Home Improvement for Quarantine-Times
July 16, 2020 8:53 PM   Subscribe

As the US looks like we will be experiencing Covid-19 surges for the next (few? many?) months (years?), I'm wondering what you have (or would like) to do to improve your home for maximum quarantine enjoyment.

If I'm stuck at home, I want it to be as fun and enjoyable as possible! Interested in anything from DIY (ex: home office organization, planting a veggie garden) to purchases (ex: projector for home movie nights, inflatable hottub) or even larger projects (a kitchen reno - in THIS economy?) - please give me ideas to feather my nest!
posted by girlalex to Home & Garden (23 answers total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
We got a projector ages ago and it really makes watching movies great. We have a Roku hooked up to it and no longer have a tv because it's more satisfying just to stream stuff and project it. Caveat: harder to watch stuff in the middle of the day because it won't show up terribly well.
posted by less of course at 8:57 PM on July 16 [3 favorites]

This is incredibly mundane, but if your house has older built-ins with drawers, do yourself a favor and put some UHMW tape on their wooden runners. I've just done this, and it makes them slide like butter.
posted by mumkin at 9:11 PM on July 16 [10 favorites]

I actually have been doing some kitchen (and bath) renovations. I ordered a pallet of mdf and I've been remaking cabinet doors. I make and paint maybe two or three cabinets at a time over two or three nights, so it isn't a total upheaval. Whatever sort of renovation or cleaning you might want to do, you now have the time to stretch it out to whenever is convenient.
posted by Snijglau at 9:16 PM on July 16

I think for me it's all about just addressing the myriad tiny things that have always bugged us about the house - things thrown over the back of a door that ought to have a hook, getting shelves for places shelves might be useful. My folks have done a bunch of shelving projects too.

We're also building a list of things we'll do once social distancing is totally over. #1 is that being in our house 24/7 has made it abundantly clear that the ants in this place are too comfortable and even though I feel silly calling an exterminator for ants, it definitely needs to be done because our Terro baits aren't doing the job.
posted by potrzebie at 9:19 PM on July 16 [2 favorites]

My gf has been "spring cleaning" the apartment she has lived in for 25+ years. The amount of stuff she has thrown out is immense. The clothes she is donating is astounding in the amount. It has been so cathartic for her (and thus for me bc of the mood). She speaks of the weight off her shoulders.

She is now installing organizing stuff in the closets.
posted by AugustWest at 11:03 PM on July 16 [8 favorites]

Good sound system hooked up to your tv/projector. I've had it for a couple of years now, but quarantine has really made me enjoy it, especially with musicals and operas and concerts. Mine isn't anything too fancy, but five speakers properly set up around the room with halfway decent long cables. During Jumanji the cat jumped all over the room looking for the animals it could clearly hear all around us.

Look for your pet peeves and things you've been ignoring because it's too much bother to research and organise the replacements. I ended up with wine racks for bottled water and now I'm no longer tripping over the sixpack of mineral water in the middle of the hallway. I replaced particleboard dressers with solid pine and my clothes smell amazing. There's a high chance you have more time for that research now. (I may be spending far too much time on Apartment Therapy and Pinterest.)

In the gardening part, I've had a lot of fun with herbal teas from fresh mint, lemon balm, tarragon etc - they're not seasonal and can be mixed in various proportions.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 1:05 AM on July 17 [3 favorites]

It's funny but around here outdoor deck materials have been sold out since June.

Ventilation is key to reducing viral load. Consider making sure your ventilation system is top notch and you can get the air vented in only a few moments - windows and kitchen and bathroom ventilation systems might want overhauling (I've seen bathroom and kitchen fans that merely sucked air into the ventilation duct but did not actually vent to the outside...) You might want to invest in a pair of box fans for opposing windows to create a cross draft.

Storage capacity could be useful - do you have lots of pantry space, or space to store a year's worth of non perishables? Built in pantry shelves might make life easier. How about a deep freeze? If you get a deep freeze make a back up plan for power failures, so placing it where it can be swathed in moving blankets during failures is good - that means not having it wedged into a space between other appliances and too close to the wall. A deep freeze wrapped in sheepskins and moving blankets stays well frozen for three days.

Do you have creative studio space? This might be a good time to set up a corner for an easel and art supplies, with a wall for display, or a sewing cabinet.
posted by Jane the Brown at 2:29 AM on July 17 [2 favorites]

I've been planting locally-native shrubs and flowers, and watching them grow and flourish has been wonderfully satisfying. I'm about to gear up to weed-whack and cover another bunch of daylilies so I can have more space for pollinator-friendly plants!
posted by humbug at 4:06 AM on July 17 [5 favorites]

I miss seeing new art in galleries, which I'd do at least once a month, so I added a nice digital picture frame that has a subscription for various pieces of art that it rotates every few minutes. Mine is specifically designed to look more like a painting than a digital artifact but you can do the same thing cheaply with an existing TV and any number of Chromecast type devices.

If you don't have a surround sound system for your TV, even a modest one will make the experience more theatre-like.

If you have a deck/porch/balcony etc., getting more comfortable furniture or adding mood lighting is nice.

