My home currently consists of five adults sheltering in place where previously there were only three. It’s a big enough house and we’re lucky that one of us is considered an essential worker and leaves for at least eight hours a day. I would argue however, that any size home will, after over seven weeks of isolation, become “too small” if you catch my drift. I will always remain grateful that my son and his girlfriend chose our home to self-isolate in and not sure how I would have coped with not seeing him had they not. But let’s just say we’ve had to iron out a few kinks along the way!

Here is a snapshot of what self-isolation looks like with five adults in the house:

Your food bill will skyrocket enormously. In case you’ve forgotten, young men eat a great deal of food. I’d forgotten. My kid has been living away from home and his return coincided with the emptying of my fridge, cupboards, pantry AND secret stash. His girlfriend and my daughter, are both vegetarians. So every day is a whole new challenge to keep all the food groups covered and all the people happy.

Tip #1 : Get savvy with online grocery orders! We’ve learned how to “game” the system by booking an online order while picking up our current order. Secure your delivery date – notoriously hard to come by – by placing just one item in your cart. Then, as you run out of stuff, add items to your cart until it’s time to pick up and place another order. By the way, I also recommend jumping between grocery stores while securing your time slot to better the odds of getting a preferable date and time! For us, this has sometimes meant three people on three computers all working together to score the best time. It’s kind of like scoring great concert tickets. Kind of.

Tip #2: Pick a mug, any mug – then stick to it. Four of the five adults drink copious amounts of tea and coffee. Between my son and I we can polish off a whole pot before anyone else even wakes up. We were going through mugs at a pace unsustainable even by Tim Hortons standards. They were piling up on the countertop and surfaces around the house. I’m no neat freak but I hate clutter and in particular, a dirty kitchen. SO – we created a new system. Our coffee pot changed locations and we created an area where your “cup for the day” could sit right next to the steady supply of life-giving bean juice. Obviously plain white mugs need not apply. Everyone had to have a mug that was distinct and returned only to that one spot. At the end of the day, all went in to the dishwasher and the next day new mugs were chosen. By the way, I should add this happens now that we have a working dishwasher. For the first three weeks of isolation my main panic during the pandemic concerned a leaky dishwasher and much hand washing of dishes rather than excessive hand washing! It’s actually still not fixed ‘cause no one can come in the home but a tray currently catches the leaking water and we’re running it anyway. Yes – we’re that lazy!

Tip #3: Contain the mess, stress and disorder to one room as much as possible. Three FT students, one starting an internship and one adult working from home meant a plethora of cords, plugs, chargers, earbuds and laptops all cluttering up my space. Recall above, I don’t like clutter. Not to mention if CoVid19 was earborne not airborne we’d all have it by now as I’m convinced at some point or another we have all used each others earbuds. Enter “Starbucks is Open.” I hung a sign in my dining room, placed coasters on the table and assigned each of us a chair that conveniently, was close to a plug. (As an aside, my dining room has more plugs per square foot than any other room in the house. I have no idea why.) We now work alongside one another at various times throughout the day just like being in a Starbucks café. All the mess is contained in one room and at dinner time everything tucks neatly into a shelving / display unit which, for the time being, has been emptied of “display” stuff. It may remain that way moving forward. This pandemic has been a good reminder of how little “stuff” I really need.

Tip #4: While doing one of your many food, supplies and friendly visit drop offs at your mother’s home, she says she wants to thank you for all you’re doing. You demure. You’re simply happy to help and lucky you can see her. Then she says she figured out a way to have a case of wine delivered right to your doorstep, with no delivery fees. “Aw shucks, Mom. Sure, if it makes you feel better I’ll accept that thank you after all. In red, labeled Shiraz. What time does it arrive?”  All joking aside I admire her ingenuity and it’s the only booze my son won’t help himself to so there’s a small chance it’ll last a bit longer. Note, I said a small chance because in reality, my Tip #5 is to drink lots of wine. It might not actually help but it sure doesn’t hurt!

Tip #6 might not work for some folks but we’re finding dark humour gets us through some days. We have a whiteboard on the fridge that we use for quick notes to one another. Now, it displays CoVid countdown. As I write this, we are on day 51, a milestone none of us thought we would ever get to. We also have a little cartoon drawing of the CoVid 19 virus with a speech bubble attached and each day the virus leaves us a sarcastic little message. As I said, some of the messages are quite dark. It has sparked our creativity. It’s the little things that get you through.

Oh ya – and we adopted a dog. His name is Otis, a three year old standard poodle and already I cannot imagine my life without him. Sure he hasn’t actually come near me yet and loves the two younger females in my house more than anything in the world but we all love him nonetheless. The pitter-patter of his little paws and taking him out for walks morning, noon and night are what’s keeping us all sane. Get outdoors at least once a day, even if only on your balcony or porch. Breathe the fresh air, value this rare opportunity to play games as a family, eat dinner together,  bake cookies, bread and even home made pop tarts and know that your making memories that will last a lifetime. That’s an idea that will help you now – and for years to come. Stay safe everyone!