If you're thinking, 'who has time to think about home organizing at a time like this?'—hear me out! I have a few reasons why you may want to reconsider. But first, if you are ill or have a loved one who is ill, my heart goes out to you. If you're suffering financially because the current state of things has impacted your job or business, I empathize. These issues are far more significant than being bored at home.
But—for those of us who are not taking care of those who are sick or keeping crucial aspects of our country afloat—we're spending more time at home. Together. And that means our homes are playing a larger-than-usual role in our lives. We are feeling the full impact of our clutter. It's easier to ignore things that bother you when you rush out to work every morning vs. trying to work remotely on a dining room table covered with art projects, mail, and library books.
Whether you have more time on your hands or less (nothing brings the crazy like trying to work from home and entertain kids who are out of school), investing some time in organization can help, and here's why:
Right now, many people feel like there isn't much they can control—and that can be unsettling or heighten anxiety. The state of your home is within your control. Bringing order to a kitchen drawer or linen closet can be oddly satisfying when the world around you feels chaotic. And since most people don't respond well to being controlled, it's far better to tackle a closet than micromanage your kids' daily schedule!
If you're going to spend virtually all of your time in your house, make it a pleasant place to be, whatever that means for you. If you're working from home and don't already have one, set up a comfortable place to work. Maybe it's a home office, maybe it's a dining room table. If you're lucky, it has a door! Planning quality time on your couch? Clear the living room clutter so it's a comfortable spot for everyone.
All of the things in your home are items that your mind processes on some level. Visual clutter is mental clutter. Getting rid of things and putting items away—to reduce the visual clutter your mind is processing—can be incredibly soothing in general, and extra appreciated at a time like this.
That's the WHY. Here's the WHAT, with a focus on areas or items you're using a lot right now:
1. Coat closet or mudroom. You're home, and so are your things. Remove anything that's too small, worn out, or missing its mate. Now is the perfect time to wash coats and other winter gear.
2. Art supplies. Task your kids with testing markers, tossing broken crayons, recycling used up coloring books, etc. If you have activity books or workbooks that they've outgrown, now is an excellent time to pass them on to someone younger who is bored at home.
3. Books. If you've already read it and won't reread it (or your kids have outgrown it) now is a great time to pass it on. Many libraries are closed, so the books cluttering up your nightstand might provide hours of entertainment for someone else. Look for a little free library, or make a Facebook post for local friends and leave the books in a box by your front door for a social distancing book exchange. You can always wipe them down with a disinfectant wipe. (This is another great project for kids—let them clean out their own books.)
4. Pantry. Chances are, there's more than normal in your pantry. Group like items together so it's easy to find things and put the things with the furthest-out expiration date in the back.
5. Refrigerator. Just like in the pantry, store like items together with the newest in the back. Store produce properly so it lasts as long as possible. Keep leftovers together on one shelf so they don't go to waste.
6. Freezer. Since it's easy to forget what's in the depths of your freezer, take the time to go through it. Group like items to minimize searching (and frozen fingers!).
7. Home office or desk. If you have an office, you're probably using it more than ever. Shred the bills from two years ago and remove or minimize distractions (any "to do" item that is unrelated to your job) so you can be as productive as possible.
8. Games and puzzles. Chances are you're playing more games than normal—and if you're not playing games now, do you ever? So assess what you have—if it's outgrown, missing pieces, too complicated, or just not fun, out it goes.
9. Under-sink cabinets. Get rid of old cleaning supplies, attachments for the vacuum cleaner you no longer own, all those extra plastic bags, and make room for the extra wipes and toilet paper you bought. Bonus: you may even find hand sanitizer or disinfecting wipes you didn't know you had!
10. Makeup. Maybe you're wearing it right now and maybe you're not, but either way this is a great small project that can free up bathroom space (maybe for that extra toilet paper?!?!) Did you know makeup expires? Find specific guidelines here.
11. Living room coffee and side tables. If these are places where clutter accumulates in your home, clear them off so you can enjoy your living space without being surrounded by clutter.
12. School papers. Take advantage of the break from papers coming home from school and deal with anything that's accumulated. If something is worth saving, put it in a designate box or folder. If it wouldn't be special a couple years from now, just recycle it now.
13. Mail and papers. If you have a backlog, go through it. (One upside to social distancing is that half of it is probably irrelevant now anyway.) Every day, as soon as you get the mail, deal with the mail. Get rid of every single thing you don't absolutely need (the inserts that come with your electric bill, catalogs, etc.) Find lots more tips—including how to get less mail—here.
14. Homeschool station. This will be different for everyone, depending on what you want your kids to do while out of school. Whether it's full of educational resources or craft kits, giving those items a specific home will keep your home neater. This doesn't need to be fancy; it can be a single shelf, a plastic bin, a rolling cart—use what you have. If you're working from home, you can even send your kids to that spot to find something to do while you work.
I hope you'll try a project or two and see if it helps you feel calmer. This list is not intended to be a stressful list of things you must do...just a way to feel more intentional about and in control of your house, at a time when you're in it a lot. You always deserve to have a home that feels like a haven and a refuge from the world, but even more so right now.