Take 15 Minutes to to Get Yourself Organized: 3 Boxes and 2 Bags

With the response of my book The Get Yourself Organized Project being so amazing (BTW – thank you!!!) I have heard from a load of you that you are just overwhelmed when it comes to getting things put  away. It’s much easier to go lay down and watch an episode of Hoarders. (“At least I’m not as bad as her…”) So for the foreseeable future, I will be spending Mondays helping you get your stuff put away, one room at a time. And below, are the basics of the system: 3 Boxes and 2 Bags.

Gather up these materials and then go to a room that is causing you stress and pick one tiny area: maybe it’s a drawer, a shelf, or some small contained area that you can make a dent in.Or, if you want to just quick clean a room, this is a great system for a quick pick-it-up. This week, it’s pick your own room. Next week, we will all be working on our living rooms.

Do this at least once this week, but I warn you – it’s addictive. Once you see how clean one area will be, you’ll want to do it all over your house. RESIST THE URGE. Just do 15 minutes at least once a week – or up to once a day. You’ll love the feeling you’ll get!!!

This is a system you will be using in almost every room in your house as we work week to week, so I want you to gather up everything that you’ll need right now:

1.Set up three boxes, a garbage bag and a recycle bag, your iPod, and a timer. (You can use the one on your cell phone or your oven.)

2.Mark one box as “Other Rooms” one as “Give Away” and one as “Put Back”.

3.Give yourself 15 minutes on your timer and pick a spot to clean out. (No more than you can pull out and put back in 15 minutes.)

4.Go through the area and use the three boxes to sort the contents.


Other Rooms Anything that doesn’t belong in the area you’re cleaning gets put in the “Other Rooms” box. This would include toys in the kitchen, dog brushes in the living room, report cards in the bathroom or dishes in the bedroom.


Give Away Outgrown kids clothes? Check. Videos your family will never watch again. Check.  There is huge freedom in giving stuff away.

Here is a great set of criteria for keeping or giving away an item:

•Is it something you are currently using or wearing?

•Is it something that makes me happy when they see it?

•Is it something I will definitely use in the next six months?

If you can answer “Yes” to one or more, find a home for the item. If not, away it goes.

And a friendly reminder: don’t donate garbage. It costs charities time and money to get rid of stuff that you don’t want. Only donate those things that are in decent condition and are worthy of reselling. Don’t be that person.


Put Back This is the box that you put things that go in that area, but need to be put back into the right place. Clean clothes on the floor of your bedroom that you’re organizing. Shoes under your bed. Scarves hanging over a bedroom chair. These all go in the PUT BACK box so once you’ve got your bedroom in order, you just put those items back where they belong.


Garbage Bag Anything that you don’t want, isn’t worthy of being donated, and can’t be recycled goes in here.


Recycle Bag Recycling regulations vary from city to city, so check with your local municipality if you have any question as to what should be recycled and what shouldn’t.

Once you have cleaned out your area, take the OTHER ROOMS box around the house and put away all the stuff in the box. Take the GIVE AWAY box to where you gather stuff to take to donate, (or, directly to your car to be donated the next time you run errands.) And now, since your area is clean and organized, put back anything in the PUT BACK box into the spot it’s supposed to go.

Doesn’t that feel better? For accountability sake, tell me what area your going to quick clean. If you tell me in the comments, I promise you that you are at least three times more likely to actually do it. (Peer pressure rocks!)

Just a warning: Make sure you take care of your boxes quickly and then put them away. Otherwise, a husband, disgruntled over some fresh claw marks in his new chair, might get some bright ideas about what needs to  be donated.

To Get Yourself Organized in any area of your life, check out my book in my store.TGYOP-300




  1. I’m going to take on the bookshelf in my office! Yikes!

    • Awesome Chris – you can do it!!!

  2. okay Kathi, I am going to take 15 minutes for my car! Good idea with the ipod. I will try it now since the kiddies are sleeping and nothing good is on tv. ha ha

    • Oh the car – the bane of my existence Good for you!!!

  3. I am cleaning off my desk. I have paperwork from January on piled up on the desktop. I will reclaim it for work and it shall remain clean!

  4. Ok I am starting tomorrow. Going to work on the draws in the kitchen desk, you know the junk drawer. eek! But I can do it!

  5. I’m going to do the bookcase next to my bed. One shelf per day. Yay! Can’t wait to glance down the hallway to my bedroom and see a fabulously clean and de-cluttered bookcase!

  6. Good Morning…I am going to clean the piles of stuff, off the floor of my office today!!

  7. i love this Kathi, I have been doing the three bag method you taught me years ago, like this with the boxes so much more. I have a drawer in my bedroom dresser where “everything that doesn’t have a place” goes, you know, old cards I just have to keep, those broken treasures I am sure to fix someday, old keys, etc…
    I am going to tackle that drawer, may take two or three days of 15 mminutes to do, I am quite te emo hoarder…
    I will overcome! Love you!

  8. Dare we post before and after pictures? If I posted a “before”, I would be nominated for hoarder of the year!! I might post an after pic, tho.

    • Me too Sally! Got the shredder out and going to get busy!

  9. I’m going to take on a quarter of our office/playroom…yikes! It’s like the avalanche & overflow area for the house! :-)

  10. Playroom!

  11. I’ve been doing 15 minutes a day at my desk, and my office area is looking SO much better!

    Now it’s time to tackle my bookshelves!!!

  12. We have paper clutter everywhere. I would need to amend the ‘garbage’ one to ‘paper trash’ and ‘shredder’ . I have been doing the other bins over the years, including a file for those things I cannot get rid of, special cards, etc. My husband is a major contributor as well. The mail comes into the house, but gets dropped where there is a flat surface, creating more paper piles. I’m stressing myself out just by typing this! AUGH!

  13. This weekend I cleaned out/purged/organized the bottom three drawers of my desk. Now I just have the top shelf left. I’ll do that this week. Now I’m accountable!

  14. thinking that the three box idea can be made easier if you already have an under-used/unused roll about cart. Then for those of us who get interrupted by children(6 of them) even before the 15 minutes are up, nothing is left out, the cart can roll away into a closet. maybe could even hang the bags for either side. Just thinking in print so thought I’d share.



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