There’s a reason 45-gallon storage totes are on sale this time of year: It’s January, and that means the post-holiday sweep is in full effect.

“I just need some order in my life!” I wail to anyone who will listen before I set out on some cockeyed plan that will somehow put everything in its place without too much work.

One year, the plan was to attack a small area each day until, magically, the entire house was in order. Somehow, the areas I chose to attack got smaller and smaller.

Another time, I took on Marie Kondo’s method of eliminating everything I did not love. Unfortunately, I was a woman who loved too much.

This year, though, I’ve discovered a method so effective I’d put it on YouTube if I knew how: I just devote 30 minutes a day to clearing the clutter of my choice.

It’s easy. I just tell Alexa, “Set the timer for 30 minutes.”

She answers, “Thirty minutes. Starting now.”

This creates a sort of childhood flashback, wherein I imagine Alexa is standing there, tapping her virtual foot and watching me like my late mother who has just ordered me to clean my room. I am 8 again, and in a hurry to go out and play.

The first clutter of choice is the bathroom cabinet, where I find over-the-counter drugs dating back to 2006. Within a half-hour, I’ve pitched a pharmacy’s worth based solely on expiration date before Alexa plays her little “do-do-do-dah-dah” chant and I can happily yell, “Alexa, stop!”

I can hardly wait till the next day, when I can tackle the shampoo bottle that upended itself around the time the prescriptions expired. It lies sideways in a puddle of hardened amber goop reminiscent of oozing lava. To my delight, a paint scraper lifts it without a trace in under 30 minutes.

“Procrastination pays off!” I announce, to which Alexa responds, “Sorry, I didn’t get that.” Just like my mother.

The next day, with little time to contemplate, I have the closet swept of clothes I now decide I don’t love as much as I did last year.

All goes swimmingly until I hit the bookshelves. If I haven’t read them by now, would I ever? And couldn’t I always get them at the library? And shouldn’t I be sharing them with the entire community? But what about things I might have marked in the ones I did read? The debate rages till Alexa says, “Do-do-do-dah-dah.”

If I were making a YouTube video, I would be compelled at this point to offer some advice, which is: If you get stuck, just move on, because that’s what works for me.

Searching for a bottle of Goo Gone in the mistaken belief that the previously mentioned shampoo would still be gooey, I discover a cache of unused cleaning products in the hall closet.

“Set timer for 30 minutes!” I tell Alexa, and I’m off and running, unearthing spray bottle after can after jar of toxic items I do not love and packing them into boxes destined for a hazardous-waste center.

Since they share space with enough extension cords, candles and flashlights to illuminate a city, I keep going with donations galore. And since it’s right next to the coat closet, what the heck. I donate the ones I do not love. And since the laundry room is right next door, a collection of “just-in-case” rags goes into the garbage.

It’s not until I’ve filled two hazardous-waste boxes, four garbage bags and an enormous donation bag that I notice I never heard “do-do-do-dah-dah.”

“Alexa, how much time on timer?” I ask. To which she replies, “No timers set.”

I’m sure my mother put her up to it.

Balancing Act author Pat Snyder is a northwest Columbus resident and life-balance speaker and coach. Find her at