If we’ll be learning and working from home this fall, August is the month to take charge of decluttering

Many of us made quick adjustments to our homes when the pandemic was declared in March. We had to adapt quickly to everyone working and learning from home. Then summer began, and schedules changed again. Kids abandoned their makeshift desks with the hope that they would go back to school in the fall, and parents shifted things around again to adapt to the long, hot summer days.

But as the school year comes into focus with most kids spending at least some of the week distance learning, and as adults who have been working from home prepare to spend at least a few more months telecommuting, August is a good time to get your house in order. This can empower you and your family to take control of your immediate surroundings; ideally, it will increase productivity, lower stress levels and save money.

The upcoming school year is going to be stressful for kids and adults alike. But kids in particular are feeling a total lack of control over their lives. To help empower them and give them a sense of control heading into the school year, involve them in decluttering their rooms and getting a space set up where they’ll be able to work comfortably and productively.

Studies have shown that clutter interferes with quality of life and causes stress. One study, entitled “Procrastinators and Clutter: An Ecological View of Living with Excessive ‘Stuff,’ ” found “behavioral procrastination tendencies related only to clutter.” In other words, living in spaces that have too much “stuff” and feeling overwhelmed with excessive possessions negatively affects people’s lives.

No matter their age, kids want to have input on their rooms and belongings. Some will voluntarily pare down their belongings every few months, and others will need help with the task, but either way, everyone feels better when it’s done. Empower your child to help make the decisions about what is kept, what is given away and what can be put in a “memory box.”

Decluttering and setting up an efficient home workstation will not only give your children a sense of control, but it will also help them be productive. This should translate to increased productivity for everyone.

Likewise, look for quick ways to declutter your home office space, such as dedicating a spot for work notes and papers, organizing office supplies and possibly even trying to tidy up and put stuff away each night. Remote workers are reportedly having a hard time “turning off work,” but perhaps setting aside papers and shutting down a laptop can help create some closure for the day.

It’s no surprise that at the beginning of the pandemic, many people started feverishly organizing their homes. Possibly without even realizing it, their efforts were fulfilling two purposes – both getting their home in order and attaining some sense of control.

The process of deciding what to keep and what to give away reinforces your values. Completing an organizing project gives you a sense of accomplishment. And both activities are empowering.

Plus, when you own less stuff, there is less to keep track of, less to clean and less to organize, all of which reduce your overall stress level at home. For example, organizing your closet involves getting rid of unwanted items, and organizing the remaining items in a way that makes sense to you will save you time choosing an outfit each morning.

An organized home also gives you a greater sense of control and a certain peace of mind that you’ll be able to adapt to any situation that arises, both in the short term and in the long term. A home repair is easier to prepare for if you’re organized, as is a move or renovation a year or two from now. Living in an organized home has the immediate effect of reducing stress, but it also gives you an overall sense of control for whatever the future holds.

If you know what you have, you’re less likely to spend money buying duplicates, and you’ll therefore have less to store and organize. Clients are constantly telling me they couldn’t find something, so they just bought a new one. This happens with office supplies, kitchen gadgets, books, toys and tools. Although it’s not the end of the world to have some extra items, it does represent a scenario that feels a little out of control. If everything has a place and you know where to find an item, determining whether you need more should be easy. As everyone is dealing with the fallout from a changing economy amid the pandemic, one thing we can control is how we spend our money.

Those of us with the flexibility to work from home do not need the same “work wardrobe” – and kids may not need the same school wardrobe. If you’ve organized your family’s closets and cleaned them out before school starts, remember that you probably do not need to fill them right back up again. You can save money and reduce clutter by thinking about what you and your family really need for remote work and school, and purchasing only those things.

It’s understandable that having an organized home is not a top concern for many people right now. As this pandemic drags on, we’re simultaneously grasping for some sense of normalcy and a little bit of control over our lives while still trying to adjust to so many changes. One way to feel more in control is to organize the spaces where we are all spending so much time – at home.

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Nicole Anzia is the owner of Neatnik.

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