Organising During Heat Waves: Easiest Projects & Tips for Keeping Your Cool

wooden thermometer showing extreme heat temperatures of 40 degrees celcius and 100 degrees fahrenheit. In the background we can see a blurry, scorching sun.

Heat waves are becoming more common around the world. Even places like Portland, not usually prone to extreme temperatures and thus not equipped to handle them, are feeling the scorching environmental shift. Some cities in central Europe reached temperatures of 37° last month, before summer had even started. These are not temperatures to fool around with, especially when you have no air conditioning. So how does one keep up with home organising during heat waves like these?

First off, your number one priority during such crazy temperature spikes should be your health and safety. This is not the time to be stressing out about home improvement projects. If you’re feeling exhausted from the heat, it’s better to move yourself to a cooler place, lay low, and literally chill out.

That said, if you’re feeling fit and are shuttered indoors because of unbearable temperatures, there are a few home organising projects that are not too strenuous. Paperwork, cellar tidying, running errands at the mall, and sorting books and music collections are my personal favourites. These are all smaller tasks that don’t require much physical activity or electricity.

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Declutter Books and Music

This is a slow, quiet decluttering project that doesn’t require a lot of physical exertion. Grab a dust rag, pick a shelf or bookcase, and go to town. When sorting out books, I tend to apply the Konmari method in segments and you might find that works for you, too, as it doesn’t create much of a mess. Take all of the books off of one shelf and wipe that shelf. Then look at each book and decide if you want to keep it. If so, wipe off its dust and return it to the shelf.

Sort the books you don’t want to keep into one of two boxes: sell or donate. You can set those boxes aside. Once the heat wave is over, they can be carted away or listed for re-sale.

Huge stack of English and German language books piled high on a white desktop. Article is about organising during heat waves and includes book decluttering as an ideal project to take on during hot weather.
My heat wave book decluttering session yielded this pile for my local book café charity.

You can do the same thing for any vinyl albums, magazines, CDs or DVDs you have. Or you might just want to re-arrange your media collections in a new order, such as alphabetically, or by category or genre. During the heat you could sort all your non-fiction into one dedicated bookshelf, for example, and arrange by subject area.

Organising the Cellar During Heat Waves

If you have a basement, grab some ice cold beverages and head downstairs during a heat wave. Cellars are generally much cooler than the upper storey, and you can spend some time down here during the hottest part of the day, organising and sorting through clutter.

Here again, keep things stress-free and easy. If you have a mountain of stuff to organise down here, break it up into smaller categories or task areas. Then focus on one thing each afternoon during the heat wave. You might want to clear out all those empty boxes from old electronic items you no longer have upstairs. Or sort through your tools and organize all those motley screw sizes. Or re-arrange things by category. You can make quite a bit of progress down here during the heat!

Organising and Filing Paperwork During Heat Waves

Sorting papers is another quiet, no-sweat task that doesn’t take a lot of energy. Set up a fan at your desk or table, grab that pile of paperwork that’s been haunting you, and pull up your chair. Sort the papers into one of three categories: to-do, file/scan, shred.

Once you’ve gotten the stack sorted, you can work on the to-do pile which is anything you need to take action on. Paperwork in the file/scan pile can be archived, saved to your Evernote or scanned into a digital filing system. Finally, the stack of stuff for the shredder can be put aside for after the heat wave. You don’t want to be standing over a hot device in the heat, or have to sweep up all those bits of shredded paper—better to save the shredding task for when things have cooled down again.

Run Errands at the Shopping Mall

This is a no-brainer during extreme heat: if you have any home-related stuff that’s been on your radar for a while, now’s the perfect time to hit the shopping centre! Malls are a fantastic place to cool off for a few hours because they’re typically air-conditioned and shield you from direct sunlight. Go pick out those new linens you’ve been thinking of, pop into the craft store for that tube of glue you’ve been needing to repair the broken figurine, or return that top you’ve been meaning to take back. Don’t forget to treat yourself to a cold smoothie or ice cream while you’re at it. Gotta love malls in the heat!

Reading tip: Malcolm Gladwell: Political Heat. The great Chicago heat wave, and other unnatural disasters. In: The New Yorker, 12 August 2002. In July 1995, 739 Chicagoans died from the heat when temperatures climbed to 40° over the course of five days. By comparison, we're now seeing temperatures of 50° in some places in India and the Pacific Northwest...

Best Heat Wave Tips

  • Heat wave tip #1: If you have no air conditioning, get up as early as possible and open all the doors and windows at home for a few hours before the sun starts peaking. You want that cool nighttime air to circulate through the house. Shut everything by 9am at the latest, draw the curtains, close the blinds and shutters. This will lock that cooler air into your place for a bit longer.
  • Heat wave tip #2: Water your garden or any outdoor container plants in the early morning hours. During extreme temperatures, plants are putting all their energy into surviving the heat during the daytime, and cannot focus on water uptake to their roots. Also, daytime watering in the heat will lead to evaporation and foliage burns.
  • Heat wave tip #3: Bring your four-legged friends indoors during a heat wave, even if they’re usually “outdoor” animals. Just like humans, dogs suffer from heat stroke and heat exhaustion, and cannot endure extreme temperatures without appropriate shelter. Walk them in the wee morning hours and late at night. Feel the pavement with your palm before you go out. Scorching asphalt will scorch their paws!
  • Heat wave tip #4: Conserve electricity. You do not want to be heating your home up anymore than it already is. Don’t turn on lights and don’t worry about ironing when it’s hot. Refrain from using the oven or doing any baking. Don’t run the dishwasher or washing machine until after dark.
  • Heat wave tip #5: If you’re lucky enough to have your own pool, you’ll want to test for chlorine loss daily. Chlorine levels can go way down in extreme temperatures, leading to a boom in algae growth. You’ll also need to vacuum the pool surface more often than not during a heat wave because of this increase in algae. Do this in the evenings when the sun is going down.

What else do you do around home when it gets too hot to move? How do you stay on top of organising during heat waves? Leave a comment! And remember to check on your reclusive or elderly neighbours during extreme heat emergencies. Stay hydrated, and never leave your kids, pets, or even your dreadful mother-in-law in a parked car, not even for two minutes! The Red Cross has many more safety tips for heat waves here.

Stay cool ☀️

Young lady in an orange athletic t-shirt, drinking a glass of water and fanning her face. She is clearly very hot. Caption reads 4 home organising projects suitable during heat waves, plus tips. Tidymalism.com.
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