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News >  Home and garden

Five days, five projects: Tasks to help you pass time in quarantine

Jan. 22, 2022 Updated Sun., Jan. 23, 2022 at 2:26 p.m.

By Jura Koncius Washington Post

We’ve all been stuck at home for weeks on end at various points during the past 22 months – and counting – of this pandemic. For a little while last summer, we thought we could put it behind us. But the fast-spreading omicron variant, on the heels of the delta wave, has sent many people back inside.

The latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines say you might have to quarantine or isolate at home for five days if you fit the criteria listed for exposure to the coronavirus or if you test positive for it. Of course, if you’re feeling lousy and anxious, by all means stay in bed and watch the Beatles documentary under your blankie while slurping (hopefully) homemade chicken soup.

But if you have mild symptoms, are asymptomatic or are waiting for a negative test result, why not use your five days in domestic jail to get your home in order? Whether you are waiting out quarantine or are stuck inside because of a snowstorm, here are five home projects that might help you come out of a crummy time with some positive improvements.

At the very least, they will distract you from consuming all of the leftover holiday cookies and candy.

Revitalize the finish on a worn-out wood table.

Marian Parsons, who runs the blog Miss Mustard Seed from her home in Rochester, Minn., bought and sold antiques for years. A simple refreshing of a coffee table or bedside table that has become dull over time, she says, could breathe new life into the wood finish.

Parsons is partial to using hemp oil – and not the health food store variety, but processed food-grade oil made for use on furniture, such as Real Milk Paint hemp oil ($13.99 for eight ounces, Amazon). “You wipe it on wood that is looking a little tired or hazy, and it gives it a new life,” Parsons says. “It will even out the tone and bring back the luster and glow that is so beautiful about wood.”

If your furniture also needs a bit of cleaning, she suggests using a mix of three parts hemp oil to one part distilled white vinegar. “Wipe it on with a cloth. Apply it like you would lotion to your hands,” says Parsons, whose book “Feels Like Home” was published last year. “This is great for pieces that need a little cleaning and hydrating, plus shine.”

Reimagine a bookshelf.

Something as simple as reorganizing one overflowing shelf can make a room look more orderly and stylish. Interior designer and architect Charles Almonte, based in Silver Spring, Md., suggests taking one hour to scrutinize a shelf that is stuffed with books you have already read. Take everything off, wipe down the surface and decide which tomes you can part with now.

Serious bibliophiles may find this challenging, but try to think of it as a way to make room for new acquisitions. Put a bag of books aside to donate, and maybe hatch a plan to install a Little Free Library in your neighborhood. “After you have decluttered the books, perhaps there is now space to add some personal touches,” Almonte says. Dig out something you bought on a trip and display it proudly. It will bring good memories every time you walk by it.

Take stock of your sheets.

Julie Blanner, a lifestyle blogger in St. Louis, says linen closets are often clogged with so many assorted bed and bath items that it’s difficult to find what you need. The key to having a functional linen closet, she says, is to eliminate excess sheets, pillowcases and towels.

“There is nothing worse than having to open sheets to see what size they are,” Blanner says. Her solution: Pare down to only two sets of sheets per bed, then sort by size and label the shelves.

“You just need two sets to rotate in and out. Anything else is excessive,” Blanner says. You’ll find that you probably have mismatched sheets and extra pillowcases you no longer need. Blanner suggests donating unwanted bedding and towels to local animal shelters, where “they can give added warmth and comfort to the animals.”

Get organized for an everyday task.

Pick a project where small changes will make a difference, says Pamela Meluskey, co-founder and principal organizer of Settled, a professional organizing firm in New York. For example, consider all the items you use in your workouts. Wouldn’t it inspire you to use them more if they were all in front of you and not shoved in a basket?

Most of us don’t have the luxury of dedicating a room to fitness, so find a wall in a basement or another room to set up a station for your gear. Meluskey likes the versatility of the Gladiator slat wall ($59.99 for a pack of two, garageappeal.com).

“It will hold a yoga mat, your resistance bands, weights, jump rope – anything you need,” she says. “Just put a mat in front of it,” and you’re done. She also recommends creating an organized station for your pet supplies.

Keep leashes, sweaters, booties and your reflective vest orderly on the back of a coat closet door with the Container Store’s Elfa mesh over-the-door rack ($139.99, containerstore.com). Or get a small rolling utility cart, such as Ikea’s Raskog ($39.99, ikea.com), to corral items.

Make a terrarium.

Consider adding more plants to your home, says Almonte, whose own pandemic activity has been crocheting. “There is a gardening trend right now back home in Manila, where I’m from,” he says. “Because we are a tropical country, isolated folks have started growing more plants, especially on porches and verandas.”

If you can’t do it outdoors, create a terrarium instead. “It’s like building an entire garden in a very, very small scale,” he says, “like creating a miniature world.” Almonte says ferns, moss or succulents are good choices for terrariums. Glass containers such as Mason jars and fish bowls are great holders, or look for interesting vessels at thrift shops.

Check out Terrain (shopterrain.com) for supplies, kits or a fully designed terrarium, and watch a YouTube video for beginners, such as “A Beginners Guide to Making a Terrarium” by Worcester Terrariums. “Taking care of a living thing is very Zen right now,” Almonte says.

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