Getting organized doesn't need to involve hours and hours of work; as with exercise, you can make a positive impact with small chunks of time. The ten projects below can each be done in about half an hour and can offer a hearty dose of satisfaction.
- Clean out your e-mail Inbox. Delete the messages you've read and no longer need, move those you want to keep into folders, and get rid of out-of-date newsletters, store offers, and articles.
- Weed your junk drawers. Attack the "catch-all" drawers in your kitchen, your desk, or your hall table. Toss the takeout menus you don't use, the pens that no longer work, and the expired coupons you never had the chance to use.
- Sort your medicine cabinet. Take everything out, give the cabinet a good wipe down, and weed through the contents before you put them back in, disposing of expired medications, used-up cosmetics, and personal supplies that are past their prime.
- Straighten your sock and underwear drawers. Dump the contents of these drawers out onto your bed and be ruthless: anything you haven't worn lately--or have worn so much it's begging for reprieve--gets tossed. The rest of the stuff gets grouped together according to type and neatly put back in. If ever you're tempted to add drawer liners or dividers, now's the perfect time to do so.
- Clear out your fridge and freezer. Give those mystery leftovers, well-intentioned but unused condiments, and wilting vegetables the boot, then take a cloth and mild detergent and clean the shelves, drawers, and doors.
- Unearth your under-sink areas. The space underneath kitchen and bathroom sinks seems to be a magnet for stuff that goes in and never emerges. Reverse this trend by pulling everything out, ditching what you no longer need or use, and re-stashing the stuff you do need neatly.
- Organize your car. Bid adieu to those food wrappers, empty water bottles, and other bits of flotsam from life on the road. Don't ignore the glove box or trunk; if these areas seem to be organizational disasters, consider picking up a few gadgets to help corral the stuff you need to keep in the car.
- Purge your pantry. Sort through your non-perishable foods, whether you keep them in a separate pantry or in cabinets in the kitchen. Get rid of anything that's damaged, expired, or no longer appealing, and put stuff back in so it's easy to find when you need it.
- Prune your reading basket. Take a look through your reading basket, magazine rack, or newspaper bin. Recycle old catalogs, magazines you're not interested in, and newspapers more than a few days old. (If you haven't read them yet, chances are you won't get around to them, regardless of good intentions.) Keep only a few issues of magazines; older copies in good condition can be donated to hospitals or libraries.
- Weed your desktop to-dos. Take a look through the papers on top of your desk, whether they're piled, stashed in a letter sorter, or reclining in an Inbox. Toss anything you no longer need, act on the stuff that needs immediate attention, and add to your To Do list anything you'll need to deal with in the coming days or weeks.
Choose one (or more) of these simple projects each week and watch your clutter start to disappear. With a modest dose of effort, you'll see some great results, and you'll still have plenty of time left over for the stuff you actually want to do.