As I write this, I am over a week into our local mandatory “stay at home” order. No getting out to see friends. No shopping or errand running. No working onsite with my clients. No gym. No hairdresser – yikes. And yet, I remain a member of the glass-is-half-full tribe, and I’m here to tell you there is opportunity in this pause. It’s true, there is a lot we cannot control about the COVID-19 pandemic, but we do have control over our current physical environment – our homes. As moms and spouses, we can positively influence our family members by creating calm, organized spaces for school, work, cooking, relaxation, and play. I encourage you to set aside some time to bring order to a spot in your house this week. Not only will you immediately reap the well-documented benefits of organization during this mandatory time at home, but when you return to your more normal way of living and venture back out into the world, you will still have your newly organized place to return to and enjoy.
The Link Between Stress and Clutter
It isn’t just a characteristic of the Type-A personality; the relationship between stress and clutter is well documented and applicable to all of us. Clutter and disorder can cost us time and money. Have you ever misplaced something and spent valuable time searching for it, or had to repurchase something because you couldn’t find it? Clutter can fuel frustration and lead to embarrassment. Have you ever avoided inviting a friend over because of the appearance of your home? Clutter leads to less satisfaction with life overall, but it is something we can control.
Many of us have unplanned downtime right now. And, all of us could use the greater sense of calm that comes from a tidy space. The act of cleaning out and organizing, in and of itself, delivers those feel-good endorphins we all crave and need in the present moment. So, why not spend some time this week working on your mental health by getting a space in your home in order?
Where to Start
For us mamas, a good place to start with stay-at-home organizing is to create a spot for our children to complete their at-home studies. Like adults, children need an uncluttered work surface and will be encouraged by a tidy, functional atmosphere. They will benefit from having the tools they need – pencils, paper, maybe an iPad – placed in a designated, easily accessible location.
Once you’ve got the kiddos settled, I suggest you turn to your own home office needs. Maybe you’ve finally got some time to clear off your desktop or arrange your filing system. Perhaps you’ve been eyeing a paperless office and have the bandwidth today to scan and digitally organize your paper copies. Even if you have little time to spare at present, investing just fifteen minutes uncluttering the office is going to pay off. Organization breeds calm, which fosters greater productivity.
I’ll admit, I’m spending fewer days officially dressed. My comfy pj’s are staying on way longer than normal, and leisurewear most days just seems to make sense. But, when I do get dressed, it feels really good. And, starting my day off choosing what I’m going to wear from an organized, uncluttered closet is calming and inspiring. You may not get the full impact of an organized closet until you’re back to getting truly dressed daily, but those days are coming! And, the act of culling and organizing now can be a real mood booster.
Here are a couple of closet organizing pointers to get you started:
1. Invest in some quality matching hangers. This is the number one rule in closet organization for a reason. Matching hangers bring a consistent look and feel to the space and deliver dependable functionality for each item of clothing.
2. If you’ve been through a season and the item has hung unworn, it is time for it to go. Closets are meant to house items you love and feel good in. Donate what you aren’t going to wear and make space so you can find the things that you will wear and love!
3. Organize your closet contents by categories that make sense for your clothing collection – by type, style, and color. The idea is to group like items for intuitive and easy access.
4. Dream big. Check out images of organized closets online for inspiration. Look for storage solutions for purses, shoes, sweaters, etc. For my custom closet clients, we offer functional space planning. We can work with you to create your dream closet and then partner with one of our vetted contractors to build the design. This process can be started virtually with physical construction to follow when normal life resumes.
Kitchens are where families gather to visit and prepare and share meals. As such, an organized kitchen will benefit everyone in the home. Not too long ago, I had the privilege of organizing the kitchen of my dear friend Kellie Logsdon, a holistic health and nutrition counselor, owner of The Kellie Kitchen, and Keto recipe maker extraordinaire! She’s the first to say organization in the home can help us maintain healthy eating and, as such, she prioritizes order and smart systems in her kitchen.
