Ok, I give up
July 21, 2020 9:12 PM   Subscribe

How have you reconfigured your living space for an extended Shelter in Place?

I've finally come to terms with the fact that we (where I live) are in the SIP for the long haul. I've already gone through the cleaning out the house phase, and made massive traction gifting many items to neighbors. I'm now moving onto the "reconfiguring the house" phase where I'm starting to move around furniture and reconfigure the rooms for a future where we will be living most of our lives at home. For example, our living room is no longer a living room, it is an indoor play gym with a play structure and other amenities. I'm looking though for other ideas of how we could be using our space creatively.

How have you changed your living space to accommodate for an extended SIP?
posted by Toddles to Home & Garden (23 answers total) 57 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I moved all the booze to the most easily reachable shelf.
posted by HotToddy at 9:34 PM on July 21, 2020 [88 favorites]

Hung a swing from our backyard tree and got more outdoor toys for my kid. Bought an air conditioner so working from home on hot days isn't terrible. Unfucked my desk and set up a home office corner with my docking station and extra monitor from work and a big bulletin board and whiteboard. I'm going to have to set up a workspace that's not in this room for when my kid is doing online kindergarten, but right now her art table and supplies are in here too. Hung a nice piece of art where it'll show in the interminable Zoom meetings, but also set up an outdoor workspace by the garden. I'm sure there's more, but my office corner is comfortable and pleasant, I can manage the indoor temperature, and there are fun and vegetables outside.
posted by centrifugal at 9:59 PM on July 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

I find hospitality and hosting guests one of my key joys in life. But we aren't going to have houseguests for quite a while, so we have made the decision to organize our home for ourselves, not for visitors. It feels selfish but is the most realistic course of action for us. This means:
- Taking a good hard look at our dishes and boxing up extra bowls, glasses, silverware etc. that would be for parties and guests. This makes our kitchen feel more spacious, and it's easier to find the dishes we actually need.
- Choosing to make our office officially an office + gym, and not an office + guestroom. We ditched the foldout bed (which we had been wanting to replace) and bought a weight bench and dumbbells which occupy that part of the office. Everything is set up and laid out so that exercising is easy to start, unlike pre-Covid when we'd want all of that stuff neatly packed away.
- Reorganizing the closets so that office-work clothing that we're not wearing is way in the back. Had my husband's work shirts drycleaned and hung in the very back corner of the closet. That way we don't have to flip through clothing we're never going to wear. Same with shoes; a bunch of shoes are now in the garage.
- Buying comfortable, appealing lawn chairs/outdoor furniture so we can enjoy our outdoor space.
- Not really living space related, but investing in comfortable workout clothes and shoes so that we're more motivated to exercise.
posted by rogerroger at 10:32 PM on July 21, 2020 [7 favorites]

  • Got an IKEA cabinet that holds 8 pairs of shoes (I rescued this off the street from one of the white flight people leaving furniture on the curb, we cleaned it)
  • Dedicated a shelf for snack space
  • Recycled the vast collection of paper grocery bags to make room on the shelf for snacks
  • Increased the count and type of snacks in the apartment
  • Bought a laptop lap desk
  • Bought and used storage baskets to corral garments on shelves so that I don't have to lift a stack of things off of the item I want to wear
  • Moved my "travel" computer charger to the living room and kept the one next to the bed in place
  • Placed most purses and other bags on a higher shelf to reduce clutter since I'm now only either taking out one of two bags plus reusable shopping bags for groceries
  • Put the yarn stash in a more accessible place (as a result, I have knitted 6 baby sweaters and 2 shawls since June 1)
  • Put the yarn ball winder near the place where I use it (I still don't have an umbrella swift because storage...)
  • Collected all "going to the park" gear in one big tote (folding mat, a flat sheet, empty water bottle, snacks) and hung it on the front door. Going to the park when few people are there is now the big outing
  • Measured every potential space for a potential desk, including the space currently occupied by the nightstand, the place in front of the television, the area under the breakfast nook, compared measurements to all available desks (nothing seems to be a workable combination, so this isn't really a change, just a bit of venting)
  • In early April, when our next door neighbor came down with the virus, we ordered a case of Pedialyte, several bottles of Sports Drink, and one box of Mucinex in case one or both of us gets the virus and shopping is not possible/supplies are not available. We have all of these items together so we don't have to search for them when the need arises (I have been used the Pedialyte two times before donating platelets and let me tell you, it helps a lot!)
  • Bought a collection of my favorite Gap undies on clearance
  • Added two pairs of pajama pants to my wardrobe
  • Started keeping a loaf of bread in the freezer and a few jars of peanut butter to the cabinet. Now we enjoy the jams we canned either on toast or in sandwiches whenever we want, without worrying about moldy bread.
  • Set a paper bag on a stool to capture all of the packets of plastic cutlery that we get with the delivery food
  • My partner framed two concert posters for me and hung them on the wall
  • Corralled all the travel toothpastes to be used, since we have no idea when we'll actually be traveling again
There are probably more things, but it is late and I should be sleeping.
posted by bilabial at 10:41 PM on July 21, 2020 [10 favorites]

