In the seven months since quarantine began, I've been able to look back and point to distinct phases... I got married, became obsessed with croissants, moved furniture, walked on trees, went to Reno, but mostly sequestered myself indoors. Through it all, there have been a few habits that have stuck and made this time just a little better. And let me begin by saying: No one likes quarantine, but I'm having a relatively okay time—I am in a place of privilege, and I know it. I have a job that allows me to work safely from home, I don't yet have children (yeah, yeah children are a gift, but parents and teachers are freaking heroes), and I have my health. And many of the exact things driving me nuts (so much time inside) are a direct result of that privilege. Not all of these changes will apply to your specific situation, but they helped me enough that I felt moved to share! And so, here are 11 of the best changes I've made to my routine and apartment since quarantine began:
As the start of quarantine, Jonah and I both found ourselves working across the dining room table from each other. It worked... until it didn't. Over time, the space felt increasingly cramped, we were getting on each other's nerves and interrupting each other's work calls. As soon as I moved my home office to the guest room, things felt a lot more "normal." Just like a regular, pre-COVID work day, I hardly see Jonah all day—then we come together in the evening, which feels like a treat instead of a 24-hour newlywed bootcamp.
I'm sure I'm not the only one who found herself using Instagram far more during quarantine, as the need to connect and escape became stronger. These days, I generally delete the app over the weekend and trips, when I don't need to access it for work, so that I have some separation from it and don't feel the urge to scroll. Sure, re-downloading is a little annoying on Monday morning, but it takes five minutes compared to *infinite* hours I might have spent sucked into its techie vortex.
Before quarantine, I rarely exercised at home, always preferring the energy of in-person classes. But about three weeks in, I panic-bought a Peloton after listening to a Daily episode where the interviewee claimed the quarantine could last "as long as July." I figured that, even if the quarantine ended in the middle of summer, I probably wouldn't be comfortable visiting a gym for a few months. Flash-forward to months upon months of people still refusing to shelter in place and wear masks—and here we are in October, and I am thanking my lucky stars I bought that bike.
Even if you don't have cash from a cancelled wedding's flower budget to spend on an expensive stationary bike, I've found that carving out a place in my home to move worked wonders for my mental health. My bike sits about a foot from our living room couch, but as soon as I step into our "home gym," as I optimistically call it, I create a sacred space away from my phone where I can sweat out the pent-up energy from sitting inside all day with a class. There are so many free bodyweight workouts online (including on @shopcupcakesandcashmere!) that as long as you have enough space to lay down a yoga mat, you can create your own home gym escape!
At the start of quarantine, Jonah and I decided to take advantage of our indoor time by making dishes from scratch and soon our kitchen became a playground for homemade condiments, croissants, and breads of all kinds. I learned what's absolutely worth making yourself (bread and bagels!) and what can be purchased (Ranch dressing), while creating a fun and rewarding project that filled the time!
I moved around our living room furniture weekly until I finally landed on an arrangement that serves our lives now: Instead of having a living room that's oriented toward hosting, our couch now faces the TV with a light-filled reading nook to the side since we're spending far more time ingesting books and shows! Be honest with yourself about what your quarantine activities are—are you homeschooling more? Do you need a nest to escape to meditate? You may already have the means to create it with a few creative furniture shifts! P.S. My living room may be changing dramatically soon... ;)
I've spent more time volunteering in COVID than I ever have in my life—in part because COVID has illuminated how incredibly privileged I am (for starters, I have a job that enables me to work from home) and because so much is at stake right now. For the past few months, I've volunteered every Friday morning at Baby2Baby (which is incredibly careful about following COVID protocols, though not taking on new volunteers) and have spent a whole lot of hours calling voters (primarily through Mission for Arizona!) and writing letters (mostly via Vote Forward—whose big send is this Saturday!). If you're comfortable, many organizations, particularly food banks, are in need of volunteers and, on a selfish note, it feels good to help people!
Even though we've only lived in our current apartment for a year, we've easily spent as much time in it as we did in our apartment of four years, thanks to sheltering in place. As a result, it gets a lot more use! We're cooking three meals a day in our kitchen, spending date night in our living room, and working in the dining room and guest room. I quickly noticed that it gets a lot messier a lot more quickly than it used to, so we instated a few "rules" to keep our apartment orderly: Any newspapers unread after 24 hours get recycled, dishes get washed immediately instead of "waiting for later," work stations get tidied and put away at the end of the work day, and we do little things like making the bed, keeping fresh flowers, and fluffing couch cushions each day to ensure our home is a place we not only have to spend time in but want to.
Even after Jonah and I separated our work stations, I worked at a desk that wasn't ergonomically set up to be an office. For months, I typed at my very cute, very non-functional secretary desk with my elbows hanging off the edge—until I developed tendonitis so painful that I'm now in physical therapy twice a week to treat a pain that could be permanent. Learn from my mistakes!
Now, I use a computer stand so that my laptop is at eye level, on top of a desk that supports my elbows. I still need to update the chair (a dining chair from this office before we switched to these!) to one that's adjustable so I can have my arms at exactly a 90 degree angle, but at least the pain is now manageable (and my work station is far more comfortable!). You can see my new setup in this post!
I usually work out in the evening, which means I shower in the evening... which means I used to find myself changing directly from my pajamas into my workout clothes around 6 PM every night. While it's still too hot in my a/c-less apartment to wear regular office clothes (I would sweat through a pair of jeans), I now change from pajamas into my workout clothes in the morning and do a quick skincare routine in place of makeup, which I've put on exactly twice since quarantine began: I wash my face (usually with this soap), apply a serum then SPF, and put in my contacts. It isn't quite "getting ready for work," but helps me feel at least a little more ready for my day—and less gross at the end of it.
During the work week, I spend a lot of the day on screens. I'm generally using a laptop all day, after which I use my Peloton screen to work out, then watch TV most evenings with Jonah. Added up, that comes to, well, a whole lot of screen time per day. It's difficult at this point to lower that number, so I've become more cognizant of spending an hour between my workout and TV time screen-free. Jonah and I will head to the park with beers for a two-person happy hour or play a board game, or I'll go for a (masked) walk with a friend. Just that hour makes me feel so much more like a human being—and less like a robot.
At the start of quarantine, I splurged on a few nice pieces of athleisure, from Beyond Yoga, Girlfriend, and Skatie when I realized I'd be wearing them every single day (for those keeping close track, I caved and got the shorts). Being able to pull from leggings and sports bras I love (as opposed to those I have from high school cross country) was absolutely worth the investment for me!