Tips on Managing while Sheltered at Home

Photo: Alexander Drummer
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By Marty Basher

(Editor’s Note:  In an effort to provide our readers with resources that seem helpful, we hope this provides a sense of order in our current chaos.)

And just like that, without much warning, families around the world are finding themselves working from home while simultaneously taking on the new responsibility of homeschooling their kids due to the recent Coronavirus outbreak. For thousands of parents who have been asked to work remotely, this means extra challenges when trying to balance the demands of work life and home life for the foreseeable future. Wondering how you’ll find a sense of routine and organization in your household during this time? Organizing specialist Marty Basher offers tips to get you started! 

Are you one of the thousands of families finding yourself thrown into remote work from home with your kids newly homeschooling due to the Coronavirus pandemic? First of all, try not to stress (though it seems impossible)! Take a deep breath and remember, you’re not the only one going through this and we’re in this together. This new situation does come with extra challenges when trying to balance the demands of work life and home life for the foreseeable future. Wondering how you’ll find a sense of routine and organization in your household during this time? Here are a few ways to gain a bit of sanity and get your family adjusted to the new norm.

Create a Family Schedule. Create a realistic schedule for the entire family with room to ad lib a bit. While you’re trying to initiate some structure, most strict schedules will be tough to maintain at a time like this. Some families prefer to have a schedule similar to their regular one to keep everyone in routine while others prefer to go with the flow. But don’t forget to allow for some flexibility and room to relax. While this is an extremely trying situation for many people, you can also look at it as a gift with less running and activities and additional family time that most households don’t typically get. When building your schedule make sure to include meal times, learning time, arts and crafts, outdoor fresh air and exercise, clean up/chores and quiet time so you can focus on work and give everyone a break-time from each other (this will be key as the weeks go on). Since everyone is stuck at home, now is the time to recruit your kids to take on a bigger piece of the pie when it comes to helping out with the family. Split up chores amongst the kids, call on them to help each other out (bigger kids can help with the younger kids), learn something new, such as doing laundry or how to make a meal. Don’t be afraid to ask a bit more from them. 

Set Important Boundaries. While this is a great time for families to relax a bit, some boundaries are crucial to keep everyone on track and productive. While extra TV and technology time is totally acceptable at such a challenging time, it’s still ideal to have healthy limits. This will make it easier when schedules go back to normal and to help keep your kids happy and motivated. It’s well-documented that too much TV and technology affects a child’s mood and sleep. It’s also essential to talk openly to your kids about what you need to accomplish each day working from home and what’s expected of them. Make sure they understand that your job requires you to get a certain amount of work done each day and you need their help. Make a sign for your office door that lets them know when you can talk to them (such as “do not disturb”) or create a hand signal (thumbs up—ok to talk or thumbs down—you’ll have to wait a minute). They need to know that you’re not always going to be able to be interrupted every time they come to you. 

Organize Work Stations for Each Family Member. Just like an office or classroom, each person should get their own designated work area. It’s the most practical and productive way to actually get things done. You may or may not have a home office set up already, if not, now’s the time! Seek out a quiet place where you think you can get work done and take phone calls if necessary. It doesn’t have to be an entire spare room that’s all decked out, it can be as simple as a desk set up in your bedroom or even closet, depending on your space. Attempting to work from home with kids has its challenges so be prepared for interruptions and plenty of breaks. As for your kids, doing schoolwork from the kitchen table works for some kids but not all of them. You’ll have to decide if this is possible with your family. If not, it might be beneficial to give each child their own space to do some learning. Some kids prefer their bedrooms, others are fine curled up on the couch, while others may need a desk/table to fully function. Find a spot each child feels good about getting some work done and tweak what doesn’t work. Set each child up with the tools they need such as a tablet or laptop, writing utensils, paper and art supplies. If your school didn’t assign work, a simple Google search will help you land on educational websites and apps to get you going. There’s a plethora of information and offers available to new homeschooling parents right now.

Repurpose Rooms. Repurposing existing space in your home is the easiest, less expensive way to fill needs for a home office, an exercise room, or additional bedroom. An unfinished basement, for example, offers the largest amount of usable space for repurposing. Maybe your family is needing some additional living space such as accommodations for grandparents that can include a small kitchen, bedroom and bath and living room/tv area. An unused closet can also become an office or homework space with wall-mounted shelves for supplies and a desk for a computer. Now is the perfect time to carve out some unused space in your home for a kids’ craft room. Think how nice it would be to have an actual room designated for finger painting, playing with playdoh and making pasta necklaces! 

Teach Kids Life Skills. With everyone at home, parents have the perfect opportunity to teach their children some valuable life skills! Cooking, for example, is a great way for the family to spend quality time together. Families can get so busy that they lose touch, even while living in the same house! Other great skills to consider include: How to properly load a dishwasher; how to organize a bedroom closet, how to do laundry, how to fold sheets, how to do sewing repairs, how to grocery shop online, how to plant/maintain a garden, how to tie a neck tie, how to change a tire. Start now, and your children could reap the benefits for a lifetime!

Make Time for Fun and Relaxation with Family. The bottom line is work still has to get done, kids still need to be fed and laundry doesn’t wash itself. However, in-between the must-do’s should be some fun-do’s. It’s up to you to make this happen! With all the scheduling of education, work deadlines and cleaning/meal prep, make fun and relaxation with your family a top priority. And while you’re at it, set the bar a little lower than you might think it should be. This is not the time to shoot for “Work at Home, Homeschooling Parent Overachiever Award.” So instead of thriving, shoot for surviving, and have some fun while you’re at it. Time to get out the games and puzzles that never get played anymore. Sitting around the table with your family playing a game of Sorry or Uno with a big bowl of popcorn is what family memories are made of. Set up obstacle courses in the backyard and host a Family Olympics. Go for a family walk or run to get some fresh air and exercise, Create a scavenger hunt to motivate the family while out blowing off some steam. Grab the sidewalk chalk and doodle some inspirational messages on your driveway and sidewalk for the neighbors to enjoy (after all, we’re in this together!). Make a homemade meal together as a family and follow it up with a family movie night. You could even start a garden together.  

Alvaro Reyes

Other great skills to consider include: How to properly load a dishwasher; how to vacuum, dust and mop, how to do laundry, how to fold sheets, how to do sewing repairs, how to grocery shop online, how to plant/maintain a garden, how to tie a neck tie, how to change a tire. Start now, and your children could reap the benefits for a lifetime!

Marty Basher is the design expert with Modular Closets, (modular closets). Marty regularly contributes on topics of home design, organization, improvement and more, helping home owners get the most out of the spaces in their home. Modular Closets are high-quality and easy-to-design closet systems made in the USA you can order, assemble and install yourself, in no time at all. Using closet modules (closet pieces you can mix & match to design your own modular closet), homeowners everywhere are empowered to achieve a true custom closet look- for nearly 40% less than standard custom closets. 

Photo credit: Modular Closets unless otherwise noted.