans, pasta, pasta sauce) to declutter. Check for expired products, and then categorize them in any way you like (e.g., putting them in a clear bin).
Categorize your clothes. For instance, your categories might be: tops, pants, dresses, and workout clothes. “If your clothes are already categorized, take a sweep through one category and decide ‘yes/no/maybe’ for each item in that category,” Rosenthal said.
Create a sleep-promoting nightstand. The bedroom is supposed to serve as a sanctuary, but often surfaces become just another place for clutter. And your nightstand is probably the last thing you see before going to bed.
Remove and toss anything that doesn’t belong on your nightstand. Then consider what you’d actually like to see there. For instance, you might keep a small tray with a book, essential oil spray, and a pretty candle. You also might include a small notebook to jot down anything that’s on your mind (so you can relax and fall asleep).
Alphabetize your spices. “When you’re cooking and looking to add spices, chances are that you search for a spice by its name,” Hatcher said. Which is why alphabetizing your spices can make cooking easier. You also can add a riser to your spice area, so you can see all your spices at once, she said.
Corral beauty samples. “Collect all of the little hotel bottles, makeup, and perfume samples, and mini lotions from your bathroom drawers and ask yourself if you’ll realistically use them,” Rosenthal said. If you will, put them in a zippered pouch or small bin, she said.
Declutter the medicine cabinet. “Scan for expiration dates and appropriately discard what’s no longer usable or needed,” Rosenthal said.
Have a “transition” basket. According to Blakey, this is a larger basket to keep in your closet or mudroom, which houses anything that needs to be donated, repaired, or returned to a store (or a friend).
“Instead of having all these items on a counter or in random spots that you forget about, you know where everything is and it keeps your house tidy,” Then Blakey suggested scheduling a time once a month to unload the basket and distribute the items.
Use hooks. This helps to get items off the floor, and out of the way. And it maximizes space. You could use hooks (such as Command hooks) for everything from backpacks to purses to brooms to step stools.
(This video has some great ideas for hooks—and laundry organization.)
Do a quick sweep. With a trash bag in hand and your timer set for 5 minutes, pick one room in your home, and get rid of anything that’s expired, anything you don’t love anymore, or anything that’s beyond repair. Challenge yourself to get rid of at least 10 items. After all, as Gill said, “if you don’t own it, you won’t have to organize it.”
Hatcher stressed the importance of creating systems that work for you and your family’s needs, and that’ll be easy to maintain over time.
Realistically, our lives are not Pinterest boards or flawless Instagram images. We have demanding jobs. We have kids. We lead busy, full lives. And you probably don’t want to spend most of your time tidying up, or creating fancy systems.
The goal of getting organized is to make life easier for you, so you can get on with your day (instead of spending hours putting stuff away), and enjoy yourself.
“And if organizing just gets way too stressful or you don’t have the time to do it, outsource it,” Hatcher, said. “Find a local professional organizer that can come in and [help] you get organized.”