Written by Tara McKenna, founder of The Zero Waste Collective.
Unless you were on a desert retreat meditating in silence for a couple of weeks without access to the internet (like Jared Leto), you know that a lot has changed in the world since the global spread of Covid-19. Many of us are practicing social distancing, 14-day quarantines, and self-isolation to reduce the spread and to ‘flatten the curve’. That means lots of us (hopefully most, or all of us) are kinda stuck at home.
So, while we’re at home and if we have the opportunity, now is our chance to tackle a few things on our lists that we’ve been procrastinating on or haven’t had time to do!
Here are 10 things to do while stuck at home:
1. Clean Out your Closet
Have you been putting this one off for a while? With spring officially here on March 19th in the northern hemisphere, it’s time for many of us to swap over our wardrobes from cold weather to warm. Regardless of where you live and what weather you have, now is a great time to assess and clean out your closet.
Go ahead, take some time to read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up or binge watch her show on Netflix. If you’re inclined to take her steadfast approach to tidying, then take out ALL OF YOUR CLOTHES, put them in one place, and touch every single piece of clothing you own to decide whether or not it ‘’sparks joy.’ If it doesn’t bring joy, then thank each item that you discard.
Make the following piles for your clothes: Keep, Sell, Donate, Trash. Before you trash, however, find out if you can donate worn out clothing, because some donation centres often send old textiles for recycling.
When you’re done, put back all of the clothes you know you’ll love and wear!
2. On that Note, why not just Declutter ALL OF THE THINGS?
“If organizing your stuff worked, you’d be organized by now” – Courtney Carver
After you’ve cleaned out your closet, you might be ready to tackle the next project. Given the current circumstances (like being in quarantine), you’ll not likely be able to get rid of your things just yet. Dedicate a place in your home, like in a closet or garage (if relevant), that you can set aside your decluttered belongings. Out of sight out of mind is best, depending on your living arrangements (if you can still see items, you could be inclined to put them back lol).
What to declutter:
There are many different ways to declutter. You can take Marie Kondo’s approach and declutter by item type, or you can tackle room by room. The benefit to Kondo’s approach is if you have similar items across multiple rooms, you’re dealing with all of the same types of items at once. Paperwork is a great example. If you have papers in your kitchen, home office and scattered in other places in your home, it’s a really great approach to tackle the type of clutter rather than by room. Kondo’s categories include clothes, books, papers, komono (miscellany), and sentimental items.
Here’s a more comprehensive list of categories that can help you declutter by item type:
Toiletries and makeup
Clothes (see above)
Kitchenware and appliances
Books & magazines
CDs / DVDs / Video Games
Hobby and Sports equipment
Photos and memorabilia
Okay, let’s be honest, that’s a long list and a lot to declutter. Don’t feel the need to do all of the things all at once. Give yourself the space you need to tackle one thing at a time, while also managing the other stuff going on in your life right now (like your health, taking care of family members, self-care, chasing children around the house, etc.).
If you do have kids at home, invite them to participate in decluttering if they are old enough. I'm sure they will have no problem pulling out all of their toys, then you can ask them to put back only their favourites.
Before you embark on a decluttering project (or rampage, whatever floats your boat), consider why you’re doing it in the first place. It’s worth noting that our homes are not intended to be storage units, our homes should be a place for us to live, to be safe and feel comfortable and have shelter from the outside. However, because of our consumer-driven lifestyles, most of us have amassed too much stuff in our homes and many have become storage spaces for all of our accumulation.
Consider the following reasons to declutter your home, and let this inspire your own list and ‘why’:
To create a calmer living space
To have less to clean and dust
To have less to organize
To let go of the guilt associated with certain items (e.g. unwanted gifts)
To inspire greater creativity in your kids
To focus on the more important things in life
To give unused items in your home a new life they deserve, with people who will use those things
To make some extra cash by selling a few things
To let go of the burden of maintenance
To inspire you to shop less
To have more space (both mental and physical)
How to declutter responsibly:
My one pet peeve with many (not all) minimalist books and blog posts is this underlying approach of ‘just get rid of it’ when decluttering by tossing unwanted stuff in the trash. This is a zero waste blog, after all, so responsible decluttering means finding a good home for your unwanted things, if possible, and making landfill the last resort.
Undoubtedly, some of your stuff will be trash. In that situation, don’t feel guilty about throwing something in the garbage; it’s either sitting in your house as trash, or it’ll be trash in the landfill. So just throw it out and let your guilt go with it.
As for everything else, let’s chat about some of the options for getting rid of unwanted stuff (when things go back to normal, that is):
Tools: If you have tools, you could find out if you can take them to a local tool library.
Construction materials:Consider donating to Habitat for Humanity or a similar organization.
Clothing: Find out if there are any shelters, Food Banks or other non-profit organizations that will take clothing in good condition.
Books and Magazines:Find out if your local library will accept your donations.
Art supplies and crafts:Call your local schools or childcare centres to find out if they will accept these types of donations where you live.
Toiletries and miscellaneous:From shelters to churches and mosques, and related non-profit organizations, there are a number of organizations that help people in need. Find out if anything you have can be donated there (e.g. unopened, unused, and not expired products).
Food: Food banks, shelters and other non-profit organizations may take your unwanted food items (ensure that your items meet their requirements for donations)
In addition to donating your things, you can also swap, trade, sell and consign your unwanted items. Are you interested in learning more about the secondhand economy, and what happens to your stuff when you donate it to a place like Goodwill? Then check out the book Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale by Adam Minter.
