Use this stress-free, step-by-step process when you find yourself face-to-face with almost any major cleaning project.

By Berit Thorkelson
June 08, 2015

Starting big projects can be intimidating. And the longer you put off a big project, the bigger it grows. Rather than waiting until you finally clear a huge block of time to tackle the whole thing (next to impossible, right?), work toward your cleaning goal in manageable 15-minute increments, suggests Aby Garvey, organizing and productivity expert at

Here's her simple six-step process for tackling big cleaning projects little by little.

STEP 1: Set a Start Time

Be specific. Write it on your calendar. Stick to it. Getting started may well be the hardest part, but look on the bright side: When you finally do, it's often easy to continue. "The task will feel so much more manageable, you may actually want to keep going," Garvey says.

STEP 2: Declutter

Grab two boxes, a black marker, and a timer. Head directly into the problem area, whether it's the garage, the guest room, or your bedroom closet. Label the first box "trash" and the second one "donate." Then set your timer for 15 minutes, and fill your boxes with the easy pickings -- items you no longer use or need. Try to fill both before the timer dings. Feeling motivated? Keep going! Feel like stopping? No problem. Pick up where you left off tomorrow.

STEP 3: Repeat Step 2

Commit to decluttering at least 15 minutes each day until you're done. If you find you skip more than one day in a row, schedule the time on your calendar again. Once the easy stuff is gone, dig deeper. Start on one side of the space and work your way around, focusing on one small area at a time to avoid feeling overwhelmed.

STEP 4: Create a Task List

When decluttering is done, focus on identifying a few small tasks that will move your project forward. Rest assured, this does not have to be a perfect and complete list. If you're knee-deep in the guest room, for example, tasks might be "clean out the dresser" and "organize the closet."

STEP 5: Bite-Size It

Pick a task from your task list and make it even smaller. Instead of tackling the entire dresser or closet, for example, focus on cleaning just the top drawer or a single shelf. Again, set your timer for 15 minutes and work until it dings.

STEP 6: Finish

Continue to list tasks, then bite-size them as they become apparent. When you see the light at the end of the tunnel, you may just want to schedule a longer session to get the job done. When it's done, don't forget to clean it regularly to prevent slipping into big-project territory again. Congrats!

Keep Going!

Sometimes the right tips that suit your style can make all the difference in your cleaning habits. Take our fun quiz and discover your cleaning personality. You'll be paired with tricks and ideas to help you clean up your way.

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