The thing that matters most

On self-isolation Day 1, I cleaned out my closet.

It had gotten to be a little chaotic. My winter clothes were still stuffed into it, the bulky sweaters taking up an inconveniently large proportion of the hanging space because they didn’t fit into the drawers. But an increasingly larger collection of my spring clothes were occupying space as well. The weather had been slowly transitioning, and I had gradually pulled more and more short-sleeved blouses and flowery skirts out of the storage bin to add to my wardrobe.

At some point, I had pulled the bin of out-of-season clothes out of my closet. It was sitting at the foot of my bed, half open, clothes spilling out of it and sitting on top of the lid. Getting dressed in the morning had become a chaotic experience as I rummaged through the closet, the pile of clothes draped over the chair, and the stacks of clothes in the storage bin, trying to find something I could wear that I would both feel good in and would be appropriate for whatever weather the rather bipolar climate of the Pacific Northwest would throw at me that day.

Every morning, the first thing I saw when I got out of bed was a mess. The situation had been getting on my nerves for quite a while, but I hadn’t had the time to really deal with it.

Until Day 1 of self-isolation.

It was Sunday. Church had been canceled, and we hadn’t yet figured out how to gather together over Zoom, so the day was empty and long. I didn’t have a job to go to the next day—schools were all closed—and with the suddenness of the closure, the school district I work for hadn’t yet figured out how to make remote work happen. I had nothing to do, nowhere to be, and because of the uncertainty of my work situation at the time, no real to-do list for at least a few more days.

So that afternoon, I decided to tackle my closet.

I pulled everything out of it. I divided the fall and winter clothes from the spring and summer clothes. I folded the winter clothes and put them in the storage bin. I hung up the spring clothes, and I shoved all the clothes I knew I didn’t want to keep into a big trash bag and moved it out of my room to be donated.

A couple of hours later, I was exhausted, but the job was done.

Now, getting dressed in the morning is no longer an ordeal. I go to my closet. I can see the clothes that are there. I know they are all in season. I can just pull something out and wear it.

Here’s why this matters. Life is stressful right now. Even if you’re not a healthcare professional or another essential worker facing potential viral exposure on a daily basis—even if it doesn’t seem like your day-to-day life has gotten scarier or more chaotic since all of this began—there’s still a certain background stress that comes from not living in a world that’s been suddenly turned upside-down. There’s as certain tension that comes from not knowing what’s going to happen next, from having the predictability of your regular routines ripped out from under you.

It’s stressful. And if you add little, seemingly insignificant stressors on top of that, you might find yourself reaching the end of your rope a lot sooner than you would like to.

Hear me, friend: you’re dealing with enough stressful things right now. Getting dressed doesn’t need to be one of them. And neither do a host of other tiny, daily tasks. If the most important thing on your to-do list today needs to be tidying a space that’s been annoying you or making a meal plan for the week so you don’t have to think about what to eat every. single. day, that is good and wise and absolutely worth the time it takes.

Tidying your closet might not seem like a thing that matters, but on some days, it’s the thing that matters most.

What are you doing to keep your stress levels manageable during this unusual time? Share your experiences, tips, and ideas in the comments!

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