Organization Ideas

The Powerful Combination of ’15-Minute Wins’ and the One-Box Method for Your Cleanest Home Yet

Kara Jillian Brown

Photo: Vivian Johnson Photo for Shira Gill
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The hardest part of organizing is figuring out where to start. There always seems to be dozens of different areas that need your attention, and it’s so easy to get overwhelmed and just put it all off. During the latest Well+Good Talk, “From Home Gyms to Home-Cooked Meals: How Our Four Walls Have Become Our Entire Wellness Worlds,” organization expert Shira Gill shared her quick tips for a 20-minute cleaning routine that helps her stay organized, especially now that she’s spending more time at home.

“Early on into [the pandemic], my husband went from working full-time in an office and basically just coming home at night for dinner to being home all the time, and having all of his various work things,” says Gill. Living in an old home with limited storage meant everything from her husband’s headphones to his notepads were strewn all over the house. “And because I’m also working from home and we have two kids doing distance learning, to me, as someone who likes minimal clutter, it felt intolerable.”

In order to get organized, she started following the one-box method. “I looked around our house and I found this big bin that wasn’t in use, and I said to my husband, ‘I need you to contain all of your work stuff in this one bin when it’s not in use. And at the end of the day before we sit down to dinner, anything related to work you can just dump in this bin,'” she says. “Because we don’t have a home office, he wanted a home and a spot for his work stuff anyway, so he embraced it.” Plus, she says it’s easier for him to find his things since they’re all in one place.

If your organizational woes are a bit more than one box can handle, Gill says to start with “15-minute wins.” “When my clients are feeling overwhelmed, I’ll challenge them saying, ‘I know this feels like a mountain, but let’s set a timer and just get a little bit of progress going,'” she says. “And I find that usually, starting is really the biggest hurdle. The trick is to get your brain to say, ‘Oh, fine, I can do something for 15 or 20 minutes.'” Simply set a timer for 15 or 20 minutes and see how much cleaning you can get done. And then once you’re in it, it’s typically easy to take that momentum and keep going if you want to.

Bonus: You can apply this trick to other parts of your life where you’re procrastinating. She discovered it while prepping a keynote address.

“I was very nervous, and I kept procrastinating and not writing the keynote,” says Gill. ” The event started getting closer and closer, and I started getting an increasing sense of dread. And one day, a little voice popped into my head and just said, ‘Work for 15 minutes. See what you can do.’ And something about this simple idea resonated… I sat down to write, and I just kept writing, and 15 minutes turned into several hours, and once I started, I couldn’t stop.”

For more tips from Gill and other home experts, watch the full discussion below:

Experts Referenced

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