Business People and Community

Extra time at home prods consumers to declutter, decorate

A University of Miami alumna hosts television segments to help viewers organize and spiff up their spaces during the additional time spent in the house because of the pandemic.
Alena Capra
University of Miami alumna Alena Capra is the host of WPLG’s SoFlo Home Project and runs the design firm Alena Capra Designs.

Have you looked inside your closets lately?

Have you examined your medicine cabinet?

Chances are, you have. After seven months of isolation in our houses because of the pandemic, our homes have become our safe space. But the social isolation has given us plenty of time to look around. All those projects we had no time to tackle before, can now be done. 

Hundreds of people seem to be doing just that. The Home Depot has reported that its sales rose 7.1 percent to $28.3 billion in the three months ending May 3.

Alena Capra, a University of Miami alumna, runs the design firm Alena Capra Designs and is the host of WPLG’s SoFlo Home Project, a weekly show that aims to showcase South Florida interior design, as well as help viewers improve their homes. When the pandemic began in March, Capra and her producers decided to provide people with helpful tips to tidy their space in inexpensive ways.

“During the time that we had orders to stay at home, we decided to offer the most immediate, easiest, and cost-effective things to do at home,” she said. “We were mindful that a lot of people were out of work, so we started providing inexpensive fixes that would bring the most value: organizing and cleaning.”

Capra, who lives in Fort Lauderdale, even used her own living space in one episode to show viewers how they could turn their dining room into a home office (her tip: use inexpensive bins that can be stored away quickly). 

Another episode showed viewers the correct way to declutter and organize a clothing closet (donate clothes you have not used in over a year) and even how to properly fold a fitted sheet (make sure you start by flipping it inside out).

Since so many of us are spending a lot of time at home, Capra said that beautifying the space is crucial. So, one of her episodes walks the viewer through different ways to make their beds and different luxurious ways to use pillows and bedding they already have at home.     

For some time now, television shows like “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo,” “Hot Mess House,” and “Get Organized” have appeared in millions of homes and shown viewers how they can have tidy homes by getting rid of clutter. 

According to a Washington Post article, organizations like Goodwill Industries and 1-800-Got-Junk has seen a rise in the demand for their services during the past several months.

The surge in decluttering homes during the pandemic can be seen as a way many are coping during a time of stress, said Kiara Timpano, associate professor of psychology and director of the Program for Anxiety, Stress, and OCD in the University of Miami College of Arts and Sciences.

“We know that stress can increase both the reliance on rituals and ‘nesting’ behaviors,” she said. “Tidying up, cleaning, and organizing are often characterized as classic pregnancy behaviors, but we also see this type of response during times of stress.” She added that organizing behaviors seem to serve as a protective function that increases a sense of control.

Timpano warned that tidying up and organizing the home may not have the same effect on every personality. But pointed to the fact that cultures, such as the Japanese who believe in practices like Feng Shui, emphasize the connection between an organized living environment and a harmonized or well-balanced life.  

Capra said that having an organized and functional living environment enhances any space, as well as throwing in elements of fun.

In that vein, during the early days of the pandemic when beaches were closed to the public, Capra decided it was the perfect time to show viewers how they could create a resort like feel in their backyard. 

Buckets of sand were brought in to create a sand area for children to use for play and a place for adults to wiggle their toes. The resort feel was completed with a hammock that extended between two backyard trees.  

“We created a staycation for many who could not take a real vacation,” she said. “For me it is important, now more than ever, to beautify our surroundings as much as we can. Making home improvements always adds value to your home, as well as enhances day to day living.”