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The pandemic isn’t going anywhere; here’s how to organize masks, other supplies

Keep a kit with masks, hand sanitizer, gloves and other necessities in your car.  (Shutterstock)
Keep a kit with masks, hand sanitizer, gloves and other necessities in your car. (Shutterstock)
By Nicole Anzia Washington Post

Masks, hand sanitizer, thermometers and disinfectant wipes have become necessities in every household this year. When the coronavirus pandemic began in the spring, none of us could imagine that we would still need them in November. But here we are, and many of us are actually stocking up on supplies again as winter looms and virus cases continue to rise. If you haven’t yet developed a system to keep all of these supplies organized, it’s not too late to start.

The same principles that apply to all home-organizing projects also apply to coronavirus supplies: Designate a specific place to keep the items so people know where to find what they need and you can keep track of what you have. Put items where you use them and where they’re convenient to access. Buy only what you need and are going to use. And if you’re stocking up, don’t go overboard.

Designate a space

It used to be that when we left the house each day, we only had to remember our keys, phone and wallet. Now we need a mask and hand sanitizer at the very least, and we sometimes also need disinfectant wipes and disposable gloves. Putting all of those items where they are convenient to grab on your way out is key.

I don’t relish having to keep coronavirus supplies on my front hall table, which happens to be a dresser, but that is the most convenient place for them, and having them right there makes it difficult to forget something on your way out the door. To keep spaces looking tidy, I’ve corralled our thermometer, hand sanitizer and wipes on a tray. In the drawers below are extra masks, gloves, sanitizer and disinfectant wipes.

If you don’t have drawers somewhere convenient to keep all your supplies, consider purchasing a portable drawer unit and put it near your most-used exit or entrance. When the pandemic finally ends, you can reuse the unit elsewhere in your house. I’ve also seen families designate a hook for each person’s masks in their mudroom or front hall. Another idea is to have two clearly labeled baskets in your front hall, mudroom or even garage: one for clean masks, one for dirty masks. The bins should be large enough to hold a few masks for each family member, and they should be easy to reach.

Keep a large bottle of hand sanitizer near the front door to make it easy for people to use when they enter. I also have a large bottle of hand sanitizer below my sink, and instead of constantly picking up new travel-size bottles, I refill the smaller bottles to throw in a purse or backpack. It’s really easy and better for the environment.

Store hand sanitizer, hand soap and disposable guest towels in your powder room, too, so if you’re entertaining outside and someone needs to run inside to use the restroom, they have everything they need. If you don’t have a lot of storage space in your powder room, you could fill a small bin with extra supplies and put it in a nearby coat closet or under your kitchen sink so it’s easy to grab refills when needed.

Outdoor supplies

Cooler weather also means many people are stocking up on items that will allow them to enjoy their yards, porches, patios and decks throughout the winter. Portable chairs, outdoor blankets, lanterns and candles are all popular purchases right now. You might even consider having extra gloves, hand warmers and hand sanitizer for outside, too.

The easiest way to store these items is with a water-resistant, covered box that you can toss them into when they’re not in use or when it rains. These boxes also double as extra seating. Some people who prefer to store outdoor supplies inside have been trying to rearrange their mudrooms to create space. Because many children aren’t going to school in person, backpacks and lunchboxes can be kept elsewhere, leaving more room for the items you’re frequently using. If you don’t have a mudroom, a large, open basket near an exterior door for stashing outdoor supplies will make cleanup easier.

Make a car kit

Is there anything more annoying than arriving at the store or your exercise class and realizing you’ve forgotten your mask? This need never happen again if you create a pandemic car kit that includes a bottle of hand sanitizer, paper masks and disinfectant wipes. If you have children, include kid-size masks.

These items can be stored in your car’s glove compartment or console for easy access, but they also can be stored in a small bin or container in the back. In my car, I’m accessing these items all the time, so I know when I’m running out of something. If you have an emergency stash in your car, check on it every now and then to ensure you’re stocked up.

Don’t overbuy

Although I understand the desire to buy additional supplies as colder weather approaches, be realistic about what you’ll use.

It’s OK to have some overflow. My family members all have cloth masks at this point, but I keep extra paper masks on hand in case we lose some or need to give one to a friend or neighbor. And it’s fine to have a couple weeks’ worth of toilet paper and paper towels, but try to resist buying so many extras that it will be a struggle to find a place to store them.

Anzia is a freelance writer and owner of Neatnik. She can be reached at

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