A Professional Organizer’s Guide to Coronavirus Preparedness in the US

Would it help you to know what a professional organizer is doing to prepare for the coronavirus pandemic? My plan on how to prepare for the coronavirus has five points:

  1. Gather essential supplies
  2. Prepare for closures
  3. Adjust travel plans
  4. Work from home
  5. General preparedness

A Professional Organizer's Guide to Coronavirus Preparedness in the US

Gather Essential Supplies:

There’s only a handful of things you should be stockpiling:

  • Medications (prescriptions and over-the-counter flu treatments)
  • Coffee
  • Wine (ProTip: Boxed wine is the most space-efficient.)
  • Chocolate
  • Canned chicken noodle soup, because we know that’s all we want to eat when we’re sick
  • TP (Just kidding, people. If you have enough for a couple of weeks, maybe tone down the panic buying, ok?)

In all seriousness, if you were an adult when 9/11 happened, you remember people stockpiling duct tape and plastic sheeting. Did it protect us from anything? Not at all. But buying supplies was doing something, and doing something makes us feel more prepared than doing nothing. In this case, it’s completely reasonable to stock the pantry with the recommended 2-4 weeks of healthy, shelf-stable food and cleaning supplies you might need if your whole family were sick in bed…because what we’re actually preparing for is a case of the flu.

Prepare for Closures:

I’m hoping that the worst side effect of the coronavirus will be school closures, otherwise known as more together time than I am used to.

I’m actually pretty excited that my district just announced its own distance learning plan. It is taking a crisis for our first-world schools to learn how to use all the technology at their disposal, but it might turn out to be a positive development.

In the meantime, I’m making my own plans:

  • Having my kids read through the mountain of books we checked out of the library the night before they closed
  • Letting my kids onto their Kindles to read age-appropriate books from our public library online catalog
  • Re-introducing them to household chores
  • Taking them to the gym because, apparently, while airports have become cesspools, the CDC still considers local gyms to be a low-risk venue. So much for that excuse.

Travel Plans:

I have two industry conferences planned in the next few weeks. I’ll be teaching on Digital File Organizing at the NAPO conference in Orlando.  I’ll be teaching on Creating Gorgeous Gallery Walls at the APPO conference is in Atlanta. These are my people! Unless we are banned from flying, I’ll be going. If I don’t travel, I’m available to offer these classes to your groups and teams via video conferencing. (Edited: Of course, one of those has canceled and one has moved to an online conference.)

Do you think the TSA will relax the limits on liquids through security for those of us who are a little too attached to hand sanitizer in public spaces???

When we do get together, practice social distancing, to which all of us introverts are pumping our fists and saying, “Yes! Finally!” Choose your favorite greeting from those that are suddenly cool:

  • elbow bump
  • foot tap 
  • prayer hands bow (Namaste!), aka the Thai greeting
  • air fist-bump (explosion optional)
  • Vulcan salute (live long and prosper)
  • Just wave. You don’t really need a link for this one, right?
  • Wear a nametag sticker that says “Hands-Free Attendee” or more to the point, “Keep Your Distance: We all want to make it home alive.

Working from Home:

Forty-two percent of US professionals worked from home some or all of the time in 2018. That number is about to go waaay up!

Working from home professionally takes more than just a wi-fi connection. People who haven’t previously worked at home, and maybe some who have, are likely to find that they will have to be on video calls now, even if they haven’t before. As people stay home en masse, managers will still want traditional face time with their teams. Individuals who figure out how to stay in touch with their teams are likely to be seen as more successful and more professional than those people who seem to be strangely quiet and absent.

The meaning of integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching. So yes, working from home means actually working while at home. It isn’t code for a day off.

[bctt tweet=”The meaning of integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching. So yes, working from home means actually working while at home. It isn’t code for a day off.” username=”@DarlaDeMorrow”]

Video conferencing can be an excellent tool for people with ADHD who have trouble staying focused and self-starting. It’s easier to stay productive if they are on video with a colleague, rather than succumbing to the distractions of food, games, and socializing at home.

It will work the other way for parents who strive to just get some work done, gosh darn it while the kids are being kids in the next room. My best advice is to work behind a closed door for chunks of time, if you can. Working from home with kids is a definite challenge, no doubt, but it can be done.

