Though there are some benefits to working from home while we shelter in place — staying in comfy clothes, quick access to the fridge, and seeing your family more often — there is one phenomenon that consistently has people itching to return to the office: clutter. We are all used to the pile-up of dishes and clothes that is consistent with being out of the house for 8-10 hours a day. But now that we are home for twice as long, many have felt outmatched by the sheer amount of stuff that accumulates in mounds in our sinks and in our armchairs.
Reward Yourself with Cleanliness
The first step to getting a handle on your clutter is to identify trouble areas. Glance up from your computer and take a look around the room. How long have those dishes been there? Are there footprint marks in the carpet, or dirt on the hardwood floors? Maybe the junk drawer has started to turn into a junk corner? It shouldn’t be too hard to find where the recurring problems are happening.
Most likely you know what needs fixing in the house — you may have even been trying to keep abreast of the issues. But doing chores after work when you’ve been home all day can counterintuitively feel more taxing than coming home from work to clean. That’s why short breaks are optimal to declutter your home. Just like dieting can utilize a reward system with eating sweets, you can use breaks to clean as an incentive for achieving milestones at work. Did you just finish a project you started this morning? Vacuum the floor! Did you survive that 2-hour Zoom call with 100 people who wouldn’t mute themselves? Take out the trash!
Snow White taught the value of finding joy in cleaning, and taking short breaks to clean something can not only be good for the overall aesthetic but will give you a real sense of fulfillment.
Organizing is an Art
When it comes to taking control of your clutter, there’s a maxim you can remember that will guide your efforts: “Everything has a home.” Organizing your life isn’t just about making walkways passable, or taking clothes out of chairs; it’s about assigning a place for everything to “live” when it’s not being used. This is special because once that home is established, you’ll actually feel good returning objects to their spot. And that might lead you to put things away directly after using them. Ultimately that’s what clutter is: objects that haven’t found their way home yet.
Of course, in small rooms or apartments, there might not be space for everything to have a designated place. Not EVERY book is going to fit in the bookshelf, even after you’ve stacked them two deep and one on top of the other. It’s in these moments that one needs to make peace with packing things away. Using a box is always a worthy option. Just remember to properly catalog what goes into storage; decluttering your inventory lists is just as important as decluttering your living room.
The Benefits of Efficiency
If you’re being honest with yourself, you would probably admit that living in a messy home makes you feel stressed or sad. You wouldn’t be the only one to say so, as behavioral scientists have proved that there is a link between your mental and emotional health, and the state of your living space.
But what if getting out of the house isn’t an option right now? While we shelter in place, our homes are our offices, and having the dishes done is just treating a symptom of the bigger issue — that we are encouraged to remain indoors. This may be true at its core, but decluttering your life isn’t just about being clean; it’s also about being efficient. Remember, your home is your office. Having everything organized properly is going to give you the emotional leg-up to work at the highest level of professionalism.
Discomfort is the Enemy
At the end of the day, we want to rid ourselves of discomfort. Whether it’s sharing our space with the trash of full-time home-living, or sharing our heads with full-time emotional distress, we need to make the changes that will ensure the most amount of comfort while we shelter in place.
Being observant, being consistent, and being easy on ourselves are all that we need to do to change our situation from one of increasing stress to increasing tranquility. Peace is possible; we just need to find a home for those clothes.