As the nation continues its attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus, many of us are finding ourselves sheltering at home, working from home and also home-schooling our children. Quick decluttering projects can be a good way to break up this new stay-home routine. Here are 10 straightforward decluttering projects that should take no more than an hour or two each. Perhaps tackling one or more of these could bring some satisfaction and mental calm to you this month.

I often write in my articles that decluttering is not complete until you’ve removed the unwanted items from your home. However, during this time of sheltering in place, many businesses that normally recycle items or accept donations are closed — meaning that the donation element of decluttering may have to wait. As the situation varies across the country, I recommend you contact your local donation centers to find out how their business operations are affected.

But don’t let donation facility closures detract you from your decluttering goals. In the meantime, I recommend you store your items to donate in an out-of-the-way place in your home or garage. Consider storing the items in small moving boxes that you can stack vertically against a wall. This may provide a neater appearance and take up less of a footprint than bags.

In fact, it may be a good thing for your donation items to have a “quarantine” period to ensure you don’t donate potentially infected items. Studies suggest that the coronavirus can survive on surfaces for up to several days — so keeping these items isolated for at least a week should make them safe for others to handle when you finally can deliver them to a donation center.

  1. Toss Spoiled Food In a time of crisis, the last thing we want to do is waste food. But clearing your shelves of spoiled foods is always a good idea. You may be unsure how strictly to adhere to the “best before” and “use by” dates on packaging. Some items, like sugar, keep indefinitely with proper storage. Others, such as milk, clearly spoil with time.

  2. Pare Down Writing Tools and Office Accessories In my household, pens, pencils and markers seem to breed over time. I have my few favorites and end up not using most of the others. While you’re staying safe at home, spend a little time testing out your pens and markers and tossing any that lack ink. In fact, this is a great task to delegate to homebound little ones. Of the remaining good ones, pick out those you use and like and donate the rest. Be sure to review your rulers, scissors, staplers and other office items too, letting go of any that you don’t like to use or don’t need to have.

  3. Recycle Old Socks and Undergarments Many people get new socks and underwear without eliminating existing ones, resulting in overstuffed drawers. Now is a good time to make space in your drawers by removing worn-out socks and undergarments with holes or loosened elastic, as well as socks with missing mates.

  4. Donate Extra Blankets My daughter loves blankets and throws, and as a result she had received many as gifts. While she rotates through them, she honestly still has far more than she needs. Though many of the throws have been thoughtful gifts from good friends, I think my daughter will feel good sharing some with those in greater need. If you also have a glut of throw blankets, perhaps sharing with those less fortunate could be a way to help others during this pandemic. Most homeless and animal shelters need and welcome extra blankets. Contact your local shelters to verify how they may be handling donations during this time.

  5. Toss Old Lipsticks An excessive number of lipsticks — some of which you may never wear — can accumulate over time. While lipstick does not come with expiration dates, they don’t stay good indefinitely. I recommend assessing the freshness of your favorite lipsticks and tossing unused lipsticks and free samples that you are not likely to wear.

  6. Sort Through and Donate Belts Belts don’t take up a ton of room, so it’s easy to neglect them when you periodically clean out your closet. Personally, I am not attached to belts, so pruning mine is a painless task for me. In fact, I resist accumulating too many belts when I purchase clothing. When I buy an outfit or a coat with a belt and don’t care for the belt or have a need in my closet, I donate it right away.

Culling belts may not be an easy task for you, so before you tackle this one you will have to realistically judge whether it’s a project that falls within your time availability. It may be easier simply to focus on eliminating belts that are too small, too large, or that have cracking material or broken hardware.

Unfortunately, leather recycling is uncommon. Contact your local recycling center to see if they will take your old leather belts. If they don’t, another option to prevent your belt from going in the landfill would be to upcycle it into an art project. If the buckle is metal, you can recycle it as you would any other metal.

  1. Donate Extra Ties Where I live, the prevailing trend for work attire is business casual, so our clients are finding their collection of neckties to be more than what they need. Many of our clients select a few favorites to keep for special occasions or important meetings and donate the rest.

  2. Donate Dog Toys I think most dog owners would agree that their fur babies have favorites when it comes to toys. If your dog has certain toys that are so well-loved that it’s time for them to rest in peace, remove any squeakers or bells, wash them and consider recycling them as you would old socks or undergarments. On the other hand, if you have a basket full of neglected dog toys, consider donating them to your local animal shelter.

  3. Donate or Recycle Old Books and Magazines There was a time when I would save my magazines to read when I had more time. But by the time I had more time, the magazines were likely out of date. If this sounds like you, you may want to take some time to do a room-by-room scan of your house and pick up outdated magazines and newspapers and books you’re unlikely to read. Donate or recycle as appropriate. If there are articles you still want to read in the magazines, consider tearing out just the specific articles and keeping them all in one folder. This will take up much less space and your articles to read will all be in one easily accessible place.

  4. Donate Reusable Grocery Bags Reusable grocery bags seem to multiply quickly, whether it’s from purchasing extras during grocery checkouts to receiving ones as store promotions. But how many do you really need? The answer, of course, depends on how often you go grocery shopping, how much you tend to purchase at a time and what other purposes you use the bags for.

Personally, I rarely purchase more than three full grocery bags in normal times. I also like to keep two clean bags for non-food purchases like clothing and gifts, and then one more for exchanging things back and forth with my mom. So for me, that’s six reusable bags, maybe eight for good measure, in normal times, or perhaps eleven bags for right now when we’re all stocking up with extra supplies. That said, during the coronavirus pandemic, many stores are temporarily banning reusable bags for fear that they can be vectors for the virus. If your local stores are enforcing this ban, then you can estimate your needs based on normal times. I recommend you calculate how many your household needs and then get rid of the rest.

In these unpredictable times, I truly wish that boredom and cabin fever become your only challenges. To all of my readers, I’m sending positive thoughts and good wishes for your safety and health.

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See latest COVID-19 updates on government website www.sacoronavirus.co.za.