Written by Kari Patterson
“What day is it?”
This is the first thought that flits through my foggy mind as I wake up each morning.
Knowing what day it is helps me mentally prepare for what’s ahead, especially since our days can be so drastically different. Do I need to jump up and in the shower, or can I stay in sweats and linger over coffee? Who will I be seeing, what meetings do I have?
But now, of course, the question is pointless. Every day is the same.
We are home. All day. There are no outings. No one is coming over. We are sheltering-in-place and while I’m tremendously grateful for the privilege of being home, and I’m more than happy to help save lives by simply staying in place–it is getting a little monotonous. Anybody else?
Would you rather listen to this post?
Normally, I thrive on being home.
But this time around, a certain set of circumstances means I’m exhausted and not feeling motivated to do anything, plus the Pacific Northwest has an endless forecast of driving rain (at this moment it is hailing) and I have a toddler who wants to read Richard Scarry on repeat a dozen times a day…
It isn’t necessarily that monotony is bad in and of itself. Albert Einstein said, “The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.”
So rather than seeing this situation as inherently evil, perhaps we can make this monotony work for us.
Here are our eleven ways:
1. Get dressed for dinner.
Ok you guys, I know we’re all tempted to put those same sweatpants on repeat, but for the sake of our mental health–we gotta get dressed.
The Fly Lady swears by the “dressed to shoes” habit, insisting that we’re far more productive wearing lace-ups than slippers. Whatever you decide during the day, consider this: Get dressed up for dinner. What “up” means is open to interpretation–whatever tells yourself (and your family!), This is a special time of day.
Add candles and flowers to the table, and even spaghetti seems special. Now’s the perfect time to make family dinner a highlight of the day.
2. Plan nightly activities.
As homeschoolers, we’re used to structuring our days, but it’s odd having every evening free, and the driving rain crossed a lot of activities off our list that we’d normally enjoy.
So we made a weekly rhythm for our evenings at home:
- Read aloud Wingfeather Saga, (afflinks)
- Play 7 Wonders,
- Catch-up reading all the kids’ stories and questionnaires and things we never have time to do during the day ;),
- Writing night where we each draft a short story in 30 minutes then share them with each other,
- Movie Night (LOTR trilogy, Hobbit trilogy, Sound of Music),
- Play Settlers of Catan,
- Baking night.
It’s hard to get motivated when there’s no gym, no work-out buddies, no spin classes. But our mental health needs exercise, especially during times like this!
My husband Jeff started taking our son (13) on daily runs, and we’ve been enjoying a simple 7 Minute Workout app we can do with the kids. Keep moving!
4. Plant things.
Nothing brings light to my eyes like seeing new life spring up from the ground. Whether you have acreage or just an apartment balcony, putting some seeds (or starts) in the ground breaks up the dullness. If you have small children or are feeling short on patience, plant radishes!
In less than a week you’ll have green tops poking up, and in as little as three weeks you’ll have something to harvest (Too spicy? Cooking them takes out all the kick!).
Even if you can’t get to the store for seeds or flowers, online seed and flower companies like Baker Creek or Holland Bulb company can keep you supplied with loveliness to brighten each day.
5. Do that thing you say you don’t have time to do.
This one might not be super fun, but it’ll feel good when it’s done! We all have those tasks–things we put off because we’re too busy, and if we’re honest we really don’t want to do it.
For me this was doing our taxes and creating our annual photo album for 2019. I don’t love either of those tasks, but they had to be done, and it does feel good to cross them off the list.
6. Create a new playlist.
What if each day had a different music style? Or a different artist?
My friend Anne created a special Quarantine Classical playlist for her home, and she said it’s definitely helped the vibe while her college-aged son and husband are both working from home.
7. Learn that instrument or craft.
Two of my close friends are learning to play piano during this season. I picked up guitar last year, and I always say I don’t have time to play, but this is the prime opportunity to push myself and learn those tricky chord changes.
Another friend of mine is learning to weave on a loom. What have you and your children always wanted to learn but never had the time? Knit? Bake sourdough? Sew?
Another friend was lamenting that her first loaf of sprouted homemade bread flopped but we joked that she had plenty of time to perfect it before any company comes over. Now’s the time!
8. Write real letters.
There’s nothing like receiving real mail to brighten your day. We are all so used to electronic communication that it’s a rare treat to receive a hand-written card or letter.
Several friends of mine wrote letters of encouragement, thanking the various nurses in our church family for all their hard work during this time.
The elderly would love receiving bright cards during this time of restricted visits. Or have you written to your sponsored children recently? Now is a great time to write a few notes and brighten someone’s day.
9. Video Chat.
Truth be told, I don’t love any form of video chat. It can feel so awkward, and I just prefer in-person or in writing. But my family (brother and family, my parents) recently did one and we had so much fun catching up and seeing each other’s faces.
My husband’s friends are enthusiastic Marco Polo app fans and I often find him laughing at whatever latest video-message was sent. Our kids also enjoy Facetiming friends, showing their latest Lego creations, and even playing a card game with each other over the screen.
10. Get lost in a story.
We all know the joy of getting lost in a great story, and this is most certainly a season to do just that. I’m tackling the Lord of the Rings trilogy right now, Dutch is diving into Dickens, and Heidi is enjoying Wildwood.
After reading Cars and Trucks and Things that Go nearly 100 times to my toddler, I finally caved and bought a new Richard Scarry book. I’m very excited for a fresh story!
11. Practice gratitude.
The truth is, we all have so much to be grateful for. No matter what circumstances we’re facing, choosing gratitude transforms our perspective.
Gratitude has proven to be the most effective way of fighting depression, and it certainly is a way to fight the dullness of monotony. Taking time to write out our thanks works wonders, for us and our children.
How about you? How are you handling the challenges of this season? We’d love to hear!
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Jen @ Bookish Family
Great advice! I am doing some of them like planting my early seeds on time and getting around to hanging some pictures that have been waiting to be rehung for months, but you’ve inspired me with a few other ideas (like practicing piano! and writing letters). And my toddler also LOVES cars, trucks and things that go. How they remember all those vehicle names and where to find goldbug on every page is beyond me . . .
Jen @ Bookish Family’s latest post: 7 Things I’m Thankful for This Week
Haha right?! That book is legendary! I’m so glad this could be helpful—and hanging pictures: yes! Adding that to my list!
Catherine van Kampen
Great post. My 9 year old son was so inspired after hearing/seeing Andrew Peterson’s nightly read aloud, that now he’s grabbing his favorite books and recording himself reading them. And then getting us all to listen at lunch, or whenever. I am guessing you guys loved hearing AP read and do all his fun accents!
And thanks for the seeds reminder! I gotta get on that! I am way north of you, and we just had a blizzard yesterday, ha, so there is no rush on the planting over here. God bless you!!