The 15-Minute Purge

Kelly Gash is a Southern California-based professional organizer who can help you tame the clutter in your life.  Visit her website at

Okay, so the kids are at school, at a play date, or napping.  You find yourself with thirty minutes (or maybe even a whole hour!) where no one needs your immediate attention.  “Perfect!” you think.  “Now I have time to do some organizing!”  You then take a look at your list of areas that need work – garage, hall closet, kitchen cupboards – and decide to take a nap instead.

Sound familiar?  Too often, big organizing projects, or even just piles of paperwork and junk mail, go unorganized because we feel that without hours – or days – we’d never get even one project finished.  So instead of diving into that overstuffed kitchen pantry, we update our Facebook status or watch TV.  We maybe even fold laundry or do the dishes, very valuable daily chores.  We just never seem to get to those piles of STUFF that need going through!

This is where the “15-minute purge” comes into play.  Starting once a week, set your timer for 15 minutes and use that time to de-clutter a space in your house that is driving you crazy.  You might think 15 minutes isn’t enough time to get anything productive done, but it is surprising how much you really can do in that short amount of time.  For example, the other day I used the 15-minute purge to de-clutter my cooking utensils.  You know, all the random cooking stuff you collect over the years and just shove into a drawer, never to be used again.  Among the items I use daily I discovered: two potato scrubbers, a crystal wine cork and two miniature rubber spatulas I have never used, a couple of random skewers, a mysterious-looking tool that I believe is an apple corer, and some rusty whisks.  Seriously, why was I schlepping through this stuff every time I wanted to get out a mixing spoon?

So I quickly made some decisions.  I got rid of one potato scrubber and put it, along with the wine cork, spatulas, and apple corer, in my donation box; I put the skewers where they belong with their set; and I tossed the rusty whisks.  Time spent: 13 minutes.  The next time I opened that drawer I was shocked.  I could see everything at one glance!  I was even able to take out a spatula without having to move five other items out of the way.  What was amazing was how refreshed I felt.  No, I didn’t organize the entire garage, but I did something.  And every time I open that drawer, I feel a sense of relief.  I know it sounds crazy, but it worked to help de-stress my life, just a little!

Here’s the thing about a 15-minute purge: You aren’t using this time to make difficult, emotional decisions about keeping your daughter’s baby booties, or the artwork your son made in the second grade.  You’re using this time to get rid of stuff that has simply been piling up and needs dealing with.  Maybe you’ll notice that you use this time to sort and purge the junk mail on the kitchen counter.  Maybe you’re shredding old bills for 15 minutes.  Perhaps you’re tossing the stretched-out hair bands in your daughter’s bathroom drawer, or getting rid of old food in the fridge.

You can have your kids get in on the purge too: They can use the 15 minutes to go through their closets, toy chests, and old school supplies and toss or donate things they don’t need any more.  It’s a good way to help them learn to let go of stuff on a regular basis.

So this week, set the timer and get to work on one area, just for 15 minutes.  You’ll be amazed at how much better you’ll feel.  Let me know how it goes!


  1. 1
    courtney b says:

    i love this idea! our house is full of clutter.. thanks for the help!

  2. 2

    GREAT idea! I’m an organizing junky with OCD so this isn’t a need for me but great for MANY moms and my personal friends.

  3. 3
    Jennifer Reyer Young says:

    I love doing this!! I love when someone decides to come over last minute and I can get more cleaning done in 15 minutes than I did all day long, lol!! I could definitely use a 15 min clean of my girls’ room today… yikes!! lol

  4. 4
    Janet W. says:

    We really stack up fast with clutter around here! We need to do this, too!

  5. 5

    I’ve been doing a 15-minute purge in my closet just about every day. So far, I’ve realized that most of my shirts are horrid, and if they can’t be salvaged with a sewing machine or bling, in the donate pile they go. I’m feeling more awesome after each purge. Yay!

  6. 6
    Jessica Beard says:

    I love this idea! 15 minutes isn’t too bad and is easy to manage. Thanks for sharing.

  7. 7

    LOVE this post! It is so inspiring.
    The first paragraph is totally me. I get so overwhelmed at all of the work that needs to get done around the house I walk away. 15 minutes seems so much more achievable!

  8. 8

    Great idea! I love how much you can get done in 15 minutes.. the funny thing is when we have an inlaw call and say they are going to arrive in about 15 minutes. It is amazing how much 2 adults can clean in that amount of time!

  9. 9
    Debbie Welchert says:

    What a great idea. I have three baskets of clothes that have sitting against the wall in my room for a very long time. As soon as I am done with this I am going to spend 15 minutes working on getting them put away. Then I think I will go through one of my cupboards tomorrow. You just got me motivated, thanks.

  10. 10
    liberty thompson says:

    This post was extremely helpful to me because we are in the process of moving and it has been very stressful figuring out what to purge and what to keep. Thank you!

  11. 11
    Sherri Lewis says:

    I will have to give this a shot…. maybe it won’t seem so overwhelming this way.

  12. 12

    I need a 15 day purge! Every time I organize or get rid of stuff more stuff seems to accumulate! I do love this idea and nefore.reading this I had done my kitchen utensils a couple weeks ago!

  13. 13
    Stephanie says:

    This is so helpful! Clutter is always a battle in my house and this makes it seem more manageable!

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