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March 14, 2012

Tips for Staying Focused While Cleaning and Organizing

Today’s blog post is a question that was raised in a recent session of Organizing 101. Because this question comes up frequently and always gets a lot of response, I wanted to share my suggestions on the blog, too. I thought the timing was perfect because it is definitely spring cleaning time for me. How about you? Are you in spring cleaning mode now, too? 


IStock_000012982358XSmallOur workshop participant said: “I have a sticking point when it comes to maintaining what I have cleaned and organized. I am scattered when it comes to cleaning. I run a load of laundry, unload some dishes, then something needs to be put somewhere else, and oh look the dog is out of food… I could change and clean his water bowl, too, because after all I am cleaning today. The phone rings. When I finish the call I head back to the room where I started to clean, and the dryer says it’s done. I spend way too much time with the back and forth thing but can’t seem to stay on track! HELP!!”


Here was my reply:  "This is really common, especially with organizing, when you carry something to another room and then suddenly find yourself starting another project. In some ways, this can be necessary and maybe even beneficial. In other words, once we put in a load of laundry, it wouldn't make sense to sit there and wait for the washing machine to do its business. It does make sense to go and do something else and then come back when the laundry is done washing.

"'s when you get too many things started, and nothing finished, that this becomes a problem. One of the strategies I suggest for organizing is to first, define the project you're working on, and then, set a timer and work on that project for fifteen minutes at a time. (You can go longer...but fifteen minutes a day is a good minimum target. It helps you make progress on your projects and helps begin the creation of a daily organizing habit which will help you keep things organized.) 


"The timer really will help you stay focused. You'll find yourself racing against the clock to see how much you can get done before the timer dings. If the phone rings, you let it go to voice mail and call back in fifteen minutes when you're done. If you notice the dog bowl needs to be washed, you can write it down on a piece of paper to deal with after you're done organizing.


"This leads me to another idea. Carry a little notebook with you while you clean. (Or if you use a smart phone with a list app, that could work too.) When something catches your eye that needs to be done, capture it on your list to do later, instead of interrupting yourself now."


Are you scattered or focused while you clean and organize? Do you have other ideas for staying on task? We'd love to hear from you!


Happy Organizing!


P.S. By the way, if you're in spring cleaning mode, wouldn't it be more fun to do it with the support and encouragement of the simplify 101 community? We have lots of ways to help you get a handle on clutter, as well as daily spring cleaning prompts, in our Quick + Simple Clutter Control online workshop (which starts next week!) Hope to see you there! 


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Marie Quak

The timer idea is a fantastic one. I encourage clients to set aside a certain amount of time each day for keeping on top of those tasks that need to be done on a daily basis and will share this particular tip.

Great blog posts by the way!


Thanks Marie! I appreciate your comments. :) ~ Aby


I especially like to use a timer when the house is overwhelmingly messy. You know, those days when you want to cry because you don't know where to start. I set the timer for 10 minutes and work on one room (decluttering, wiping etc.). When the timer goes off I move to another room, even if the first one isn't finished. I do this, working my way through every room. It is AMAZING what you can accomplish. If I have time, I do it again and pick up where I left off. It is a great stress buster for me. I also download audio books onto my ipod shuffle. Agatha Christie keeps me from going bonkers with boredom!

Drain Cleaning Edmonton

I appreciate the timer idea. Great blog.Drain Cleaning Edmonton

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