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How To Mindfully Tackle Home Projects & Maintain Productivity, According To A Professional Organizer

Posted on March 18 2020

We have entered unprecedented times. In the blink of an eye, the globe is staying at home. Many of you have asked me, what can I do at home during this time? Never before have we had the collective chance to think so broadly about the meaning of our homes. 

What I am going to say might surprise you. While it's tempting to jot down a list and sink pent-up energy into cleaning, decluttering, and transforming rooms, I strongly recommend that you take it slow. 

Trust me, we are all going to get stuff done at home. Being at home is an ideal time to take on projects. But we are also in a time of heightened stress, so be mindful of what projects you take on.

Whether your time at home is two weeks—or two months—keep my top strategies in mind to calmly guide you through:

Do light spring cleaning to brighten the mood.

Spring cleaning is a way to refresh and renew our homes, for sure. And when that warm, bright sun starts to sparkle through your windows, it's incredibly hard to resist. 

So by all means, throw open the windows and get to work. I advocate a few top spring cleaning tips every year, and this year should be no different. 

First, wash the windows of your home, any and all mirrors, and all glass surfaces in your home. I call this #LightTherapy, and it's my No. 1, absolute favorite home-care exercise of all time. It goes like this: Humans need vitamin D to thrive, and there's no better source of fresh vitamin D than the purity of springtime sun. It brightens our homes, boosts our mood, and puts a kick in our step. 

Fresh air is a must during times of stress or even illness, so if you are feeling well enough, fling open those windows and get to work. If you have newspaper or newsprint in your home, use this along with your preferred glass cleaner to wipe down streaks, as it works best. Run cleaning rags or dust catchers over surfaces and along room doors and moldings. And take warm, sudsy water to common household touch-spots like doorknobs, light switches, and cabinet knobs and handles. 

While we may be home and less likely to be exposed to others, it is still good practice to model behavior so that you are sure to remember to keep clean once you are back out in the world.

Identify one simple anchor project to move things forward.

At this time of the year, we'd normally be talking about seasonal clothing swaps or a winter-declutter. People are asking, should we still do this even though we are stuck at home? 

The short answer is yes. It's important during times of uncertainty to keep to basic routines, especially when even larger routines—like going to work or sending kids to school—are off the table. 

Start your seasonal clothing swap? Go for it. Dig to the bottom of that front hall closet? You bet. By all means, if the mood strikes, get productive at home. Just be mindful, you may not be able to complete all the next steps that are normally a part of this process. 

Successful home organization requires follow-through. So, if you can't get your donations out the door, can't return that stack of books to your friend, just breathe. In time the world will normalize and you can take action again. 

In the interim, designate one spot in your home where you can collect things that need to get out the door. If you can, avoid the front door to normalize your home as much as possible. Try a corner, or a section of a wall that is not an active pathway.

And if you feel like you need to buy something to complete the job? Don't. Look around your home and repurpose a box, a tub, even a basket that is looking for a new ambition in life to get the job done. There's no better time to get creative and use what you have at home.

Carve out a workspace at home.

For years I have advocated having a workspace or a command center at home, a simple space to tackle paperwork, pay bills, and simply ground yourself for the practical needs of life. For some, this might be a full-blown home office, a separate room in your home with a desk, a chair and room for shelves and equipment. But for others, it may be only a section of a kitchen counter or a corner of your bedroom.

Regardless of your space, find a section of your home that you can designate to focus your brain and take on administrative work. In our normal routines we might use our commute, our external place of work, or even a weekend trip to the coffee shop to clear our heads, make lists, and get things done. But when isolated at home, we need to find both time—and space—to centralize the business tasks of life.

If you are feeling overwhelmed by this, take it slow. Start by sitting with your phone or a notepad and drain your brain. Make a list of the basic things you need to address—from checking in on finances to creating a list of keep-busy projects for the kids. 

And once you find your spot, bring something calming or cheerful into your space to make you smile, like a favorite picture, a friendly decorative item, or something spiritual. It's important to build self-care into each and every day, and that includes the place where we take care of the business of life. 

Keep in mind, our new normal for some time might be remote work and remote distance learning. So get ahead of the curve and take a baby step now to prep your mind and home for the change to come. 

And above all, breathe. The best thing we can do in times like these is to keep a level head and carry on. Our homes are our havens, and while being stuck at home might make you stir crazy—or bring up anxiety over unfinished projects and long-standing clutter—go easy on yourself and shelve that self-critic. Getting organized at home never happens overnight, and now is no different. Focus on projects that lift the mood or inspire. And just like anything else in life, take this one step at a time. 

By Maeve Richmond 

Professional Organizer