Solving Quarantine Clutter: How to Stay Organized While You WFH

In recent months, our homes have undergone a bit of a transformation. Our homes now serve as our offices, workout studios, and favorite restaurants all in one–so we called in reinforcements.
We asked Lisa Jacobs of Imagine it Done (Arielle's go-to organizer) to share her tips on how to stay organized as you work, live, and play at home. Below, Lisa shares her take on keeping your workspace clean, the importance of a strict routine, and how to re-adjust your living space to meet your pandemic-driven needs. 

Six months ago, most of us probably never dreamed we would be working from home. We had routines, commutes, schedules, social calendars, and typical family obligations. We had our work life and our home life with clean lines between them. In a matter of days, all of that changed. When change hits us so fast, it can disrupt many systems we already had in place.

Working from home presents new challenges. Beginning with separating paper clutter, stemming from both our work and personal life, to trying to work within a home filled with distractions. Chaos results and can be overwhelming. The organization has never been more important. Now that we have had a few months to adjust, it’s time to go back and find ways to organize them both.

A few questions come into play in this new dynamic:

  • How do you create a space that’s designed with your professional goals in mind?

  • How do you find the right setup that works for you and fits into your home interior design style?

  • How is it possible to stay focused with all the distractions? (children #1 distraction)

In my professional and personal life, the desk has always been my central stationSome people lounge in their bed, on the sofa, or at the kitchen table when they work.  Not me. My desk has always been the spot where I am most comfortable and productive. In fact, so much so, that even when I am not working I am seated at my desk. It is my comfort zone. The desk is the space that inspires productivity as well as peace to me every day. That might not be the case for you. If not, find the space that works best for your own productivity and sanity.

Below, I'm sharing a few tips on staying organized as you navigate working from home:

1. Set Up an Area That Is Exclusive to Work

Having a dedicated space for work is important in creating boundaries in your life. If your workspace is on the couch, you may find it interferes with your free time or vice versa. Make sure that each person working from home has their own space. If you don’t have a spare room to dedicate to an office, can a closet be transformed for that purpose? Is there a corner in your bedroom that would work? Wherever it is, keep it sacred.

Home office (or desk) organization is one of the most important things you can do for your career. Research shows that the average person spends 4.3 hours per week looking for important work assets. This ultimately leads to an increase in stress and less focus overall, along with a decrease in creativity.  

Set up a simple filing cabinet where you can store important documents related to work. No need to buy a filing cabinet, instead, repurpose a bin that doubles as a file box.  Use acrylic drawer dividers and/or trays to categorize items in the drawers of your desk. Designate a home in bins or drawers for items you use frequently so they are always within reach. 

Consider audio. If you enjoy and can manage TV while you are working, set up the TVs in the most efficient spaces. If music helps you focus and drowns out noise, try a small Bluetooth speaker you connect to your phone.

2. Establish a Routine and a Good Sleep Pattern

Make the bed, clean up the bedroom and bathroom before the workday begins. There is something powerful about starting the day with a clean bathroom and decorated bed to highlight the feeling of reduced clutter. This sets the tone for productivity. When we leave these spaces in disorder, chaos lingers and trails with us throughout the day.

Now that you are juggling kids and working in the same space, it’s easy to allow our workday to push into the evening hours. The new workplace and accessibility can create the temptation to stay up late simply to finish one more thing. But sleep is the fuel that will keep you sane in times like these. Prioritize the sleep routine. Go to bed and wake up at the same time. You will be more refreshed and have better energy to tackle whatever comes your way. If you are well-rested and keep your sleep hours patterned, your day to day will be more efficient.

3. Update Your To-Do List Every Evening

At the end of each workday, review what you accomplished and create a bulleted list of what to do tomorrow. This is another practice that allows one to have a resolution each day as you create a battle plan for the next day. Work with a pencil–there's a reason pencils have erasers!

4. Stay Disciplined to Maintain Productivity

It’s easy to let things pile up if we don’t make a conscious effort to put them where they belong. You must establish new routines for where you place your work items, how to keep track of your tasks, and how to manage your schedule. Take the time to do this and stick to it. In the long term, establishing a routine will save time and energy.

Get in the habit (both you and your family) of cleaning up all workspaces at the end of each day.  An organized, clutter-free desk will help to clear your mind and set you up for clarity, with each new day. This task will become manageable if it is part of your daily routine. You will undoubtedly leave your desk feeling a sense of closure and accomplishment knowing you are prepared to dive into the next day without wasting time and losing energy. 

5. Clean As You Go and Edit Your Papers Daily

The regular cleaning responsibilities for every home has not disappeared. In fact, with an emphasis on the home, we all feel the pressure. Try to divide cleaning tasks into smaller chores so you don’t feel overwhelmed.  When you get up to get a cup of coffee, pick up the toys. As you brush your teeth, wipe down the bathroom countertop. In other words, multi-task! This way, you should not feel so overwhelmed by the time the weekend arrives.

For larger, deep-cleaning projects, keep a schedule so that each room has an assigned day or a regular rhythm to the frequency when it is cleaned.  We have a free cleaning schedule checklist to help keep your home cleaning on track and accounted for.

It doesn’t take long for mail to stack up each day. As the pile grows, you will have a hard time finding important documents later. Suddenly, you may find those tasks accumulating. You miss a deadline because a bill or important document has been forgotten at the bottom of a pile. Make sure the mail is sorted daily. Throw out junk mail. Store important documents or bills in designated labeled folders for easy access. Mark items with applicable deadlines that require follow up on your to-do list.

6. Have Less Stuff

Ultimately, the less you have the less you will have to organize. Make a regular practice of editing items room by room, donating or discarding things you don’t need or no longer use. Remember your giveaways are another person’s treasures. 

Now that you are working from home, if you need help managing how to balance this with day to day home life, Contact Imagine it Done to book a consultation. 

If you are looking to donate any items that you want to get rid of, here is a list of places that are currently accepting donations. 

  • Goodwill NYNJ: You can drop off any donations at their store locations between 11 AM- 7 PM

  • Nordstrom Local Upper East Side & West Village: Donations can be dropped off from 10AM- 6PM (does not say an appointment is required)

  • 1800GOTJUNK: Make an appointment on their website (www.1800gotjunk.com) 

  • The RealReal: Offers virtual consignment appointments with complimentary curbside pickup or drop-off.

Learn more about Lisa Jacobs and Imagine It Done here