Well, life certainly looks very different from the last time we posted here on the blog. As I’m sure you are well aware, we’re in the midst of a global pandemic & we’re all spending a LOT more time in our houses. This week, Chris and I hit 30 days of #stayhome, and we know at this point that we will be here for another 30, with the state of Vermont’s stay home order extending until at least May 15th.
This time has come with mixed emotions for me, especially being a relatively new business. In the past year, we took on many big steps of growth- one of the biggest being hiring our first two employees. Shutting down our showroom & sending them home without knowing when we’d return, and setting up shop back at what feels like square one (our upstairs bedroom turned office where we started the business) feels a lot like failure… even though I know it is the smart & right thing to do given our current situation. I do know deep down that our business will be ok, and that we will get through this – we improvise & adapt, but it’s hard not to mourn the plan we’d had for the coming year as we start to reevaluate our trajectory.
My point here is not to make you feel sorry for what I’m going through (what we all are going through) but to help you understand that – I get it. Life is really hard right now and no one expects you to be handling it well. But over the past few weeks I’ve come to peace with doing what I can and not worrying about what I can’t control, and I’ve decided that the best thing that I can do is keep doing what I love and putting positivity out into the world. I’m going to be using my blog & social media channels during the rest of this crisis to do whatever I can to help you & solve some of the problems you may be having while staying home. So I thought I’d start simple by sharing some of the things that have been helping me and that I hope can help you.
Be gentle with yourself. You’re probably sick of hearing the phrase “In these unprecedented times,” right now and honestly I don’t blame you but that statement is 110% accurate. You do not need to be doing anything other than staying home right now, anything else is a bonus. Getting work done while at home (with or without kids) is hard. Not feeling like the world is ending is hard right now. Give yourself some grace for not having it all together right now & don’t stress yourself out over all the things you might not be doing right now.
Choose one thing to focus on & go from there. The best advice I can give you to improve your life right now is to take one small positive step in the right direction at a time. Making your bed, getting showered & dressed, maintaining your routine, cleaning out your closets, coming up with activities for your kids and ALL of the thousand things people are saying are “So great for you right now,” (Heck all the things on this list!) may feel entirely overwhelming if you try to take on them all on at once. Choose one thing you want to get better at, and when that starts to feel easy, pick another. I have tackled a lot in my life this way and it is a great momentum builder, once you do one, or two, or five things it’s easer every time because you have confidence in your ability.
Try to find the silver linings. In all of this, there is positive – you just need to look for it. People are home with their families & their spouses, bonding in ways we never have before. Cities once shrouded in smog are seeing blue skies for the first time in years. In a world that’s constantly on the go, we are being forced to slow down. We are seeing some of the best of humanity in thousands of folks volunteering, essential workers, manufacturers and crafters making PPE, doctors leaving their homes for the most effected areas. Hold onto the “good news”, the sweet stories, the positives and focus on them instead of all the doom & gloom.
Unplug for a while. In this age of constant breaking news & endless phone notifications it is really easy to feel overwhelmed, hopeless, or unable to focus. Sometimes limiting your exposure is the best thing you can do for yourself. I have found turning off most of the notifications on my phone a wonderful tool for having some me time. Or just leaving my phone in the other room for a while. To avoid news overwhelm, I try not to watch the live briefings but the summaries afterwards where I can get the information without all the pomp, or leave the news on mute until I notice something important happening.
Do some things just for you. Make an effort to make time for you in all of this, to be alone & treat yourself, to relish in a quiet moment. For you, this could be anything that makes you feel at peace with yourself. For me it’s a long soak in the tub with trashy TV on or an afternoon spent needlepointing. For Chris, it’s a good run or a curvy ride on his motorcycle, or keeping the lawn perfectly striped. Whatever it is that makes you feel bliss, make sure to make time for it! And if you are home with kiddos, rotate shifts of keeping the kids out of the way to give the other partner some space to unwind a little. (A great tip from the queen of momming fabulously, Erin Gates of Elements of Style.) Or if your kids are older challenge everyone to go to their rooms for some “Me” time and do something they enjoy!
Get outside. The wonderful thing about Vermont is that there is plenty of space for you to get out & enjoy spring’s arrival. Daily walks have become a favorite part of the day for Chris & I. If it’s sunny out & warm I like to take conference calls from the back deck or sit out there and needlepoint. Some of our favorite places to walk or hike locally have been a bit too crowded to keep up social distancing properly so we’ve had the most success forging off into the woods & trails behind our house, throughout our neighborhood, & down the railroad tracks. We also love an empty golf course!
