Time-Saving Tips to Get Organized
Learn how to reclaim the time you spend waiting, whether at home or on the go.
Let's face it: we all put off organizing our homes, purses, cars and lives because we don't think we have time. "Once you start looking at all the time you spend waiting for this or that, the minutes really add up," says Donna Smallin, the author of The One-Minute Organizer. Put those wasted minutes to work, she says; even just five minutes a day adds up to seven hours a month — plenty of time for organization.
While you're playing the waiting game, try out these quick and practical organizing tips:
While popping popcorn or if you have three minutes in the kitchen:
- Organize the day's mail. Toss the outer envelopes and inserts in bill statements along with junk mail.
- Organize a drawer; if there's not a lid for a container, toss it.
- Be brave as you open the fridge to play "leftover roulette," popping open mystery containers to see what's still edible, suggests Donna. Also, check out the expiration dates on condiments and half-full jars of spaghetti sauce.
- Rifle through that overflowing coupon box and toss the expired ones. Then file new ones by category and date.
- Take out the trash, and make sure the recyclables are in order.
- Empty or load the dishwasher; wipe down a shelf while you're at it.
While cookies are baking or if you have 12 minutes in the kitchen:
- Plan dinners for the week and write a grocery shopping list.
- Organize your junk drawer. Toss the stuff that's really garbage, like toys from fast-food restaurants, dusty plastic silverware and wrappers from used packs of batteries. Then use a compartmentalized plastic tray to separate loose stamps, paper clips, coins and things that aren't really junk.
- Organize your pantry: throw out expired cans, stale bread and cereal boxes with only crumbs left.
- Spruce up your spice drawer or cabinet: put the spices you use most toward the front, and throw out "mystery" spices without labels.
- "Chop up some fruit and make a fruit salad for tomorrow," suggests organizing expert Maria Gracia.
While the tub fills up or if you have three minutes in the bathroom:
- Toss used towels in the laundry bin and hang up some clean ones.
- Organize your make-up drawer. A study from the College of Optometrists warns that mascara, lipstick and eye shadow more than three to six months old can be a hotbed for bacteria. Check the expiration dates in tiny print, or just toss whatever looks gunky.
- Organize the space under the vanity: toss crusty bottles of hair product, face wash/cream you haven't used in months, stray cotton balls and cotton swabs.
- Straighten your linen closet, and make a pile of threadbare washcloths and hand towels you can convert to dust rags.
- Toss expired prescriptions and over-the-counter medications; wipe down a shelf in the medicine cabinet.
- Clean the toilet. Pour in a quick-acting cleaner, then brush and flush.
- Gracia suggests organizing your hair accessories in an over-the-door shoe organizer. The pockets will help you sort everything beautifully, so you can easily find what you need.
During TV commercials or if you have four minutes in the family room:
- Organize a DVD shelf or book shelf, and make a donation pile of movies your kids have outgrown and books you won't read again.
- Venture under the couch to hunt dust bunnies.
- Put all toys (including the dog's) in a toy box or basket in the corner of the room.
- Recycle old magazines, and put those you intend to read in the magazine rack.
- Do some quick calisthenics so you don't feel like such a couch potato.
While your kids brush their teeth before bedtime or if you have five minutes in their room:
(You may want to do these things with your kids.)
- Organize the sock and underwear drawer, tossing anything that no longer fits or just doesn't look wearable anymore.
- Put all stray stuffed animals into baskets.
- Turn down the bed, pull down the shade and turn on a lamp. You're all ready for bedtime stories.
- Put all stray tapes and CDs into their cases. To get your child involved, buy a colorful plastic carrying case for him to store his lullaby and playtime music in.
- Donna suggests laying out an outfit for the next day, ready for your child's approval or a quick switch. This will save time during the morning rush.
Waiting to pick up your child from school or if you have five minutes in the car:
- Bring a trash bag and pick up all cups, napkins and litter in the car.
- Pay bills: store statements, envelopes, checkbook, register, envelopes and stamps in an accordion file with handle.
- Schedule dental and doctor appointments, order prescription refills, confirm appointments.
- Donna suggests organizing the interior of your car, including the glove compartment and the catch-all netting on the seat backs.
Waiting in line at the post office or grocery store or if you have three minutes on your feet:
- Write a to-do list for the next day.
- Make a quick phone call to schedule an appointment you've been putting off.
- "Look at the supermarket magazines and see if you can find any organizing tips," says organizing expert Maria.
- Organize your purse — put stray coupons in the side pocket, check hand lotion bottles to see if they're empty, throw out candy wrappers and old store receipts.
Waiting at the doctor's office or if you have 10 minutes in a comfy chair:
- Organize your social life: make a lunch date with a friend you haven't seen in a while.
- Tackle your "should-do" list: write a thank-you note or a card to a friend; call your mother.
- Close your eyes, practice deep breathing and organize your thoughts.
- Check out the health magazines that are mainstays of a doctor's office. Learn something new about your kidneys, or some great exercise tips.
- Bring a tote bag with a couple of sewing repair projects.
On the phone, on hold or if you have one to three minutes (we wish!) in your home office:
- Organize your e-mail: create file folders that make sense and delete spam.
- Go through paper file folders one a time, looking for outdated papers to toss or shred. Mark where you left off for next time.
- Send a virtual greeting card from your computer to let someone know you care.
- Run the virus scan or disk defragmenter on your computer to keep it healthy.
- Go through your file of tax deduction receipts and paper-clip those in the same category to simplify the process next April.