How A Professional Organizer Is Thinking About Home Improvement Right Now
While you might imagine a professional organizer's quarantine days are spent dusting cans and arranging pens by color, Tracy McCubbin's routine is more relatable. Instead of thinking of this time as an opportunity to organize every last thing—nobody needs that kind of pressure and expectation during a pandemic, even the pros—she's just using it as a moment to reflect on how her home serves her.
Why now can be a good time to do a recon of your home.
For many of us, the home is now playing double, triple, or quadruple duty: It's where we sleep, work, cook, eat, exercise, socialize, and unwind. As a result, we're getting to know it a lot better, and small friction points like mismatched food storage lids or kitchen towels that are too far from the stove are becoming more obvious.
"I'm home more than I've ever been, so I'm really figuring out where my home is working for me and where it's not working for me—and that's been really interesting," McCubbin tells mbg. She's using this time to take stock of where easy improvements can be made—moving a coat rack here or getting some new office supplies there—and writing them down on a project list to be handled at a later date.
"What I've been saying to people is don't take on all your projects at once," McCubbin explains. "We have so much stress going on right now, so we actually aren't as focused as we think we are. If we take on three projects, we're going to get derailed." Instead, use your list as a starting point and cross things off one thing at a time at your own pace. Don't feel like everything needs to get done before lockdown rules loosen.
Beyond saving some unnecessary stress, this approach could be more efficient in the long run: Most donation sites are closed right now, so a big decluttering session means you'll have an equally big "to give away" pile in your house for the foreseeable future. Plus, we can't run out to the store to pick up more storage or supplies in the middle of a project right now.
That being said, if you do have the time, energy, and desire to tackle multiple things on the list, go for it! McCubbin has seen people whittle away at a project for a few minutes every day or choose one day to knock it out all at once and thinks both approaches can work. Over on her Instagram page, she's sharing daily pointers for some common projects. (Today's task is the fridge and freezer!)
Personally, she's sifting through old photos and organizing them by decade to be put in books eventually. Again, the timeline is intentionally loose.
"There's a lot of messaging out there saying, 'You can't use time as an excuse anymore.' I don't agree with that," McCubbin says. "If you're home-schooling kids, working, and cooking three meals a day, you don't have a ton of extra time. Don't fall down that hole [of needing to be productive]. Use this as a time to just pay attention instead."
The simple act of noticing how your home can better serve you could pay dividends when we're able to venture back out. "Your home is what supports you out in the world," McCubbin says, and it's yet another support system we're leaning on more than ever.
Emma Loewe is the Sustainability and Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.
Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.