The 5-10 Minute Rule

No matter how beautifully we decorate our homes, if they're messy & disorganized, we can't appreciate or even see the beauty. However, I think of "messes" as reality, at least in my life. I have a toddler and a job, and hence, my house is almost always a mess. BUT in general, I'm okay with this mess, because it can be disposed of in 5 to 10 minutes, tops.

So, I'll never pretend that I can have a "messless" life-- for me it's just not possible-- but I can have "organized messes." I consider an "organized mess"as a mess that's allowed for a time. It's a manageable mess & the most important thing about it is that it MUST BE ABLE TO BE CLEANED UP IN 5-10 MINUTES! That's the rule. It's easy to get rid of because an organized mess has a place where it belongs: baskets, bins, drawers, cabinets, shelves, etc... a SPECIFIC HOME. (This is the key to putting it away quickly, because you're not shoving the mess anywhere, you're putting it back where it belongs.)

I wanted to share with you some of my favorite tools/ organizational pieces used to handle messes and "stuff." Below is a picture of what I consider an "organized mess." The pillows on the sofa are all messed up, toys are everywhere & there are a few magazines/ books laying around. But it would take only 5-10 minutes MAX to get this messed cleaned up. And I'm so okay with it.

In our living room, we have a shelf with baskets full of Christian's toys. (Now I know some might think it sacriligous to keep toys in fairly plain sight in the living room, but it's the way we want to live... we all want to be able to hang in the same room, so I figure for a few years while we have little ones I can give up a half-wall in the living room ;)

Anyway, toys are all over the floor half the time but when we need to get them cleaned up, it takes 5 minutes to put them all away neatly in the baskets. (The key is keeping them in not-too-full baskets because there's always room, even when throwing the toys in carelessly and the little guy can help too. )

This hutch (below) in the family room (pic is from old house) fits tons off storage for toys and also photo albums & other random things. It makes clean-up so easy and totally hides all evidence if kiddies!!

I never regret spending on organizational items like baskets & storage bins. I'm often reluctant to buy them because I would rather spend the money on something pretty, but they're worth their weight in gold.

I LOVe these huge baskets from ikea. It's where I stick all the pages I've ripped out of magazines before they go into my Style Files:

For my office, these hanging file bins are awesome & when there's a mess all over my desk I can easily & quickly (less than 5 mins!!) stow it all away with these suckers:

So, my goal is to have every room in the house obeying the "5-10 Minute Rule." (and right now I'm SO far from that!! It seems as soon as we got our old house in perfect order, we moved!! I'm NOT doing that again!! ) Here's a quick punch-list for our new house:

1) Our closet --> it's a HUGE 4-6 HOUR MESS right now!! We need to install more bars & storage and get things put away nicely. Below is how we've been living: (ahhhh I can't believe I'm showing you this!!) It's tough to feel organized when your closet looks like this:

2) Little guy's bedroom-> Since I stole the toy shelf from his room, he doesn't have anywhere for the toys in his room and unfortunately the furniture form our old house doesn't fit right in his bedroom, which is driving me crazy!!!!

3) The kitchen-> I have more shelves to go up with baskets for extra storage but I'm waiting on the wallpaper install before I can get to this:

4) The entryway-> To put it simply, it doesn't work right now. We need to add some storage & decorate it asap!! It's so drab & unfunctional right now!! (haha check out my dead hydrangeas in the little vase & the dog chow- now THAT'S styling!!! ;)

There just doesn't seem to be enough time in the day!!! but i know everntually we'll get there... (don't worry, i'll take pics! ;)

Now, what to do with all that stuff that doesn't have a place? Arrggg like the strange piece of mail you don't know where to put (you need to handle it sometime soon, but not soon enough to warrant immediate attention) or those stupid screws that keep showing up everywhere (with all of these projects going on right now!!!) or the returns you need to make at the store or your pile of giveaways?

