With the COVID-19 pandemic in full swing, being stuck at home is the inevitable reality for people worldwide. These days, home isn’t just the place where you eat, sleep, and binge Netflix. It’s also the place where you work, homeschool your kids, go to church, grocery shop, and…just about everything else.
When you’re physically stuck, it can be easy to feel emotionally stuck, too. But at Design.org, our goal is to help you get unstuck, make progress, and feel happy where you are. We want to help you live a full and meaningful life, regardless of circumstance.
In that spirit, I’m sharing some ideas for making the most of your time at home, so you can be productive, happy, and healthy, even when quarantined.
Making the most of your time at home
Clean it up.
“Outer order contributes to inner calm” is one of the big ideas perpetuated by happiness guru Gretchen Rubin. (She wrote a whole book on it, in fact). But she’s not the only one to see merit in a clean living space. One study showed that people who clean regularly are more relaxed, have increased capacity to focus, get better sleep, and are more productive. Others have linked cleaning to better eating habits and increased physical activity.
In other words, keeping your home clean and organized won’t only give you orderly surroundings, it might also help you live a healthier, happier life overall.
Take advantage of your time at home by doing some deep cleaning projects you might not have had time for before, like:
- Deep cleaning showers/bathtubs
- Deep cleaning appliances
- Organizing closets
- Cleaning out junk drawers
- Decluttering kitchen or bathroom cabinets
- Sorting through clothes to create a donate pile
- Cleaning out the garage
- Organizing the pantry
- Dusting ceiling fans, the tops of furniture, high ceiling corners, and other hard-to-reach surfaces
- Washing windows
- Decluttering work spaces
Cleaning during quarantine can give you a sense of control and purpose, and ultimately, can help you feel calmer and happier. At the very least, you’ll be able to check long overdue items off your deep cleaning list. No matter how you look at it, it’s a win.
Create an environment you love.
Cleaning is important when it comes to making your home a calmer, more enjoyable place to be. But it’s not the only thing you can do.
For many people, home is a refuge, and being there helps them feel peace and comfort. But not everyone feels this way, and being cooped up at home for weeks on end could create more discontent with your home environment.
If you’re stuck at home, there has never been a better time to turn your home into a place where you want to be. If you can do this, quarantine can feel like less of a prison sentence and more like an opportunity to relax, enjoy your surroundings, and love your home.
For some people, this might mean completing a large house project, like painting a room, hanging wallpaper, restoring a piece of furniture, or installing new light fixtures. But there are other smaller, inexpensive upgrades you can give to your living space too, like:
- Updating the pictures in your picture frames (or finally taking out the stock photos!)
- Rearranging furniture
- Creating and/or displaying holiday decorations
- Donating old decor you don’t like or have been meaning to get rid of
- Displaying greenery or fresh flowers (even branches from your backyard trees can add a pretty, fresh vibe to your home)
- Redecorating a shelf
Even low-stakes adjustments like these can go a long way toward creating a home that feels like a place you want to be.
Your home is suddenly the setting for every activity in your life, from work, to school, to rest. It’s a gym meets movie theater meets restaurant that also happens to be the place where you sleep. I’ll say this for it: it’s convenient. And it saves a lot of gas.
That said, this way of life can also result in your days becoming one big blur. It also means that your activities could start getting in the way of each other, or even working to your detriment. For example, working from your bed can make it harder to sleep at night, since the mental association between your bed and sleep has been interrupted. If you eat your meals while watching TV, you’re more likely to overeat. And homeschool in the same room as your video game console? Forget about it.
For these reasons and more, it’s helpful (or necessary) to designate spaces in your home for certain activities. Cook and eat in the kitchen. Save the couch for TV or movie watching. Set up a folding table to hold all the kids’ school activities. If you don’t already have a designated work space, set one up (whatever it needs to look like). Save your bedroom for sleep.
The better you’re able to do this, the more you’ll be able to focus on the activity at hand. It will help your brain make the connection between your living room and work, your kitchen and eating, and your bedroom and rest.
Take time to rest.
A friend told me about a recent interaction she had on Facebook. She asked her friends to share some good news with her, to offset all the bad news out there right now. One friend responded and said, “For years, I’ve been telling myself that ‘next week won’t be so busy.’ Guess what—it finally happened!”
It’s true that many of us, myself included, fall into the trap of thinking that things will get easier “next week” (or month, or year). We think that life will slow down once we get past the holidays, once school is out for the summer, or once we’ve completed that big project at work. “Next week won’t be so busy.”
Of course, it always has been busy—until now. While we still have to take care of the basics, with all the extracurricular and social events being canceled, many of us find ourselves with less on our schedules and more time on our hands.
When else has life slowed down quite to this extent? When will it ever slow down this much again? This is an opportunity for us to actually live life at a slower pace, to give our bodies and minds time to rest, to step back, take a look at life, and reevaluate our priorities.
Change your mindset.
More than anything else, making the most of your time at home is all about having the right mindset. The activities we’ve mentioned above shouldn’t just be used as ways to distract yourself from the misery of staying home. Rather, they should stem from a mindset that staying home can be seen as an opportunity rather than a burden.
Right now, it’s impossible to say how long stay-at-home recommendations or orders will last, but we’re certainly looking at weeks, and potentially months, of extended at-home time. That can get discouraging if you aren’t able to manage it in a healthy way and with a positive mindset.
Changing your mindset isn’t really a one-and-done thing. Rather, it’s something you have to work at over time. Here are some tips that could help.
- Focus on what you can do, not on what you can’t. Thinking about what you can’t do is going to put your mind in a negative place. Reframe your thinking to focus on the opportunities that quarantine presents, rather than on what it takes away from you.
- Use affirmations. Affirmations are a powerful way to train your brain to think a certain way. Affirmations focused on your home environment (“My home is a safe space.” “I love my home.”) can help you change your mindset about the time you’re spending at home.
- Set the mood. Want to feel more positive? Turn on some upbeat music (check out our thoughts on creating a happiness playlist for some tips), open a window to let some natural light in, light your favorite candle. Setting a positive mood can help put you in a positive mental space.
- Try coaching. Design.org’s free, personalized coaching service via email can help you learn how to control your thoughts and design a happier, more meaningful life. Our no-pressure format helps you progress at a pace that is comfortable for you, while still helping guide you toward a life you love.
Whether you’re looking forward to spending more time at home, or feeling like you’re under house arrest, there are things you can do to make the most of your time at home to make sure that even this unprecedented period is a productive and happy one.
After all, there’s no place like home.
We understand that home might not be a safe place for everyone during social distancing or quarantine. If you or a loved one is feeling unsafe at home or is the victim of domestic abuse, please seek help from the National Domestic Violence Hotline at thehotline.org
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