Today marked the first day in New York State that 100% of non-essential workers are to stay home. As the spread of the coronavirus continues to grow nationwide, the best thing we can do to slow it down and prevent our hospitals from getting overwhelmed is to stay home and limit all social interactions. Because of these important measures, most of us are spending much more time at home than we were before the pandemic: we are working at home, teaching our kids at home, and eating all our meals at home. This is a big adjustment for most of us, and our homes need to change to accommodate all of these new activities.
In my work as an interior designer and professional organizer, I always start with function first when working on a new project. I ask my clients how they use their home, what is currently working well and what is not. I ask what they would like to do be doing at home, but don’t currently have a place for.
Now that we are all using our homes much differently, it makes sense to ask these same questions and make adjustments so that our spaces support this new lifestyle. If you or your partner is working from home you need a dedicated workspace. Since I work from home normally, I know how important this is. Sitting down at my desk helps put me in the work mindset, and I am much more productive and focused there. Occasionally when I try to work with my laptop on the couch, I’m much more easily distracted. That’s because I don’t associate the couch with “work time”. Setting up a dedicated space for your kids to do school work will help them focus, too.
Another added benefit is that this creates some boundaries between work and all the other activities you’re engaged in. This becomes more challenging when everything is happening under the same roof, so creating a workstation allows you to leave it when it’s time to set work aside and do other things.
You don't need a complete home office, it could be as simple as a folding table set up in the corner of a room. Think about what supplies or reference materials you need, and keep them close by. You might also think about repurposing space in your home that will not be getting used during our current situation. One thing we will not be doing during this period of social distancing is entertaining, so your dining room and guest room, for example, will likely be sitting unused. Don't be afraid to move furniture around or put things in your basement or garage to reconfigure your space. For example, you might want to provide a space for your kids to do crafts or puzzles, but your formal dining room is too “nice” for these activities. Why not move the nice chairs out and replace them with something more kid-friendly, put a cheap rug down to cover the floor, and order a vinyl tablecloth online so that they can get a little messy without ruining anything. Remember, no one is coming over so it doesn't have to look pretty!
Staying active during this time at home will also be more challenging, so think about where you can set up a space for workouts. Our brains do a great job coming up with reasons to skip exercise, so make it as easy as possible for yourself. Is there a spot in your home where you can keep your weights or yoga mat easily accessible? There are so many great resources for online workouts (my favorites are Fitness Blender and Yoga with Adriane), all you need is a little empty floor space and a device with internet access.
Another space that needs to be very functional right now is the kitchen. Most of us are preparing and eating all our meals at home every day, so this is a good time to think about how your kitchen is set up Where do you prepare your food, where you cook it, and where do you wash dishes? Is it possible store the things you need for each of those activities within arm’s reach? Are pots and pans and cooking utensils near the stove? Are knives and peelers and cutting boards near the prep area? Can you unload the dishwasher and put things away without taking any steps? Depending on the size and layout of your kitchen, there may not be a perfect solution for all of these, but we often just store things wherever we placed them when we moved in and haven’t given it a second thought.
If you have free time now, this is also a great time to declutter your spaces, especially the kitchen. Take everything out of the cabinets and drawers and ask yourself how many things you use on a regular basis. You really only need the number of dishes, glasses, coffee mugs, and utensils that fit in your dishwasher, because they are regularly getting washed and reused. Those big bowls and platters you use for entertaining can be stored elsewhere for the time being. Paring down your kitchen storage spaces to just the essentials will make it so much easier to do all the cooking and clean up during this extended time at home.
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Make it fab!