The time change, the hot-to-cold “moody boyfriend” weather, Mercury in retrograde and the coronavirus combined to put me in a super funk. A super funk usually means I isolate — a self-imposed quarantine for my own sanity as well as to spare others from my irritability.
Since we’re all experiencing some version of a quarantine, with so many events and activities cancelled due to COVID-19, it’s a good time to review long undone tasks we might tackle and tools we can use to make stay at home days not only productive but enjoyable.
Personally, I can’t relax if I see a dust bunny in a corner or crumbs in a drawer. Even if you don’t suffer from obsessive compulsiveness, there’s something about a “no book unshelved, no pillow unfluffed” home that seems to let the worry-wort part of the brain turn the volume down and a creative, playful side light up. There’s so much we can’t control in life; a clean, orderly environment can help us feel more in control and reduce fear.
Bite off a household deep cleaning in small chunks and go top down. Get all the dust and spider webs out of the corners of the ceilings and pull out a step ladder to check the tops of furniture and the highest leaves of your ornamental fig. As the dust settles, choose your favorite energizing music or allow yourself to watch 10 minutes of a guilty pleasure TV show or movie. Something not too dark or creepy. Save “Contagion” and “Parasite” for post quarantine.
Deep-cleaning drawers and closets also stirs up crumbs and dust, so get into those areas next. Don’t empty every drawer at once — here’s where Marie Kondo and I part ways. When you create too much chaos at the beginning of a project, especially if you are working on your own without a coach to keep you on track, the overwhelm can be defeating. Take it one drawer or area at a time; empty it, wipe it out, purge through the contents, containerize if you can, and reevaluate whether an item belongs there or not as you go.
Floors should be done last as lots of dust and detritus will have shaken loose from the other cleaning activities. When the floors are finished, take an inventory room by room to look for any deeper decluttering or other projects that may have been lingering for a while.
So the housekeeping is behind you and an unknown number of unscheduled days are before you. What next? You’re in prime position to “get around to” some of those important, but not urgent, tasks you have been putting off, and maybe even some fun ones, like taking an online dance class or driving out to the beach and to gather driftwood for craft projects with the kids. Here are some more ideas:
Eat through your pantry. Do your best to use up all those crazy canned and dried goods you thought you wanted but haven’t opened (artichoke hearts, kale soup, bone broth, hemp milk). Let the kids help you get creative with recipes — they will be more likely to eat what they had fun cooking. Not only will you feel super virtuous for cleaning out your pantry and not wasting food, you will save yourself exposure to germs and the general madness of the grocery store during a virus scare.
If you have cloth napkins, use them. Don’t be one of the hysterical people who lunge for the last paper towel roll at Target. Channel your grandmother and don’t fear the laundry.
Polish the silver … or not. If you look around the kitchen and dining room and see a bunch of tarnished silver items that you have been meaning to polish, consider whether you will ever use them. If yes, maybe a polishing session is a good use of this unexpected down time. On the other hand, if you’re not going to use them and have little attachment, you can either bag the items for donation (and not polish) or box them for consignment, which will require polishing first.
Organize the printed photographs and create some photo albums … or not. These days, most of my clients are simply doing a quick sort of “keep or toss” with their photos and boxing them by era. Unexpected downtime is perfect for scrolling through the digital photos on your phone and computer and deleting any that you don’t want. If you come out of a two-week quarantine with a couple digital photo albums created on a website like Shutterfly, you’ll probably feel like it was time very well spent, as the joy the book of memories will offer will long outlast the discomfort of a canned food-heavy diet and rationing toilet paper.
Explore feng shui, the ancient Chinese art of space and energy flow, or just look around and see how things feel and how you might like to change them. Health is up for everyone right now, so look at the health “gua” (area) of the house, located smack-dab in the center of the home, and see if there can be any cleaning, decluttering or changes that could be made to make it have better “chi”— energy. Things like dead or dying plants, a layer of dust, a slow or stuck sink drain, faded photographs, a stack of unpaid bills, a jar of pens, half of which are out of ink, can be handled to give you a big shift.
The prosperity and reputation guas are also good places to look at during times of forced unemployment or other loss of income. Look up the locations of these guas for your home by searching “feng shui bagua basics” on the internet. Are your appliances in working order in those areas? Can you move things around to create some fresh energy? In retail, it’s often observed that when merchandise is touched and moved around, sometimes called “fluffing,” those items sell, often immediately. As Law of Attraction devotees insist, “money flows where attention goes.”
Burn some sage or incense to “cleanse” your space. The power of scent to shift a mental state is huge.
Luxuriate in your free time. I can be a worrier, but the older I get the more I realize that everything pretty much works out, so I do my best not to not ruin some perfectly good free time with worry. The quarantine is a great opportunity to get your money’s worth from your gym membership (if it doesn’t close) or make time each day to roll out your yoga mat and put a workout DVD or download on screen. Hike. Bike. Walk. What if you lost some body fat over the next couple weeks?
Not all your down time need be “productive” in the traditional sense of the word. What if you allowed yourself an hour a day to sit still and meditate, which for me is often just another word for daydreaming, but I still get so much benefit from it.
Notice that most of the activities above don’t require much, if any, money or depend on the weather. If you’re fortunate enough to be able to afford to get someone to help you polish that silver or bring in a feng shui consultant, for goodness’ sake, do it — people need the work!
If your young children or grandchildren have to stay home from school, encourage or insist they help you with some of the household chores as a way to keep them out of trouble and perhaps earn a little cash. Take breaks for special snacks and intersperse craft and play afternoons with chore mornings so that the quarantine is neither unnecessarily boring nor punitive. Productive doesn’t have to mean no fun.
If the weather happens to be warm and sunny, gather your courage and venture out to the garage or take a look at any off-site storage units. A positive attribute of a crisis is that we can review our priorities (fresh drinking water, a living wage, and I guess for a lot of Americans it’s toilet paper) and it can put the stuff we are storing into perspective. Do you really want to pay rent every month to store that old furniture? Could you finally convince your adult children to pick up or allow you to donate or toss their high school keepsakes so that you can park your car in the garage? How much money could you save if you lightened up in these areas?
If you’re already organized and are healthy — your own oxygen mask is firmly in place — consider using the downtime to assist others. Getting into service is always a good thing to do. It’s nearly impossible not to receive back as much or more than we give in any situation, and helping others is such a potent reminder to be grateful for all the good things in our own lives. If you need guidance on where to give, try volunteermatch.org or simply search “best local volunteer opportunities Napa” and see what comes up that resonates with you.
Put some thought into how best to spend your time during any coronavirus quarantine, self-imposed or not. You will come out of it feeling refreshed, abundant and even virtuous.