Since we won’t have dinner guests for the next year or whatever, our dining room has become my spouse’s dance studio, with a portable barre and roll-up floor surface. The table’s collapsed to its smallest size, tucked in a corner of the living room for jigsaw puzzle-doing, with excess chairs and leaves stashed in the basement.

We were in mid-kitchen remodel when the pandemic kicked off—and miraculously, the job got done. Instead of getting rid of our old fridge we relocated it to the basement to increase our food-storage capacity. I wouldn’t advocate saving an inefficient 20 year-old fridge in normal times, but for now it made sense. Bougie tip: I realized that an old unused wine fridge makes ideal temperature and humidity conditions for a root cellar, so it’s found a new life keeping a cache of tubers happy.

Like rogerroger, we’ve left most of our dishes and glassware and such packed away, just keeping a couple of placesettings worth for the two of us.

We’ve got a plant stand by the front door that serves as a convenient platform for hand sanitizer and masks.
posted by mumkin at 11:14 PM on July 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

I live in one bedroom in a 3BR apartment with two roommates with whom I do not interact. I don't have much space to reconfigure, but some changes in my bedroom:

1. I sweep and dust daily; I never really shed enough to make that necessary when I was not in my room 24/7.
2. I cleaned and reorganized my desk so it is always usable space. I also got a mouse pad mat, an ergonomic thingy for typing, and coasters.
3. I bought a few more standing lamps and desk lamps.
4. I got a comfy chair for sitting before the pandemic, but I've upped the comfiness with fleece blankets and two ottomans - one for the chair, and the other for under my desk.
5. I have a spot for hanging clean vs. used masks right next to my bedroom door.
6. I have a yoga mat, foam roller, spiky ball, and collapsible barre that all store under or behind my comfy chair and TV, and then fit (more or less) in the open space in my room when they are in use.
posted by ChuraChura at 5:20 AM on July 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

We did two projects to create / improve workspace, and one to create some living space.

I installed a pair of prehung french doors to create a workspace for my wife- she's delivering teletherapy, so needs some privacy and noise control.

I bought some motorized legs from amazon and some butcherblock countertop at home depot, and created a great standing desk. Since I'm expecting to be in the home office for the forseeable future, ergonomics are really important.

In order to create a space away from the house, we bought a garden igloo - it's a geodesic dome greenhouse that we parked in a corner of the yard and put in some paper lanterns and a rug. It gives us the ability to get a little space, even when it's raining.
posted by jenkinsEar at 5:45 AM on July 22, 2020 [17 favorites]

My wife and I haven't done much to change our indoor space (we're renters), but we do have a backyard and decided to spend some of the money we won't be spending on travel for the foreseeable future on a nice outdoor sofa and a large offset umbrella which covers pretty much our entire deck. We also tried and mostly failed to spruce up our garden (our house is where plants go to get murdered...how do people garden, it is a mystery), but I've been diligent about weeding, trimming, etc. the plants we do have growing and all in all it's pretty nice back here if I do say so myself.

When I say we haven't done much indoors, I'm not counting cleaning, purging and re-organization, all of which we've done a lot of.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:02 AM on July 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

I was already working from home a few days a week, but I made our guest room / office a bit better for full time use. In particular:
- Got CAT6 cables to give better internet service to the space, which had previously only been through wifi. Not having the option of downloading large files on the LAN at the office, made this critical and has really been a game changer.
- Rearranged my office and added some plants, which makes it a nicer place to spend a lot of time and coincidentally gives a better background on video calls.
- Hung a collared shirt in the guestroom closet for when I have non-internal to work calls that require video usage, allowing for a quick change.
- Bought a huge supply of ink for my fountain pen and use it almost exclusively for writing, without worrying about being stuck in the office / travelling and not being able to refill it.

