Here Are 4 Ways to Make Peace With Your Temporary Quarantine Clutter

published Apr 6, 2020
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To say our lives have changed would be a drastic understatement. The world is different, and though we’re already marked indelibly by this global event, it’s still too soon to know how affected we’ll be. Until more things unfold, we’re holed up at home.

At times, home feels like a haven. And yet in other moments, it can feel like the place that used to provide rest and comfort has become a prison.

I told my husband this morning, as I washed what felt like the twelfth sinkful of dirty dishes in two days, that we have to stick to our routines and ways of doing things at home even more stringently because we’re here all the time. There are seven of us (me and him and our five kids) and we generate a substantial amount of dishes, trash, and pine needles dragged into the house, to name just a few of the daily messes. To maintain order and my peace of mind, I told him, we all need to do our part to do things like pick up after ourselves and take the trash out every single night. It’s a way to help us all feel our best at home, and even offers a tiny sense of control as things outside the house spiral beyond anyone’s sway.

While being self-quarantined in a pristine house seems ideal, it can be challenging to maintain the clutter level of your home to the standard you’re used to when life is “normal” (even as your door knobs and light switches are the cleanest they’ve ever been). When there are stacks of canned food on usually-cleared-off counters, and makeshift work stations in the middle of the living room, it can bombard you with an uneasy feeling that things are out of place. But when this feeling strikes, you can harness the power of perspective to help you regain a sense of calm and control.

Here are some things I’m trying to remember, as I get more comfortable with this new, unusual “clutter” taking over my home:

Our homes are a reflection of life right now, just like always

When life is upside down, a house that feels like it is too makes sense. Stepping back and viewing the condition of our physical environment as a natural byproduct of how we’re all feeling, personally and collectively, takes the sting out of it. Life can’t go on as before because it’s simply not the same right now—and I think there’s even something honorable in giving ourselves and our homes the permission and space for that. (Even if we also throw ourselves into cleaning and organizing tasks that we’ve never been able to get to for coping and solace.)

Those extra supplies help make me feel safe

As we’re all doing our part to minimize trips to the grocery store and prepare for quarantines if we come down with something or get exposed to anyone, the cans of turkey chili on the counter top, the freezer overflowing with fruits and veggies, and, yes, even the food (and drinks!) that are a treat for the end of the day help tamp down the what-ifs that plague each of us at times. They say, You’re ready, you did what you’re supposed to do. You’ve got what you need.

Hacked-together workstations mean someone can work from home

Every single day I’m thankful we have jobs that allow us to work from home. If you or your family find yourselves suddenly working from home, a work station that’s intruded on your usual setup is not an inconvenience, it’s a reminder of the big picture and something to embrace with grateful open arms as we remember those with jobs that have vaporized or jobs that put them in danger. I know this doesn’t even need to be said. But we all get hit with waves of This is hard and if that happens when you trip over the card table full of coffee mugs as you’re trying to reach the remote, gratefulness at the tip of your brain can help get you through the roller coaster dip a bit faster.

Games and toys everywhere mean we’re making memories

It feels like a perpetual weekend, kid clutter-wise. There’s a never-ending trail of evidence that the kids are home, and we don’t know when it will be over. But this is unprecedented time at home with the family together that no other generation in our lifetime has ever experienced. How much stronger will families be, how much closer will siblings be to one another, what kind of an intensified sense of belonging and safety will become part of who our children are? The price of a home strewn with kid stuff feels like a small price to pay. (And days punctuated with short bursts of everyone pitching in to pick up—we call them “power 10s” in our house—go a long way, too.)