Ten Things I’m Doing While We Isolate

By Alison March 30, 2020 8 Comments 9 Min Read

One of the things I believe to be most true about this most peculiar and trying times of our lives, is that in the future we will look back in gratitude on the sense of community around us, the teeny joys that made up the long days at home and how we chose to use the time that stretched before us.

I want, I think, to be able to say that I contributed to that sense of community, that I filled my families day with silly, heartfelt treats and that I did everything I could to keep them safe. and so without further ado here are ten things I am doing right now for myself, my family and my home…

1. Going Gently

Initially I thought I would lose my mind if I didn’t routinise every moment of both ours and Finn’s day, but as last week went by I recognised that in an age of anxiety, enforcing rigid timetables would only heighten emotion and it would be better to allow us all to find our own way through isolation. That a rhythm would establish itself, and that we would all in the first wave of our quarantine, sleep as much as we needed to, come together when we needed reassurance and once the novelty of needing to do nothing at all, had worn off, seek our own creative pursuits. And so it has come to pass. We are sleeping in later, and eating better. Ste is reading, meditating and taking courses, Finley is writing and wandering the garden dreaming, and I am flitting around the house doing little bits of this and that, napping when it takes my fancy, walking in circles around the garden and generally allowing peace to take the place of fright.

2. Putting Stuff Away

I am doing my very best not to get into a housekeeping frenzy of obsessive disinfecting and manic micro-management of all things domestic, in an effort to keep the viral wolf from the door, but heavens it isn’t easy when the male of the species are in full time attendance. For a start they EAT soooooo much! They seem to require endless feeding and go through towels like there’s no tomorrow, They exist in an endless cycle of eating, and drinking tea and showering and sleeping that has astonished me and so in an effort to make life a little more manageable for us all AND to reduce the likelihood of the exchange of germs I have put away much of the cutlery, crockery and household linen and issued each of us with our own very limited sets of glasses, mugs, plates, and bowls alongside our own towels etc so that we are all responsible for keeping track of our own things without the luxury of just taking one glass after another out of the cupboard. It has made life so much easier and it holds each of us accountable for guarding ourselves against the virus in the house.

3. Focusing On Pantry and Freezer Foods

Though like everyone else I have been concerned that we may not have free access to the shops in the way that we have always been used to, I have faith that we will all have access to the basics that we need and so I have been focusing the few shopping trips Ste has been able to take, not on hoarding anything at all, but on buying pantry basics and freezer staples from which I can fashion nutritious, tasty meals with only the minimum of fresh goods.

This has meant condiments and sauces, lentils and yellow peas, flour, sugar, baking chocolate, seeds and nuts, gluten free goods for Finley, herbs, spices and cereals, tinned broths, beans and fish, things I have never bought before like frozen mash and sweet potato, (for fishcakes and pie toppings), as well as my pantry staples like harissa, almond butter, jam, tahini and pesto.

Of course this may mean that we end up existing on mackerel flavoured cookies in the long run, but as she in charge of the cupboards I feel assured that I can, in even the most trying of times, create something edible.

4. Encouraging Space

One of the things that concerned me most at the beginning of isolation was that we would end up squashed into the living room together on a daily basis all fighting for the same space and arguing about whether the television should be on or off in the daytime (OFF!!). Desperate for the reassurance of each other and prone to wasting entire days consuming nonsense. But it hasn’t happened. Possibly because they are scared of me! But more likely because we are blessed with space and we seem to have fallen into a gentle rhythm of time alone and time apart. Ste working in the conservatory or at the dining room table, Finley commandeering my office and computer to write, and research and listen to his music, and me moving as always between the living room and my bedroom, the kitchen and the garden. Coming together for meals and other shared activities apparently according to the lore of a clock we all share.

5. Journalling

This is a unique time in our history and I so very much want to capture how it feels in my own words. And so I am writing, for myself, in a white journal. trying to capture what it is to be both worried and soothed. To describe the litany, nay tyranny, of bad news and to keep digging for hope under our barely concealed fright. To know what it is to have faith. In the universe. In Mother Nature, and in governments pale with exhaustion. To put into words the silence where there was once noise and the birdsong where there was once the relentless thunder of lorries.

6. Creating An Isolation Room

As Ste is having to cover for those of his staff who are themselves isolating, our own isolation is not wholly sealed, and so we have turned Stevie’s bedroom into Ste’s for now, so that he can keep his bags, clothes and all else he brings in from nights at work quite separate to the rest of the house. On the nights he is here, he sleeps in this little white, monastic room and though we are missing each other terribly, it is simply good practise for all those who have no choice but to be beyond our own front doors on a regular basis during the oncoming peak of the virus.

All that and heckity pie we are both sleeping so much better at a time when Ste, who often needs to be awake through the night, needs as much sleep as he can get, without me and my peri-menopausal antics driving us both insane!

