I’ve always professed to be a homebody, but some days into a work-from-home situation, I—as well as, I'm sure, every other “homebody”—have been thinking a lot about how our relationship with our home changes when it becomes the only place we inhabit. When the act of “coming home” no longer exists, because, well, you rarely leave.
While I was processing these thoughts, I received an email from a friend, saying she and her husband were holed up in their home upstate, cut off from the city. The good news, she added, was that they now had time to finally get to that pantry reorg they’d been planning for months. It would be something for them to look forward to doing—together, in the evening hours—a glass of wine for company.
Shortly after, I found myself sitting on the floor with my equivalent of a “junk drawer”—my beloved IKEA fjälla boxes bursting with junk. Ok, not all junk. Buried in there were birthday cards and notes I want to keep, but mostly there were receipts (for things I forgot to return), useless bank stuff, and business cards for shops in obscure places. 30 minutes later, I’d reduced the contents of both boxes to half, and was feeling a level of contentment I haven’t felt since COVID-19 brought on a permanent state of discouragement.
I was reminded yesterday about how Shakespeare allegedly churned out his best work while being quarantined for the plague. While this is a legacy I'm ill-prepared to emulate, I thought: What if we all found small (because no one needs one more thing to be overwhelmed by) but meaningful ways to make our time at home—all the extra time we didn't expect to have—more fulfilling?
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“I've worked from home (self-employed computer programmer) for almost 35 years AND I live in rural NW Montana in semi-hermit mode so pretty much business as usual … EXCEPT, I am 64 so "high risk". I am not fearful, but I do want to protect others as well as myself. The crazy thing is, although I often do not go off my property for 7-10-14 days, now that I "should" not … psychological something or other … it feels odd. So, still some "coping" which for me is lightening up on the work schedule, getting outside!!!, connecting more often with friends (Instagram, Slack) and trying new recipes. I am a scratch cook, sourdough baker (bread, crackers, rolls), lots of soup and stews and seafood (salmon, sardines, shrimp). The big thing, though, for me, is focusing on neighbors. This is the time for reaching out to our community … and offering/accepting. For me, I find that thinking about helping others is calming.”
— Liz S.
I’ve since made a list of daily post-work to-dos that include: checking up on old friends I haven’t reached out to in a while (I’m turning to long, news-filled emails. Remember those?), baking bread (I’m a bit terrified), and wiping down my spice drawer and bottles (turmeric, must you be everywhere?).
Turns out half the Food52 team were thinking along the same lines. I asked my colleagues, newly housebound, to share all the projects that they’ve been tackling during their time at home. We'd also love to hear from you! Follow along at Home52 and share all the little projects you’re working on to distract you, comfort you, and make your space a place you want to be.
"I did a very detailed dusting of every leaf on all of my plants over the weekend. They’re all so shiny and happy now—and much less likely to make me cough and freak out!" —Rebecca Sutter, UX designer
"I'm finally getting around to cooking the recipes I've saved on site!! Yesterday I made the Genius Caramelized Cream Eggs and it was delicious. I’m also finally reading some of the books that have been chilling on my bookshelf." —Danielle Curtis Williams, marketing coordinator
"I cleaned out and organized my 'pantry,' aka the big floor-to-ceiling cabinet that I pretend is a pantry, where I keep all my dried and canned goods. For the first time since I moved into my apartment, each shelf has a designated purpose! Next up? My freezer." —Alex Egan, senior SEO strategist
"I keep whole spices (bay and curry leaves, star anise pods, chiles) in the freezer for longevity, but now that I'm braising, stewing, and infusing more, I moved some of these spices to pantry jars so they're more visible." —Coral Lee, associate editor
"I’m hoping to order some peel and stick wallpaper and finally add some life to my dining area. I’ve been meaning to do it for months but now that my evenings are free, I can!" —Caroline Mullen, assistant editor
"I spent some time this weekend moisturizing all of my wooden cutting boards and utensils! My recommendation? John Boos Block Mystery Oil and Board Cream." —Kelsey Burrow, director, public relations
"I cleaned out my glassware/mugs/teapots/random-stuff-I-never use cabinet (Hello, French Press. I was wondering where you were!). Now, when I open that cabinet door, I don't see stacks of very breakable items about to tip over. I donated everything I didn't want to keep, so nothing went into the trash can." —Erin Alexander, associate editor
"I am doing so many little projects, it's hard to pick (Go, Aja!). Most recently I cleaned my bathroom, every corner of it, and then made a pile of all the towels, bath linen, and toiletries and made a huge donation to a homeless shelter." —Aja Aktay, home buyer
"I’ve started doing long-distance origami challenges with my dad who lives in Northern California. He’s incredibly patient—he used to cut out all my paper dolls when I was little— and there are so many lovely tutorials on YouTube and Pinterest for fantastical shapes, birds, and my personal favorite, corgis (it’s true)." —Maggie Slover, senior copywriter
"I finally have time to babysit my dough starter. I’m looking forward to diving into levain breads, fears notwithstanding." —Josh Dion, senior video editor
"I have a backyard at my new place, and haven't had nice weather to do anything with it…until now. First up? A big clean-up job followed by laying sod (if I can still get it in a week or so). I also plan on building planter boxes around the edge to grow veggies." —Rob Strype, video editing lead
"More gardening prep here: sweeping up winter debris and getting seedlings going." —Cody Kestigian, data scientist
"I'm building a deck." —Timothy McSweeney, senior graphic designer
"I’m trying to fix some uneven wall panels and paint in my home with new moldings (Lucas, you’re my hero!) It’s no small task, but I plan on tackling this slowly, one small finite task at a time." —Lucas Monaco, senior QA engineer