Our top quarantine hacks

Please know that I say this with all the eye rolls.  I’m not winning at quarantine.  I’m not a life hacker.  These are just some things that are working for us right now.

As a recap, we are under the Movement Control Order here in Malaysia so we’re not going outside at all.  One family member leaves as little as possible for essentials (grocery store, pharmacy).

On personal grooming

So you guys know the “chairdrobe?”  That place where you put clothes that you’ve worn so they don’t go back in the closet, but they aren’t really dirty or stinky so you don’t want to wash them yet?  My current chairdrobe is actually a bathtub.  Bathdrobe?  For many months, this poor (unused obviously) tub has been littered with sort of dirty clothing.

But no more!

Instead of rewearing things eventually, I’ve opted to just rewear the same outfit the following day.  It’s less mental hassle.  The tub stays clear.  It cuts down on laundry.  Win win win.  (Underwear is replenished which would seem obvious, but this was not to one of my children as I realized when the clean clothes showed six pairs for one boy and only one for another.  Yes, I know normal rules don’t seem to apply anymore but clean underwear daily still does, son.  We fixed the glitch.)

I must admit that the tub isn’t completely clear because I’ve taken this a step farther.  There are PJs that will be worn for a few days in a row and workout clothes for the same.  (We are working out daily, but it isn’t super strenuous.  No clothes drenched in sweat here.)

Your mileage may vary on this.  Please remember that I’m never outside.  I’m not in extreme temperatures.  I don’t have important business calls to look nice for (although I don’t actually think I’d care if people saw me in the same shirt two days in a row.)  If you want to attempt, I am a big fan of tank tops.  No armpit contact seems to reduce the stinkiness.

I have not attempted to have the rest of the family participate in this yet.  As suggested above, it is struggle enough to get them to change clothes period.  They don’t need any encouragement in this direction.

Are you grossed out enough yet?  Moving on.

I’m not wearing as much makeup as I get older.  These days I’m not wearing any.  (Again, no zoom meetings.)  I do like to look nice, but putting on the tinted sunscreen seems silly if there is no sun in my life.

To do nothing really other than to ease the transition from “not dressed” to “dressed,” I have been putting on really loud lipstick.  (It’s this one if you care to know.)  You know, the lipstick that you have worn out of the house but you never really do because it’s too high maintenance?  Yup, that one.  It has been fun to play around with in this very low stakes time.

Interestingly, NO ONE in my family has commented on it.  Not to say they noticed it.  Not to comment when it is half missing and I look like The Joker.  Nothing.  I don’t know if this means they are supremely unobservant or if they are just used to my shenanigans.

A tiny silver lining (heehee) of all this has been that I stopped dying my gray hair in the fall of 2016.  So at least I’m not having to worry about hair dye or confront grow out angst on top of all the other things we have going on.  But since I need a hair project (apparently), I’ve been dabbling with water only hair washing.  It’s . . . going.  I don’t have a boar bristle brush which seems to be pretty key to the process, but I think it’s getting better.  This is after my only washing once or twice a week for a few years and then dabbling in baking soda and apple cider vinegar.

So maybe you don’t want to go that far, but this could be a time to simplify your routine.  Or just try something new.  Maybe go an extra day without washing.  Maybe the thought of changing your routine adds stress, in which case, don’t even worry about it.

On the food front

I’ve talked before how it feels like we are just cooking all the time and the kitchen is always somewhat disheveled.  I know you guys feel the pain here.  I still refuse to menu plan (which seems very odd for my personality), but these are a few ways we’ve cut down on kitchen load.

Up first, High-Low Meals.

You know how in fashion they talk about the high-low dressing?  Like pairing a designer skirt with a top from Zara.  This really isn’t that, but for some reason I think of these the same way.

Instead of trying to cook an entree with sides every day, I’m spacing it out.  Full meal with all the fixings one day.  Low stress something the next.  It keeps the feeling of constantly cooking at bay, and it helps for less clean up too.

Some of our “low” meals have been things like cheese and crackers, tuna salad, and scrambled egg burritos.  They aren’t no mess or effort (what is, really), but they are much less than other times.

When you do cook though, go for leftovers.  Double.  Triple.  Your next day self will thank you.

