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8 Expert Tips on Organizing Your Home While Sheltering in Place

Organizing your home while sheltering in place

If you live in one of the many cities advocating for (or mandating) a self-quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic, you’re suddenly spending a lot more time at home. Whether you’re working from home, homeschooling your kids, or just need to arrange your space for staying in, it’s a good time to organize. 

After consulting with some top-tier organizing influencers and the president-elect of the National Association of Productivity & Organizing Professionals (NAPO), we’ve compiled a list of ways you can organize your home for quarantine. 

1. Organize your pantry

As you’re prepping your home for quarantine, going through your pantry and shelf-stable items is a great first step. 

“Shoved way back in a corner of your pantry might be food that’s about to expire. What a great time to use up those older items rather than letting them go to waste. Since grocery store shelves are more empty than ever, I would suggest organizing your pantry and fridge/freezer before anything else in your home. It’s important, especially under the current circumstances, to rotate your food, consuming the oldest first – so that nothing goes to waste!”

Shalae Price, Professional Organizer

Start by pulling everything out and marking expiration dates. Take an inventory of your shelf-stable essentials and what you might need more of. If you have an excess of some items, consider reaching out to elderly family and friends or donating what you don’t need. Wipe down your pantry and cupboards before you start putting everything away.

Debbie Sandler, owner of A Life Better Organized, told us to “sort remaining items into like categories. Keep spices together, canned goods, oils and vinegars, baking supplies, cereals and so forth.” Use baskets, jars, bins, crates, lazy Susans and containers to optimize the space. 

2. Designate a space for work or school

If your job has shifted to working remotely, or your kids are doing their schoolwork at home, you’ll need to clear some work space. Setting aside a designated space will help keep the line between work and home from blurring, and make it easier to be productive. 

According to Price, “You need a clutter-free space in order to focus. Use vertical space to store things whenever possible. Keep only the essential items on your desk. Wall pockets can be hung on the wall to store files and papers. Paper sorters on a desktop keep things separated and vertical, eliminating visual clutter and freeing up space to work.” 

3. Create physical space for mental space

Since you’ll be spending a lot of time in your home, we recommend decluttering and rearranging your general living spaces. Clearing the space will help it feel less cramped, has several mental health benefits and can make you feel productive. 

You may also need more free space for quarantine activities — like movie or game nights and exercising in your home. There are many free online resources for yoga and exercise classes.

Start by putting loose items away and finding more efficient homes for things you don’t use every day. Utilize closets and space under beds. Take a stab at rearranging your furniture to create more open areas.

4. Organize your closet

Turn on “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” and do a deep dive into your closet. Try everything on and consider donating clothes you haven’t worn in a year or more. Neatly fold and organize the things you want to keep by activity, style or color. Box away seasonal items, like big coats and warm scarves, to give your clothes more breathing room. 

You can also get creative and repurpose older items. Crop an old sweatshirt, iron a patch onto your faded jeans, or tie-dye a t-shirt. If you want to hang on to old T-shirts that still hold memories, Sandler recommends turning them into a quilt

5. Sort through your entertainment collection

Do an inventory of all your books, movies and games. Find efficient places to store them, discover some old favorites to pass the time and donate the items you don’t enjoy anymore (local youth centers, retirement homes, children’s hospitals).  

This might be the time to let go of old CDs and VHS tapes — things that take up space and have limited use. You may find you don’t need a lot of older movies that are available on the streaming services you subscribe to.

6. Pass the time with the past

Parse through your photo collection — both physical and digital. Going through photos is the perfect time-consuming project for social distancing. You’ll get to reminisce and remember good times, while also making it easier for your future-self to create albums or find specific photos. 

“Now is a great time to do a clean out of your digital photos. Delete all those utility photos you took, delete bad photos and dwindle down the multiples. If you have time to take it a step further, decide how you want to share your photos. You can create a book or share with family in a cloud account. This can be a great time to share family stories with kids or ask older family members to share their stories.”

Amy Tokos President-Elect of NAPO


You can then take those photos and work on unfinished baby books, albums or scrapbooks.

7. Go for the garage

Garages and sheds are often host to random gear, tools, storage and the remnants of moving. Cleaning and organizing your garage is a physical task, great for some exercise and fresh air.

These spaces tend to collect more dirt, dust and grime than inside spaces. Empty out the garage or shed, then sweep and hose down the area. As you’re filling it again, go through everything and decide what you want to keep, sell, donate or throw away. Sort things by category and plan out where you want to store different item groups. 

Utilize shelves and hang things to create vertical space. Consolidate similar items, like the Christmas decorations, into larger bins. Get creative with your containers — old paint cans, gum or mint containers and filing cabinets can all hold smaller trinkets and tools.

8. Clean out the car

A detailed cleaning and organizing of your car is great preparation for the eventual return to work and normal outings. Go a step beyond washing the exterior and sort through all the random nooks, crannies and glove compartments. Sandler says, “Bring with you two bags, one for the garbage and one for items to relocate. Like extra eyeglasses, coins, receipts, old DVDs, empty drink bottles, and expired coupons (except for Bed Bath & Beyond, they still take those). Remove mats and vacuum floors. Dust the dashboard and clean inside windows.”

One task at a time

There’s an opportunity to use your time during quarantine for things you wouldn’t normally have time for in a pre-coronavirus routine. Cleaning, organizing and reflecting on your material possessions will help you feel productive. 

Price put it best when she told us, “We’re all going to be aware of the things that we really need. We might find out that some of the clutter we’ve held on to for years…does nothing for us even when we’re living in crisis. That tells us it’s OK to purge and make space for other necessities. On the other hand, we might find out that we need to make space in our homes for items we never thought we needed until now.”


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