We’re going to be asking a lot of our living spaces in the coming weeks, so how best to keep things ticking along with the family in close 24 hour quarters?
26 March, 2020
As a writer living the glamorous, thrillingly parlous life of a freelancer I’m used to working from home – or, ideally, from cafés where the coffee and wi-fi is both plentiful and strong.
But as the world makes stately progress to the sorts of lockdowns which other countries have already adopted and which seem unlikely to be lifted anytime soon, the challenges of getting everything done in the days my young sons are in child care has now morphed into doing anything whatsoever in a house where both my wife and I are attempting to work and also look after two children, one old enough to be both anxious about what’s going on and bored at how he can’t do the things he likes doing, and another very curious as to what the cat’s food tastes like.
And so, I have been wondering how we can physically cope with living 24/7 in a house which was not designed to simultaneously act as a domicile, an office, an indoor recreation venue, a stockpiled grocery storage centre and a Peppa Pig screening room
And so I have been looking at how designers effectively make the most of small spaces, and I learned some things that might help maintain that frayed thread of sanity through the next few weeks before things start to return to normal, or we agree to go full Thunderdome.
One thing which has been recommended in articles about maintaining mental health during lockdown is the value of setting up specific zones for specific activities – allocating an area for playing games, or for working, or for hiding under a blanket. And that makes perfect sense, although to be fair we have had a specified zone for the cat to eat her food for a long time and recent results at demarkation have been mixed at best.
If you need to divide up a room into different zones, then classic ideas like using bookshelves as dividers means you can help create the psychological effect of having a new and different space. If this was longer term you could try repainting an area to differentiate it from the rest of the room, but that’s probably a household fight over paint swatches you don’t need right now.
Alternatively, you could go the passive-aggressive siblings-sharing-a-room method and put electrical tape down the middle to mark out which territory is which. Note: this also doesn’t work with 13-month olds and cat food.
Ads for co-living spaces would have you think that as long as you have a laptop you can be productive anywhere – the kitchen! The rooftop BBQ area! The shared yoga-balcony-slash-zumba-court! However, workplace psychologists are unanimous in saying that working successfully means having a space where you can concentrate on what you’re doing, so that you can get the sense that Now It Is Work Time when you sit down and also have that feeling of Now I Am Not Working when you get up.
So, if you’re working from home, don’t feel bad about carving out an area as your lockdown office. It’s actually way better than trying to tippetty-tap at a laptop on a couch while using valuable brain resources attempting to ignore the seemingly-endless Paw Patrol theme.
You know that feeling when you move to a new house and cannot for the life of you understand how you own this much crap? Even worse, you feel angry at yourself for chucking all of that crap into boxes and paying for it to be transported to your new place because you didn’t have time to work out what was complete detritus and what’s the one scrap of paper with your Bitcoin details on it.
And then once it’s there it just sort of stays, because whenever you have the time to go through it there are literally billions of better ways to spend those hours.
Well, a virus has provided you with time while simultaneously eliminating many of your better options. And freeing up space is the main game here.
It’s potentially a good family activity, but it’s also valuable and visible busy work where you can literally feel the weight leaving your shoulders. Especially if it turns out that you really are a Bitcoin millionaire.
Right now, actually doing any serious refurnishing or rebuilding is probably not on the cards, since getting hold of the necessary materials and/or having somewhere else to stay during construction isn’t an option for most of us.
But it is a chance to think about your living space creatively and make some plans about cool things you could be doing to make your house more friendly post-lockdown. At the very least, it’s an excuse to spend hours looking at amazing designers and going “look, the stairs are a bookshelf that turns into a table!”
And hey, if you happen to develop any amazing prototypes for versatile multipurpose furniture or innovative room design, be sure to remember us and/or cut us in. We’re all in this together, after all.
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