Maybe you are already better at this, but we’re doing more lentils, beans, and such.  I’ve been trying to have a “featured” pantry ingredient of the week.  Like chickpeas.  Then, I can take the dry chickpeas, cook up a ton in the Instantpot, and use them all week.  (We really like lemony garlicky chickpeas that I make sort of like this, and this pumpkin coconut curry with chickpeas and lime is dynamite.)

On keeping the days distinct

At breakfast, I have a notebook sitting at my seat.  Each day, I write the date and then list goals for the day.  We’re talking 3-5 goals.  They are NOT ambitious.  Some of them are things we would have done anyway.  (NEED that easy win.)  Some are chores.  Some are fun things.  We revisit the goals at lunch and dinner.  It’s fun to have the whole family on board with a project, and it has helped to keep the days separate.  Other than this blog, I’m not keeping a quarantine journal of any kind so I think it will also be an interesting account of our time at home for later as well.

Now that we are home all the time making all the mess and cleaning it all ourselves, I’ve reverted HARD back to our days of the week chores.  Granted, the chores do need tweaking.  Leaving floors to the end of the week never works.  (I find frontloading harder stuff to work best.)  For one, we have too many floors.  Our cordless Dyson–which I adore–doesn’t have quite enough juice to do the whole house in one go.  Also, to actually clean floors, you have to pick up stuff first.  Also also, we have a baby and an ant problem.  We try to hit high traffic areas like the kitchen and dining room daily.  I’m thinking Mop Monday could work because I’m a sucker for alliteration.  It’s a work in progress.

As an aside, I’m sort of glad we are tackling this as a family now.  Our system was definitely in need of an overhaul, but I just figured we’d use the fresh start of the move to jump us into a new routine.  So not the way I expected, but glad we’re working on it.

Either way, chores get done and we mark the passage of time.  At least for me, it makes me feel like I’m not the chore nag.  *I’M* not the one making you do this.  It’s Towel Tuesday.  That’s just the facts, Jack.  Blame Tuesdays.

(James hates Towel Tuesday because he inevitably doesn’t notice his towel is missing until he is dripping wet in the shower.  Ideally, all towels would be washed and replaced while people are at school and work.  So that doesn’t quite work now.)

We haven’t done this every day, but sometimes we’ve done a themed music day.  It’s oldies day.  It’s U2 day.  It’s a Rolling Stones day.  Just a little something to make that day feel special.

Speaking of special, we’ve tried to make the weekends distinct.  We aren’t doing school stuff on the weekends, and we have tried to keep the cleaning minimal, particularly on Sunday.  We’ve been doing takeout once a week on Saturdays so that is something to look forward to.  We’ve also been trying to ration a special show for the weekend.  There will probably be a more special breakfast thrown in there.  (I can’t stop making oatmeal bakes, but no one is complaining.)  Even though we’re still at home, I do feel like we’ve made the weekends feel distinct and special.


How about you?  Any quarantine tips and tricks?  Are you developing new routines?  What is working for you?

3 thoughts on “Our top quarantine hacks

  1. Megan says:

    I love this! As always, all of it. Here are the things that have been working for us (in, granted, slightly different circumstances)…

    1) dinner alternating – P and I switch on/off dinner. While we sort of did this before, not it’s more firmly set. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it’s completely on me when it’s my day, and I just don’t think about it at all on not-my-days, which is the key. I don’t try to help or hint or nudge. Sometimes we eat later and it’s never what I would serve (sometimes that’s a positive) but it’s totally off my mental load.

    2) movie weekends – sure, there is screen time during the week, but we’ve been watching a movie each weekend as a family (spread out over two or three days depending on the length) and those are the only movies. It makes the weekend more special and serves as a good line of demarcation. Also waffles for weekend breakfasts. Pretty much every single Saturday and Sunday.

    3) weekly fun lists – these are something we’ve been doing for a few years now to be fair. Every Monday night is Family Meeting night where we do appreciations of other family members, allowance (this has become a virtual accounting now that I’m not in the office), and plans for the week (fun things that we vote on, we do anything that gets all four votes).

    • Melissa says:

      This all sounds amazing! If you alternate dinner, do you also alternate clean up? Or is this a group responsibility or it isn’t set? (We’re still trying to figure this one out. A set system seems good, but energy levels vary so much by that time of the night that it’s really whatever whoever can manage by that point.) Oooo, and I want to hear all about allowance some time! We haven’t started on that, but the boys are very interested in saving for Lego so I’m curious to start.

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