Take stock of the all items that keep popping up and start creating places for them. They're not going to go away and isn't it annoying to have them keep popping up? If you create a place for them to go, clean up is so much quicker!! Different times & stages in your life will call for different random clutter-busters. Wintertime items vs. beach towels & sunblock or screws and tools all over the place when you're in the middle of renovating. Whatever it is, realize the type of clutter you have as quickly as possible and find a place for it. The solutions should be easy & obey the 5-10 Minute Rule. (Sometimes this means not organizing down to the last minute detail because clean-up could be really time consuming!!)

I'm on my way to follow my own advice now... So, how are the rooms in your house? Do they meet the 5-10 Minute Rule? Any rooms on your "To-do" list? would love to know!!




Vanilla Lavender said...

I do too have a toddler and yes "mess" is every where... I try to use baskets as an easy storage solution and I love it! Have a great day!

Sarah's Fab Day said...

If only I were so organized.

Rachel said...

Everything is on the 5-10 minute rule EXCEPT the master bedroom that we've yet to move into - there are clothes everywhere!!! I've had it on my TO DO list for a good month or two and materials are bought, I just need to get on top of it!

LindsB said...

love this post- I need to get better at the 5-10 rule for sure! I am an organization freak, but somehow I always make it difficult for myself- I think because I buy storage with tops on them, that makes it just one step harder.

I think I need a trip to Ikea to get those baskets, I love them!

Jennifer said...

I need to work on some organization for myself. Our office is the "man space," so I have little piles of my messes stashed all over the house.

What are you going to do with your dog food?! We don't have the cabinet space to hide it away and it's driving me crazy!

joanie said...

Great post! We all seem to suffer from some degree of "clutter-itis." Finding a place for things is an important step. Being ruthless about getting rid of things that you no longer need, use, like, or wear is also important--and hard--at least for me. But reading your blog inspires me to renew the organizational efforts. Thanks. I'll be back.


sarah said...

I live in a small house with two toddlers and tons of clutter!! I try to use baskets but of course there is still clutter. I am in the process of building a house so hopefully I can get a fresh start with the organization!!

April said...

I love the fact that you also have toys in your living space! It's so unrealistic to try and hide toys when you clearly have a child. love what you are doing w/ your new home too!!

A-M said...

You know what I love about your blog?... you are so real! Thank you for posting your entry way with dead flowers and dog food... it is a reminder to all of us that life has to be real!!!.... and a little bit hilarious too! I too lived a life that revolved around tidy storage for toys, out in the open, where we could play with them. I look at your toy filled rooms with a tinge of sadness and fond memories of the toddler years. Cherish the toys, I say! A-M xx

DesignTies said...

All my messes fall into the 5-10 HOUR category!! And even things that have a place end up in some other place. Like the mail. There's a magazine rack beside the front door specifically for mail. Every day when hubby comes home, he takes the mail out of the rack and puts it on the kitchen counter. Drives me INSANE!!!

I find writing a to-do list encourages me to take care of my messes. It feels good when I can cross something off the list :-)


Room Service ~ Decorating 101 said...

You are so smart. When my girls were younger we had what I called the 15 min rush. I would call it, and they had to put things away in a 15 min rush. If they did not, it turned into lots and lots of chores...they learned fast to do the rush...the rush was better!

Terri Wright said...

So many wonderful ideas Lauren. So glad David gave me your website. If only I could carve out time to make my lists. I can't wait for summer to use time to get organized.

Sarah said...

Lauren-we just moved and you are spot on about the random screws popping up everywhere and that piece of mail you aren't ready to read,shred,toss or keep. These things seem to be covering every surface. I'll attempt to explain the 5-10 minute rule to my husband.

Maria Killam said...

Lauren, you rock!! Love your 10 minute clean up rule to strive for! Fabulous! Great lessons for other designers with small children!

heathero said...

