Fix Your Crazy Dining Table Paper Mess in 8 Minutes

That’s right! It’s possible. Suspend your disbelief, set your timer for 8 minutes, and go for it!

Check out these before photos of a dining room, where the quick organization included papers from the floors and other surfaces also.

Here's the after:

If your dining table is worse than the way this one started out, don’t worry! Start wherever you are.


  • Don’t leave the area for any reason

  • Handle only papers, not other items

  • Put everything in one of three categories (only papers, not other things)

  • Make the papers look neater than when you started

The Categories:

  • To put away: this goes somewhere and I know where that place is (but don’t put it away - no leaving the area!)

  • I don’t know: I seriously don’t know what to do with this or where to put it

  • To do: there's something that's gotta be done with this (a phone call, looking something up, a purchase...) and I know what it is.

How to Make the Papers Look Neater:

  • Line up the edges with each other (a neater pile!)

  • Put stuff in containers (only if they are at hand - don’t leave the area!)

  • Takes up less surface area (put things on top of each other, but not if it gives you a stress attack)

If you pick something up and it freaks you out, like “ugh” or “oh God”, don’t worry. Pick a category and move on. You’re in a hurry, you only have 8 minutes!

If you think “oh, God! I really have to do that”, or “oh God, I haven’t done that yet” then it goes in the To Do category.

You might freeze when you pick up an envelope, paper, workbook, sticky note, random note to yourself on the back of something else, or some other thing that used to be a tree and now is on your dining room table.

If you do freeze it’s because you don’t know what to do with it. So put it in the I Don’t Know category and keep moving.

You'll have to work fast and keep moving. Don't agonize over any of the decisions. The goal isn't to deal with the paperwork tasks, it's to make the dining area look better so you can relax. Then you'll have more energy to deal with the stuff one by one.

When your timer goes off, stop and leave! Don’t think about it anymore.

See how you feel when you pass by it later.

Try it! Seriously. I know 8 minutes doesn’t sound like a lot, but you will be AMAZED. Your spirits will lift when your table is more clear.

8 minutes. You've got this.

Go for it!