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Time at home is not time wasted

Angie Hyche • May 3, 2020 at 10:30 PM

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” So begins what I believe is one of the most well-written chapters in all of literature. In “A Tale of Two Cities,” Charles Dickens was writing about the stark contrasts during the time period of the French Revolution, a time that brought both despair and joy. I wonder if someday we might look back at this extended time we’ve had at home during the coronavirus pandemic in a similar way. This time has brought despair to many — uncertainty, furloughed or lost jobs, sickness and death. But it’s also been a time of joy — more time with family, lighter schedules, time to reflect on our priorities, and good people rising to the call of the needs around them.

This prolonged time at home has had many consequences. While some rejoice at the additional time, others sadly resign themselves to hours of boredom. Some may be able to point to a list of projects they finally had time to accomplish, while others will celebrate having binged on all of the episodes of “Friends.” Again. Deciding how to spend the extra time isn’t a moral dilemma. There is no productivity police force. Trust me, if there was, I’d be the police chief. There is certainly value in relaxation. However, if you are anxious to accomplish a long procrastinated home project, this is a golden opportunity.

Here are a few suggestions of home projects that are often ignored because of a lack of time. If by the time this article is printed the social distancing restrictions have been loosened and your schedule has gotten busier, you can use these same suggestions for any free blocks of time.

DECLUTTER ANYWHERE

If you’re a regular reader of my column, you knew I’d have to at least mention this, didn’t you? What’s driving you crazy right now? What area in your home do you look at, sigh, and just walk away because it’s a disaster. That’s probably where you need to start. If nothing comes to mind immediately, just pick a room, a closet, or even a single drawer, and get rid of anything you don’t use and love. If you find something that belongs in a different part of the house, take it there. If you have time, pull everything out, get rid of the clutter, sort the remaining items into categories, and put them back grouped into categories. Even if you only spend 15 minutes a day doing this, you’ll make a lot of progress! Since the days are warmer, it’s a great time to declutter the garage. Attics and basements are also great candidates for decluttering while you have a lot of time. Donation centers aren’t really encouraging donations right now during the pandemic, so just queue them up somewhere until you can take them. But give yourself some kind of reminder so you don’t forget about these donations until next May.

MAKE SMALL HOME REPAIRS

At any given time, there are a handful of these annoying tasks that we tend to put off. I’m talking about things like a running toilet, holes in window screens, painting touch-ups, sealing your deck, or fixing a ceiling stain. The list of possibilities is long. Pretend you’re a potential buyer looking at your home. Walk around every room, starting at the front door. Ask every family member what needs to be fixed, and you may get more suggestions than you would imagine. Make a list of all of these issues and a plan for how and when they’ll get accomplished, and then just work on them one at a time. While it may not be the most fun pastime, you’ll be glad you got these tasks done. And should you decide to move soon, you’ll have fewer items on your to-do list.

ORGANIZE YOUR PRINTED PHOTOS

This is one of the most procrastinated tasks of all. Here’s the usual scenario in my clients’ homes: multiple containers of photos with no idea how or when they will ever get around to putting them in order. Or maybe they have some vague plan to organize them when they retire, or while they’re recovering from a surgery that they might have many years in the future or when they’re trapped at home during a snowstorm or when the children leave for college (and now the “children” have children of their own) or “someday.” You get the idea.

I’ve got news for you. You finally have the time now! Here’s a very simple plan to get you started:

— Get all your photos into one location.

— Figure out your end goal. If you could wave a magic wand and have the photo organizing completed, what would it look like?

— Pick a box and get started with an ABC sort. This makes great binge watching work by the way!

The A photos are the best of the best, the photos that you would mourn if they were lost. This pile should be the smallest of the three when you finish the box.

The B photos are good photos. You can’t quite let them go, but they aren’t necessarily the ones you’d choose to frame or put in a scrapbook.

The C photos are photos you don’t really need. C photos include doubles, blurry photos, photos of people you don’t even remember, photos of a zoo animal, mediocre photos of a place that you could find with a quick Google search. This pile should be the largest pile by far.

— Plan to have your A photos (and maybe some of the B photos) scanned as soon as possible before they get damaged. Keep your A and B photos (store them separately from each other until you’re finished the sorting). Throw away your C photos.

— Keep going with this process box by box. When you’re finished with the sorting, start working on your end goal with the A and B photos.

If you’ve got a goal that’s beyond your ability or motivation to accomplish, don’t be afraid to ask for help! There might be someone in your network of friends who’s working on the same task, and you can help each other. If your goal involves decluttering or organizing of any kind, Shipshape Solutions is now offering virtual organizing services. Rates are 50% off through May 15. With our expertise and your work, you’ll be able to make any area of your home shipshape.

I hope you’ve found these suggestions helpful and that you’re able to get a few things accomplished. Stay safe and healthy!

Angie Hyche is a professional organizer and owner of Shipshape Solutions and the author of “Unholy Mess: What the Bible Says about Clutter” (coming soon!). Email her at angie@shipshape.solutions.

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