Whatever your quarantine life may look like during these unprecedented times, you've definitely had to shift away from your normal routine. Whether this be working from home, schooling your children from home, finding yourself out of work or bravely working on the frontlines, your normal has shifted to a "new normal".
We asked Regina Leeds, a Splendid Spoon customer and "Professional organizer since 1988," to give us her top tips to create some sort of structure for our new normal. She is the author of 10 books including New York Times best seller "One Year to an Organized Life" and full of wonderful advice. Check out her five tips to stay sane during these crazy times.
1) Create a schedule for everyone to follow.
Your days will be more productive if you craft a schedule for yourself and your family members. We're all a little overwhelmed, mourning the loss of what we knew to be normal and struggling to make sense of the new version of life that has been thrust upon us. We need markers for every day of the week to help eliminate that free floating feeling that it's all one long fuzzy day.
Take a few minutes to think about the key things you need to accomplish each day. Make a list. Don't worry about the order. Just get it all out on paper. Here are some things to consider:
- Are you working from home? (Or are you a stay at home mom who finds herself with a stay at home crew?)
- Do you need to home school your children or are they doing virtual classes? Is there homework to review?
- Do you have a spouse working from home? Do you each need a dedicated work space or are you sharing an office? How compatible are your work styles?
You may need to stagger work hours in the home office or find separate areas. Maybe one of you has the morning work shift while the other home schools then in the afternoon you switch. Every family has unique needs but every family needs to schedule the steps that will leave you feeling accomplished and moving forward at day's end rather than defeated.
List everything you feel is a key life element that needs to find a designated slot on the family calendar. The list is the first step. Break some items into component parts so that scheduling each item is the next step. You can use Google Calendar, a paper system or your favorite app. Send everyone the first schedule and ask for feedback. Remember the key word is 'feedback' not 'criticism.' Be fluid and open to tweaking the first draft in the event the new schedule falls short of the goal.
Finally remember that the engine that runs the 'Organizing Train' is decision making and it is one exhausting process. You will need nutrient-dense food, fresh water and healthy snacks to power you and all those with whom you share your space. When I am working with clients, I can feel my blood sugar plummet and know instantly it's time for food. I bring my Splendid Spoon meal in a soup thermos so I never have to bother my clients. A hot meal is always at hand! Tempers will no doubt flare if you are in tight quarters with your family. Be sure they are all well fed, hydrated and get a little exercise. If you have a dog, it's a great way to take care of his needs, get your exercise and, you know, score a break from that crew you love so dearly.
2) Chores for Everyone!
This tends to be a thorny issue in most homes. Let's face it, it's easier to just suck it up and do it all yourself, right? Wrong. That's the path to resentment. No one wants to live in a perfect home ruled by a martyr. Besides without chores, how will you teach your children how to care for a home of their own? I've known too many 18 year olds who have to scramble to learn how to do laundry the week before they leave for college!
Try to assign tasks that everyone enjoys. I'm a terrible dish washer but I could literally do laundry for a living! If family members are old enough, let them know a formal quarantine schedule is being created. It's more effective to invite people into a new way of living then it is to browbeat them into submission. Play to peoples strengths when you make your assignments like the time of day they are most efficient. And while you may not note these on the calendar, don't forget to do the obvious things that are guaranteed to lift your spirits and help launch your day: make your bed, take a shower, get dressed in clean clothes and eat nutrient dense food. I've been a Splendid Spooner for over 2 years and have always appreciated that the smoothies, soups and bowls make me feel energized and healthy. Now I deeply appreciate that I don't have to shop, prep and cook. Splendid has always nurtured my body and now it keeps me safe.
Rewards and consequences are the master keys to success in this endeavor. You can create and print out a separate chore chart or note the tasks on the daily schedule. A lot will depend on the number in your household and their ages. No one gets a pass. I know a mom of 7 who started chores as each child reached 18 months. By the time her kids left home at 18, they could cook, clean, do laundry and manage money. Be sure you do more than assign chores. Be sure you demonstrate exactly what you expect the process to be. I don't think the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I think it's paved with assumptions. Teaching your children chores will give you an opportunity to practice being a skilled mentor and set you up to be accomplished in the fine art of delegating.
3) Create a Tool Kit
I've been organizing clients for over 32 years. I live in a super-organized, minimalist space and I need to use every tool in my self-care arsenal to survive these days. When I teach my classes, I ask my students to imagine they have an old time doctor's bag at their side. When they don't feel like organizing (or working, or doing household chores or, let's face it, getting out of bed), I suggest they peek inside and see which of the tools I have suggested might help. We always have the choice to wallow or to adjust.
Here are 5 tools I use every day:
- Meditation reduces blood pressures, calms the mind and increases our ability to focus.
- Pranayama also known as breath work were meant to prepare for meditation but you can do them to prepare for your day.
- I keep a salt lamp in every room (except the bathroom) and mine have been on 24/7 for over 20 years. They make great night lights and add to the ambience of any room.Many place them by a computer to mitigate the harmful effects of EMF's.
- Aromatherapy can be enjoyed with a diffuser or scented candles. I diffuse oils first thing in the morning to be sure I help start the day on the right foot (Research your choice of oils as some are not safe for pets.)
4) Habits for the Win
If you are a generally organized person, these tips will be reminders. If you have struggled with creating order and peace, you may now feel nothing but overwhelmed. The way to success in any project is to understand that the whole of anything is overwhelming. Break the whole into manageable chunks and proceed slowly. Habits are actions that have been repeated so often they seem a part of our DNA. We accomplish them with little effort. Think of no more than 3 actions to start that would have a positive effect on your environment. Do those for 21 consecutive days and you will be on your way to control. Here are 5 of my daily favorites:
- Make the bed
- Wash dishes after use or rinse and put in the dishwasher
- Hang your clothes up or put them in the hamper after your are done wearing them. Forget the floor or the chair.
- Put your keys (or the remote) in the same place
- Check the trash/recycling every day and empty as needed.
Not only will these simple actions build your self-esteem, they will alter the energy flow in the home and positively influence everyone with whom you share space. I wouldn't make a big announcement about your intention to change. I would just be the example. Quiet, steady repetition can create new grooves in your life! You know how I learned to make all these habits a part of my life? My parents modeled them for me.
5) Be a Mindful Organizer ... Not a Mindless one!
I saved the best for last. We designate organizing projects as things we have to do periodically. People toss it into the dreaded category. I see organizing as creative and fun. It is also part and parcel of my spiritual life. How do we get lost mentally and emotionally? We spend time fretting about the past or future tripping into a reality we presume to be much better or much worse. All the while we move like a zombie in the current reality. And you know what they say: now is all the time we have.
When you create your schedule, draw up your chore chart, down a Splendid smoothie or work on a habit, be 100 percent in the moment. There are specific mindfulness practices but the end result is to ground you in the now. Imaging how proud you will be if you re-enter the world with such a powerful tool as part of how you live your days.
Questions? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.