Quick and Clean
It’s springtime, and you know what that means: spring cleaning. To help make all of that tidying less daunting, we tracked down manageable decluttering projects you can complete in 30 minutes or less. "The goal of decluttering and getting organized is very simple — it’s to make life easier," says Amy Bloomer, founder of the Let Your Space Bloom organizing service. "When you can find what you need quickly and easily, then you have more time, energy, and resources to do what you love." After speaking to several experts, we have found ways to help you start tidying up, fast.
Create an Organized ‘Drop Zone’ Near Your Entryway
All three experts that we spoke to identified the so-called "drop zone" (that place in your home that accumulates everything from shoes and mail to keys and outerwear) as the number one trouble spot in most homes. The key to an effective and organized drop zone is a specified place for everything it needs to hold. Lisa Woodruff, founder of Organize 365 says your keys, wallet or purse, and mail all need a specific place in the drop zone that is easily accessible. Organizer Amy Bloomer includes coats and shoes on this list and stresses that everything must have a clearly labeled place. If you don’t have a proper drop zone set up, clean out your entry, put things where they go in other areas of the house, deep clean the area, then set up labeled spots for the drop zone essentials and organize those items in their new home.
Develop a Streamlined System for Incoming Mail
Another problem most of our experts mentioned is incoming mail. The key to organizing this trouble zone is to first have a place it can all go. Organizer Lisa Woodruff has coined the name Sunday Basket for a hold-all to contain all the papers, mail, emails, text messages, and even ideas that pile up over the week. Katy Winter, owner of Katy’s Organized Home, has another good practice specifically for mail. "I recommend emptying all unwanted mail into a recycle bin before you even enter the house," she says. "I also use an app called PaperKarma where you can take a quick picture of the return address on the unsolicited mail and the app will unsubscribe you." If you don’t have a designated Sunday Basket or a recycle bin set up for unwanted mail, take 30 minutes to collect all paper into once place, sort through it. and set up both a Sunday Basket and mail recycle spot in your home.
Tidy and Label the Laundry Room
Another so-called "drop zone" in most houses is the laundry room. The good news is that you can declutter it quickly. Set a timer for 30 minutes and get to work. No matter what area she’s decluttering, organizer Lisa Woodruff likes to use the same four steps: remove everything, toss what isn’t needed, clean and disinfect the area, and put everything back in a designated spot. Creating clearly labeled places for things that do belong in the laundry room will help everyone living in the home know where things go.
Clear the Kitchen Counter and Find a Place for Everything
The kitchen is an area that can get easily congested. Organizer Katy Winter recommends starting with the kitchen counter. "Clear your kitchen countertops," she says. "If too many things are on your countertop, you are not utilizing your cabinet space in the best way." Everything in the kitchen should have a place that isn’t the counter. Put things away after you use them and if they don’t have a designated space, create one. You can even break the kitchen down into one area at a time: the counters, under the sink, the pantry, the spice rack, and more, spending 30 minutes on each.
Organize Your Spices (and Ditch the Old Ones)
Having a specific place to keep spices is important, but it can get quite full. To keep it decluttered, pull all containers out and throw any away that are expired. While spices don’t actually spoil, they do lose their flavor and potency sooner than most of us think. Wipe out the spice rack or drawer or shelf, then put back all jars with the name and label facing out so they are easy to see.
Refresh the Refrigerator Shelf by Shelf
Organizer Lisa Woodruff explains that a new season means our diets tend to change and what we cook changes. For example, many people tend to diet in the spring and summer, which means stocking up on different food. To prep your refrigerator for a new season, she says, "Completely empty the refrigerator shelf by shelf. Empty one shelf, clean it, and then put back only those things that are in your diet, that you want to eat in the upcoming season. Throw away or donate what you don’t want to put back."
Declutter Under the Kitchen Sink
This area rarely sees the light of day and can become a hold-all zone for cleaning supplies you don’t know what to do with. The best way to organize it is to pull everything out and sort through it. Toss anything broken, expired, or that just looks gross. Next, organize items by their purpose. For example, dish cleaning supplies can go in one, clear-labeled bin. Keep all like supplies in the same bin so it can easily be pulled out and used when needed.
Clear Out and Organize the Medicine Cabinet
As with other trouble spots, the medicine cabinet can have lots of clutter accumulate in it that you no longer need or even know you have. "Sort through your medicine, and make sure to check the expirations dates," organizer Kary Winter says. "Adjust your medicine cabinet to what you actually use. If you don’t have an infant anymore, it’s time to clear away the Infant Tylenol and Motrin. This will save a lot of room." She recommends keeping like medicines together. For example, medicines to treat cold and flu, allergy medications, vitamins, and wellness things, prescriptions, and a place for first aid supplies should all be placed in assigned and labeled areas of the medicine cabinet.
Toss Old Toiletries and Organize Those You Use
Think about your morning routine. Your makeup and toiletries are often overlooked when decluttering and you end up hanging onto makeup that was expensive but that you don’t use. Organizer Lisa Woodruff says to take everything out. Sort through it and pitch what you don’t use, no matter the cost, and toss anything expired. Clean and disinfect the area. Put everything you use for your morning routine into one basket so that it’s easy to pull out and use every morning. All other items need a designated space in the bathroom.
Organize the Family Room (with Help from the Family)
"The most common ‘trouble zones’ in a home are places where people tend to congregate most often," says organizer Amy Bloomer. "The best strategy to declutter these areas quickly is to be sure that everything that lives there has a clearly labeled space." Make sure the family room has space for what the family uses. A magazine basket, a place designated for remote controls, a bookshelf for books, a bin for toys. Take the time to set up this space, but instead of one person being solely responsible for this common area, make sure everyone in the home helps keep this space clutter-free every day. It could even be that five minutes before bed everyone helps to put the room back together and returns items to the rooms where they belong.
Related: 11 Tips from Marie Kondo for Getting Kids Organized
Declutter the Car and Organize It Seasonally
Woodruff identifies the car as a common area that needs to be decluttered. Think about all the stuff that accumulates in the glove box, cup holders, door pockets, and on the floor. Take everything out. Toss or trash anything you don’t use or need in the car. This is a good time to take out the window scraper since for most of the United States the chance of ice or snow has dwindled. Deep clean the car, wipe down seats, windows, and floor. Put everything back that you want. Think about what you need in your car for the upcoming season. For example, spring is a good time to stick an umbrella in the car just in case you get caught in a storm.