Are you seeking a better-organized kitchen? Consider:
· Cleaning out the fridge. Given the number of times it is opened, having a clean refrigerator can deliver a glimpse of order and sense of calm many times throughout the day. What’s more, being able to locate what you need when you need it will make meal prep much more efficient and pleasant.
· Investing in matching Tupperware that stacks neatly. Random food containers generally cannot be stored efficiently. And, the goal here is to be able to find the lid you need, when you need it!
· Tackling the spice cabinet. I’m going to bet you have at least one expired spice in your kitchen. Chances are something in there is dried up and unusable. Pull it all out. Toss what needs to go. Make a list of what you need to repurchase. Then, put the spices back alphabetically or using a system that makes sense for the way you cook. Consider ordering a spice rack or lazy Susan for greater accessibility. This is a kid-friendly activity, so recruit some support! Everyone can read expiration dates. In fact, young eyes are often better suited for the tiny numbers.
· Arranging the utensil drawer. How many times have you become frustrated looking for the right slotted spoon or the correct spatula? Maybe you have gadgets in there you’ve never used. Will you ever? Perhaps some of the items don’t “earn” a spot in the common drawer and are better stored elsewhere. As you rearrange your utensil drawer, consider if you would benefit from a drawer organizer where you can group like items. Drawer inserts and dividers create homes for your utensils and tools.
Other Areas of the Home Where Organizing Pays Off Big
Workspaces, closets, and kitchens aren’t the only places where uncluttering and organizing can make a big impact. Playrooms present a plethora of organizing opportunity. Toys and games accumulate. Some fall out of favor; others are outgrown. Playroom purging is another great activity to do with your children while they are home. Set up a box for donation. Have the children choose what to donate. Allow them to guide you in rearranging what they choose to keep. What items should be stored together? What is used infrequently and can therefore be stored on higher shelves, or in less-accessible areas? If your budget allows, choose new fun, functional containers for storage. We like clear tubs so kids can see what they have! Otherwise it might result in “out of sight out of mind,” and who wants to store toys that aren’t being used?
Now is also a great time to tackle the garage. The outside temperature is pleasant and being outside is sure to boost your mood. Once again, start with some purging. Garages often become the clearinghouse for items that simply need to be tossed. I recommend pulling everything out and then putting it back in orderly, culling as you go. Consider investing in some smart storage to get things up off the floor or otherwise positioned to maximize the space - bike racks, bike hooks, fishing pole holders, bins, and storage shelves. I’m a big fan of the Elfa garage storage system. If you need supplies, check to see if your local store is open. Many are offering curbside pick-up.
Challenge Yourself to Organize One Space This Week
Can you think of a spot in your home that would benefit from some decluttering? I encourage you to organize one space this week. It’s a proactive way to capitalize on this bonus time we’ve been given during social distancing. Start slowly. Be gentle and realistic with yourself. For some, one shelf in the closet or one area of the kitchen will be enough. The wonderful thing about cleaning out and organizing is that it often becomes a self-fueling activity. You see the fruits of your effort and you seek more.
Not sure where to start? Consider partnering with a professional organizer. We’re trained in identifying and implementing smart and practical organization solutions. Many of us are offering virtual sessions which can be just as productive as in-person consultations. Finally, keep in mind that the work you do now is going to contribute to a greater sense of calm in this crazy moment. And, in the joyous time that will most certainly follow our mandatory “stay at home,” all the fruits of your home organizing will still be there waiting for you when you return from, finally, being out and about.
Jenny Dietsch, owner of Getting It Done Organizing, is a Certified Professional Organizer (CPO) who believes order and beauty in the home bring peace and contentment. She and her team are committed to creating functional and aesthetically pleasing systems for their clients and their families. In addition to professional home organization and decluttering, Getting It Done Organizing also offers home staging, moving assistance, and holiday prep/clean-up services.