Not fun, but adding a robotic vacuum cleaner and air filter makes the house more pleasant to be in for extended periods of time.
posted by Candleman at 6:29 AM on July 17

KonMarie! The obvious part is decluttering, but it’s also thinking about what you want your life to be like in the future and making decisions about what to keep based on that. I know a few people who have been feeling stuck in their lives during shelter in place, this is a thing you can do right now
posted by momus_window at 6:51 AM on July 17 [3 favorites]

Actually having a home to live in, as I currently do not, is going to be my first goal but after that, definitely setting up a workspace that is comfortable and quiet. A good desk chair, a desk with plenty of room for all the coffee cups and notebooks and random stuff I acquire through a work day. I spent a week housesitting and could work at an actual desk in total silence and it was HEAVEN.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 6:57 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]

We had an electrician come out last week and give us estimates for a bunch of ceiling fans with lights -- we're in a 2-story condo so the top floor (where the bedrooms are) is always a lot warmer than the lower level, and we're hoping this helps with not having to crank the A/C so much just so we can sleep at night (plus we rely on floor lights for about 75% of our lighting needs which suuuuuuuucks). It's a lot less expensive than I was imagining and we're using our stimulus money to cover it, since my husband and I have both been working during the pandemic. We also want to get rid of our popcorn textured ceilings so we're looking into that now -- being at home 24/7 makes them even uglier than usual.
posted by jabes at 7:12 AM on July 17

I bought a new printer. A nice one. And a proper shelf to put it on. Being able to print nice planner pages (double sided, like a real book!) and learning activities for my kid, makes me happy. First thing I did with it was make labels for his toy bins. Next step: I need a proper closet organizer, and would loooooove to wall-mount my microwave.
posted by ficbot at 8:01 AM on July 17 [2 favorites]

We are in process of making the screened porch more comfy. Better ceiling fan, rug, solar lights and market lights, and thinking of mounting a tv. The screen porch is a real bonus and makes you feel less like a shut in. If I can get the materials for a decent price, we will also put in a firepit in the backyard.

Another project is converting the old dining room to an office. We moved the dining room to the larger front room that used to be a formal living room. The conversion has included some new office furniture, organizing stuff, and better overhead lighting. We are also considering putting a door or a sound dampening curtain on one of the room openings to buffer the sound.

We have also worked on the basement. We've already set up a gym and now will finish up a tv-watching area and sewing room. This extra space in the basement was a big reason we bought this house. If we didn't have these extra spaces, I would've consider converting a closet into a reading nook or office/craft nook. We have a space under the stairs that would make a great sleeping nook/tv watching nook or one of those podcast rooms.

Some other things you may want to consider:
- Improving your WIFI
- Putting up sound or light blocking curtains
- Installing a closet or pantry organizing system
- Getting a freezer
- Upgrading to a quieter, more efficient dishwasher
- Installing better lighting, task lighting

During this quarantine, we've had 5 adults (me and hubby, 2 adult kids home from college, and father) with 3 of us working from home. My husband is an essential worker and we still live as if we are quarantined to protect him. It is very important to us to live in our house the way we want, not the HGTV way. Our last house was beautiful but never cozy and had lots of unused spaces. We do not take for granted how fortunate we are to have a comfortable and safe home that works for us.
posted by jraz at 8:10 AM on July 17 [7 favorites]

What we’ve done over the last few months is to get to the projects that we never had time for, or just left too long and got used to doing without. I finally put shelving (using the wall mounted rails with slots for support arms so it’s adjustable) in a closet that needed it. I fully gave up on trying to have a yard in the little sunless strip of dirt along the side of our house, extending a patio I started years ago to past the front steps, and then we put down fake grass over the hateful, weed filled clay that was our yard. We’ve rearranged things, got rid of furniture we disliked, got some stuff we liked better. Lots of organizing and finding better places for things.

The best thing we did, though, was take some of that fake grass and line our balcony with it. We spent more evenings out on our balcony in the two months since we put down the fake grass than we have in eleven years of living here. If you have anything like a balcony where you can lay down turf and set out camping chairs to watch the sunset, I can’t recommend it enough.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:29 AM on July 17

My husband is so happy we put a Toto washlet in our new bathroom when we remodeled last year-bidet toilet seat, heated. He loves it.

We are starting to get pictures up on the walls, photos printed out and framed. We are also getting curtains or blinds up, room by room-all those little pieces of our remodel we never finished.

I’m canning more. Even though still working full time, being at home makes everything like that easier, and the fact that we aren’t spending every weekend running to soccer meets or camping. Plus I like the “stocking up” feeling it gives me. I’m not a gardener but my husband has spent a ton of time on ours this year and it’s the best it’s ever been-helps that you can run out in the middle of the day and move sprinklers, etc.
posted by purenitrous at 8:31 AM on July 17 [2 favorites]

We have a smallish (not inflatable) hot tub that we got when we sold our fancier house and bought our weird little bungalow, and I can barely imagine my life without it. They're not for everyone, but if you're the kind of person who could have an hour long bath every day, they're probably for you! Get a hot tub!