3. Deep Clean your Home
As I write this blog post, I’ve started to recognize that I could make each activity in this list into its own blog post. To be honest I’m too lazy to plan them out into separate posts so we’ll stick to this comprehensive and detailed list instead, and I’ll try to keep the following sections a little shorter.
Now that your home is all decluttered and you’ve created a calming space (did you laugh a bit there? So did I, and that’s okay, because it might take you a while to get through everything). Anyway, regardless of where you’re at in the decluttering process, or if perhaps you’re not undertaking one, this is a good time to deep clean your home. I’m talking about cleaning in all the places we ignore during our regular cleaning rituals.
Here’s a deep cleaning list (I have noted some things that should get cleaned more often, like your toilet lol):
Disinfect your trash and recycling bins
Give your compost bin a good clean
Clean all your drawers and cupboards
Clean inside your oven, microwave, toaster oven, and other relevant kitchen appliances
Disinfect all knobs, light switches, and handles
Disinfect all countertops and sinks
Clean behind the fridge and oven
Dust and wash baseboards
Dust ceiling fans
Anything else that needs dusting…
Remove all cobwebs
Clean your windows and mirrors
Clean under all beds, couches and furniture
Wash linens, blankets, pillowcases on couches, etc.
Wash your shower curtain
Give your bathtub and/or shower a good clean
Vacuum and sweep
Mop and scrub all floors
Wash your pet food bowls (I’m writing this one because it’s on currently on my list)
Wash pet accessories, towels, beds, etc.
Wash and clean all relevant kid stuff (stuffed toys, organizing bins, etc.)
While you're at it, wash your hands :)
4. Mend Clothes that need Mending
When you cleaned out your closet, you may have found some clothes that have holes or need mending in one way or another. If you plan to keep them, make sure you mend them so you can enjoy wearing these beloved pieces.
If mending clothes is not your forte (sewing or otherwise), you can ask a friend or family member to help you out or take them to a tailor to get mended by a professional (when those services become available again). You can also learn to mend if you’re inclined, as there are lots of tutorials on YouTube and various blogs. If you’ve got time to spare, why not!
5. Repair what needs to be Fixed
Similarly, you may be storing broken stuff. Whether it’s a small kitchen appliance or broken chair (my husband just repaired the back of our kitchen stool that has been broken for months…), you may have discovered a few things in your decluttering process that need to be tended to.
If you have the skills and tools to fix them, now is probably the best time to tackle these repair projects. If it’s not your skill set, consider finding a repair café when we are free to explore the outside world once again.
6. Try Cooking a New Recipe
I’ll be honest, I hate cooking. I’ve always said that if I won the lottery that I would:
a) Buy huge swaths of land for nature conservation, like the late North Face founder Doug Tompkins, and
b) get a personal chef.
7. Call or Text a Friend
Call all your friends and family. FaceTime them. WhatsApp them. SnapChat them. Instagram them. Facebook them. TikTok them?? All of the things. Check in on them and see how they’re doing, it’ll be good for them, and good for you too. Share your stresses and anxieties and share the joys too (like the sun is out or tell them that you just made the best BBQ Lentil Balls ever and share the recipe). It’ll be good for all involved.
Here’s a fun idea, and it’s not mine it was my sister’s but whatever I’m stealing it and sharing it on here. Want to workout at home but prefer having a workout buddy? Video chat with a friend and do a workout together!
8. Plan your Vegetable Garden
It’s that time of year! For those in the northern hemisphere, that is, where we can plan our veggie gardens! Or gardens in general, including flowers and other plants. Whether you have a yard or a balcony, there tend to be a few options for growing veggies at home. Even indoor options too! Stay tuned for more information from my blog The Zero Waste Collective on gardening! I’ll also be following @pond.view.homestead for gardening ideas!
You might light this post: The Ultimate Guide to Growing a Kick Ass Veggie Garden!
9. Practice Self Care
Cleaning and decluttering are worthwhile activities, but we can also indulge in some relaxation, too. Here are some ideas:
Take a bubble bath
Read a book or magazine
Listen to a podcast (not about the news)
Call a friend or family member
Watch your fave TV Show
Cook your favourite meal
Snuggle your pets
Play with your children
Do yoga or other exercise
Enjoy your home-based hobbies
Take an online course
Finish a puzzle
Write notes of gratitude
10. Help Those in Need
Not everyone has the luxury to find joy in self-isolation / quarantine / social distancing. Now more than ever we need to help our neighbours, be there for our community, and connect with our loved ones. Make sure you’re calling and texting family and friends to check in on them. Consider shopping from small and local businesses, because they’re being hit so hard right now financially, along with many others right now.
If you have the means, support the food bank and local shelters, and related organizations. If you have elderly or immunocompromised neighbours, offer to get their groceries and find out if they have any other pressing needs. Most of all, spread the good vibes and remember, we will get through this. Together.
11. Stay Informed, but Take Breaks, too
Okay so this isn't officially part of the list, but it's important so I've included it...
We live in an unprecedented time where we are hyper-connected to one another and to information and social media status updates. It’s important to have access to information, but at the same time, we need to ensure that we are accessing the right information. Be sure to consume news and updates on COVID-19 from reputable and official sources and skip the fake news. Once you’re all up to date, take a break from news, information, and social media, and participate in all of the options above!