7. Housekeeping Together

Inbetween ordinary housekeeping, every two days we have a mass clean, both Ste and Finn understanding that it is both more important than ever, for the house to be as clean as possible. And so we put the music on loud and Ste does the floors, Finley does doors, door handles and tiles and I do all the surfaces in the house. In just an hour the house is disinfected and fresh as a daisy and we have all enjoyed the togetherness of a shared goal.

Don’t get me wrong: no-one WANTS to do it. Finley is after all, sixteen, and the very idea of cleanliness goes completely over his head, but these are unusual times and we all recognise that unusual times call for both unusual measures and family spirit and I’m so grateful that my little family is so willing to work as one.

8. Encouraging Individual Challenges AND Shared Pursuits

At the very beginning of our semi-isolation, I felt it important to not allow the kind of time we now have, together and individually to go to waste. While enormous achievements are very unlikely to happen because in times of trouble we don’t necessarily have the capacity to wholly focus on our own creativity, teeny goals set and reviewed frequently are very definitely possible and so are choosing activities we share during the day. So from the single episode of Friday Night dinner we watch together as we eat our evening meal, (for the sheer silly joy of it!), to Smoothie time, the mini cooking lessons I have got Finn taking when I’m in the kitchen and the frankly ridiculously funny view that must be watching me march and bend and stretch as I go about my business (in fear of seizing up completely!) we are together packing the days with teeny goals (Finn is learning more about drumming, Ste is finishing his counselling course and I am taking blogging courses by the dozen), and splintering our more serious pursuits with predictable and recurring little joys.

9. Enjoying Smoothie Time

Each morning I have been screeching SMOOOOOTHIE Time and we gather in the kitchen to mix up the Smoothie of the Day: choosing berries and veg and adding all manner of nutricious goodness, which we all take with the regime of vitamins I have got us all on.

Again, something shared and silly and good for us at a time when keeping our immune systems bolstered with all the nutrients we can, really matters.

10. Watching Boris Hour

Finally, we watch what I have named “Boris Hour” together – the British governments daily Corona Virus Briefing: a formal, serious and kind sharing of all that we need to know, with no drama or politics – just facts and requests from experts. My natural instinct is to consume ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING there is to know about Covid-19, to try to allay my anxiety about it, but I know that would be ludicrously counter-productive so I’m trying to keep my news intake down to this one briefing a day – ensuring in the process that Finn too, is being presented with simple truths and has the time to talk through his own feelings as the situation changes daily.

So Boris, a cup of tea and a tin of biscuits it is: ritualising something that none of want to be happening but need to understand regardless.

I truly hope you and yours are well too. Let’s keep on keeping on and eventually it will be over and we can hopefully take away some happy memories from what had to be endured.

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  1. Clare says:

    Thanks for the ideas around doing this quite bizarre time a little better and with humour. We also have “tea with Boris”. It is working well and then I stay away from the news and not swap myself with too much information. Thanks you have made me smile and giggle and given me ideas for the week ahead. May your week be blessed.

    1. Alison says:

      And yours Clare… fingers crossed this passes sooner, rather than later.x

  2. Kelly says:

    Thank you Alison. ? I so very much enjoy your thoughts! Take care of you and yours!! ?

    1. Alison says:

      You are so welcome me darling. Hope you and yours are ok.x

  3. Kathleen "Kate" Holmes says:

    Your book and blog are the best discovery during this strange time that has brought us together on social media yet apart in real time. Reading your, ” The Art of Homemaking” has prompted me to be more thoughtful about the ‘blessing’ of this time at home. We have put in a garden, fenced it, decorated the wall of the garage it is next to and counted our homebound blessings along the way. Tomorrow I will start sewing masks. I love the feeling of having such a sense of purpose while at home. Thank you, Alison, for your detailed guidance and thoughtful inspiration.

    1. Alison says:

      Oh you are so welcome. I’m only grateful to be able to offer some comfort during this horrid, and yet restorative time. Take care.x

  4. Kathleen "Kate" Holmes says:

    Your book and blog are the best discovery during this strange time that has brought us together on social media yet apart in real time. Reading your, ” The Art of Homemaking” has prompted me to be more thoughtful about the ‘blessing’ of this time at home. We have put in a garden, fenced it, decorated the wall of the garage it is next to and counted our homebound blessings along the way. Tomorrow I will start sewing masks. I love the feeling of having such a sense of purpose while at home. Thank you, Alison, for your detailed guidance and thoughtful inspiration.

  5. Elizabeth says:

    WE have been at home now for over 5 weeks, only leaving to shop every 2 weeks. My husband is compromised so I am vigilant about cleaning, disinfecting, not bringing boxes, mail or bags in the house, wiping everything down, etc.
    I love your list and I think I may incorporate a few of your ideas into my quarantine.
    I was wondering if you would share the blog courses that you are taking, I am always looking for blog classes to take and it is hard to weed through them all to find ones that are useful and worthwhile. Thank you in advance, I appreciate your opinion and skill.
    Take care of yourself and your family.

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