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Baby Steps to Organization:: Step Three: Embrace the 5 Minutes or Less Rule

by | Aug 20, 2010 | Organization

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Baby Steps to Organization:: Step Three: Embrace the 5 Minutes or Less RuleBetter Homes and Gardens

We all have a different tolerance level for clutter and different styles of organization. Some of us like to see our stuff out in the open, and some of us like to have everything tucked away behind closed doors. Some of us like to have a meticulous file folders for all the paper in our house, some of us like to just dump things in a box, stick a label on it, and call it done. We are all unique, and that is OK! But if you are not feeling like your home is “under control” I have a simple thought for you today:

Organized = Being able to find most anything you need in five minutes or less.

Baby Steps to Organization:: Step Three: Embrace the 5 Minutes or Less Rule

My friend Brandie taught me what being organized is and what it isn’t. She says being organized means you should be able to find most anything you need in in five minutes or less. I find that concept refreshing.

Being organized doesn’t mean we have to have a perfectly ordered life complete with color coded labels and fancy systems for everything if we are not so inclined — but we do need to be able to find what we need in a relatively short period of time. What organization looks like for every person or family might be different. We have the freedom to be organized in our own way! Just knowing this “five minute rule” makes even my biggest my organizing tasks seem so much less daunting!

Baby Steps to Organization:: Step Three: Embrace the 5 Minutes or Less Rule

When I was a younger mom I actually used a file box full of 3 x 5 cards to keep track of all the contents in all of my twenty Christmas decoration boxes. Every single thing was listed and assigned a box number so I could find it. Eventually, I decided that system was completely overkill because maybe only ONE TIME in my entire life did I need to track down one particular item from my holiday boxes! And knowing me, I would have lost the file box, rendering the system USELESS to help me find the platter neatly stowed away in box 14.

Most often, the simplest organizational plan is best.

You will have the best chance of keeping up with your system if it is simple and straightforward!

Baby Steps to Organization:: Step Three: Embrace the 5 Minutes or Less Rule

Baby Steps to Organization:: Step Three: Embrace the 5 Minutes or Less Rule

Now I just group ‘like’ things together ( like tree decor, outdoor lights, serving items, etc) and I know if I really needed a platter out early, I could find it by simply locating the box marked “Christmas Serving Dishes”. I didn’t need a complicated filing system. I just needed ONE label on ONE box.

Sometimes simple common sense grouping “like with like” organizing is all we need to be able to find what we need in five minutes or less.

I love the five minute or less rule. Guilt, BE GONE! No more complicated organizing charts or systems for me!

Can you find what you need in your home in 5 minutes or less?

Did you miss the previous two posts from this series?

Start with Step One, move on to Step Two, and then you’ll be caught up with this series!

all photos: BH&G


  1. Madigan at madiganmade

    I love that attitude! Simple is always best. I would say our home is relatively organized (some areas better than others). And yes, we can find (most) things in 5 minutes.
    BTW- great selection of photos. Love the inspiration!

  2. Jeanne

    I have been grouping things together all week long Melissa…what a difference it make, especially in our garage. Funny how a little organization can make you feel like a new woman!!

    Have a great weekend!

    Jeanne :)

  3. Jess

    I am with you – it doesn’t have to be complicated to be effective!

  4. Tara

    yep….I organize “like items with like items”…and the system usually allows any of us to find anything we want or need in 5 minutes or less

    UNLESS. someone doesn’t play the game right and put the stuff back where I had so nicely organized it!

    {can you tell that’s happened this week?}

  5. luludesigns

    I wish my organized spaces were as coordinated and lovely as the ones shown! I like the 5 minutes or less concept. I need to apply it to finding my keys as well!

  6. Karena

    Super reminder and tips. I am in the middle of organizing right now!! Wonderful images Melissa!!

    Art by Karena

  7. Anita

    I do try to label the outside of my many many plastic tubs. One thing I have a hard time with is buying stuff after the season on clearance and then forgetting what it was I bought. So, I made a list so I wouldn’t over buy again this year and I would know what I had. Now, I haven’t a clue where that list is!

