Rosie Barron is the owner of organising business The Tidy Coo, a Gold Certified KonMari Consultant and a Photo Manager. She lives in Aberdeenshire with her husband, four home educated children, eight ponies, five dogs, three cats, two rabbits, ten chickens, six ducks and several fish – and they all Spark Joy! In this post for National Organising Week, Rosie is sharing with us her thoughts on organising our homes for the current times.
Living, as I do, in deepest, darkest, rural Aberdeenshire, my motto is, “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst”. Even before the current COVID-19 crisis hit, preparing for winter here meant preparing for being snowed in and being unable to leave the house for a significant amount of time. However, even winter storms usually come with a few days warning, so you get the chance to pop to the shops to top up if you need to and to make sure that everything is in place. Being told to self-isolate on the other hand, or developing COVID-19 symptoms, is likely to come completely out of the blue: a sudden lockdown, without any chance to finesse those final preparations.
We discovered this ourselves a few weeks ago when my husband, suffering with a migraine, coughed a couple of times and decided to book himself a test – it’s hard to think straight when your head hurts. I had no doubt that he didn’t have COVID-19 (and the excellent NHS Grampian had the negative results back to us within 24hrs), but we immediately had to self-isolate and, boy, was I pleased that I had the preparations done already.
So in this blog post, I am going to run through some of the things that you can do now in order to prepare for winter in general, and particularly a winter with COVID-19 restrictions.
First of all, it’s important to have a plan in place in case a member of the family has to self-isolate. Decisions such as how the infected person should isolate from the rest of the household are best taken when everyone is well. My husband had to isolate from the rest of the household whilst waiting for his result. I slept in our middle daughter’s room and he stayed in our bedroom. He used the bathroom last and cleaned it when he was finished and had his meals in his room.
A Facebook follower of mine pointed out the importance of keeping enough fuel in your car (if you have one) to get to a testing centre and back.
This is also a good time to take stock of your food. Have a look through what you have, discard anything that is out of date and see where the gaps are. If you were asked to self-isolate without warning, would you have enough food to last several days before you can get a delivery? Of course, what you should absolutely NOT do is go out and panic buy food. You should make a list of meals that you enjoy eating and then ensure that you have enough of the ingredients to make them. We don’t eat many pre-prepared meals, but we do have various soups and meals in the freezer and we probably have enough food to last us almost the entire two weeks if necessary.
A medicine cabinet stocktake is also an important thing to do at this stage. Again, no panic buying! But do ensure that you have a couple of packets of paracetamol and make sure you don’t let any prescription medicines run right down. This is especially important as we face to a possible No Deal Brexit.
Another important preparatory step is to buddy up with a friend to be their emergency shopper if needed. Several friends here have my number; they know that they can call me if they are stuck and that I will go to the shops and get supplies for them. I also know that I can rely on them to do the same.
As we face a long winter of home working, it’s important to get your home working space sorted out. Whilst some people are lucky enough to have a spare room or home office already in place, others are not. We have four children, so space in our home is at a premium. We have a desk in our bedroom which my husband has been working at. Initially, he tried to work with just the desk and chair that were already there but he ended up with terrible, incapacitating, back pain so over the last seven months, we have made changes to this space: first he got a kneeler chair and, more recently, he invested in an add-on that becomes a standing desk – both significant improvements.
When lock down started, I took my entire organising business online! I had no desk to work at, so I had to hot desk around the house with my laptop and my headset. This worked for a while, but complaints from the children grew too loud, so I cleared out a linen cupboard and converted it into a very, very tiny office. More recently, I have run electricity out to a shed, which I have insulated and painted, so now I have a functioning workspace away from the main bustle of the house.
As a small business owner who has only been going for a couple of years and was not eligible for the government’s support system, I could see my business slipping away if I didn’t grab it with both hands. As well as my KonMari online coaching, during lock down I have invested in a lot of extra training, including in photo management, so now I have a second string to my bow to help me through this time. It has not been easy, but my investment in a space that I can work in and in extra skills is already proving its worth.
Winter takes its toll on the outside of our homes, but there are a few things you can go to reduce the risks. Make sure your gutters are clear, your pipes are lagged and that you have plenty of salt and grit in stock. If applicable, make sure your chimneys are swept, and wood or oil on order. Make sure you have fresh batteries in your torches and, if you are one of the homes in the UK that runs off a well as we do, have plenty of bottled water on standby in case your pump gives up!
I’ve spoken a bit about physical resilience (being prepared with food) and business resilience (ensuring you have a workspace and trying to improve your skills), now I’d like to talk a bit about emotional resilience.
As the winter nights get longer and the weather gets colder and wetter, our homes become ever more important as a refuge. As we are unable to get out as much as we are used to, we should think about how to make our home a happier place to be. Obviously, as a professional declutterer and organiser, I’m going to suggest that you declutter and organise your house, but I’d also like to look at other things: perhaps get some cosy blankets that you can curl up in, look for some good viewing on TV, or some good books. Even without clearing your entire house, is it possible to make a spot where you feel happiest. Remember, it’s OK to find this time of year hard, especially with the added stress of a global pandemic! Christmas this year may not be what we usually expect it to be, so think about what you can do to make it special.
If you are inspired to organise your home for this strangest of winters to come, don’t miss yesterday’s National Organising Week post “Organising your home: Getting started“. And if you need help, you can find your nearest professional organiser in our Find An Organiser directory.