What Made My Life at Home a Little More Bearable During the Pandemic

Gearing up for a winter of WFH

Photo by Julian Hochgesang on Unsplash

The current pandemic has been hard enough on most of us up to this point. Winter is definitely not going to help. I live in Scandinavia and it’s already pretty damn cold, dark, and depressing in here, and even though I could technically go out, I’m bundled up at home instead. I’ve been setting up some good habits to help me stay sane over the next few months and improve my well-being over the long term. Here is what I’ve been doing to make the best of my living situation.

When I was working at the office every day, the status of my apartment didn’t really matter to me. I could simply decide to leave a mess behind every morning when I left for work, and deal with it sometime later. However, that’s no longer an option. Working when surrounded by clutter is extremely distracting for me, so I decided to set aside some time and declutter everything.

The first step was recycling, donating, or otherwise getting rid of old belongings that I no longer used. Then, I sorted everything I owned using some extra IKEA boxes that I had lying around — basically pulling a Marie Kondo all over the apartment. I also decided to sort my books by color. It made my bookshelf look ten times cooler.

I was surprised at how well I managed to maintain my new clutter-free apartment. I didn’t end up recreating the original mess over time. An added bonus is that cleaning up goes a lot faster now, and actually became a pretty relaxing activity in and of itself. And, as I had anticipated, I can focus on work a lot better now that everything looks neat.

After cleaning up and sorting everything in my living space to perfection, it was time to redecorate a little bit. Sure, a decluttered space helps my attention, but taking care of aesthetics is also important. Plants can be a relatively cheap way to decorate.

Some plants even have the ability to get rid of various kinds of nasties commonly found in indoor air, which is an especially nice perk if you don’t own an air purifier. We’re spending so much time at home that we might as well make sure we’re breathing the best air we can. Different species of plants excel with different chemicals. My personal favorite is the Boston fern, which eats up formaldehyde like nobody’s business, is easy to take care of, and looks pretty darn adorable, if you ask me.

Take some inspiration from NASA’s Clean Air study — they studied a whole host of plants as possible purifiers for space stations. It’s safe to say, if it’s proven to work on a space station, it will probably work in your apartment as well. If not, well — you’ll still have a pretty plant.

This is especially useful if you have a limited budget for clothes and struggle to create a quality wardrobe. Up to this point, I often ended up buying low-quality clothing, because it’s what I could afford. The problem with this is that these garments usually last no more than one or two seasons before starting to fall apart, in addition to often being wildly uncomfortable, thanks to all the cheap synthetic materials. The end result is that the less money you have for clothing, paradoxically, the more you end up spending.

You probably won’t be going out as much during the coming months, so try and see if you can limit how much you spend on clothing. Take a chunk of your current clothing budget and save it for next year. Do this for a few months and, eventually, you should be able to splurge on higher-quality pieces that will last you many years, triggering a virtuous cycle where you need to buy fewer clothes and can keep saving for better items over the long term. I recently purchased my first 100% wool sweater and it feels like heaven — I can’t believe the level of textile goodness I’ve been missing out on.

Before the pandemic, I used to go to the gym before or after work, like many. I’m still feeling uncomfortable about going back, even though most gyms where I live have reopened. However, I still want to stay in shape and stay healthy, so I turned to the Internet for inspiration. I follow a number of fitness influencers who often publish home workouts, so I can have some variety.

I’ve tried high-intensity interval training — HIIT — workouts, which are often short, and offer a pretty high return on investment if done correctly. You don’t need to invest a lot of time, and you get a lot of cardio in. There are a lot of fun variations, and they require no equipment. Exercise snacking is another trend that is emerging lately, and it involves short bouts of exercise throughout the day. Climbing stairs, in particular, has been proven to moderately improve fitness. I’ve been forcing myself to not use the elevator whenever possible. My all-time favorite workouts, though, are bodyweight exercises, to build some muscle.

All in all, with the above techniques requiring only a few minutes worth of exercise, it doesn’t feel like too much effort, but it all adds up. I actually managed to set a few personal records while exercising exclusively from home — my newfound biceps can vouch for that. Damn, I love pushups.

This might be an unexpected one but bear with me. Like many people, I tend to hold back my voice and routinely strain it when speaking. A simple Google search for “it hurts when I talk” turns up almost 200 million results. Yet it can be hard to find the time to work on it. I was once told by a speech therapist that I needed to do a handful of ridiculous-sounding exercises once an hour, every day. At that time I was still working from my office. You can probably guess how that went for me.

I now work from home on most days, so this is no longer an issue. I can take breaks to do my assigned exercises as often as I need to. And it’s been a few months now, so I’ve already experienced improvements in strain levels. In general, if you can modify bad vocal habits, the changes stick with you forever, so it’s a worthy investment of your time.

I’m no speech therapist, so I won’t recommend any specific exercises. You should see a professional if you experience severe strain. However, if you don’t think you have a physical issue and just want to improve your sound, there are plenty of great resources out there. I encourage you to start with YouTube, as it’s always best to see someone actually doing it.

I’m sure you’ve been seeing this one all over the Internet, but it’s always good to reiterate — meditation is proven to help alleviate depression and anxiety, among other things, which we are especially prone to suffer from during these interesting times. And if you are spending a lot of time at home, it might be at least a little easier to carve out some time for meditating, a few minutes here and there.

I use Headspace and really love it, but you don’t really need to use anything at all — all it takes is yourself and someplace to sit down and relax. Personally, I find meditation instantly helps me reframe my worries, and the effects last at least a few hours, just by investing a few minutes once or twice a day.

You don’t even need to plan a specific time if that’s unrealistic due to your living situation — just take the chance when you have time for a break.

And there you go! This is what I’ve been up to. All of these things are helping me push through the darkness and isolation with a smile on my face, and I hope you can draw some inspiration from my experiences.

Writer of sorts.

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