  8. Kara Fleck

    oh, this is a good one for me! In some areas, yes, I can definitely find what I need in 5 minutes or less – usually much less. But in other areas …. I could use some improvement, for sure.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  9. cathy

    Couldn’t agree with you more! I’ve found it very helpful to use only plain white banker boxes for most of my storage too. Keeps everything neatly stacked. I would use plastic, but they keep changing the colors and shapes. Hate that. :)

  10. Janell Beals

    5 minutes, huh? Then I fail! Most things yes, but an particular old photo or random item, no. Frustrating. I’ll get there, thanks for the “rule” and inspiration! Janell

  11. Lisa~

    I’m definitely an organized girl. I’m with you though, keep it simple. A complicated plan will fall apart quickly in the busyness of life. I love the pictures, very inspiring. Thanks! Lisa~

  12. Mona Kay at Home

    I strive for your definition of organization – it looks different in some areas of my house than in others! However I’m inspired by your pictures!! I’m going to work on the office/workshop this weekend…

  13. Jessica

    I have to say I can find what I need at home in 5 minutes or less, even during our move. I can’t stand clutter, so if we don’t use it, I get rid of it!

    Yes the main rule is to grop similar items together, works every time :-)

  14. janmary, n ireland

    I love this 5 minute rule, but I was sort of hoping it would tell me how to organize and tidy my entire house in 5 minutes …… a girl can dream!

  15. Missy June

    Generally, yes, I can find the things that I need in five minutes or less…with the general exception of various toys. However, ask my daughter where the turquoise and silvery Barbie shoe with two straps can be found, and she knows immediately! It’s amazing. Perhaps I have an organizational genius on my hands!

  16. Laura

    That is the best organizational goal I’ve ever heard of. Being able to find what you need in 5 minutes or less is a realistic goal. My favorite part about it is that it allows me to have different organizational levels for different aspects of my house. For example: my paperwork should be uber organized. My closet? not so much!

  17. Fiona Sanders

    Great rule!! 5 minutes or less! I can almost do that! LOL

    I am setting aside the first two weeks of school (when the kids are gone, and the college girls are moved, and all the financial aid stuff is done!) to put in some extra time around here. I just think it would be a great way to start the school year, and a nice extra push before I start focusing on the holidays. Holidays???? Already???? (fainting-THUD!)

  18. Anita

    I need to seriously work on this 5 minute rule!

  19. Abbie

    That’s a great measure of organization! I can find almost anything in less except for those stacked in boxes in the closet. Then it takes 5 minutes. EXCEPT for the huge roll of fishing line I bought last November to hang porch decorations and have been looking for the whole last month! AH!

  20. Samantha

    I love all these pictures of organized stuff! looooove them.

  21. Sandy

    Um. Sometimes yes. Sometimes no. Lately no. I am feeling a little bit out of control and have a great need to get organized again. Perfect for Fall, huh? Thanks for the inspiration, Melissa!

  22. Mary Joy

    I love all of the pretty organized pictures…they are rooms that I dream of! But your find it in 5 minutes rule makes me sigh with relief. I am so much more organized than I thought!! LOL I am working toward making it all pretty but at least I can find things…most days! :)

  23. Gina

    Yippie! I’m officially organized-what a wonderful rule and such a great reminder that things don’t need to be complicated either. Since I’m more of a “piler” I love this concept!

  24. Misti of Studio M Designs

    I do love being “simplified.” Nice to see such pretty organization photos! It’s funny, I used to be so much more attentive to everything, now…not so much. I keep my like things together, keep the kids’ things out of my room, and life is good. Thank you for the inspiring post. Hope you have a great weekend.


  25. erin

    Oh, I feel inspired to attack my chaos this morning. I don’t know what I like better, the pictures or the post (: Thanks for sharing!

  26. Brandie Kajino

    I’m so glad you all like the 5 minute rule. And if you want to make it beautiful, The Inspired Room can show you how.
    Thanks for the mention Melissa! :)

  27. Sunny

    I have a different 5 minute rule. I don’t want to spend more than 5 minutes a day maintaining any room in my house. If I work fast I can get most of it done with the exception of the kitchen. That takes about 5 minutes after every meal.



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