Step-by-step tips for organizing your home in the new year. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Step-by-step tips for organizing your home in the new year. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Tackling home organization one step at a time

Got 10 minutes? Spend it cleaning a corner of the kitchen. You can get a lot done in that short period.

When faced with a pile of dirty dishes, it’s easy to be overwhelmed. The same goes for gigantic piles of laundry, cluttered linen cabinets and refrigerator shelves packed with old bottles of salad dressing. But the best housekeeping tip I’ve learned is that small increments lead to big improvements. It’s also less overwhelming if you have a strategy.

Set a timer: My number-one tip for cleaning is to set a timer for 10 minutes. Nobody wants to be stuck cleaning the house forever, but most people are willing to give 10 minutes. You can a make a huge difference in 10 minutes. Then, if you feel up to it, you can set the timer for another 10 minutes when the buzzer rings.

Pick a corner: I use two main strategies for cleaning rooms. The first strategy is to go area by area. Let’s say that the entire kitchen is a disaster. I’ll set the timer for 10 minutes and focus on one corner of it. Ten minutes later, that corner will be so clean, it might inspire me to set the timer for another 10 minutes because now I feel accomplished and am beginning to have fun.

Follow the steps: The second strategy I use is to follow cleaning steps:

1: Throw out trash.

2: Put unspoiled food away.

3: Put clean dishes away.

4: Put dirty dishes away.

5: Put away things that don’t belong in that room.

6: Wipe down hard surfaces.

7: Clean the floor.

You’d think that with the focus on dishes and food, the cleaning steps strategy would only work in the kitchen. As it turns out, it’s helpful in any room, especially if you have family members who eat in their bedrooms. Sometimes I’ll go into my teenagers’ rooms and come out with enough plates and mugs to fill up a dishwasher rack.

Create daily routines: Small increments make big improvements if you you build daily rituals around tidying up. Start a load of laundry before you eat breakfast. Unload the dishwasher while your coffee brews. Make your bed while you brush your teeth. Train your kids to put their dishes in the dishwasher after dinner. Program a robotic vacuum cleaner to vacuum in the middle of the night.

Follow weekly routines: I rarely have time to clean my whole house in one shot, but I do make time for a different 20-minute task each day. On Mondays I dust and vacuum, on Tuesday I clean the fridge, microwave and stove, on Wednesdays I clean the bathrooms, on Thursdays I change the sheets, and on Fridays I catch up on laundry. If I did that all in one day I’d collapse.

2023 is still bright and shiny and our homes can be that way too, especially if we tidy up with a plan. Set the time, race against the clock, and then move on to something fun.

Jennifer Bardsley is the author of “Sweet Bliss,” “Good Catch” and more. Find her online on Instagram @jenniferbardsleyauthor, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as Jennifer Bardsley Author. Email her at

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