Some other things we have done around the house that work better for home-all-the-time:
- Bought a clothesline for the backyard. If I am home all the time, hanging laundry out (which I prefer anyhow) is much easier.
- Set up a desk in the basement for Mr. chiefthe. He is a quasi-essential worker (works at a hospital, but non-clinical), so can only work from home a few days a week, but with both of us home on those days, he needs a dedicated space. He cleaned off a desk we used for small projects in the basement, got a monitor, and we ran an aforementioned CAT6 cable down there as well.
- Keep a pile of masks by the door and make sure there is always hand soap at the kitchen sink to wash on entry.
- Keep my art supplies at the ready on and near our kitchen table, instead of hidden away, to help support doing some ad-hoc art therapy.

But, seriously, CAT6 cables totally blew my mind.
posted by chiefthe at 7:10 AM on July 22, 2020 [2 favorites]

I moved my desk between my chair and my window, so that there would be natural light on my face rather than being backlit during video calls. But the opposite might be equally useful, depending on whom you are talking with and how much you want them to be able to see your face.
posted by lampoil at 7:34 AM on July 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

In my house there are three of us in various stages of work and school. A few things have improved our space: 

- Small laptop tables in different rooms for using laptops or perching a drink and meal mean we can set up in a "new" spot for variety, or if someone's on a video call and we need space from the sound. 
- All delivery boxes are now assessed for possible addition to the 5 ft. high and growing "Cat Castle" we're building.  
- We also have cardboard boxes tucked around the house for us to use to raise laptops up to face height for meetings in the kitchen (we have a weekly cooking call with distant family)  or from other comfortable non-desk seats.
- I rigged up adhesive plastic hooks, fishing line, and paperclips along a wall near our door to create "clotheslines" for holding a week's worth of masks for each of us, where they can decontaminate and we can easily find the clean one for this day.
- Many walls are now home to various maps and charts
- We also were gifted a giant 4'x6' whiteboard from one of the universities repurposing their rooms. Right now it has some grammar reminders for a language we're learning together. 
- Installed aftermarket bidet attachments on our toilets, pretty easy DIY.
- Set out key books we've never gotten around to reading and which would be good summer reading
- Gathered all the magazines that were halfhearted reading material from their cluttery places and put them on a table where we do art so they can be used for collages.
- And O! the power cords, such cords everywhere!!!! So now there's one small canvas tote where any unused power cord goes, and if you're looking for yours, that's where you check.
- New kitten
posted by cocoagirl at 7:51 AM on July 22, 2020 [5 favorites]

Much like The Card Cheat, my partner and I put most of our effort into our backyard space. Having just purchased our house last year, it needed a lot of work. It's actually all deck or concrete, with no grass at all, and south facing with no shade. We had planned to tear up much of the existing hardscape and decking this year, but thanks to an unexpected sewer line replacement, that couldn't happen.

But the pandemic had us dying for some outdoor living space, so we bought a dining table and benches, a huge outdoor sectional, and an 11' offset patio umbrella. It made a huge difference and even without much greenery (we've been helped along on that front by generous neighbors giving us plants as they split their own lush perennials) suddenly a blazing hot and uninviting hellscape is pleasant and nice to use. It's been really hot lately so we're not out there quite as much but we also put up some patio string lights so we can be out there at night when it's cooler.

The other thing was converting a guest room into a second office, so that both my partner and I can work from home comfortably and separate from each other. A lot of money has gone into making our home workspaces pleasant and ergonomic - we're talking real office chairs, standing desks, extra monitors, the works. We are lucky to have the space and money to have been able to do this.

The basement is now also a workout space thanks to some yoga mats and resistance bands (dumbbells are still hard to find).
posted by misskaz at 8:01 AM on July 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

I've said this in prior pandemic askmes, but plants. A few low maintenance plants are a game changer for rooms that I'm now spending more time in. Just a couple of little pothos buddies can really change how a room feels. They're cheap, and hard to kill, and if you have a really hard time keeping plants alive, a cheap-ass moisture meter can be a boon.

As for more extensive things- caveats are we own our home and were planning on doing both of these things before the pandemic hit so we had the money set aside specifically to do these. The pandemic just freed me up to completely focus on both projects, so, thats kind of a cool thing?

