Our homes are now classrooms, offices, nurseries and gyms. Around 18.5m people in the UK are currently working from home due the pandemic and lockdown restrictions. As a result, homes are becoming cluttered and untidy.
Research has found that clutter has a negative impact on mental health and wellbeing, with 54% of Brits admitting that clutter impacts their stress levels.
Vlatka Lake, of self-storage experts, Space Station, shares her advice to help the nation keep their homes as functional as possible whilst adapting to living in lockdown, without the dreaded clutter.
1: Identify your boundaries
You will want to create a separate space for both working, teaching and exercising in your home, so no one is disturbed throughout the day.
If you have a spare bedroom, use this room for work and teaching. Or, if you’re looking to work out at home, keep any exercise equipment neatly stored, so at the end of a workday or workout, you’re able to close the door and relax.
If you don’t have a dedicated room to use, perhaps ask your family or housemates if they can avoid using the area around your workspace. This will help you concentrate throughout the day and reduce distractions.
2: Decide what’s to stay and go
It’s easy to have everything you think you need for working from home or homeschooling spread out on your desks or dining tables, but try to keep things you don’t need tucked away in cupboards or storage boxes.
Things such as unused or full notebooks, textbooks or stationery that you find yourself not using or needing can be stored away, so they’re not cluttering up your living space when the day is done.
3: Use wall space
To save desk space, use any wall space you have in your home office, spare bedroom or living room to attach any useful work documents, school learning materials or even to display your children’s lockdown artwork!
Utilising unused space around the room not only helps your immediate workspace from becoming cluttered, but it is also a great way to encourage visual learning. You could also create a temporary wipe board wall for you or your children by placing a sheet of plain A4 paper inside a punched pocket and attaching to your wall using wall-friendly adhesive tape or tack.
4: Tidy away at the end of the day
One of the most important steps to making sure your home still feels like a home and not a classroom, gym or office, is to clear away your things at the end of the working day. If you’re using a dining table or coffee table, clear away everything into storage boxes so you still have the usual, homely space to eat with your family and relax on an evening.
If you have a dedicated space to use such as an office or spare room, tidy away any stationery, notebooks or used mugs and plates that have accumulated throughout the day. This will help you feel productive and ready for the day when you next come to use your working space.
5: Store everything correctly
Keeping a home calm and relaxing in lockdown is important, but taking care of your possessions as you store them away is equally so.
For stationery, especially pens or felt tips, always ensure the lids are replaced at the end of your working day and are stored away from sunlight, especially if your desk is near a window. You can store them away in a pen pot or drawer and this will stop them from drying out. Chalkboards are also great for creating a space to write notes or reminders on, so if you have one that you’ve used for meal plans, it could come in handy for your office.
If your home also doubles up as a home gym, keep equipment stored away from high traffic areas, so they don’t become a trip hazard. Equipment, such as resistance bands and yoga mats, can detoritiate or dry out over time, especially if left in direct sunlight. To help keep your fitness gear in good condition, clean it regularly with a natural cleaning product that doesn’t contact harsh chemicals and store away under a bed, desk or in a cupboard away from sunlight.
Amy Downes, a UK-based blogger, has been working from home as a freelance content creator for three years. She said: “Because of my job, we bought a house with a study, so in a way I am lucky because I have that space designated for work, but it has still been invaded. My fiancé and I take it in turns to work at the desk, so it's often filled with his mess when I come in and with a four-year-old and a nine-month-old at home, it is also filled with toys, food wrappers and even them asking for cuddles, which makes it very hard to focus on work.
“So, I am trying to follow a rule which I think applies whether, like me, you have a separate room to work in, or if you're trying to sit down at your laptop on the dining table. When I am tidying up at the end of the day, I make sure I include my working space. That way I can start the next morning with a clear mind and am able to concentrate on my to-do list - rather than having to clear anything that was left there the day before.
“Keeping the workspace clear helps make that a little less stressful, and it's good to have time to focus on something for you too.”
Vlatka concludes: “The current climate has made it difficult to maintain a good balance in the home, with most of us now using our living space as a place to not only relax but also work, homeschool and exercise.
“We hope that people find the tips useful for maintaining a sense of normality within their home and continue to utilise them going forward.”