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Pro Solutions for Organizing Your Worst Clutter–In Just a Few Minutes (or Seconds!)

Like your catch-all nightstand.

You’re standing in the kitchen. You have about one minute till you need to run out the door. That’s plenty of time to organize, according to Erin Rooney Doland’s new book, Never Too Busy to Cure Clutter, which offers timed assignments for every room and trouble spot in the house. Here, some of the best quick tricks from its pages.

In the Master Bedroom

30 seconds

Open your sock, underwear, or shirt drawer. Pull out any items with holes, stains, or elastic that’s in failure mode, and put them in your rag pile or the trash.

5 minutes

Designate an area to function as a valet for catching everything you regularly carry on you, such as your watch, a ring, or a pen. If you already have a valet, clear it of clutter.

15 minutes

Manage cables for any electronic equipment in this space—such as television, stereo, or cell-phone chargers.

In the Entryway

30 seconds

Sort mail into three piles: keep, shred, or recycle. Repeat this process daily until your backlog is sorted.

5 minutes

Open mail from your “keep” pile and annotate directly on it future actions that need to be taken: “pay bill by X date,” “send a thank-you card,” etc.

15 minutes

Take a full container of spare change to the coin machine at your bank and convert it to paper money or deposit it into a savings account.

In the Kitchen

30 seconds

Is anything collecting mold in a breadbox, cookie jar, or other storage container? Throw it away.

5 minutes

Look at where your supplies are stored. Are trash bags close to the trash can? Are coffee mugs near your coffee maker? Potholders near the oven? If not, work in five-minute spurts to rearrange things so your kitchen is more convenient to use.

15 minutes

Sort through food storage containers. Recycle any that are damaged. Consider repurposing those without lids or only lids for non-food tasks (as a paint or varnish cup, desk-drawer organizer, or puzzle-piece tray). Then organize the remaining ones: Store like with like, nested inside each other if possible, and arrange lids by size.

Need more organization tips and tricks? Check out these 4 apps that can help you organize your whole life, and learn how to declutter every room in your house.

Adapted from the book “Never Too Busy to Cure Clutter: Simplify Your Life One Minute at a Time,” copyright © 2016 by Erin Rooney Doland. Reprinted by permission of William Morrow Paperbacks, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

This article appears in our January 2016 issue of Washingtonian.

Design & Style Editor

Hillary writes about interiors, real estate, arts, and culture. She is the former digital media editor of The New Republic, and her work has also been published in Glamour, The New York Times Book Review, and The Washington Post, among others. You can follow her on Instagram @hillarylouisekelly or on Pinterest @hlkelly.