5 Tips for Tidying Up That Can Be Done in 5 Minutes or Less and Make a Huge Impact.

October 27, 2017

by: Laura Pallotta


Unless you need receipts to turn in for a job or you really think you’re going to return something soon, don’t get a receipt! Then those little annoying pieces of paper won’t be taking up valuable space in your kitchen drawer, pants pockets, wallet, car, etc.

Here’s the thing. You think you’re going to need a receipt, or you just take it because the cashier hands it to you. But these days you have lots of options for tracking purchases and returning items without little pieces of annoying paper cluttering up your life.

For example, you don’t need a receipt for buying gasoline for your car unless you drive for a living. And the pump even asks you if you want a receipt! Why would you need that little piece of paper? Your bank account tells you how much you spend in gas. Your credit card statement also provides that information. And you cannot return the gasoline! Just select “no” when asked if you want a receipt. Easy peasy. No more receipt clutter.

And this works many retail chains as well. Many retail stores now offer the option to email your receipt.  Let them do that. Then if you want to keep the email for a couple years, no big deal. File it away. It’s not taking up valuable space in your home.


With winter coming up, it was time to start thinking sweaters again. When I looked in my closet, my shelves were full of sweaters but I couldn’t believe they were all being used because there were times when I didn’t have a sweater that would go with a certain outfit.

Take all your sweaters out of your closet or dresser and get rid of any you didn’t use during winter last year, any that don’t look the same color they originally did, and any you just never seem to wear.

Sweaters take up A LOT of space.  So hanging on to any sweaters that you’re not wearing is simply not a good use of your valuable square footage.

I’m pretty good at getting rid of things regularly, and even I still ended up with about 15-20 sweaters I could give away or toss when I went through my closet recently. The photo is an actual pic of my sweater section in my closet after I cleared out unnecessary items.

Once I had removed everything that I just didn’t wear for one reason or another, I even had some space to expand and purchase a few items for the current season, as you can see in the photo.

The trick is that you have to remove the emotions from this process. No matter how expensive or beautiful it is, if you’re not wearing it, it doesn’t belong taking up space in your house.


Ok, this one might take more than 5 minutes the first time (especially if you haven’t done dishes in a few days and the dishwasher still needs to be emptied from the last time you ran it), but if done regularly, it shouldn’t take much time. Don’t worry. No judgment here. This is one I’ve learned the hard way. You’re not alone if you get to the end of the day and the dinner dishes are the last thing you want to deal with.

But if you get them done anyway, you will feel so much happier and relieved when you wake up in the morning and you’re not fighting last night’s dirty dishes to make school lunches or coffee for your early commute. It’s really worth the extra few minutes at night, even if you’re exhausted, to wake up fresh and not have to deal with dishes and a cluttered sink. If you don’t believe me, try it for one week. I think you will feel a deeper sense of peace if this hasn’t been your ritual in the past.

Here are the things I’ve discovered make it a little easier to get motivated to get this task done and make it go faster:

  • Run the dishwasher before it’s full. The logic here is that a full dishwasher actually takes more time to empty. So I used to dread emptying the dishwasher because you have to have every cupboard open, find the right place for everything, deal with all that silverware. But if you open the dishwasher and see it has some open space, suddenly you feel less overwhelmed with the task. So run it before it’s completely full. This has the added benefit of eliminating dishes sitting in the sink waiting to be washed while you’re running the dishwasher too!
  • Go ahead and hand wash the few items that either don’t go in the dishwasher or won’t fit (because you waited until the dishwasher was too full to run it again.) Wine glasses, pots and pans, knives. All of these are so quick and easy to wash and just let dry in a rack or dry off with a towel and put away.
  • Don’t use multiple dishes to mix, bake, serve your food. If you find some really good quality bake ware, you can do all these tasks in the same pan. There are lots of options out there that can go in the oven, dishwasher, refrigerator and freezer and are beautiful enough to serve out of. The end result is fewer dishes to wash. Now that’s a real bonus!


When you bring your mail in the house, there is no need to go through it right away. Most of it is junk anyway. But if you do feel like you need to go through it right away, don’t look at what’s there then just collect a pile of mail that you’ll have to look at again later and decide what to do with. Sort your mail into piles: 1) pay, 2) pitch, or 3) peruse.

These are self-explanatory categories, but be careful not to collect everything in the peruse category. This is only for magazines, periodicals, and entertainment materials.

If it’s an advertisement for something you may want to buy later, don’t put it in the peruse pile. Chances are, you’ll just forget about it anyway and by the time you sort through that huge pile of junk, it’s outdated and goes into the trash anyway.

I can’t tell you how many times I saved something from that envelope full of coupons or some other mailer thinking I would use it later, make a call, make a purchase only to move that pile somewhere else, then end up throwing it away later when it expired or was no longer relevant to me.

How often do you really use coupons from those envelopes or mail inserts? Unless you use them daily, they’re not worth the extra space they’re taking up in your home and your life.

And they’re not worth your time thumbing through them either. I know what you’re going to say. “Maybe there is a good coupon there.” Or “I once used a envelope coupon 15 years ago and saved five dollars.” Yeah. Pitch them.  Save yourself time, space and aggravation.

 Your “peruse” items can have a residence in a magazine rack next to your chair or on your coffee table (which will ensure you don’t collect too many of these or start adding things that don’t belong in this category, assuming there is limited space and more visibility to guests). Once you’ve sorted, pitch everything in the pitch pile immediately.

By the way, a lot of bills can be received electronically these days too, so this goes along with #1 above, if you can sign up for electronic billing, then do. It’s so much easier than sorting through mail.

The majority of my mail these days goes straight in the trash! For the occasional bill from your landscaper, house-cleaner, or other small company that’s not quite tech-savvy enough to have electronic billing, designate a small space and pay your bills once a week.

If you do this with your mail, you’ll not only save some time, you will also gain back valuable counter space, “junk” drawer space, or wherever you keep your mail currently. Saving space AND time? Sounds like a big win to me!


Again, this one may take a little more than 5 minutes the first time you do it, but with regular attention it’s a very quick task. If you’re used to hanging on to a jar of pickles because a) pickles don’t go bad, and b) you might need them as soon as you get rid of them, then ask yourself how long that jar of pickles has been in your fridge. If it has been lingering at the back for six months, a year, longer, get rid of it!

Maybe pickles don’t actually go bad because they’re packed in vinegar, BUT there’s more to cleaning out the fridge than whether the food is “bad”.

If your pickles are taking up valuable space, then they should go if you’re not eating them. You need that space for lettuce or burgers or homemade lasagna leftovers. Yum.

And even beyond the space you need for other things, the refrigerator will actually work more efficiently if it’s not jam-packed.

And it’s my personal belief that when you keep your fridge full of stuff you don’t actually want, it keeps you from realizing the yummy meals you have right in front of you. How can you see yesterday’s leftover lasagna or Monday’s creamy noodles with biscuits if when you open the fridge, there are mountains of half-empty jars, unopened bottles, and mystery items hanging out all over?! I believe a crammed fridge leads to inability to decide what to eat. (That’s just my theory. There’s no real science behind it…that I know of).

So gain back your refrigerator space, your appetite for home-cooked meals and your electric bill by paring down the long-lost items at the back of the fridge. And while you’re at it, wipe down a shelf or two with a damp sponge! That year-old jar of pickles probably had a sticky ring around the bottom that you never noticed because it hadn’t been moved in so long.

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