Maintaining a tidy home is easily one of the most coveted goals of 2019, especially in the wake of super-organizer Marie Kondo's Netflix debut. But having the time to go through every junk drawer, garage bin or closet isn't always possible, making organization feel more aspirational than realistic for a lot of folks.
Enter flash decluttering: tackling organization in manageable time increments.
No matter how much time you have (or rather, how little), you can make real progress getting organized — and even save money in the process. "Organizing creates an environment where the homeowner is more aware of what is in his home," says Denise B. Lee, a certified professional organizer. "If you know you have wrapping paper, you’re not going to buy more. You’re going to pay bills on time if you know where they are and when they are due. I find people who consistently declutter tend to buy less in general because they don’t want to jeopardize the organization they created."
Ready to get started? Here's what to tackle and when — even if it's just a few minutes at a time.
IF YOU HAVE 5 MINUTES
If you're a declutter novice, small chunks of time (and equally bite-sized areas) are the best place to start, says organizing expert Rachel Rosenthal. "Use five minutes to work on tasks that involve less emotional areas — like the fridge, to discard items that are expired, no longer used or no longer wanted.
"It may sound simple, but the ridding yourself of the clutter in small categories will help you to be motivated to tackle bigger areas later on."
Plus, clearing out food clutter can help you save when grocery shopping (since you'll have just taken inventory) or inspire you to make a great dinner instead of ordering in.
IF YOU HAVE 30 MINUTES
With a bit more time, begin to tackle your shame spaces, like a dining table that's become a dump zone or an overcrowded living room. "Since we often spend a lot of time in our own home’s public spaces, seeing clutter is stressful," Lee says. She suggests sorting into four piles: relocate (put it where it belongs), trash/recycle, donate and sell.
Rosenthal adds that you can also use 30 minutes — perhaps while watching your favorite show — to shred old paperwork or clear out a drawer. "You'll be surprised what can be done in a short amount of time,” she says. “And chances are that the momentum from seeing progress will inspire you to spend another 30 minutes."
IF YOU HAVE AN HOUR
Pick a closet, any closet. "Removing clutter and organizing small storage areas — like a hall or linen closet — makes it easier to put things away," Lee explains. "When things are easy to put away, then rooms tend to stay tidy." If your closets are in good shape, take on the office. Declutter the desktop — both the physical desktop and the computer desktop — and organize your drawers. Taking the time to make over these spaces can help you be more efficient and productive at home, whether you’re doing household chores or catching up on work.
IF YOU HAVE AN AFTERNOON
Take on a category of items (like clothing) or area (like your kitchen). "The amount of time that it will take to complete the process depends on the quantity of stuff that you are dealing with and how easy it is for you to focus on, physically or emotionally," Rosenthal says. Remember you can always take a break and come back to the project another day. Pile your clothes up and go through as many as possible in an afternoon, or spend a few hours on your kitchen drawers and finish another evening or the following weekend.
IF YOU HAVE A WHOLE WEEKEND
With a few days' time on your hands, go for the garage or the basement, Lee says. Or, give your file system a facelift — purge old papers, replace worn-out files and convert paper documents to digital.
When tackling a large decluttering job, start with some prep. "Dedicate an area of your home or corner of a room as the 'declutter zone' where any items that you will be getting rid of can be moved to," Rosenthal suggests. "Purchase large, durable bags for the items that you are getting rid of. Once a bag is full, make sure to close it so that you are not tempted to go back through and second-guess your decision."
And when you're done, make sure to take those donation bags to their final destination — that way, the clutter will be gone for good.