Because old habits are hard to break, I’m not much more productive than I was before the stay-at-home order went into effect. In my own defense, my work has kept me busy while providing a welcome distraction from the latest headlines and daily notifications.

Still, since my friends who have the opposite problem are doing more cleaning and home improvement projects than ever before, I feel the need to make some progress, no matter how small.  

For motivation, I try to mix a little pleasure with my to-do list in order to make the experience more tolerable.

So, as I take a brief break from reading some great books to catch up on my newspapers and magazines, they provide a historic timeline for what’s been happening in the past few weeks. After finishing my favorite sections of the paper, I get to recycle them and declutter my home in the process.

For the magazines I normally pass along to a friend, this time I offered her a no-contact pickup on my porch instead of our usual catch-up marathons at local coffee shops.

Since laundry still happens to be the only domestic chore I enjoy, this one is a no-brainer. An added benefit to this task is that it has a domino effect that leads to less clutter in my closet while forcing me to address the miscellaneous items in my laundry room that need to leave.

Another quick fix continues to be editing the rooms where I spend the most time each day in order to create a more calming environment. This simple act provides instant gratification.

Sometimes it only takes one less item to make a difference in a room. Putting the dog bed in storage because it no longer appeals to our border collie as he ages makes our master suite more spacious.

Clearing out cabinets one shelf at a time makes way for the non-perishables we have (not because of hoarding, but because the three of us are working from home and snacks make us happy) keeps me productive with small steps.

Watching my favorite TV shows as I clear out small baskets and trays during commercial breaks lets me address more than one room at a time.  

All this time spent at home also has me seeing my personal belongings in a new light. I’ve decided to shift some accent pieces that have been in the same place for way too long.

While I may not be getting to the bigger projects that are begging for my attention like my storage room quite yet, being healthy and able to make a little progress each day feels like a blessing that cannot be wasted. 

So far these seemingly small steps have gone a long way to brighten my home environment, which means even more thanusual considering how much time I’m spending here. Any improvement makes the four walls feel more like a respite than detention. For now, making my limited surroundings feel more livable lets me be productive while giving me another focus, even if it’s only for a little while.

Jeanine Matlow is a Metro Detroit interior decorator turned freelance writer specializing in stories about interior design. You can reach her at

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