How to Create Useful Areas & Handle Living at Home During the Coronavirus Outbreak

Posted by Judy Orr on Friday, March 27th, 2020 at 3:52pm.

how to create functional spaces in your home during the coronavirus pandemic when you have to stay home

Illinois currently has a Shelter in Place Mandate, asking all of us to stay in our homes and only going out for essential needs, such as food and medical supplies. With that said, Illinois has stated that real estate is an essential service, so real estate is still open for business.

This includes listing properties, buyers viewing those properties in person, and some agents are still holding open houses. Closings are occurring but they’re just being done differently. Most are not happening in a title company with 2 attorneys, 2 agents, buyers, sellers, and the title reps. Many are happening in the parking lot with paperwork being passed through windows with only the title rep & the buyers (sellers are signing prior to the closing by going into their attorney’s office (keeping distance) or using overnight mail). Crazy!

Our governor is asking us to stay at home. But when temps went into the 60’s recently you wouldn’t know it with the videos of people biking, running & walking on lake paths and others playing contact sports in Chicago parks – not much social distancing happening!  Mayor Lightfoot was incensed and they’ve since closed down outdoor paths & parks.

Here are some ideas that have been shared with us on how to survive at home – something most of us have never had to do – and keep our sanity.

The Basics

A couple of days ago we heard a loud bang. I thought, great, the bored neighbors are setting off fireworks. My dogs were going crazy. I quickly realized it wasn’t fireworks because our electricity went off immediately.

How wonderful! We’re stuck at home during a pandemic and now have no electricity. A transformer went out. It will be dark in a few hours – now what?!

We have some basics in our house. We have plenty of flashlights and batteries. We also have candles. We have a very small generator that might run a laptop or charge a phone for a little while. We have plenty of food & unless the water system gets compromised we have running water & other beverages on hand.

If it wasn’t for the stay at home mandate we would have gone out to a restaurant and/or a movie. But those were not options. Before it got dark, I searched for an old battery-operated CD player so I could listen to some of my old CD’s until the electric went back on. We were going to make hotdogs on our gas grill. Turns out they fixed it quickly and we didn’t need any of our provisions in case it did last longer, but we did have the hot dogs for dinner.

We personally have enough toilet paper and there shouldn’t be any issues with food availability in the grocery stores. Thank goodness the stores are now limiting the hoarding of supplies.

This makes you think about basic necessities you might need for something like this. I hope we never live through another pandemic, but we sure didn’t expect anything like this to happen.

Unless you are very fearful of catastrophe, are a survivalist, or live in an area where nature can cause livability issues, you should probably think ahead to give yourself a small stockpile of certain things such as:

  • Water
  • Food – human & pet
  • Household supplies (paper products, cleaning products (personal & household)
  • Batteries
  • Flashlights
  • Candles (but be careful with flames)
  • Medical supplies (bandages, over-the-counter medication, prescriptions, etc.)
  • Firewood if you have a wood-burning fireplace

I realize that many of us don’t have a lot of extra storage space, and if you live alone you know how much you use of different things. Many of us live with the last roll of toilet paper and have to run out to buy more. Same thing with gasoline in cars – how many drive on empty? Being prepared doesn’t mean hoarding, it just means having a “good enough” supply, whatever that would mean to you and your household.

Keep your emergency stash of flashlights & batteries in a place you can get to all of them easily. Just an electricity outage, especially when it’s dark, can cause havoc with people trying to find a light source in the dark.

A friend of ours was stuck in Arizona (not a bad place to be stuck because you can’t get a seat on a plane) and was freaking out because her prescription was running out. I’m not sure what it was, and some states require a handwritten prescription direct from a doctor for some meds. Most pharmacies will work with out-of-state prescriptions, but it can depend on the drug.

Ready to start building an emergency kit for your home? Contact us for a free copy of our Home Emergency Preparation Checklist!

Working From Home

I know many people, including my friends, family and past and current clients, are now working from home. Many people already have spaces for their computers, printers, scanners, and paperwork.

We personally do not go into our main office unless we have to for some reason, which is rare. We prefer to work from home with the exception of listing appointments, showing property to buyers, attending home inspections, and closings.  We actually have several office spaces in our house, but we realize not everyone does.

You don’t need a separate room to create a workspace. I have 3 little barky dogs, but now I have an excuse that I’m at my home office in case they bark while I’m on the phone (which always happens). Or, I just walk into a different room while taking a call.

I show homes where people use their dining room table for a home office of sorts, and I’ve been seeing this for years. It had nothing to do with the current Coronavirus pandemic.

Most homes have some kind of desk space for their computers and other office machines & needs. Some people work both at their main office and at home anyway, so nothing is different for them with the exception that they don’t have to drive to the main office now (or get dressed up).

I’m working a transaction with an agent who warned me that she was at home with 4 kids, in case they were making noise during our conversation. I don’t think anyone is going to get upset if they hear pets or kids in the background right now. In my case, as mentioned, I can walk to another room & close the door if my dogs are barking. It’s not quite as easy with children, especially if they can open doors.

If you have a spouse that is also home, they can help with pets and the kids if you have to work and/or take a phone call. You can take turns keeping the kids entertained & supervised while the other one works.

If your children have online teaching, you hopefully have a computer they can use. Make sure they’re doing their homework and try to keep them entertained. If you have specific work to do they need to know when they cannot interrupt you, especially if you’re home alone with them. You could draw or purchase a sign (like a red stop sign), that you put on a door to a room where you don’t want to be disturbed. Let them know when the sign is up they can’t bother you – and good luck with that!

The Kids and Homeschooling

First off, if you are working from home and homeschooling kids I feel for you! The youngest person in my house is a 17-year-old granddaughter who is working at Target (joy – I think stores are some of the most dangerous places right now).