First, We started a large garden with raised beds. This has been lovely. I addition to normal garden benefits (food, working with our hands, forcing us to go outside), it is in our front yard, so it allows us more interaction with walkers and our neighbors (who we are already really tight with). It gives us a really good space to have a cocktail with a friend at more than a 6 ft distance, (we set up chairs in the little cut outs of the horseshoes of the beds). Since we fenced it in, we can easily enforce our own social distance desires on neighbors or walkers by staying in the perimeter.

Second, we converted our attached, unfinished shell of a garage into a living space. I moved some electrical around, updated some plumbing*, installed attic stairs, installed an attic storage floor, added a framed closet area for our hot water heater to live in insulated the entire space and then lined the whole space with plywood. This has allowed both of us to pursue our hobbies with greater ease and comfort (coffee roasting for me, sewing for my wife). We also put a second hand TV in there, and sprung for a low-rent IKEA sleeper couch, because we're hoping eventually someday to have guests be able to crash in there. We effectively added a huge room to our house that now does not broil us alive every time we step into it in the summer (and we expect it to stay pretty warm in the winter). It's increased our usable square footage by almost 20%, and makes our nice little comfortable home feel a bit more spacious and gives us some more elbow room. My son has dubbed it the 'break room' and it is very much that. It's separate enough from the rest of the house to chill and feel a bit of solitude from the rest of the family, and all three of us have used it for that purpose. Being able to DIY this was vastly cheaper than quotes we'd had to have a contractor finish it. It came in several thousand dollars under budget, but thats equal parts DIY and having the time and mindspace to source inexpensive building materials.

We had everything possible delivered, which limited trips and contact, and I was diligent to overbuy certain things and return items later just to cut down on trips to the hardware store. If you have questions about how to rig this up, feel free to ask.

*This was done by a plumber who was dope enough to be no-contact, which was just very easy because the garage is a separate section of the house with its own entry and closed off from the rest of the house.
posted by furnace.heart at 9:12 AM on July 22, 2020 [4 favorites]

Because I don't have a separate room for an office, I have had to improvise a few workspaces around my apartment. All of these have been facilitated by a couple of laptop stands that I've peppered around the space. They all fold down flat, so when I can have guests here again safely, I can just fold them down and tuck them out of sight.

I also got myself a supportive pillow and lumbar support for my chair, an anti-fatigue mat for the area where I switch to standing for part of the day, and a whole bunch of damage-free Command hooks that I hung inside the entryway closet for masks. Lastly, I have a sit-to-stand desk on the way so I don't need to switch from my improvised desk to my improvised standing area in my kitchen.
posted by bedhead at 10:13 AM on July 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

We took the plunge and ripped out a really badly configured closet space, threw away or donated a gigantic pile of things that we'd forgotten existed in the badly configured closet, and turned the space into a work area with a desk and a bookshelf.

Simultaneously, we ripped up old carpet in the room with the closet and the hallway and replaced it with vinyl plank flooring. I had zero experience with flooring before this and watched some videos and learned how easy it actually is. It was like overcoming a fear that held me back and now I want to re-floor ALL THE THINGS!

Not only does the whole space seem larger and more functional, not breathing in dust on a 15+ year old carpet has made a huge difference in quality of life.
posted by haplesschild at 10:26 AM on July 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

The things that dramatically changed for me were

- no more friends over
- house gets WAY dirtier way faster
- no more boyfriend over for now
- lots more time in front of computer
- cook at home ALL THE TIME

So a few spaces that changed are

Entryway: always take off shoes (instead of mostly before), hooks for masks, more hooks for clothes that I just take off when I get inside. I wear pjs at home basically now, fuck the rest of it. Landing space for mail which comes inside and sits for a few days. Hand sanitizer available though I usually just come in and wash up.
Kitchen: took away all chairs but one at table, frees up space which I have put some of the cleaning things it's better to have available (vacuum, etc). I have a COVID station with gloves, alcohol, spray bottle etc, just to have it handy. A LOT more containers for bulk food to go in, a LOT more tupperware sorted to store food in, a LOT more easy-to-grab food in the fridge and especially drinks (it's summer here and I'm usually not here this time of year)
Office: I got a new computer after waffling on it forever. I keep most of my credit cards by the computer because I'm shopping online about 90% of the time now, I have a fun bear head mask next to the computer in case a Zoom call needs lightening up
Guestroom: (really part of my office), the day bed (where my partner will often sleep) is now my morning reading and writing nook. Got stamps, got a lap desk, keep the bird feeders full and maintained, turn on the fairy lights, signed up for more MeFi Card Club stuff. Have two chargers for phone stuff since I now have an outdoor phone and an indoor one.
posted by jessamyn at 3:14 PM on July 22, 2020 [3 favorites]

Bought some indoor plants that are hard to kill.