Grow Something. I’m not a routine person, you will never see me do the same exact thing two days in a row and I like it that way, variety is the spice of life! But habits, routine, and rituals are something that many say are absolutely key to living well. For years it has been my belief that keeping even just one plant alive can be wonderful for your mental health, and with my need for habits that aren’t necessarily routine – growing something is a great way to create a habit that isn’t on a time clock. Plants grow at the speed they grow, they need water when they need it, and sometimes they don’t need it for days – other times they dry out overnight and are thirsty the next morning! Sometime’s a sunny day’s too harsh and they need to be pulled back from the window, or rainy week means they need to sit outside in the sunshine on the first sunny day – other times it’s a little boost of nutrients. Approach this act of checking in with your plants with mindfulness, seeing how they’re doing, giving them what they need, and watching them grow. Very quickly this begins to feel like less of a chore and more like an introspective check in with yourself. It sounds strange but I can almost see what I need to be doing for myself in my plants, and they become a visual cue to think about what I need. When they are neglected – I’m not taking care of myself, and when they’re thriving… I usually am too. (But don’t take it personally if it dies. Some things you can’t help & green thumbs take practice!)
Support Local Businesses. If you’ve been here for a while, you know just how passionate we are about supporting small local businesses whenever possible. I realize you may be hurting financially right now and you do not need to spend money to support your local businesses! The best thing you can do for free is to use yourself as a signal boost for any local business you may love; share their posts, invite friends to like their page, write a review or just simply engage with them on social media. These actions will help boost them with social media algorithms and draw in new customers. When you do spend money, make sure to spend whatever you can locally. Check to see if you can get something delivered or curbside at a local small business before ordering it on Amazon. Order takeout or delivery from a local restaurant as a treat (and tip big). Send gifts to friends or family you’re separated from from local shops, or gift certificates for dinner together when this is all over. If you want to support us at Northshire Living, we will soon be offering care packages you can send with cards, candles, & other goodies for your home, as well as hand washing sets and a little something to help raise money for our local support systems like the Community Food Cupboard.
Send A Care Package. While we may soon be offering our own curated care packages, and supporting a local business is a great way to help right now… there are ways you can send someone a little something to show you care from far away without spending any money. Earlier this month I started pulling together things for care packages to my friends & family and I surprised myself with what I was able to pull together raiding my own pantry, give-away bin, gift stash (things I find on sale or accumulate for VFW basket parties), and my basket full of samples from my beauty subscriptions. I pulled together surprisingly perfect care packages for each person, a few things I thought they’d like, cozy home snacks I had plenty of like soup, tea, & popcorn, a couple spa things to relax or feel pretty, and even some of my favorite seasonal soap (Mrs. Meyers Iowa Pine) I’d stocked up on over the holidays for keeping their hands clean! The only thing we actually went out and purchased for the boxes was an iTunes card for my nephew that Chris was able to pickup on a grocery shopping trip.
Build Community. Do something to help rally & unite the members in your community to spread some positive morale. Go outside & howl or ring a bell at 8pm. Put a rainbow on your front windows. #buildthanks with signs thanking our essential worker heroes! Leave something nice for the the mailman or delivery drivers. I didn’t like some of the things being posted or the negativity on a local facebook forum – so I started my own & invited my community to join. If you’d like to stay updated you can join by clicking here!
Start a project (or finish one). If you’re like me, your biting off both (because why make things easy for yourself?!) and taking on a new project as well as finishing off some existing ones. In terms of major projects, there’s our kitchen, an unfinished art studio I did half the one room challenge with, and some finishing touches needed to our master bedroom, living, & dining room needed. I also have wanted to make some small cosmetic upgrades to our master bathroom since I spend a lot of me time in there in the bathtub and it will be the last room we remodel in the house. There are also many outdoor projects we’ll be wanting to work on as soon as this last bit of snow melts. What we can accomplish with what we have on hand and our now non-existent budget will be limited for sure, but what we do have plenty of (which we did not before!) – is TIME. So we’ve written a big list of things to tackle and we’re not pressuring ourselves to get them all done – we just have the options there when we want to work on something. But it feels really good when we get to check something off
Make a list. Something about lists in general soothes me. At all times there’s a to-do list on my desk of things I need to accomplish and now that we live our life in quarantine, lists are giving me life! We found ourselves getting bored real quick the first few weeks, and someone suggested we make a list of things we like to do for enjoyment or can do at home that we can refer back to when we’re bored. So I brought home a bulletin board from the office & broke out a legal pad and started making lists! We’ve got a list of things we can do together, things we can each do on our own, and our own to-do lists for all the things we want to get done. It sits right above the chest of drawers in our dining room and we can look at it any time we’re feeling a little stir crazy. Every time we think of something, it goes on the list!
I’ve also started a list of the things that aren’t functioning for me in our home, as now that we are here so much – I’m noticing them more! Like the fact that our couch cushions are not down-proof is driving me insane, I constantly feel like I’m being stabbed by feathers! These things can get shrugged off in the business of daily life, so note them now so you don’t forget about them for later. This way you can do something different or solve that problem if you remodel, redecorate, or the next time you move.
But something I’m also making a big effort on, is noticing & appreciating the things I love about my house, as it’s easy to overlook the positive when feeling stuck. Chris and I have said countless times, how grateful we are our kitchen was mostly completed before we went on lockdown. I challenge you to start noticing what you love about your house during this time and share it with the world! I’ll be sharing something daily on instagram stories going forward with the hashtag #whatiloveaboutmyhouse and I would LOVE for you to join in too!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this list full of good vibes & can’t wait to see what YOU love about your house!