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Organizing During A Time of Chaos

When will we once again be able to hug our friends, attend a live concert or baseball game, go to class or join a worship service? No one knows. The coronavirus pandemic has upended our lives in ways we could not have anticipated even a month ago.
As I write this, 225 million—two-thirds of the country’s population—in
27 states have been ordered to shelter in place to help halt the spread of the deadly virus. Many people report feeling anxious, scattered and unfocused.
So this might be the worst time ever to think about tackling some organizing projects. Or it might be a great time to make some headway.
  • Crisis can bring clarity. Perhaps you can now see your space with fresh eyes. Maybe you have a clearer vision of what you truly need to thrive and what objects in your home seem irrelevant or redundant.
  • You’re at home anyway. When was the last time you spent so much time within your four walls?
  • You have time to fill. Cleaning out the garage can keep the family busy for an entire afternoon (or maybe longer). And what else would you do anyway?
Here are some suggestions to help you make headway on home organizing goals:
  • Think small. Start with a manageable, clearly defined space such as your medicine cabinet, your T-shirts or your kitchen’s “junk drawer.”
  • Get the whole family involved. Kids can review their bookshelves and remove volumes they’ve outgrown. They can also decide which games they no longer want and which toys they no longer play with.
  • Create a donation box or bin. Store items there for donations once social-distancing measures are lifted and businesses and charities reopen. Encourage family members to add to the box.
  • Appreciate the lightness of less. Perhaps you’ve been paring your wardrobe because you’re no longer shopping recreationally. Maybe you’ve been cooking a lot more than usual and making a dent in your packed pantry. Take a moment to feel gratitude for what you have and commit to putting surplus to good use.


What happens to the clothes and household items you donate to Goodwill? We like to think they will be cherished by people who are less fortunate than we are. But the reality is that no one wants our cheap, low-quality castoffs. Much of the fast-fashion clothing we abandon ends up in the landfill.
In “Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale”, author Adam Minter travels from Goodwill’s sorting and processing facilities in Arizona to used clothing brokers in Mexico and Africa to a wiping-rag factory in Ohio, showing us the fate of the worn sneakers, torn jeans and faded T-shirts we’ve excised from our closets.
Although clever pickers and resellers around the globe give the best of our hand-me-downs a second life, the sad truth is that would-be recipients know junk when they see it and don’t want it either.
My takeaway is that it’s better for earth and our lives if we buy fewer, better items and wear the heck out of them.
Between 2000 and 2015, global clothing production doubled, while the average. Number of times that a garment was worn before disposal declined by 36 percent.” – Ellen MacArthur Foundation, cited in “Secondhand”


As we make our way through these unprecedented times of social distancing, isolation and terrifying news reports, many of us are struggling to concentrate. Finding the focus to accomplish even simple or routine tasks can feel overwhelming.
When that happens, think small. Pare your schedule and to-do list to their most critical elements. I suggest that each day, you create two lists, each no bigger than a standard-sized (3 inches by 3 inches) sticky note:
  • On one, list any time-bound items, such as calls and Zoom meetings.
  • On the other, write three tasks you need or want to complete by the end of the day. (And “read for 30 minutes” or “walk around the block” are perfectly legitimate goals.)
That’s it. Everything else can wait. Tempted to squeeze just one more teeny task onto your list? That’s a sign that your day is getting too overloaded. Postpone calls or move non-urgent tasks to another day.
If you manage to complete all three tasks well before the end of your day, you could create a fresh three-item list for the remaining hours. Or not. Be gentle with yourself.
This minimalist approach might not best serve you when life is humming along. But for now, when nerves are frazzled and families are sheltering in place, it’s a solid survival tool. There will be plenty of time to overschedule, overpromise and maybe even overdeliver once the pandemic has passed.

Have an organizing question or need a referral to a resource? I’m happy to help. Email me at or catch me on Twitter @junedbell.
Copyright © 2020 ¡Enough is Enough! Professional Organizing, All rights reserved.

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