Bought a large, pretty room divider to use as background when background matters.

Bought a minimalist desk chair. It was uncomfortable so I splurged on a nice recliner on wheels style office chair.

Installed Ikea peg board at my desk so I can have a tidy work space with easy access to supplies that is also aesthetically pleasing.

Bought a treadmill second hand for extra cardio resources.

Kid got an upgraded used iPhone for screen time when both parents can't really parent.

Investing in lots of virtual therapy while it's so much easier to get it.

Bought a splash pad and set it up next to kid's old plastic toddler playground. Boom, water slide. Sometimes I get fancy with it and pour water on the slide to help him go faster.

Bought kid a loft bed with a slide and set up a play area under it. Mixed results getting kid to play in his room without a parent, but when I'm signing in for work I hear him waking and he's him cheer with glee as he slides down to greet the day so that's lovely.
posted by crunchy potato at 3:33 PM on July 22, 2020 [5 favorites]

Also just upgraded our dishes so they all match, and I got some low bowls so salad and pasta dishes can be plated in a more attractive manner.
posted by crunchy potato at 3:35 PM on July 22, 2020

Someone upthread mentioned keeping more snacks around and accessible - I had forgotten about this until now, but we have added a snack basket to our kitchen counter in the past few months! It definitely comes in handy when dinner takes longer than expected (as we're also cooking at home even more than we used to), one of us feels a headache coming on, etc.

Some of our kitchen surfaces have been repurposed into a crafting area. For example, the island is currently a sewing area because we don't have many spaces where I can consistently leave out a sewing machine. It can stay out longer because we're not having friends over for dinner or board game nights!

I also found a folding table we had forgotten about in the back of a closet, and it's currently holding sewing supplies/notions in one of the bedrooms. This isn't a long term solution so I'm hoping to set up a more permanent sewing area. The room the table is in now is actually one that we use to stream TV shows/movies with a projector, so the space at the "front" of the room/blank wall is fairly empty.

We have a folding stationary bike that normally lives in a hall closet, but it's been in our kitchen/living room area for a few months now, both as a reminder to use it and as a way to reclaim that storage space for some extra food or household supplies.
posted by cp311 at 9:55 PM on July 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

I ordered a hammock that can be set up indoors, or anywhere else.
posted by SillyShepherd at 8:29 PM on July 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

- more lights/lamps everywhere and experimenting with ikeas remote control bulbs so we can choose cozy glow or bright light
- finally got a wireless speaker (little Bluetooth ones were so maddening that we just stopped playing music)
- raised loft beds for the kids (who share a room) to have their own Usable space
- more kid designated and controlled storage (and with that increased expectations for picking up their stuff)
- rearranged living room for more open space for indoor active play
- completely gave up on putting a vehicle in the garage - gave it over to storage, aging/decontaminating purchases, and sewing/wood shop)
- got a small above ground pool (it’s a hassle but with two young kids and lots of warm weather, very worth it)

Other things on the to do list
- convert the art table (a perpetual mess) into a learning space with just essential “school stuff” that’s easy to keep clutter free.
- get some alternative seating (looking at active stools and the like, floor cushions) for our extremely chair adverse children.
posted by pennypiper at 4:48 PM on July 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

Oh and thinking about a sofa end table with a tablecloth over it, pillows and fairy lights underneath, and maybe a “do not disturb” sign for when a kid (or maybe even a desperate adult!) just wants to be alone.
posted by pennypiper at 7:08 PM on July 25, 2020

Despite having an office, the wireless isn’t fast enough back there (through plaster walls) to stream multiple work apps at once. We moved the kitchen table to the family room to hard wire into the router.

Our rental kitchen only has a few cabinets, leaving only one for food. As that’s mostly filled with spices, oils, etc. there’s not much room for food. It used to be fine because we traveled for work three weeks a month. Now that we’re stocking up for 3-4 weeks at a time we have too much food to fit in the cabinets. Until recently we had food piled in boxes on the floor. We built a pantry with IKEA IVAR shelving (most of which we already had). It’s made a tremendous difference in our metal state, as silly as that sounds.
posted by Bunglegirl at 2:09 PM on July 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

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