Staying home? It’s a good time to organize the house.
Mom and dad are now working from home instead of the office. Students aren’t attending classes in person, but rather online. The house has become noisier, messier and more chaotic — and household routines that used to anchor us to sanity have been totally upended thanks to directives that grew out concerns over the spread of the new coronavirus.
With so much chaos in the outside world, managing the chaos at home is now more important than ever. And with the need to keep spaces neat and organized, it’s a great time to tackle clean-up projects at home that have been put off.
First, get motivated to get organized, says Cathy Bates, founder of Practical Solutions (psorganizing.com), a personal organizing business based in Redlands that serves most of Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
“It’s a matter of people having more time right now to get organized,” she says, adding that reducing the amount to manage and clean up makes life easier and less stressful for everyone.
Start by identifying or creating enough personal work and school space for each family member. Reimagine your home and its spaces, especially if you have a small home.
The family of Katie Koentje, owner of the Orange and San Diego counties market for the NEAT Method (neatmethod.com), a nationwide home organizing and virtual organizing company, could be the poster family for current work-from-home/school-from-home situations. Koentje and her husband are both working from home, homeschooling a 5-year-old and also entertaining their toddler.
NEAT organizers nationwide have postponed in-person client appointments but are offering virtual organizing help online. Koentje says the goal of the NEAT Method is to make spaces more functional and reduce stress, and to “turn chaos into calm.”
Koentje says it’s important to designate a specific work or schooling space for each individual in the home and to create a daily routine and schedule.
Pick a spot or multiple locations, and make sure the areas are set up for success for each person. Wall plugs, computer chargers and school supplies should be nearby and accessible. If you have elementary school-aged kids, categorize, contain and label supplies like markers, scissors and glue. Put them in a shoebox or bag and label them, or use a craft cart to contain and organize needed supplies.
Also make sure to keep the mounds of paperwork under control, says Koentje. “Paper flow can be overwhelming, printing things, worksheets and all that. Create ‘to do,’ ‘pending’ and ‘completed’ folders to organize projects, papers and kid crafts. Manage it nightly during clean-up time. Contain and eliminate clutter.”
Each family member also should share their weekly schedule and ask, “What does the next day look like?” says Koentje, adding that it’s important to discuss who has important phone calls, where the calls will be taken and when a family member needs quiet time. “Creating a daily checklist of what needs to be accomplished or a daily schedule helps, especially if people are sharing space. Let the times be fluid but set a goal for what you want to accomplish in the day.”
Here’s another idea from Bates to help manage work-at-home spaces: designate the dining room table as a shared work space and set up a computer workstation there.
“Get creative. Most of the time we eat at the kitchen table anyway. Use the dining table as a community desk,” she says. “Have everyone in the house use moveable crates or a laundry basket for your supplies, books and things you need. Take it to the dining room table to work, and then take it back to your bedroom when you’re done.”
Post a sign-up sheet where family members can reserve the table or the designated shared workspace and let the others know when they need to be quiet.
Also take note of what the area behind the computer looks like and what’s visible behind you if you’re having FaceTime or video chat meetings while working at home, says Bates. “People are starting to clean up the areas behind their desk.”
If the home has only one dining table that’s tabbed as a work or school space, it will need to be cleared off at the end of each day. Koentje suggests incorporating a clean-up time at the end of each day. “Get everything out of sight and out of mind. On Friday, clear it away for the weekend. Being able to clean that up at the end the day is critical for our sanity. It’s mental organizing,” says Koentje.
Aside from managing work and school spaces at home, it’s also a good time to take on household clean-up projects that everyone in the family can help complete. One project is to clear out clutter and get rid of unwanted items around the house. Create a charity donation pile of unnecessary, unused or unwanted items. Toss out or recycle items that are broken, old and unusable.
“It’s a great time to donate and drop off things for people in need. And you are clearing out your stuff,” Bates says.
Koentje suggests tackling home clean-up or organizing projects in small, attainable stages. “Start with an area that’s driving you crazy the most. Don’t think, ‘I’m going to organize my kitchen.’ Think, ‘Today I’m going to organize my utensil drawer or I’m going to organize my Tupperware. Pull it all out and match the lids.”
Or, she adds, go through the kitchen junk drawer or towels and kitchen linens.
“Take everything out, toss what needs tossing, categorize and organize by category: toss, move to elsewhere in the house or donate. Do it in small stages or if you’re on a roll, do a few,” Koentje says. “Put a box of things to donate in your car since you’re not really driving as much now. Store it in there. Charities will want books and supplies.”
Finally, Bates advises families stuck at home to take advantage of the downtime and enjoy each other’s company. “Take these moments that we are together, and don’t focus that we are all on top of each other. Take time to enjoy each other and play a game.”