I can’t imagine having to work and homeschool children. You should probably have a separate area for the schooling so they can put their “student hat” on while in that area. It won’t be seen the same as a play area. It should also be close enough to your work area (if possible) so you can supervise and answer questions.  If you have an extra space, either an extra table or desk (many kids already have desk areas, but it’s usually in their rooms), set that up for doing schoolwork.

Depending on how long this is going to go on, if the weather gets better in our area of Illinois, you can work and homeschool outside for a change-of-pace. I’m hoping this will end before we get to the good weather.

This might be a time to have a family meeting and designate more or different chores for the kids, including helping prepare meals. This can keep them active, give them more responsibility, and explain to them, if you haven’t already, that they are needed for such a special situation. They might be eager to help and be on-board, since most will realize that this is not life as usual. This is also the chance to teach them some life skills you might not have had the time to do in the past.

Working Out and Staying Fit

working out at home during covid-19 pandemic

 I have never gone to a gym. I don’t like working out in public. I have tapes (VCR) and DVD’s with workouts from back in the 80’s. I’ve more recently found some great workout videos on YouTube, and can get them on TV vs. using my laptop screen. With that said, I haven’t done any working out since this started, and I keep saying “tomorrow.” OK, now that I wrote this, I think I’ll really try today.

You really don’t need a huge area or fancy workout machines to keep fit during the pandemic. There’s not much working out in our house but we still have light hand weights and a recumbent bike, plus a bunch of different workout mats. We also have elastic bands & a belt with bands & handles. We can walk in a full circle on the main level of our house, and sometimes you’ll see the dogs following me if I decide to do that.

I mentioned using YouTube, either with or without your television, but if you have cable you should be able to find free workouts. And of course, if we do get a nice day again, you can go out for a brisk walk and still keep social distancing. Our dogs are small & don’t require walks, plus we have a large fenced yard, but I see people walking their larger dogs in all weather. I won’t walk the dogs unless it’s at least 65 degrees out – I can’t handle the cold.

Here’s a funny video to shed some light on the subject:

Still Socializing - From a Distance

I don’t have to tell you that we can still “socialize” via our phones. I think because I use my phone so much for business, I don’t use it enough for friends and family. Plus, most of my friends (and we’re seniors) prefer to text.

Phones can easily use apps such as FaceTime and you can even show your face on Facebook Messenger. Then there is TikTok, Snapchat, and other apps where you can make communication much more personal by recording yourself and sending it out to family, friends, or the masses. You can also use video on Instagram, Facebook, and many other websites, that you can also use as apps on your phone.

There are people having virtual parties or shared wine-tastings/happy hours and more using Google Hangouts and Zoom. There might be other apps that can be used the same way, where multiple people can show up and be videoed for everyone at the virtual gathering to see. There was a recent Zoom meeting where one of the members went to the bathroom and everyone was able to see the entire thing!

My office usually provides lunch meetings at a restaurant but since that can’t be done, we had our first Zoom meeting this week. I turned my video off because I wasn’t “video ready” and have never been on a Zoom meeting where everyone’s videos were on (it’s usually just the speaker that you can see).

My sister-in-law (who lives in California) tried doing a family Netflix Party but it didn’t happen. For those that are really into the virtual stuff, they are actually playing games like Yahtzee virtually. There are other game apps that you can play with friends on your phone or computer.

Some people are writing letters, but that means a lot of hands are touching everything, so I’m not sure that’s the best method of communication right now. Not everyone has a computer, smartphone or iPad, so maybe a letter is the best thing, especially for the elderly. But they need to understand how they should be washing up after handling mail.

There is some good news – maybe. There is more family togetherness now. We’re lucky enough to have a large enough home where we all have our own personal areas. I don’t think it would be as fun for a large family in a small space, but we all have to work together to keep things fun and interesting for each other. If everyone is working from home (or not working), you can all cook meals together & if you don’t normally eat together, you can actually use the kitchen or dining room table to have family meals.

My husband Jimmy Herter and I are catching up on movies we haven’t had time to see. Although we’re still working from home, even if it’s only working on social media, blog posts, and contacting our clients by phone, text, or email, we still have open transactions we’re trying to get closed.  We had a closing today so Jimmy had to drive to our listing to pick up our lockbox & sign.

We’re also reaching out to buyers that haven’t been interested in seeing any properties in person right now. We’re not sure if they are following the shelter at home mandate 100% and/or if it’s fear of catching the virus or if they’re concerned about losing their jobs. We want them to know we’re here and looking at real estate is allowed. And if they don’t want to go out looking right now, we’ll be here when this is over.

The truth is, we don’t have any masks or disposable gloves or booties. And we don’t have enough disinfecting wipes or gel. We do have workarounds, like using a disinfectant spray with paper towels and not allowing buyers to touch anything, and asking anyone that is ill to stay home, plus keep social distancing. The other side of this is that many sellers have taken their homes temporarily off the market, so there’s not as much to look at to begin with.

We’re All in this Together

This is a scary and uncomfortable time for everyone. Some are still in denial & think everyone has overreacted. Many of us are following rules and working to get this to pass as quickly as possible. Others are panicking.

Keep in touch with friends and family. Let them know if you need help, especially if you live alone. Even with social distancing, if you don’t want to be alone during these times, see if you can stay with family or friends if no one feels sick. My son comes over for dinner every Sunday but I made him stay home since he has Type-1 diabetes & he has to go to work. My granddaughter, who works at Target, could be bringing things home.  I don’t want to possibly give him anything nor do I want him to bring anything here. He has his own house & family to stay with so I might feel differently if it was just him.

Don’t forget to check on elderly neighbors. Even if they have family, if you live close it might be easier for you to help. At least make sure they have your phone number in case they do need something last minute.

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