What Can You Do In 10 Seconds?

Have you ever noticed that, even if no one is in the middle of some big project, your house always seems to get messy? Pillows are thrown off the couch onto the floor. Dishes get left out. Shoes and jackets are not where they belong. Books or papers are left on tables. People living in a house togethers and staying home full time can cause a normally tidy area to get messy many times a day.


Would you believe me if I told you that you could pick up the main living areas of your house in about 10 seconds with the help of your children? I call it the "10-second tidy" We did this multiple times a day when all of my children were at home.


The "10 Second tidy" will revolutionize your life.


It isn’t a monumental feat. It isn’t even very strenuous or challenging. It is however, a discipline that you should teach to every member of your household. They should learn to focus on doing only one task for 10 seconds: cleaning up their area. This means that they must look for all of the things that are out of place in a room and put them away quickly.


The 5-10 minute pick up

To start with, I just designate the areas: the living room, the kitchen, the front hall and the computer room or whatever are the main living areas in your home. Then I just ask them all to tidy up everything they see that is out of place, and I time them. And, I always help! Modeling is part of parenting. Typically it will take at least 5-10 minutes if things aren’t particularly messy. They aren’t trying to be productive. They don’t see many of the things that you see. They might take 5 trips to the kitchen when they could have taken one trip to put all the dishes in the sink. They might even spend a little time complaining. Let them know how long it took them and that you are proud of them for working so diligently getting it done so quickly.

The 1-2 minute pick up

The next time the same area needs a pick up tell them you will set the timer for one or two minutes to see if they can get the same area picked up in a much shorter time frame. Remind them to take fewer trips to the same place to put things away. Tell the older children to leave the easier, more obvious things out for the younger kids. Don't forget to help them! Modeling is part of parenting. They may not believe that they can clean up the house in only 1-2 minutes or they might see it as a challenge. Regardless, they will realize that they can get more picked up and they will move faster than they did the first time. Again, applaud them for a job well done!

The 10 Second Tidy

Then ,the third time the area needs to be picked up, which could be that same day or another day. Tell them that they have 10 seconds. Assign everyone an area, even if it overlaps with another child. Have them all stand in their area and tell you 5 things they can see that are out of place. That gives them a starting place so they don’t spend the first half of the 10 seconds wondering what to do. Once everyone has at least 5 things they can pick up, tell them to start and you can begin to count.

I start with a VERY SLOW count to 10 that probably takes more like 30 seconds. Over the coming days and weeks I pick up the pace and make it more of a 15 second pace. That's my big secret. It isn't a literal 10 seconds, but it gets a big job accomplished in a very short time!

I would often use this system:


  • before we sat down to meals

  • before bedtime

  • right before going out of the house so I could come up to a tidy house :)

  • when an unexpected visitor pulled into the driveway

The 10-second Tidy is a powerful weapon when you need a fast pick up of the main living areas in your home. Kids love to run around and they get to work off some built up energy. It also gives them a sense of accomplishment when they see the results of their joint effort and everyone works together.


Don’t just survive...THRIVE!