February 27, 2024
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Sheltering in Place: How Are You Spending Your Free Time?

A typical day in May would consist of working out, client sessions, phone-call follow up, attending webinars and spending time with family and friends. Perhaps included would be a stop at the post office or the drug store, without giving a thought to safety precautions, masks, hand sanitizer and how late the pharmacy is staying open these days. Or when their next shipment of wipes is. By the end of my typical days I would be asking myself, how can I get to everything on my task list and where can I steal time from to get through the remainder?

Now, on this not-so-typical day in May, my time is plentiful, yet my time-management skills are lacking. I need my daily list more than ever to keep me on track. If I end up doing something that was not on the list, I add it and cross it out just for the sense of satisfaction that it brings.

How have you been spending your free time? What home organizing projects are on your mind? For me, it has been an opportunity to implement my organizing skills in my home. For example, sorting through cartons from my parents’ apartment that I last touched five years ago. Previously, many items were sold, donated, recycled or simply tossed. This most recent sorting of the cartons yielded more intimate archives of my childhood such as a box full of art projects that I made in kindergarten.

I had a mixed range of feelings as I was handling those items. It brought back memories of more innocent times, although I do remember the drills where we filed into the basement of Forest Avenue School in Verona, where we sat on the floor of the gym (which was also a “fallout shelter”) and held our hands over our heads to practice protecting ourselves from another invisible enemy.

During these many recent sorting projects, my husband was the driver of my personal organizing bus as I navigated the cartons filled with papers, letters and assorted memorabilia. He recommended next steps for me to ease my conscience as I grappled with decision after decision. I tossed, tossed and tossed some more. At age 65, I have no interest in saving my kindergarten artwork, nor do I suspect my son will want to sort through it when I am no longer here. I kept my parents’ marriage certificate, some ration books from WW II, a prayer book issued by the army that my father carried throughout Europe in his knap sack and my uncle’s deck of “risqué” cards.

We each handle this process in our own way. At this point, I am past the sentimentality of keeping memorabilia from my youth. I do not want the daily reminders of a childhood long gone, filled with crumbling pages of artwork that I can’t remember creating, and have no desire to keep. Gone are the camp letters filled with “woe’s me, I need to go on a diet.” And gone are the Weight Watchers report cards from years and years of attendance showing my weight fluctuating year in and out. I am keeping family photographs, but only the good ones that are in focus, and only the ones of people whose faces I remember.

Sometimes blessings come in disguise. Sheltering in place has allowed me, as a non-essential worker, time to face my basement demons/archives with an open mind and a fresh perspective. I learned that I too have connections with my stuff, just like my clients, and that I am willing to say goodbye if I am over it and keep if it only truly brings me joy. This journey was done with laundry running in the next room. Bam—two birds with one stone! When this is all over and I am back at work, I will look back at sheltering in place as a gift of time to get my personal organizing act together.

Wishing you safety, good health and sanity during this challenging time. Don’t forget to wear a mask and wash your hands.

From my half-filled glass to yours, Happy Organizing!


Eileen Bergman is a professional organizer and a proud member of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO). Eileen is listed in the resource directory for the Hoarding Disorder Resource and Training Group. Eileen may be reached at 973-303-3236 or [email protected].

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