3 Things That Are Getting Really Messy During Quarantine (And How to Organize Them)

updated Jul 20, 2020
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Joe Lingeman

Quarantine has altered life at home in ways that have definitely stretched our hearts and our capacity. When it comes to home keeping tasks in quarantine, there’s an interesting tension between not having (or wanting) to do as much to keep your home in shape, and having more (dishes, clutter) to keep up with.

Read more: There Are 5 Quarantine Cleaning Personalities—Which One Are You?

Here are three things that may have gotten pretty messy recently, during a life lived exclusively at home, and how to get them back in shape:

Credit: Sarah Crowley/Apartment Therapy

1. Piles of Returns and Packaging

You’re probably shopping online to avoid trekking out to stores, but it’s not the most planet-friendly way to shop, for sure. Each delivery includes not only your items, but bags and boxes, sometimes both. The drastic increase in the amount of packaging means more time needed to break down and recycle boxes in order to avoid a pileup.

And then there’s the issue of returns. When you shop online and can’t try things in the store, you can quickly end up with a pile of things that need to go back. For instance, with all the staying at home, I decided to buy a few comfortable but nice-looking cotton shirts—which is actually way harder than it sounds, so I had some rejects to send back. I also had returns of items that I’d purchased before shelter-in-place that I couldn’t go return in person because stores were closed.

This kind of clutter is the worst because it isn’t something you can just put away. Taking care of the pile requires several steps of work. But it has to be done, and getting a system in place will take a big weight off. Once you dig in to that first pile of returns, future ones won’t seem like as much of an ordeal.

Here’s how to take care of that pile of returns (and packaging):

  1. Break down and recycle packaging.
  2. Gather all your returns together in one central location.
  3. Get all your packing supplies. I have a stash of mailer bags that have made returns so easy. You could also wrap your returns in paper bags or the same boxes they came in. The key is to not hang on to boxes just in case but to decide quickly what you will keep and what you will return. You’ll also need tape and a working printer.
  4. Log in to your accounts and begin processing your returns and printing labels. Keep in mind that many Amazon items don’t even require labels or packaging. However, if you want to keep things contactless, you may opt to do it yourself anyway.
  5. Take your returns out to the car or put them by the door so you remember to drop them off at the post office or a UPS location, or leave them for your mail carrier to pick up.

2. Paper Piles

Paper piles are always a pain in the rear end. But paper piles in the time of COVID are the worst. You may have less paper coming in all the time because kids aren’t in school, but the paper you do have feels nearly impossible to deal with because (surprise!) it’s a challenge just to make a simple decision these days. But just like your returns pile that’s gathering dust, paper clutter is an energy zapper because each piece of paper represents not just something that needs to get put where it belongs, but a thing that needs to be done.

To shrink your paper piles, gather them all into one big pile and grab a paper bag or your recycling bin. Have your phone handy to scan and file items you may need to keep for reference or receipts you need to hang on to. When possible, make a decision with each paper that requires one. If you’ve been using any papers as reminders for things that may or may not happen, consider making a list of decisions or commitments you need to revisit down the road. That way, you can still get rid of the paper itself and give yourself the relief of cleared-off surfaces.

Credit: Natalie Board/Shutterstock

3. Messy Closets and Laundry Areas

Just like everything else, your relationship with clothes has changed. When your main motivation for your laundry routine is having clean clothes to go to the office or out with friends, you might find “laundry day” comes around far less frequently. When you don’t have many places to go, the urgency of every part of the laundry cycle largely fizzles out. Likewise, with little reason to keep your closet area in order and ready-to-go, you may find yourself with an unwieldy pile of lounge wear and home workout clothes in various stages of cleanliness.

It’s all fine, but getting a handle on your laundry situation and messy closet will make you feel really good. Any sense of calm and order and a tiny bit of control you can glean these days helps.

Start with your closet pile. Hang up what needs to be hung, fold clean clothes that go in drawers and put them away, and throw what needs to be washed into your hamper or a laundry basket. If in doubt, wash it out. Toss in your first load. While that’s in, fold and put away your backlog of clean clothes. Keep going until you’re caught up.

Read more: 3 New Expert-Approved Rules for Wearing and Washing Your “Outside Clothes” During the Pandemic

If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, consider a thorough decluttering of your wardrobe. Do it all at once or in small increments, by drawer or clothing type, for instance. This will leave you with only the clothes you feel great in and, ultimately, a more orderly closet and laundry situation.