Now that we’re mostly stuck at home, we probably have a little more time on our hands, and there’s always work to be done. This is especially so for the homeowner, whose to-do list never quite feels complete.
Whether you live in a house or an apartment, there are small projects you can knock out that often get overlooked or buried beneath other priorities during normal times. Here are some to think about as you settle into what’s looking like at least several more solid weeks of full-on quarantine. And note that they’re all quite simple and don’t involve heavy machinery or over-the-top tools, so crack a bottle of wine or make yourself a cocktail before you get started.
Since we’re contemplating end times more than ever, do some minor prep for the next big earthquake, power outage, or some other disaster. Know where your main power arteries are — gas lines, electrical panel, water main. Familiarize yourself with how they turn on and off. Make sure your electric panel is labeled correctly and the switches correspond to the proper corresponding rooms throughout your place. You don’t need a full-fledged fire escape map printed up, but it doesn’t hurt to imagine how you and your family would exit your place in the event of an emergency.
Grow Some Plants
A lot can be done with your house plants. You can trim leaves, prune branches, or re-pot the entire plant in fresh new soil. Paint your pots if you want to change the feel of the room, or upgrade them entirely as it might be time for the roots to have a little more breathing room. Hell, go green thumb and propagate some that you already have, enlarging your family of flora.
A new layout in a busy room can change the demeanor of an entire dwelling. Start small with new spots for chairs and couches or re-imagine entire kitchens and living rooms. Sometimes, something as subtle as a new space for glassware or a new drawer for utensils will bring unexpected satisfaction. You’re at home more than ever now, so you’re likely growing aware of any acute problem areas where a fresh layout would be welcome.
Clean Your Devices
There’s digital clutter that can be tidied up as well. Now’s the time to update apps on your smart TV and clean out unneeded contacts, photos, and videos on your phone. Your computer is almost certainly carrying some extra pounds. Delete old and unneeded emails and trash the programs and apps you never use. Conversely, back-up what’s most important, like photos, videos, text documents, and graphic design projects. You may end up with a better-running device when you’re done. If nothing else, you’ll gain a little more mental clarity if e-junk weighs you down.
There are a handful of household nooks and crannies that tend to get overlooked when it comes to routine cleaning. Wipe down blinds and windows to allow more light in during these shorter, cooler days of fall. Clean light fixtures as well, which tend to collect a lot of dust. Throw on the rubber gloves and treat appliances like fridges and ovens to a deep clean. If it’s time to season a skillet, do it. And because it’s a pandemic, sterilize anything and everything that gets a lot of hand contact. Think doorknobs, cabinet handles, remote controls, light switches, keys, and your electronic devices.
Now’s a fine time to make sure everything you already have is in good working order. Test your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide sensors. If you have wood furnishings, it might be time for a stain. If you have sensitive flooring, it might be time for new furniture pads. Rotate your mattress to balance out wear. You can sharpen blades, take some WD-40 to squeaky hinges, patch holes in walls, swap out your filters, or adjust your water pressure.
Touch-up painting is an easy way to freshen walls, floorboards, picture frames, window sills, and more. Even if there are no noticeable dings, certain areas can always use a fresh coat now and again — kitchen walls that may see a lot of splatters, areas that get a lot of sunlight, etc. You can use smaller brushes or even a Q-Tip for the smallest spots, like chips in wood or nail holes. If you stretch out the little paint jobs over the course of several days, preserve brushes by simply wrapping them (an old bread bag does the job) in between uses.
Clean Your Closet
It’s decidedly less sexy, but you should probably clean out your closet. It’s what you would normally do every year, right? Well, bring back some of that monotonous normalcy by sifting through your wares, reorganizing what you want to keep, and donating the rest. Structure things so your warmer weather getup is more accessible now that the seasons have changed. For nicer garments that you never wear but don’t want to donate, consider selling them online (maybe you could use a little extra cash right now).
Repurpose/Upgrade Old Furniture
If you have pieces of furniture that are looking really old or just sitting there unused, then you might want to give them an upgrade. This will not only help lessen the clutter in your space but will also save you some cash on new furniture purchases. Simple upgrades such as painting, playing with patterns, adding little decorative details, and swapping out handles can give your home a style refresh without major renovations. If you want to completely repurpose your furniture, you can also choose to do full makeovers or rebuilding, like combining two dining chairs to form a bench, transforming a stool into a storage compartment, and converting a bookshelf into a bench.
Really, you should. It’s satisfying. There are a lot of useful things you can craft with just the bits and ends lying around your house (in other words, you don’t need to visit your hardware store, which may well be closed anyway). A birdhouse is easy and can be put together in well under an hour, but they’re fun to trick out through added rooms or custom paint jobs. Other relatively simple things to build include spice racks, wine bottle holders, mailboxes (make sure they adhere to federal standards), firewood compartments, picture frames, planters, and raised garden beds.
Stretch out the process, if you have the time, by going into kid mode and draw up some blueprints beforehand of whatever it is you’re making. It’s a fun way to visualize things and envision little accents or improvements.
But, if you’re looking for a more intensive house project, make sure to check out our home renovation guide.
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