how to reduce clutter 15 minutes at a time

by rebecca on October 23, 2012

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I never have enough time. That’s why I clean my home in 15 minute bursts. We call it the 15-minute-spiff. We take 2 minutes to assign jobs, then spend 15 minutes totally ON-TASK. Even little people can usually focus for 15 minutes. (Maybe in your home, if you have really little ones, you’ll employ a 5-minute spiff.)

With 4 people participating, that’s a solid hour of good, hard energy employed. Here’s what’s happening around here today:

These bananas get peeled, broken up and put into a freezer bag. When I’m ready to make a smoothie, a frozen banana chunk is easy to toss in the blender. This job gets regularly neglected.

Likewise, tomatoes were abundant in the garden this fall. This is my first year growing tomatoes and the scent they left on my fingers was divine. I’ve promised myself to plant them every year. These will go bad if we don’t get them into the freezer for pasta sauce. The thing I like about both these food jobs is that there is no neatness factor. As long as the hands are clean, any size or shape of chunks are passable for the freezer. In the end, both ingredients end up smooth.

I must admit that I am the worst in our home about leaving my morning mug laying about. But, in this photo, it looks so gorgeous next to my dining room table centerpiece. Maybe that’s why I put off clearing it! Please don’t be fooled by this trick of photography, I am trying to disguise my penchant for abandoning my cup rather than finishing a task.

I have about 80 kagillion piles in my home. My husband says I am able to fill any horizontal space. The piano bench serves as a nice catch-all here for a geometry book and book covers we need to return. The 15-minute spiff is great for dealing with piles.


We have big trees on our property. The leaves are falling and we’re tracking them inside. I’m trying to keep the porch swept off to stay ahead, but it might be a losing battle until every last leaf has fallen.

I enjoy taking things in small bites. Some of my clients want to push it longer because they’re motivated and I encourage them to stop.

It’s better to develop the habit day after day rather than surging and burning out. Your body will remember the feeling of  small-bite-large-satisfaction and be willing to return. Whereas, if you over-reach, your body will resist a return even to a simple task.

We lived in Albuquerque for 3 years, the home of The International Balloon Fiesta. Before we moved away we took a balloon ride. While the entire experience took awhile, our actual flight time may not have been much more than 15 minutes. But the memory is lasting us a lifetime.

What tasks do you let stack up? What’s your biggest 15 minute memory? What does your morning mug look like?

I am taking time to tend my home. It’s part of my 4-step philosophy in Soulful Cleansing. Identify – Notice – Address – Tend.  I’d love to have you join the class.

I am participating in 31-days of Soulful Cleansing. This project is the collaborative brainchild of The Nester. Join her here and see all the other 31-day projects.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristen @ Motherese October 24, 2012 at 6:08 pm

15 minutes is changing my life. It feels like just the right amount of time to me: enough for a sense of accomplishment without the attendant overwhelm.


rebecca October 26, 2012 at 12:44 pm

My skin got soft reading this comment, Kristen. I pictured a world of women united in a collective task of tending their families/self 15 minutes a day.

Begin with one, Rebecca.


Allison October 24, 2012 at 8:24 pm

Amen, Rebecca! You are so right about NOT pushing it past 15 min because of the resistance the next time. I had never articulated it, but, oh, have I felt it. You are also right about how 15 min x 4 people = 60 min of clean! I love that way of thinking about it (which also happens to be correct). 🙂 Thank you.


rebecca October 26, 2012 at 12:41 pm

Resistance the next time. We stop now, because we want to return tomorrow. Absolutely! Bonus – 15 minutes is doable!


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