Also, a speaker system of some kind? It's nice to play music out loud and have it sound good!

Also pick the worst part of your house and just make some progress on it! We had a really ugly, really badly installed tile backsplash in our kitchen, which I just painted over(using a painting-tile primer), and it looks great, and has held up for like 2 years with no problems!

Little updates like that are preferable for quarantine-times, since it can be a chore to have big chunks of your house torn up, or any contractors in and out. But a little paint job or something takes maybe 2 days?

during quarantine I have painted our laundry room floor, painted our walls down there, ripped up the 70 years worth of linoleum on the basement stairs and refinished them, and we got new laundry machines. All of these have been great upgrades and haven't messed up the house's ability to function for too long!
posted by euphoria066 at 9:37 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]

I haven't done it yet, but my next project I'm pretty excited about is a hydroponics garden. I stumbled onto a Reddit live video with a guy tending his hydroponic vegetable garden and answering questions about it. He had a vertical wall of plants growing in pipes, full of fantastic-looking produce. Someone asked him how long he'd been doing hydroponics, and he was like "Oh, I started about two months ago". And he was doing this in a tiny room, so I think you can get interesting results without a ton of space.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 10:17 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]

I’ve really been enjoying this doorframe hammock. It’s supposed to be for aerial yoga, but I also find it fun just to chill in.
posted by tinymegalo at 1:29 PM on July 17 [1 favorite]

We bought a new refrigerator, upgrading from a standard fridge to a French door, bottom freezer model with fridge water and an ice maker. The old one has moved to the laundry room for the duration of the pandemic. Not only do we not have to manage ice cube trays, we now have enough room to keep a stockpile of seltzers, white wine, and beer cold all the time. Plus, we can keep an absurd amount of ice cream novelties on hand.
We got the new fridge when case counts were still very low in our area and made sure the 2 guys who delivered and hooked it up had masks and used hand sanitizer. We had all our windows open and didn’t go into the kitchen with them. It was a little stressful but we felt it was safe enough.
We’ve been living the 2 fridge life for 2 months now and I consider it the best purchase of my life. Having good ice cream and beverage selections is a luxury that has yet to get old. We no longer argue about who didn’t make ice. We are drinking a lot more water because it is easy. And we’re able to buy more perishable items because we’re able to be more efficient with refrigerator space.
posted by August Fury at 2:35 PM on July 17 [3 favorites]

I don't know if qualifies as home improvement, but because we were spending most of the summer at home this year, we bought this portable bug shelter that we set up in the backyard. It has been a lovely shaded bug free area to hang out in, especially for the kids.
posted by piyushnz at 4:44 PM on July 17 [1 favorite]

Our big project this spring/summer was remaking the outdoor areas. I laid new sod in April to replace our weed-ravaged yard, planted numerous plants and flowers in May, and am now looking into repairing and painting the fence. Cost overall hasn't been too bad, although our property is not large (by US standards). Having a nice quiet garden out back to hang out in this spring was a lifesaver.

The other big home project for me has been putting together a proper office for remote work. For me at least it became so much easier to seperate work and personal time when I stopped working from the couch.
posted by photo guy at 11:43 AM on July 18

I live in alone in a rented apartment, so there's only so much serious home improvement I can do. That said, I've found myself with a surfeit of time and money (less money spent on gas, restaurants, gym membership, etc.) during quarantine, and I've been using those things to methodically evaluate (and replace if needed) each and every thing in my living space. Kind of like Marie Kondo-ing, minus putting everything onto your bed and "waking up" your books with your hands. ;)

Part of this is identifying what I don't want anymore, and making sure it ends up discarded in the right way. Before quarantine, I had limited time to research where to best recycle old textbooks, or whether Goodwill will take a certain item. Now, I have all the time in the world to do this stuff, and it can be a bit of novelty to, say, drive to a suburb to find a Better World Books drop-off in a mini-mall parking lot. This feels a lot better than hastily shoving things into your dumpster and/or recycling bin.

I've also been replacing things I've been tolerating with things that I actually want. I replaced my flat IKEA throw pillows and pilled TJ Maxx throw blanket with some gorgeous Finnish throw pillows and a wool blanket. (I live in Minnesota and love Scandinavian home goods!) I got rid of my hole-y, too-long Old Navy yoga pants and bought some hemp fabric yoga pants from an ethical company. I'm using up old bottles of shampoo and finally trying shampoo bars. I finally framed my diplomas, even though I've been out of school for a while now.

It feels really, really good to be super intentional and purposeful about what I have in my home and how I display it, since I'm spending a LOT of time in it. There doesn't seem to be an end in sight to our situation, which is devastating, but one small silver lining is that I can continue this methodical, almost meditative approach to getting things just how I want. Sometimes I visualize the end of quarantine, and stepping out of my house to go do something "normal" with the knowledge that I've done everything I've been wanting to do and can go explore the world again without worrying about the Goodwill pile in my trunk or those pictures I've been meaning to frame. There is no better time to tackle this stuff than right now!
posted by leftover_scrabble_rack at 11:51 AM on July 18 [2 favorites]

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