by Jennifer Kelly Geddes of Realtor.com
After nearly a year of being stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic, many are trying to cope with the stress by tackling some long-overdue home organization projects.
“COVID has amplified the urge to organize, because we feel like we should be doing something productive and we can only watch TV or sit at a computer for so long,” says Ana Cummings of the eponymous home design firm.
But is “stress-organizing,” as it’s called, truly effective? Sometimes, nervous energy is the exact fuel you need to take on some decluttering. But certain home organizing tasks don’t lend themselves to anxious attacks—in fact, they might have the opposite effect and make you even more stressed.
“I don’t recommend organizing anything when you’re worried—how effective can you really be?” asks Julie Coraccio, a professional organizer at Reawaken Your Brilliance.
Some say that the key to successful stress-organizing may be to pick your battles wisely by selecting the right areas of your house to tame that won’t overwhelm you. For some help when you’re anxious yet also feel compelled to organize something, here are six areas of the house you should tackle—and three spots to definitely skip since they’ll likely drive you insane.
Do organize: The junk drawer
Cleaning out the junk drawer is an easy task for a newbie organizer, or someone who’s feeling stressed. It’s a small area that can often be completed in under 15 minutes.
“This spot is good because it can build confidence and you’re less likely to have an emotional attachment to the random bits inside,” says Coraccio.
Do organize: Kitchen counters
Two more quick hot spots are kitchen counters and tabletops in the living room. You might set a timer and give yourself 30 minutes to zip around and clear away stuff.
“I aim to keep my kitchen and living space surfaces decluttered so that when I walk through my home, I know where to focus to keep a sense of peace and calm,” says Katie McCann, the organizing professional at Haven.
Do organize: The linen closet
Folding soft rectangles of fabric is soothing, and it’s easy to part with stained washcloths and frayed hand towels.
“Get rid of anything you don’t want or use, and then refold and organize by category so everyone in the household knows exactly which items go where,” says Cummings.
Do organize: The makeup or medicine cabinet
“Ditch those free samples and half-empty tubes of whatever product you have, because they’re taking up too much real estate in your vanity,” urges Cummings.
A fast way to whip this little spot into shape is to insert drawer organizers or an old utensil tray—and if what you have doesn’t fit, purge some more.
Do organize: The crafts room
With the holidays over, midwinter is an excellent time to take on a crafts room or gift-wrapping station.
“Paper, ribbons, and art accessories can get pretty messy in a heartbeat, so it’s worthwhile to get this spot under control,” says Cummings.
Do organize: The freezer
At last, you’ll finally see what’s lurking in this dark box once you toss those bags of peas and carrots from 2010.
“How amazing is it to get rid of a bunch of frozen, desiccated bananas—because are you really going to make banana bread?” asks Cummings.
Don’t organize: The attic
This area is a no-go as it’s likely filled with sentimental items (photo albums, your parents’ wedding china) that you should really consider with a clear head.
“You don’t want to throw away something of value either, so wait and take the time to get it appraised,” says Cummings.
Don’t organize: The home office
You’d think this space is one you should clean up since a neat desk can make work tasks easier to accomplish. But your home office is one spot to hold off on.
“Paperwork takes a ton of time to sort and figure out with very little visible reward,” says McCann.
In short: You’ll quit this area quickly since it’ll feel like you’re getting nowhere.
Don’t organize: Your clothing
You might be able to sift and sort through your shoes and boots or even scarves and hats, but when it comes to actual clothes, this spot should be skipped.
The clothes closet requires a steady mind and a couple of hours to try on items and carefully consider whether they’re worth keeping.
“I’d also avoid this area if you’ve gained some weight due to COVID, which is very common as we’re all less active lately,” says McCann.