written in collaboration with Emily Jones
Lockdown has been a strange and scary time, but it’s also revealed some silver linings.
I know I’ve been lucky in the fact my parents are safely back in New Zealand, and only one person in my extended circle has fallen ill with Covid-19. The rest of us have all managed to so far avoid the virus (touching wood right now!) and our hamlet seems to have escaped pretty much unscathed.
I’m conscious, though, that not everyone has been so lucky, and that my situation could easily change from one day to the next. Which is actually why I wanted to make the most of this time; to channel my nervous energy into finding the positives of lockdown, and make something good come from all of this.
As a mum running a busy household, juggling the non-stop demands of work and family, I never had the time to get truly organised and achieve those little life goals. I knew I’d probably never get a chance like this again – with life slowed down and stripped back and all the background noise cut out.
So, I made a pact to achieve something every day, from decorating a room, to simply trying out a new recipe. Four months in and I’ve slowly but surely been working my way through my to-do list. It feels great to be productive rather than constantly chasing my tail and finally get stuff done.
Here are my Top 10 Lockdown Achievements:
1: More than 20 years ago I travelled to Rome for the first time and utterly fell in love with Italy and its beautiful language. As soon as I got home I signed up for Italian lessons, which I attended until I moved to Australia. The plan was always to restart them but I never quite got around to it, and it was something I always regretted.
Then I discovered I could actually start learning Italian from the comfort of home, using a language app called Babbel, which I downloaded to my phone. I started practising while I had my morning cup of coffee, or when I found myself with a few minutes free during the day, and fell in love with the language all over again. I’m now determined to keep this momentum and make learning Italian a priority again – something I’d never have done without lockdown giving me that push.
2: Our living room has been waiting to be painted since we finished our renovation past two years ago. It took me forever to decide on the colour I wanted, but even once I’d made up my mind I never found that entire day I needed to get stuck in and get the painting done – until I had that uninterrupted time in the house during lockdown. The lounge has been transformed AND I also managed to finish the painting in my room (ie: the fiddly bits behind the window blind and the chest of drawers) and some touch-ups around the house.
3: I’ve learned to cook. I mean, I knew how to muster up a plate of food before, but I’d never had the spare time to make things from scratch. Or so I thought. The panic buying that kicked off lockdown meant we had to had to make all our food last as long as possible. Added to that, the most obvious way to save money was to cut down on food waste.
So, I invested in a slow cooker and started doing that grown-up thing of meal planning. I stocked up on piles of fresh veggies and started researching simple, nutritious recipes. Lightbulb moment! Not only were the meals yummier and more nutritious than the convenience meals I’d relied on before (pre-breaded chicken, salad bowls, etc), but they cost so much less too. Also, in an unexpected twist, we’ve loved the dishes so much we’ve started eating less meat and now have vegetarian meals at least twice a week, which definitely would not have happened without lockdown.
4: Just before the world ground to a halt we’d had our ugly 1970’s driveway dug up and repaved, and framed by wooden plant beds. Now I’ve finally had the chance to plant the lavender plugs I’d ordered from Lavender World AND water them by hand for the first couple of weeks while they take root. In time, they’ll grow into big, fragrant bushes that’ll fill the space under our box window and soften up the wooden landscaping.
5: I’ve had a box of loose family photos sitting in the office, taunting me for years. I had all the prints and the photo albums waiting, but never had the free time to actually sit down, sort them into chronological order and slot them into the albums. But the other week I dragged the box out, took a deep breath and got cracking. It took me the entire day to do – literally about six hours – but, my God, it felt great to finally get it done and dusted. I even managed to organise some photos to make a family scrapbook – another of the positives of lockdown.
6: We put up a garden shed last summer but ran out of time to paint it, so that was another job on my list. I painted the raw timber black to match the fence and the sleepers, and attached some wooden lattice to one side. Next, I ordered some honeysuckle plants which I planted at the base and trained to grow up the lattice. Hopefully, in a summer or two, the vines will be growing up up and over the shed, a tangle of green leaves and creamy yellow flowers giving off their delicious scent.
7: One of the best results of our home renovation was all the extra storage we built in. To start with, I just piled everything inside and shut the doors. Boom! It no longer existed. Except, really, it did and it would niggle at me every time I opened the cupboard and saw the mess inside. So I took on the most shambolic one, sorting and decluttering and making sure everything had its own place. Then I sorted out the linen cupboard from top to bottom. The pleasure it now gives me to open those cupboards is actually quite ridiculous. One down, 15 more to go…
8: Riding that decluttering wave, I also tackled the laundry, which had become our dumping zone and was an absolute disgrace. I bought a heavy duty shelving unit and sorted all the overflowing boxes into different shelves – tools on one, laundry supplies on the next, random household stuff that didn’t fit anywhere else on another, and leftover paint tins on the bottom. Everything was in easy reach, and I could now reach the sink without having to pole vault over buckets and mops and pairs of rubber wellies.
9: I’ve also taken this time to take a deep breath and sort out all the ‘life admin’ that I’d been putting off for weeks, months and even years. I streamlined the household accounts, cancelling old subscriptions and switching bill providers to make sure we were getting the best possible deals. It was fiddly and time consuming – which was why I hadn’t done it before – but lockdown meant I had no more excuses.
Another of the positives of lockdown was that it made me take a good hard look at my expenses and work out what I really wanted to spend my money on. I realised some of my unnecessary expenditure (takeaways, etc) and added up much more quickly than I realised. From now on, my priority is on spending less and saving more.
10: Most recently, it’s been back to the living room to put together this Vittsjö Ikea shelving unit that had been sitting in its flatpack in our hallway for nearly a year. Which meant I could finally unwrap the trinkets and family photos that had been sitting in a box for months, getting in the way, and show them off again.
The last few months have been strange and unsettling, but I’m so glad I made the decision to find the positives of lockdown and make those unexpected hours as productive as possible. Keeping busy has distracted me from feeling anxious, and decorating has allowed us to enjoy the house so much more now (although we still all have cabin fever!).
Our home feels calmer and more organised, and so do I.
If you enjoyed reading about how I found the positives in lockdown, you might also like to read about how I’ve continued my gym workouts from home.