Why home organizing is my coronavirus coping tool

An illustration of a serene table, with a vase of flowers, a stack of books, and light filtering through a window. Paige
Vickers

I’m finding solace in bringing order to my home

The week before I had my first baby. For months while my nana
slowly died of cancer. The morning after an argument with my
partner. And now, facing a fast-moving pandemic. In all these times
of uncertainty and distress, I’ve found solace in organizing my
home.

Sometimes it’s cleaning up an overflowing junk drawer, other
times it’s reordering all the books on my shelves. But whenever
the world outside feels out of control, I turn inward.

Over the past few weeks, my increasingly frenzied home projects
have mirrored the pace of news about the novel
coronavirus
. In late January, as the outbreak spread in China,
I labeled and neatly stacked my medications. In February, listening
to podcasts about
infected patients on the Diamond Princess
cruise ship, I
cleaned out my pantry so it would be ready to be restocked. In
early March, as state after state declared an
emergency
, I went into overdrive, enforcing order everywhere I
looked—arranging my daughter’s clothes, purging my mismatched
food storage containers, emptying the freezer of too-old food.

By now, my family is holed up in the mountains practicing

social distancing
, after schools, restaurants, gyms, and more
have been closed in my state, as well as in communities across the
U.S.

My actions at home didn’t prevent COVID-19 from spreading, but
I’ve learned, as a type-A planner, that I feel better when things
are in order.

Studies have shown that our physical environments significantly
influence our cognition, emotions, and behavior. Unorganized spaces
can negatively impact our stress and anxiety levels, both at
work
and at home. Research in the U.S. in 2009 determined that mothers
who said their home environment was cluttered experienced higher
levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Another
study
found that individuals who felt overwhelmed by their
“stuff” were more likely to procrastinate. Other researchers
found that disorganization can trigger
coping and avoidance strategies
like watching too much TV or
binge-eating a pint of ice cream.

But there are also practical benefits to using home organization
as a type of therapy. I don’t waste time wondering what black
hole my keys fell into. When the kids have access to a
well-stocked snack bin
, I don’t use priceless emotional
energy telling them (for the umpteenth time) how to make a snack.
And after taking stock of my pantry in preparation for a possible
quarantine, I could easily see what I had, and how much I had of
it.

I can’t stop COVID-19 (although we can all do our part by

staying home
). And while I’ve
checked in on my elderly neighbors
and purchased a few gift
certificates to help my
favorite restaurants stay afloat
, I still feel pretty
helpless.

But I find peace through action, especially at home. There’s
plenty still to do; I’m contemplating purging my clothes and
finally tackling the photo albums I’ve been avoiding. At a time
when the news just keeps coming and I feel paralyzed by the
unknowns, I take a deep breath, look around, and think: “What can
I organize next?”

Source: FS – All – Architecture 10
Why home organizing is my coronavirus coping tool