What Can You Do in the Time It Takes Popcorn to Pop?
In short: a lot. Learn how to reclaim the time you spend waiting, whether at home or on-the-go.
by Jennifer Haupt
Let’s face it: We all put off organizing our homes, purses, cars and lives because we don’t think we have time. “Once you start looking at all the time you spend waiting for this or that, the minutes really add up,” says Donna Smallin, author of The One-Minute Organizer. Put those wasted minutes to work, she says; even just five minutes a day adds up to seven hours a month — plenty of time for organization.
While you’re playing the waiting game, try out these quick and practical organizing tips:
While popcorn is popping
3 minutes in the kitchen
- Organize the day’s mail — toss the outer envelopes and inserts in bill statements along with junk mail.
- Organize a drawer — if there’s not a lid for a container, toss it.
- Be brave as you open the fridge to play “leftover roulette,” popping open mystery containers to see what’s still edible, suggests Smallin. Also, check out the expiration dates on condiments and half-full jars of spaghetti sauce.
- Rifle through that overflowing coupon box and toss the expired ones. Then, file new ones by category and by date.
- Take out the trash, and make sure the recyclables are in order.
- Empty or load the dishwasher — wipe down a shelf while you’re at it.
While cookies are baking
12 minutes in the kitchen
- Plan dinners for the week and write a grocery shopping list.
- Organize your junk drawer. Toss the stuff that’s really garbage, like toys from fast-food restaurants, dusty plastic silverware and wrappers from used packs of batteries. Then, use a compartmentalized plastic tray to separate loose stamps, paperclips, coins and things that aren’t really junk.
- Organize your pantry: Throw out expired cans, stale bread and cereal boxes with only crumbs left.
- Spruce up your spice drawer or cabinet — put the spices you use most toward the front, and throw out “mystery” spices without labels.
- “Chop up some fruit and make a fruit salad for tomorrow,” suggests organizing expert Maria Gracia.
While the tub fills up
3 minutes in the bathroom
- Toss used towels in the laundry bin and hang up some clean ones.
- Organize your make-up drawer — a recent study from the College of Optometrists warns that mascara, lipstick and eye shadow more than three to six months old can be a hotbed for bacteria. Check the expirations dates in tiny print, or just toss whatever looks gunky.
- Organize the space under the vanity: Toss crusty bottles of hair product, face wash/cream you haven’t used in months, stray cotton balls and Q-Tips.
- Straighten your linen closet, and make a pile of threadbare washcloths and hand towels you can convert to dust rags.
- Toss expired prescriptions and over-the-counter medications; wipe down a shelf in the medicine cabinet.
- Clean the toilet. Pour in a quick-acting cleaner like Kaboom Bowl Blaster, then brush and flush.
- Gracia suggests organizing your hair accessories into an over-the-door shoe organizer. The pockets will help you sort everything beautifully, so you can easily find what you need.
During TV commercials
4 minutes in the family room
- Organize a DVD shelf or book shelf, and make a donation pile of movies your kids have outgrown and books you won’t read again.
- Venture under the couch to hunt dust bunnies.
- Put all toys (including the dog’s) in a toy box or basket in the corner of the room.
- Recycle old magazines, and put those you intend to read in the magazine rack.
- Do some quick calisthenics so you don’t feel like such a couch potato.
While your child brushes teeth before bedtime
5 minutes in their room (Note: You may want to wait to do these things with your child.)
- Organize the sock and underwear drawer, tossing anything that no longer fits or just doesn’t look wearable anymore.
- Put all stray stuffed animals into baskets.
- Turn down the bed, pull down the shade and turn on a lamp. You’re all ready for bedtime stories.
- Put all stray tapes and CDs into their cases. To get your child involved, buy a colorful plastic carrying case for your child to store their lullaby and playtime music in.
- Donna Smallin, author of The One-Minute Organizer, suggests laying out an outfit for the next day, ready for your child’s approval or a quick switch. This will save time during the morning rush the next day.
Waiting to pick up your child from school
5 minutes in the car
- Bring a trash bag and pick up all cups, napkins and litter in the car.
- Pay bills — store statements, envelopes, check book, register, envelopes and stamps in an accordion file with handle.
- Schedule dental and doctor appointments, order prescription refills, confirm appointments.
- “Jott” yourself by calling 1-877-568-8486 — your voice message will be converted to a text or email.
- Donna Smallin, author of The One-Minute Organizer, suggests organizing the interior of your car, including the glove compartment and the catch-all netting on the seat backs.
Waiting in line at the post office or grocery store
3 minutes on your feet
- Write a to-do list for the next day.
- Make a quick phone call to make an appointment you’ve been putting off.
- “Look at the supermarket magazines and see if you can find any organizing tips,” says organizing expert Maria Gracia.
- Organize your purse — put stray coupons in the side pocket, check hand lotion bottles to see if they’re empty, throw out candy wrappers and old store receipts.
Waiting at the doctor’s office
10 minutes in a comfy chair
- Organize your social life — make a lunch date with a friend you haven’t seen in a while.
- Tackle your “should do” list: write a thank you note or a card to a friend; call your mother.
- Close your eyes, practice deep breathing and organize your thoughts.
- Check out the health magazines that are mainstays of a doctor’s office. Learn something new about your kidneys, or some great exercise tips.
- Bring a tote bag with a couple of sewing repair projects.
On the phone, on hold
1-3 minutes (we wish!) in your home office
- Organize your e-mail — create file folders that make sense and delete spam.
- Go through paper file folders one a time, looking for outdated papers to toss or shred. Mark where you left off for next time.
- Send a virtual greeting card to let someone know you care, or even a real paper greeting card from your computer.
- Run the virus scan or disk defragmenter on your computer to keep it healthy.
- Go through your file of tax deduction receipts and paperclip those in the same category to simplify the process next April.