Tell no one, but when it comes to organizing, I’m about as far from Monica Geller-types as it gets. My closet is typically a hair-raising tumble of clothes—some haphazardly hung, some stacked on shelves in untidy, teetering piles. Our kitchen pantry parades chickpeas and pasta here, tea packets and brown rice there, with little rhyme and zero reason. A few times a year I buckle down and get my drawers organized, only to find each one regressed to madness only weeks later. There are junk drawers. Plural.
All this changed thanks to Covid-19, when under social distancing I have not only a surplus of time but abundant anxiety levels. I suddenly longed to take on the only things I could control: my shelves, drawers, closets, garage and even the garden beds. Begone, noxious weeds and useless knickknacks! I can’t entirely prevent invisible viruses from toppling my world, but when it comes to purging, I’m now an all-powerful goddess, banishing all things hideous and ineffectual from our home.

Why the urge to get organized?
I’m not alone—even the highly organized are taking their regimes a step further in the time of Covid-19. Atlanta-based designer and author of Vacation at Home Vern Yip (as seen on TLC’s Trading Spaces) has taken to ironing every single one of his daughter’s dresses. “Organizing is cathartic for so many, especially during these unusual times, for two primary reasons,” Yip says.

One: It establishes a sense of control. “Right now, we don’t have control over how this novel virus behaves nor do we have control over government imposed sanctions. We do, however, have control over what happens within our own walls. Organizing provides us with some semblance of control while reducing the anxiety associated with having so much of our fate determined by others.”

Two: It creates a sense of calm. “Your home should feel like the ultimate vacation spot, but for most, it doesn’t. One of the silver linings of this virus-imposed sheltering-in-place has turned out to be newfound time to finally get our home in order. With home organization comes order and with order comes calmness. And, right now, everyone desperately needs a sense of calm.”
Kathleen Vohs, a behavioral economist and professor at the University of Minnesota, says whipping our homes into orderly shape in times like these is human nature. “It’s been long known that when people feel there’s a threat in the air or there’s a lot of uncertainty, that seems to rob them of their sense of control,” she says. “By putting some structure on our lives, we can then re-assert some of that control that we feel that we’ve otherwise lost. So to me, it makes very good sense that people are organizing, people are cleaning out and people are trying to put things in their rightful place—because nothing else seems like it is these days.”

And how do you de-clutter right?
Tara Blanchet, National Sales Manager and designer for California Closets, says the first step is to create a list of what you’d like to get done. “Walk through your home and note all the things that you’ve wanted to edit and organize, but haven’t had the time to tackle,” she says. One of her favorite tasks: editing all the drawers in a home. “Go into each one and explore the dark corners for items you’ve been looking for or clutter that you can throw away. Then organize everything back into the proper location. It may not be in the drawer it started in!”
Blanchet recommends doing the same thing in closets, pulling everything out and only putting what you truly need back in. An insider tip: Place items you’re unsure about in a spare box, then set it aside. “Store the boxes for six months and if you didn’t need to go into them or can’t even remember what’s inside, donate them!” she says. (Need an expert to help get your closets organized? California Closets is currently offering free virtual design consultations, via Zoom or Facetime, with their certified pros.)
We also consulted The Container Store’s Divisional Merchandise Director, Lauren Hill, for her de-hoarding advice. Hill’s number one tip: “Set organizing boundaries,” she says. “How much time and energy do you want to devote to organizing each day? I start with 30 minute sessions.” Hill recommends beginning with the areas that drive you the most crazy—a great way to feel like a major success fast“Start with areas that are less ambitious,” she says. “Think of the junk drawer you’ve been having nightmares about or the bathroom storage cabinet that drives you mad!”
Whatever you choose, know that any streamlined space isn’t in vain. “Being organized not only creates a sense of calm at home, but it grounds you for the day,” Hill says. My new motto, in times like these? Keep calm, and organize on.

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