Now that the coronavirus has sent workers and students home, closed businesses and canceled events, it's going to be important to create new routines and find meaningful ways to spend our long days at home. The following organizing tasks are simple and will help you structure your day and create a small sense of control.
- Order picture frames and albums: Do you have a stack of photos you have been meaning to put in frames or photo albums? If so, take a few minutes online to find options that will work for you, and place the order. Depending on how long social distancing lasts, you may even have time to put those photos into the frames and albums.
- Send notes: Write those thank-you cards that you have had on your to-do list for the past few months. If you don't have any thank-you notes to send, just send a few written notes or cards to friends. It will make you feel good to keep up some connection offline, and the recipient will be thrilled to open some real mail.
- Organize and minimize your inbox: Spend 15 minutes deleting and filing emails. You'll be amazed at how much you can lighten your inbox in a small amount of time. For bonus points, do this every day for a full week.
- Wash and store winter items: Wash winter coats, hats and gloves that are launderable. Set aside for donation those items that your family members have outgrown, and properly store the rest.
- Meal planning: The upside to not sending kids to school and not going into an office is that you don't have to pack lunches. On the other hand, with everyone at home, you will have to make three meals a day. Spend 20 minutes one day a week thinking through lunches and dinners. This will make mealtimes feel less stressful and rushed, and you can make sure you have everything you need in advance. With stores having uneven inventory, ensuring you can prepare what you want is important.
- Wash backpacks and reusable bags: When is the last time you washed your kids' backpacks and any of the reusable tote bags you bring to the grocery store or on errands? For most people, the answer is never, but now you have time to get them cleaned up and germ-free. Will this change your life? No. But it will feel good for both you and your kids to start fresh when normal life resumes.
- Clean your car: If you have a car, this is the perfect time to clean it. This activity has the extra bonus of getting you outside for a portion of your day. Start by taking everything out, and then wipe down the surfaces and vacuum the floors and seats. Finish by cleaning the windows inside and out. This is something kids can help with.
- Deep-clean your kitchen cabinets: This is an activity that you don't have to do all at once, but it will keep you busy for 30 minutes each day for a couple of days. Take things out of your drawers and cabinets and wipe down the insides. Put items that you no longer want or use in a bag for donation, and toss expired food. Put things back neatly. Wipe down both the inside and outside of your cabinet doors and all of the pulls, too.
- Move furniture in one room and clean: Get some help from other family members to move your family room or living room furniture and clean underneath, either with a vacuum or Swiffer. While you're at it, take the cushions off the couch and chairs and vacuum them, too.
- Refresh your bookcases: Take all the books and items off one bookshelf in the house. Put books that you no longer want in a bag to donate, wipe down the shelves and put everything back in a new configuration.
- Write down goals for the rest of 2020: Some of us made a list of goals at the beginning of the year, but if you didn't, now is a good time to make one. It will help you visualize life after the coronavirus and help you prioritize in the coming months. If you already have a list, take a look and revise as necessary. If you're making a new list, be sure to include larger home projects you would like to complete, ideas for things you want to do with your kids and professional goals.
- Streamline your bill-paying: If you're still a holdout to online bill-paying, this is the perfect time to get set up. If you're just getting started, entering the information for all of your payees does take a while, but you don't have to do it all at once, and the time you spend now will save you countless hours later. If you already have online bill-pay, take a look at your recipients to make sure they're current, and add any new vendors. Alternatively, call the companies you pay each month and set up automatic bill-pay through them.
Many of us have wished for more time at home to get things done, and, well, now we have it. Using this opportunity to do some cleaning and organizing will not only make you feel more in control and save you time later, but it will also give you a sense of renewal and accomplishment.
Nicole Anzia, a freelance writer and owner of Neatnik,, wrote this for The Washington Post.