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Crawling up the walls? Eight inexpensive ways to help your living space cope with lockdown

Woohoo, from this week we can exercise outside a bit more! But with many of us in these tricky times working from home and home-schooling our children, we are still spending more time in our houses than ever before, and that lovely, comforting space we call home can seem smaller than usual and unable to handle the multi-functions we’re asking of it. So, let’s help it out a little…

1. Bring the outside in!

Throw open the windows and sit beside them as much as you can. If you’re lucky enough to have a garden, bring in any leafy branches, buds, flowers regularly — not only will they add colour to your home, but their changing ways add movement and life to a room. Any such link to the great outdoors is a positive — horizons are expanded in the imagination and this can be so soothing to a frazzled mind. It’s also a way of reminding us that whilst Covid19 has changed our ways immeasurably, nature is bigger and more permanent and will have endured when we’re all completely free. Plus, on a practical level, house plants help to purify the air in inside spaces — so important when everyone’s cooped up. Maybe check out the podcast Field Recordings for some added outdoors sound.

2. Separate your workstations from family-fun spaces

This is crucial so that you don’t feel you’re at work and the children are at school all day. Even if it’s not possible to have a separate room to work in and space is short or open plan, a work area for yourself and a child can still be established. A desk or sofa turned at right angles to a wall will divide a room into different zones. A section of the room can be painted a different colour — maybe under a shelf above a child’s desk — so a clear, separate workspace is created. If you’re working at the kitchen table, at the end of the day, pack your work paraphernalia into a special box and dress the table differently — a plant, tablecloth — to make the distinction.

3. When working from home, maximise productivity by minimising distractions. This is important so work time doesn’t leak into the evening

Children will readily make a homemade Stop sign which can be hung on a doorknob, wall or laptop, so everyone knows not to interrupt when someone’s working. Make sure the sign’s taken down regularly, so children understand they can talk to you often — that way they’ll learn to respect the sign. Sometimes even making a no-go area on the floor with masking tape round a desk will keep needy housemates at bay!

4. Lighten and brighten

Paint can still be ordered online, and most homes have got a test pot or two hanging around, so even if there’s no way you can face or afford the time to fully redecorate now, it’s still possible to inject a fresh, bolt of colour to, say, a single wall, a table or even just a shelf, and change the whole mood of a room. Add some cheerful children’s artwork to the walls, move round a bit of furniture or a few objects, and you’ve got a whole new world!

5. Don’t let one person be a slave to the house

Research shows that women still take on more than their fair share of house tasks and often the bulk of childcare, so a list which distributes jobs around the family should be made before any one person feels the house is holding them back. Even tiny tots can make sure they aim to dress, clean teeth, maybe sit with a book for 15 mins.

6. Everyone needs some Me time at home

… including children. So, make provisions for toddlers to entertain themselves more than usual (after all, a bored child will often be sparked into imaginative play). You could leave around non-toy toyboxes, using objects from around the house; provide a big bowl of socks and ask that they’re put into pairs; leave Play Doh out on a coffee table. Remember, too, that older siblings, even those just a couple of years older, always like the opportunity to be teachers and will keep younger children entertained (one eye from you recommended). And during these tricky times, there’s no guilt to be had in offering your child a bit of quality screen time if it means you’re able to escape in a book as a result: try TedEd for example, which offers small educational talks for children; and Reading Eggs, an online, highly engaging reading programme where children work through fun, guided lessons themselves, learning to read as they go.

7. Declutter

It’s good for space, it’s good for the soul! It’s the reason our car is jam-packed with bags waiting for the charity shop to reopen.

8. Keep the mood and energy levels high in the house

Repeatedly talk about what everyone in the family needs, then re-sort your day so there are work and school schedules and display them so everyone can see them. That way, there’s more chance everyone will achieve what they want to. Try to stick to regular times for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as exercise, work breaks and times where the family gets together for chat and fun. Whilst it’s important under such stressful times to cut ourselves some slack (hooray, make-up off, jogging pants on), it’s surely better for energy levels if everyone gets dressed early and if there’s a quick tidy-up in the evening so the next day feels like a new beginning? As a mother of a teenager who confuses lockdown with lie-in, I know that’s easier said than done… but these are strange times and, hey, it’s surely worth a shout!

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