beautifully organized closet

10 Minutes to Painlessly Declutter and Organize Your Home—Seriously!

If you think organizing your home or getting your personal affairs in order requires a lot of time, you might be right. However, if you feel that you just don’t have enough time to spend on these tasks, then you’re probably wrong. All you have to do is recognize little chunks of free time throughout the day.

beautifully organized closet

Best Idea Ever

OK, perhaps that’s extreme. But as I contemplate, that idea—a simple tip shared by one of my dear EC readers—has profoundly affected my life; I cannot help but define it as Best Ever. I’ve taken her simple —Figure out all the things you can get done in the time it takes to brew your morning coffee—and developed it into ways of organization that have genuinely changed my life.

Chunks of Time

Instead of staring out the window or fiddling with my phone during the 3 minutes it takes coffee to brew, I pour myself into a nearby task. It’s like 1-2-3 GO!—me against Bunn.

The odds are always in my favor because I hate (read: refuse) to lose. Bunn? Could not care less! At first, I went easy on myself. I’d tidy up the coffee grinder or straighten the knives in the drawer. I could hear Bunn smirking because of course, without defined parameters, I would get distracted and come in a distant 2nd. Losing is not my jam. Focus, you fool! Stop the nonsense and get with the game. (I’m laughing just telling you about this.)

Deciding to define every challenge in detail clearly is what gave me a fighting chance. For example: Empty-clean and organize the silverware drawer. Or clean and polish the sinks so they glisten.

I was pretty easy on myself with such simple challenges. I would keep an eye on the coffee pot to gauge my pace, effort, and endurance. It didn’t take long until I was winning every race. That led to, “What more lofty challenges could you accomplish in 3 minutes?” Oh, let me tell you!

When I put my mind to it, I can empty and put away the clean contents of the dishwasher before the last gurgle. It’s close, but I can load the dishwasher, including detergent and “Start” in a cool 180 seconds.

If I am 100% wide awake and in tip-top hustle mode, I can vacuum the entire kitchen floor removing all crumbs and debris, while Bunn tries to beat me. Ha! Not a chance.


Once I realized what I could accomplish in three minutes, I expanded my mind and efforts to fill 10-minute chunks of time. This is amazing because I was definitely not born with this mindset. It’s something I have and continue to learn. It’s a forced attitude.

My natural self leans toward the philosophy that it takes at least a weekend to do anything of value. And of course, my weekends are all packed for the next few months, so that’s why the garage (closet, storage room, closet, guest room, closet you name it) is a mess. It’s not me, it’s time—I don’t have enough of it! And every time that attitude pops up, I must beat it into submission. 10-minutes, I yell to myself! That’s all you need to do something fabulous. Set the timer and get to it!

It’s incredible how much I can accomplish in 10 minutes, mainly focusing on a tiny area. A drawer, a side table, or a bathroom. And not only at home. I’m sure the car behind me at my grandsons’ school enjoys watching me clean all the flat surfaces inside my car as if I’m in fighting a war or attempting to win a race. Well, yes!

Waste Not

Consider how often you’re presented with a 10-minute interval during the week: at a doctor’s appointment, picking up your children from school, or cooking dinner. Instead of wasting what can add up to hours every day, start using that time to become more organized in just 10 minutes.

Common chunks of time

Consider all the 10-minute intervals you spend waiting during a typical day:

    • In the waiting room before an appointment
    • Waiting for the oven to preheat
    • Sitting in the drive-thru line
    • Waiting for the cheese to melt, the pot to boil, coffee to brew

Create 10-Minute Projects

Not every home organization project could be completed in 10 minutes. But that doesn’t mean it gets a pass. Break that daunting task into as many small 10-minute projects as necessary.

Cleaning and organizing a bathroom could easily be a 2-hour project. Before you blow it off as something you will do later when you have time (can you say procrastination?), break it down into 10-minute projects:

  • Clean out one drawer
  • Inventory makeup and get rid of the duds
  • Declutter the area under the sink
  • Scrub and disinfect the toilet
  • Wash and sanitize the floor

Ready, Set, Go … for 10 Minutes!

If you’ve decided to give 10-minute organizing a go, start small. Use a stopwatch or timer. Give it your all for just 10 minutes. Here are examples to help you become more organized—quick and reasonably painless.

