The CoronaVirus has the majority of the population either working from home or out of work entirely. In either situation, everyone has gained some more time to do things, or so I am told. They either do not have to commute to their job (avoiding traffic, reclaiming time) or because they are unfortunately unemployed. The truth is, all of us have gained some time. Like I wrote about a few weeks ago in my blog article, “Winning While Quarantined,” one of the ways to win is a “reboot opportunity.” Our ability to wipe the slate clean and start again is a refreshing act.
With this extended time at home, I have realized many areas of my house have gotten “out of control.” To remedy this, I have spent more time “Spring Cleaning” than anything else. Not a bad thing at all when I think about the 14 giant garbage bags of trash I have thrown out (so far.) I also think about what tasks I could have accomplished if I had kept everything “tidy” along the way. These past few weeks, while being seemingly forced to Spring clean, I have revisited some of my methods (which I do not consistently apply) to stay ahead of the mess. I want to share these techniques because when I do employ them, I save time, felt more productive, and took on many other projects because I “felt” like I had the “space” and time to do them.
It always feels good to have a neat and clean workshop, garage, and office. There is nothing more paralyzing then walking into a disaster of a garage and wondered where to start. There are many productive sorting and evaluation techniques to clean up and get organized. My methods may not be revolutionary, but they work. At the end of this article, I provide links to some other good reads on this subject.
The most important this is just that, get started. Do what I do. Pick one thing, and do it. It does not have to be large or even an entire room. Tackle your junk drawer, under your bed, or sort out your shredding pile. Whatever it is, pick one thing and do nothing else. And doing it first thing in the morning can liberate your whole day. Nothing feels better than looking at the clock and seeing that it is only nine or ten in the morning, and you have accomplished a task. Similar to making your bed every morning, it sets the tone of the day. All you need to do is start, so get going.
Six Month Rule:
When I start to clean anything from a drawer or room, I use a simple test to determine if it goes in the trash or not. I ask myself, “have I used it in the past six months, and is it likely I will need it in the next six months?” If the answer is no, I toss it. Of course, there may be sentimental items you may not want to throw out. In those cases, do what I do. I have a small box of sentimental items I keep. Only one box. Remember, unfortunately, one day in the future, someone else may need to go through all of these things when you are gone. Would they hold on to that item? Is it an heirloom to be passed on? If my answer is no, I usually toss it. Have an old photo or document? Take a photo with your smartphone and store it in an album on Google photos for free. Then toss it.
Keep It Going:
Keep it going every day until all the big messes are clean and tidy. Tackle the bigger rooms and closets (or garage) in small bites. And remember, not everything needs to be thrown out. Many household items can be donated or recycled. The important thing is to do one thing every day. You will get a great sense of accomplishment and may find some things you forgot you had that you needed.
A Happy Home:
While at home with my family during this quarantine, I have adopted a new method to keep my home a happy one. I do it now. What does that mean? Well, if the sink is full of dirty dishes when I go to toss my dirty dish in there, I put them in the dishwasher or hand wash them all. If I throw something in the garbage and it is full, I do not push it down; I take it out. If I just finished a can of seltzer, I take it and all of the other recyclables out to their respective bins by the garage. I have found three things to be true as a result: 1) it really only takes a few minutes to do, 2) everything always seems to be clean, and 3) my wife is happier. Like I said previously, this is not revolutionary stuff.
Putting the Tools (or anything) Back:
As with dirty dishes or trash, I apply this rule with anything in the house. Dirty clothes overflowing the hamper? I do a load of laundry. I needed a screwdriver to fix something; I put it back in the tool chest. I repeat, this stuff is not something magical. We all know there is no magic pill. Unless we live in a hotel, there is no one picking up behind us.
There is one thing I will take away from this quarantine when it is over. It is that when we are rushing around, we all feel like we do not have enough time to do all the things we need to do. We toss the dirty dish in the sink because we cannot spare the time to clean. We compact the garbage instead of taking it out. It has all been a preception. We have convinced ourselves that everything takes so much time. During this quarantine, I adopted the mindset of: I have plenty of time,” so I do all of those things now. What I have learned from this is I do not need a lot of time. I timed myself. It only takes about 5 minutes to empty the dishwasher. Tasks take a lot less time than we imagine them to take.
If there was ever a time to “start anew,” “reboot,” or “wipe the slate clean,” it is now. And the first place to start is in our homes. All of the little things we thought we do not have the time to do, do them. Aside from picking up new skills during thing quarantine, we can pick up a few good habits to keep our living spaces and minds free and clear of clutter.