Lauren, I love the bookcase in the living room. I am dying to get a similar one. Where did you get it? I also boutght canvas baskets for my pantry to hold extra board games and they work so well! They are from Walmart and cheap!! But it keeps my pantry looking so neat and clean! Thanks for all your ideas!

Anonymous said...

Love this post! Thanks for showing us your real life. Now, I'm off to pick up; back soon!

pve design said...

"A place for everything" pick up rule is crucial.
I have to live by this in order to get to work since most of my work is done from home. I like to work with a sense of order. Somehow it calms my inner creative chaos! Baskets, storage and shelves are key!

Federica said...

What a great blog you have!
Greetings from Italy,

Velvet and Linen said...

Won't you come to my home and organize me, Lauren!
I love all of your ideas. Those toy bins on the shelf look so pretty and clean.
Happy, organized weekend, Lauren.


nkp said...

You are fantastic! Such a smart and practical rule and I know all about the organized and often disorganized mess. I have three sons, all under age ten and I decided long ago not to hide their toys. We have two play rooms, but really the entire house is a play room and happily so. I fully intend to adopt some of your tips, thanks for the inspiration!

alice said...

Best rule ever!
Makes the last minute scramble to get cleaned up so much less stressful!
I love all your organizing bins and baskets! said...

Two sons + two (big) dogs + 1 (not as neat as he'd like to think) husband = my life in a fraternity house! I LOVE the idea of the 5 - 10 minute rule. I'm going to try that with the kids and see if it gets us through summer break.
The storage baskets from Ikea look like something I need to check out,too. Oh, and the picture of your closet--priceless! I try to periodically purge and manage to get mine looking pretty good, and within a couple of months, I'm back to ground zero--very frustrating. I hang on to the vision of the day I get my house perfect and it stays that way!

Desperate Housewife said...

I love this post and your bravery to put real life posts of your house. It's beautiful, real and functional. I have "linked" you into my new blog!

Anonymous said...


Cote de Texas said...

you're so organized, i'm jealous of everything except your closet!!! Girl!!!!!!! hahah!!!
love you. love your new house too.

Terri said...

Lauren - great post! Love the Dog Chow. That is reality, isn't it? Your house looks great - full of love, but I totally agree that keeping it tidy is the best option, with small messes. I never let the house get out of control and feel like it is a steady battle to put things in their place. I am a big believer in storage and having a place for everything. My mother is the opposite - things don't have a place and it is chaos. Finally she started putting her car keys in one place and that has saved how many hours of searching??

That closet looks scary - David's "room" (where he has his dressers and closets since our master BR is so small) looks like that all the time, but I just close the door. But you will get it under control in no time, I have no doubt! Then you will feel much, much better.

xo Terri

Michelle said...

Loving the new home Lauren!

I have to say, as a mother of kids in college now 21 and 19, they make more mess than they ever did. I'm having a hard time keeping to the rule :(

It's feeling a bit out of control around here, since I have focused my attentions outside.

High-Heeled Foot in the door said...

Great rules! I try and have everything ready to be cleaned up in 5-10 minutes, but it always last way longer. I blame all the dog hair in my house. I feel like I'm constantly cleaning!

DesignTies said...

I loved this post, Lauren!
Because of our renovations, we've been living in mayhem for over a year now. We're talking messes that take longer then your ideal 5-10 minutes to clean up! Problem is that, while I'm creating storage places with each complete room, we have too many un-completed rooms!! Perfect example = I desperately need an office because I have a printer on the living room floor and papers/mags scattered on different surfaces throughout the house! But... the office won't be done for a few more months. Sigh!!
Victoria @ DesignTies

Love Where You Live said...

such great tips and ideas! can you please come tend to my mud room?! ha. cheers, -susan

Haven and Home said...

Ah, the screws that show up everywhere, I finally found a home for them. Your blog is just so good. I REALLY wish we lived closer to so I could come over! Yes, I would invite myself over. Your house is looking great!

Jennifer said...

Please tell me where the hanging pocket organizers are from! They're lovely!