  1. Organize one dresser drawer. Take everything out. Wipe out crumbs and debris, hit it with an all-surface cleaner or a damp sponge. Refold the contents, and neatly re-arrange and replace in the drawer
  2. Choose one collection spot in the house— utensils, tools, cleaning supplies, kids’ sports equipment—and go through, tossing or recycling everything you no longer use or consider to be beautiful.
  3. Declutter and vacuum the car.
  4. Install those hooks you bought years ago to get the garage organized.
  5. Declutter the drawer(s) on your nightstand/table. Toss, dust, clean, and replace as necessary.
  6. Organize contacts in your smartphone. Ensure you have completed the ICE feature, designating the numbers for “In Case of Emergency.” Google that for your specific phone. Hint: Using the * means this person will come up first in your address book in case someone else needs to get help for you while using your phone.
  7. Walk around your house searching for batteries, postage stamps, and lightbulbs. You want to store these in their specific designated place so you don’t end up buying more when you already have all you need.
  8. Organize business cards. Collect these cards and all the addresses you’ve written down that are now in various places, and add them to your contacts
  9. Organize your underwear drawer: Remove shirts that have seen their day to be used for cleaning rags, and toss worn-out undies and socks. Neatly fold, arrange, and organize what remains and return it to the drawer.
  10. Declutter and organize one file drawer. Recycle, shred what is no longer needed, and re-file everything else.
  11. Purge your fridge of anything rotten.
  12. Declutter your desktop. Start by removing everything. Every. Thing. Clean, polish, and make that top shine. Now replace only your favorite pen, pencil, keyboard, and items absolutely necessary. Everything else? In the drawer to wait for another 10-minute chunk.
  13. Organize your social media into one place: Move your Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, Linkedin, and Instagram apps to the same cluster or page on your phone.
  14. Declutter your Facebook profile and check your privacy settings: Peruse your Facebook friends—this is a good reminder of who sees your personal information and pictures and reads your status updates. Unfriend anyone you don’t know or would rather not be privy to your private life.
  15. Spend 10 minutes organizing your freezer: Go through it, weeding out anything you don’t recognize or so covered with freezer burn it beyond redemption. For what remains, if you didn’t label and date it when you placed it in the freezer, label, and date it now and pledge to use it soon.
  16. Clean the ice maker and ice trays.
  17. Organize your entertainment: Make a list of movies and TV shows you’d like to see and add it to your phone’s notes app. This saves time when you decide to watch a movie but can’t think of what you want to watch.
  18. Declutter one desk drawer. Toss litter and everything that doesn’t work. Relocate everything that does not belong in a desk drawer. Group like items together for easier retrieval.
  19. Clean your makeup brushes. Wash them with soap. Disinfect with rubbing alcohol. Allow drying while laying flat on a washcloth.
  20. Create a spot for incoming mail: Make sure you have the tools in place to manage your mail when you walk in the door with it.
  21. Assess the coffee table. What’s on it that needs to be put away? Find a storage place for it, then make a note so you don’t forget where you put it.

Get the Picture?

There are so many things we can reasonably accomplish in only 10 minutes if we set our minds and attitudes to it. Soon these projects will cease to feel like isolated incidents. One kitchen drawer leads to more. The cupboards on either side will soon join the one neat and tidy cupboard. The sparkling clean microwave will be joined by its beautifully clean refrigerator. Surely, all the other appliances will follow.


Question: What home organization tasks come to mind when you think of accomplishing them in 10-minutes? 

Updated and republished 8-26-23



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  1. Betty Thomas says:

    I love this article because it strengthened my view of what I do to get through what I call the “finish up”chores. They’re the ones I dread for whatever reason. Emptying the trash when it’s full, emptying and putting away dishes from the dishwasher, folding and putting away the clothes in the dryer. I always hated those finish up chores. Then one day as I waited for my cup of hot water to heat in the microwave for my morning cup of tea I raced to unload the dishwasher as I waited. The dreaded job was done just as my 2 minute timer went off! The challenge was on! I know me and this is just what I needed, a kick in the behind to get me going. So thanks Mary for further “finish up’ chore ideas. The competitive side of me got the jumpstart I needed to challenge me to complete those less than fun chores!

  2. Kim Domingue says:

    I had a similar epiphany while waiting for something to heat up for two minutes in the microwave. I can put away the dishes and silverware in two minutes. Waiting for a pot of water to boil? I can sweep the kitchen floor and pass a damp mop before the water reaches the rapid boil stage. Waiting for the bathtub to fill? I can fold a load of clothes. What a revelation it was! Now, I’m still not Suzy Q homemaker and I’d never pass the white glove test but the rule of “do something while waiting on something else” has certainly kept my house tidier and more presentable. And it’s given me time that I didn’t think I had to engage in “non necessary” activities such as sewing or a DIY project that I’d dreamed up.

  3. PracticalPA says:

    This may sound redundant, but thank you so much for your inspiring ideas. I love to set a timmer and try to beat the clock especially when it is a task that I hate to do such as cleaning a dirty bathroom. Why not make a game of it? Another helpful idea is to break down a huge job into smaller ones. Reading our gigantic pile of mail that seems to keep coming in all of the time is a chore that I hate. I put the mail in a basket by my favorite chair. When I sit down to take a break, I must at least look at one piece of mail. Before I know it, the basket is empty and what to me is an onerous task has vanished without needing to be scheduled. Keep inspiring us, Mary. Thank you.

  4. Daria Doering says:

    Yesterday I mopped the kitchen and decluttered the mop and broom area while I waited for the oven to preheat! I never would have thought to make such good use of that time before. Thank you so much, Mary!

  5. Katie says:

    Thanks Mary. It has been mocking me every time I pass it now for months. But thanks to you, now that little shelf in the garage where you put your stuff down while you unlock the door, is completely clutter-free! I even put a sign in big letters, “keep clear please”. It really did take about 10 minutes! Watch out silverware drawer. Here I come!

  6. Maria says:

    These are great tips, Mary. Reminds me how many years ago you recommended to help get your house in order. I became a follower of Flylady and it really changed my life! She actually taught me how I could do “anything for 15 minutes”.
    You have been such a positive influence, Mary. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  7. Cindy says:

    When I have several cards to write ie, thank yous, get well, sympathy…get them out onto my desk, later address & stamp. Finally with a few available moments write at least one. If you break it into smaller chunks of time, it won’t get put off.

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