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I Work From Home and These Three Habits Give Me Structure

Illustration for article titled I Work From Home and These Three Habits Give Me Structure
SqualorJolie Kerr is a cleaning expert and advice columnist. She’ll be here every week helping to answer your filthiest questions. Are you dirty? Email her.

Working from home can be a challenge for so many reasons, not the least of which is that it requires you to create your own structures and routines. It’s a cliché to say “put on pants” when giving advice to people who are just starting a work from home life, but it’s a cliche for a reason: Putting on pants is kind of easy not to do when you work from home. It’s also not great! (I am, for the record, wearing pants as I type this.)


I’ve worked from home for many years now, and I love it. And because I’ve done it for so long, I’ve given a lot of advice to friends and colleagues over the years about the ways I stay disciplined. I have not, however, ever shared these tips publicly and so today I shall do so! These are the three habits that I most often cite as being key to making working from home, um, work for me.

Making the Bed

Even when I worked in a traditional office setting, I always made my bed, so this one is a little bit unfair BUT being religious about making the bed is a very smart habit to adopt when you work from home. Making the bed is helpful in two ways: 1. It signals that the work day has started—a tricky part of working from home is demarcating the work day from your personal time, and small habits can help create those boundaries. 2. Getting up and making the bed keeps me from getting back in it!

Illustration for article titled I Work From Home and These Three Habits Give Me Structure
Photo: Erik Palacio (Unsplash)

Making my bed is a pretty simple affair in part because I don’t use a top sheet (yes I’m one of those), but it also means that I have a duvet cover that gets wrinkled in between weekly washings. Enter, linen spray! I make my bed then spritz the duvet with linen spray, pull the fabric taut and as it dries, all the wrinkles ease out.

Running Brief Errands Here and There

Another big issue with working from home is that it can be very easy—way, way, way too easy, you guys—to go all day without leaving the house. Some people have built-in reasons to leave the house, like picking kids up from school, but if you don’t have something that requires you to go outside, you gotta make some up. For me, running kind of standard adult person errands like grocery shopping, going to the drug store, and doing laundry (I’m a laundromat person! I use the time to answer emails) gets me outside AND leave me more time on the weekends because I’ve banged those little annoying chores out.

A benefit of working from home vis-a-vis household management that I’ve discovered is that, because I’m right here in the space where I live, I’m better able to keep track of things I need to pick up, like more dish soap, or lemons, or White Claw. I keep a lined pad with my planner so I can keep a running list of things I need. OMG MY PLANNER! Can I talk to you about my paper plannerism?!? I love my paper planner—I find it’s helpful for me to be able to eyeball my entire week of assignments/deadlines, meetings, social events, other obligations, etc.


Related to the running of errands, which I fit in whenever I can depending on my workload on any given day, I am RELIGIOUS about taking 45-60 minutes a day to go to the gym. Now, this won’t work for everyone’s schedule (also my gym is a 5 minute walk from my apartment) but if you can manage it, building in gym time serves to 1. Get you out of the house; 2. Get you moving; 3. For me, at least, it gives my mind some creative thinking time. Also these yoga pants are incredible.


My Evening “Commute”

I don’t know when, exactly, I started doing this but at some point along the way I began taking early evening showers or, more often, baths. It’s kind of the flip side of the act of making the bed—it signals that the workday is over. Plus, it forces me away from my phone and computer!

Illustration for article titled I Work From Home and These Three Habits Give Me Structure
Graphic: Maddi Bazzocco (Unsplash)

I refer to this ritual as my evening commute because I’m usually swimming in my tub at around the same time as my in-office colleagues are on the subway, bus, or car heading home. I like a bubble situation in my bath, but sometimes I go for bath salts instead of bubbles and generally I choose lavender scents because lavender is supposed to be calming. Also it smells nice!


Jolie Kerr is a cleaning expert, advice columnist and the host of the podcast Ask a Clean Person