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Get Organized in 5, 15 or 30 Minutes

If You Have 15 Minutes to Organize
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Stop junk mail and unwanted catalogs.
"Register online at the Direct Marketing Association" suggests Barbara Reich, a New York-based pro organizer. If there are still a few you want to receive, just click on your choices.

Straighten up a shelf.
"Remove everything, dust and put in groupings of like with like, weeding out as you go," says Starr. This technique works everywhere, from bookshelves in the family room to dishes and glassware in the kitchen.

Spiff up the laundry room.
Consolidate half-empty bottles and wipe away any drips. Mount a storage rack over the washing machine. "My favorite, Whitney Design's Over The Washer Shelf, needs no installation," says Wright.

Pick up a room.
Set aside a bin or basket to corral stray stuff. Put misplaced items into the bin and store in a closet or out-of-the-way spot. Later, carry the container room to room and put things back in their proper place. This also means you can have an in-house lost and found where family members will know to look for missing belongings.

Tackle the medicine cabinet.
Toss old makeup and drugs and any duplicates, then arrange according to category—cold medicines in one place, painkillers in another. Stash supplies like cotton balls, bandages and swabs in small canisters or lidless plastic containers. Store overflow in a spare drawer or nearby closet.

Stage a pantry mini makeover.
"Arrange cans of tomatoes together, soups with soups and so on," says Wright. "Next, transfer rice and pastas from boxes and bags into clear labeled Tupperware so you can quickly assess when you need to stock up."

Clean out the junk drawer.
"Dump the contents on top of a wire cooling rack," says Wright. Too-small items like nails, paper clips and buttons will fall through onto the counter. Toss anything that's broken or unidentifiable. Put things that belong elsewhere in a separate pile: Pliers, for example, go back to the toolbox and nail clippers to the bathroom. Return useful everyday items—such as scissors, pushpins and glue sticks—to the drawer.

Use the shredder.
Place a file or tub near your desk—or under a table where you open mail—for papers containing personal information, like a Social Security number or birth date. Wait until full to shred. Set a timer for 15 minutes. If you tackle this task in short increments, it won't be as tedious, notes Mellen.

Round up recipes.
"Gather clippings and favorite online printouts in a binder," says Abramovici. Organize by category (appetizers, desserts) with tabbed dividers. Or snap photos of recipes and upload to a folder on your computer along with web pages for dishes you find online. The service is free at

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