If you are an entrepreneur and still do not yet have your own Zoom.us account for on-demand high-quality video conferencing, please go get your free or paid account ASAP. You’ll thank me later.

Are you set up with a quiet space with a professional, organized background? Working from home professionally is a skill, just like showing up on time for work in a traditional office is a skill.

Even though I just released a book (now available in print as well as Kindle) to help you create an Upbeat, Organized Home Office of your own, could I be doing more? What do you need from me to work at home, if your office (or your spouse’s) suddenly comes home?

BestSeller The Upbeat Organized Home Office

General Preparedness:

One of my friends has been adding to her GO bag (emergency kit) over the years, and this year she added survival straws that let you filter your urine to make it safe to drink. Um…I’m almost certain that’s a little more preparedness than we’re going to need to ride out the coronavirus. If your community has safe tap water, you also don’t need to stockpile water. And for goodness sakes, people, what is with the run on buckets of hand sanitizer? Most people can simply wash their hands at the nearest faucet (20 seconds, rubbing vigorously, singing Happy Birthday twice). If you already have sanitizer at home, please leave what’s in the stores for people who actually do need it.

Knowing that having a plan–any plan–can lower anxiety levels, may I suggest the following preparedness steps? If it comes to this, plan to use your home quarantine period to keep calm and organize your:

Some of this article has been a bit tongue in cheek, but I do worry about those who get sick, who are frail, medically fragile, or will be affected by the inevitable and global economic slowdown. Can I just suggest that we all be a bit kinder to folks and check in on neighbors in the days ahead? We have no idea what burdens our fellow travelers are carrying.

And while I find myself struggling to concentrate and confused by how unreal this all seems, I keep remembering that we will go back to normal (or maybe a new normal) in the next few weeks. Six months from now, we’ll all be looking back on this, but we’ll still be doing laundry, making dinner, and kissing our kids goodnight. So, yeah, do what you can do to keep a routine, stay healthy, and look towards the future.

So that’s the official plan (changing all the time) of this Certified Professional Organizer. What more (or less) are you doing these days to prepare for the spread of the novel coronavirus?




This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Tom

    Enjoyed your post. A good mix of common sense & humor amidst a flood of media hysteria.

    1. Darla

      Thanks, Tom. I am looking for every ray of sunshine these days. Glad I could brighten your day.

  2. Holly W Springle

    In the midst of reading your coronavirus preparedness advice I received a call from my adult daughter warning me to stay home and have my husband do the shopping. I do have asthma, and illnesses tend to go to my lungs, but still… ( My husband thinks 10 for $10 means you must buy 10, so instead of 2 cans of stewed tomatoes we have about a years worth.) Anyway, it was delightful to get another perspective, much more in- line with my own!

    1. Darla

      Holly, thanks for leaving your comment. I think you are voicing a good point. Take things seriously, but don’t panic. But since you are in the identified high-risk population, maybe hubby can do the grocery shopping for a while. He might not do it perfectly, but good enough is ok here. Be well.

  3. Lorena

    Thanks, Darla, for another insightful and encouraging article. I’m trying to keep a routine that includes language study with household chores, and daily exercise outdoors if possible. One thing I need help with is planning meals for two in this situation. We can’t invite anyone over to share the lasagna, for example, so I have several portion meals in the freezer of lasagna and other meals. Do you have any meal planning tips?

    1. Darla

      Lorena, having portions of homemade lasagne already in the freezer sounds to me like you are doing meal planning perfectly! If you are cooking bigger meals and don’t like so many leftovers, try cutting the recipes in half. Personally, my trick is to always have 3 parts to a meal (protein, veg, and pasta/grain/bread), and then I rotate the leftovers over three days or so, mixing it up. So rice from the tacos will also be a base for a slow-cooker chicken dish on the next night. Then on night three, I’ll use the leftover taco meat for taco salad, or maybe put it in a soup. Then the leftover chicken will pair with fresh pasta on night four. This way I’m cooking smart, not freezing a lot, and the kids don’t realize that it’s leftovers. It takes a bit of planning, but because I focus on having those three elements to dinner, it all seems to work out in a re-mix. Hope this helps.

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