We live in Lombardy, the most hard-hit region in Italy. We have been on lockdown for a week, but partial lockdown for a few weeks during which time the kids have been out of school and hubby has been working from home. What is life like? Well, first of all, it is not the end of the world. We are able to go out for groceries, to the pharmacy and small walks near our home or at the public trails that are permitted for use. There is free movement allowed for those who cannot work from home as well as those who must assist sick relatives. I admit it would be nice to go to the movies or skiing or even just for a coffee. But it will end at some point and in the meantime, we must respect the rules, even if we are not afraid of getting sick, but for the sake of others.
So, how to deal with being imprisoned in your own home. First of all, you cannot view it as prison, you must view it as an opportunity. An opportunity to reconnect with family and old friends you have not heard from in months, maybe years. An opportunity to devote a little time to your home and those projects you have been meaning to get to. An opportunity to cook a meal without feeling rushed through it. An opportunity to spend some time on a hobby. An opportunity to give back to the community. Here is a little list I have put together to maybe help anyone who will be faced with some sort of lockdown based on my own experiences.
First things first. No matter your living arrangements – alone, a couple, a family of six – set up the house in a way that is comfortable. If you are working from home, and do not have a home office, make a dedicated workspace. Even if it is just a corner. Ditto for the kids and a homework space and/or play space. This might seem like a no brainer for us Americans who have pretty big homes. In fact, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average size of new homes built in the United States is 2,687 square feet. But for those living in other parts of the world, homes can be much smaller. A quick Google search shows that the average residential floor space per capita in square feet is 828 in the USA, 957 in Australia and 775 in Canada. In Italy, it is 333, in China it is 215 and in the UK it is 355. So, if you have a smaller home, make things comfy from the beginning and the adjustment will be much easier.
Obviously you are going to be spending time with your family. And if you have kids, it is the perfect time to play cards or board games with them. When was the last time you did that? Yes, even with teenagers. It is fun. Maybe you forgot how fun. Maybe they forgot how fun. Even for the Italians where la famiglia is numero uno, it has been a great time for them to reconnect with their kids and slow down a bit as all extracurricular activities have been suspended for weeks.
For the rest of the family, keeping in touch is so easy these days by video with services such as FaceTime or Skype. Even leaving voice messages via WhatsApp, Instagram, Telegram or whatever service is really nice. Text messages are great too, but at least for me, when I hear the voices of my sisters on our group chat, it makes me feel so connected to them. And of course, there is always just the good old-fashioned phone call. Again, totally doable even from across the pond with Whatsapp and other services.
I admit that I have not been so great about keeping in touch with friends in the past years. Life is busy for us all and without realizing it, the days turn into months and years. What a shame. So this lockdown has been a huge bonus for me in the friend department. I have received so many messages and emails from friends that I admit I haven’t contacted in months. It has been so nice to see the pics of their pretty homes, growing families, furry pets and just to catch up on their lives. This lockdown has inspired me to stay in better touch with these precious people I have in my life even after this period passes.
Ok, so you are trapped at home. Now is the time to take care of those things you have been putting off.
Small repairs: Replace light bulbs, hang pics, fix that door that will not close. If you need a video on how to do that, I have one for you! I teach business English and actually used this video to see if my students could understand what this Aussie was saying after listening to my American English for months. And I have to say, they were struggling. But they did like the actual video and found it very helpful, as did I. His suggestions do work!
Bills and paperwork: Take this time to organize that huge, horrible stack of bills, mail and miscellaneous paperwork you have been looking at for months. If you are in the USA, consider working on your taxes or gathering all the info you need to prepare them. Even if the April 15th deadline is extended, wouldn’t it be nice to get it done now?
Yard: It’s the perfect time to be outside, clean your yard, plant flowers and start a garden. Even if you don’t have a yard, you can always plant some colorful blooms on your balcony or window box.
Clean: It is spring after all, so it’s a great time to get to that spring cleaning. I wrote a post with some tips on quick cleaning years ago, and I will include that here. But keep in mind this is intended for all audiences. I got yelled at by someone on Twitter because I referred to a study about how many hours a week women spent cleaning. I was really just trying to show the number of hours in Italy vs. the USA. I was in no way suggesting women need to do all the cleaning. So please don’t yell at me. Anyway…great time to get the house all sparkly.
Since living in Italy, I admit I usually make some kind of pasta or rice or hot meal for lunch. I grew up eating sandwiches and love sandwiches, but we just don’t eat them for lunch here. I guess I found that the pasta route is kinda easier. I mean, there is one pot for sauce and one for the pasta. It is a pretty fast and easy prep. So now that you are home for lunch, why not have a hot meal? Here is a super easy recipe for pasta with a red sauce. So satisfying.
For other yummy meal inspirations see Alida’s site, My Little Italian Kitchen for fun Italian recipes or Paola over at Italy on My Mind. For video instruction – check out Pasta Grannies where Italian grandmas explain and show exactly how they do their magic, like Maria Grazie here below.
After eating all that fab food, now ya gotta work it off. Exercise and walks have been a hot topic here in Italy – is a stroll allowed? Are the parks open? In our region, the government says yes you can go to the parks (not children’s’ parks but running parks), but you cannot go in groups and must keep your distance. Still, news outlets say it is not allowed. So here are some other options to avoid that messy subject.
Yoga: This period is kinda stressful – and what better way to calm the nerves than a yoga class? I love Martina. She is Italian but has different courses you can do online – in English. I love her Instagram that shows her progress.
Take the stairs: If you have access to stairs in your apartment building, why not run them for 30 minutes? It is a TOTAL workout.
At home workouts: Love her or hate her, no one can deny that Jillian Michaels has a workout for every fitness level – some that can be completed in 30 minutes.
Playing an instrument: Get back to that piano! Don’t you kinda regret not continuing the lessons you took when you were a kid? Here is your moment. If you forgot where you left off…here are some helpful sites to get you going again. Here are some ideas for the guitar.
Learn a language: High school French gotten a little rusty? Check out Italki. It is an awesome resource for distance learning and they have teachers of all languages.
Reading – join a book club, get some inspiration from these online book clubs.
Binge watch tv – that’s right, forget the books, make some popcorn and get comfy on the couch. There are so many options for streaming tv and movies these days, that you are sure to find something you will like.
Art: These museums offer virtual tours you can take right from your couch.
Opera: The Met is to launch “Nightly Met Opera Streams,” a free series of presentations streamed on the company website during the coronavirus closure.
Give blood: This is always a good idea even when the world is not on lockdown.
Volunteer: Check out your local Red Cross or other organizations to see how you can help.
Respect the rules: The Italian Prime Minister gave the nicest speech when this all started unfolding. He said we need to protect our loved ones, our parents and above all, our grandparents. What moving statement. With that in mind, have a look at this fun Instagram account that honors the nonni of Italy – and take care of your grandparents.