When it first became clear that people all over the country would need to settle in at home for a period of time in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19, many of us assumed we'd be trapped in our houses for a couple of weeks and then move on. But now that we're about a month into this self-isolation routine, it's pretty clear that the crisis is far from over, and that social distancing mandates are nowhere close to being lifted -- at least not in my home state of New Jersey, where there are over 60,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of this writing.
Of course, being trapped at home isn't easy, especially with a gaggle of kids in the mix. But I'm thankful for the fact that I have a comfortable house to hunker down in. And I'm especially grateful I invested in the following updates over the years that have made being stuck at home a lot easier on our whole family.
1. A finished basement
My husband and I were hesitant to finish our basement at first -- not because of the financial investment involved but because we were used to having that space serve as our dumping ground for items we didn't use regularly but also weren't ready to throw out. What pushed us to move forward was the fact that our kids' toys were slowly but surely taking over the rest of our home.
On a typical day, I'd trip on blocks walking through my living room and get stabbed in the foot by Legos while making breakfast. We'd had enough of the constant clutter and mess, and so we decided to reclaim our adult space and give the kids a massive play area of their own in the basement. Now we can send them down there when we need quiet upstairs to work, and we also don't have to risk injury to quite the same degree.
2. French doors for my office
I work from home full time, and for the past few weeks, I've been sharing an office with my husband, who's working remotely throughout the crisis. When we bought our home, it came with a regular office door, and while that did a good job of blocking out noise, we realized that it actually did too good a job once we had kids. Now that we're all stuck at home together, it helps that I have glass panels I can peer through to check on my children. And since the door doesn't block noise completely, I know immediately when the kids erupt into one of their daily quarrels, and I can jump out and intervene.
3. A deck
Our home didn't come with a deck initially, but we had one built years ago to better enjoy our outdoor space and have an area to eat, read, and relax. Now that the weather is getting warmer, that deck is not only enabling me to work outdoors but it's also allowing my kids to do their online schooling in the fresh air. We even have a retractable awning we can open and close with the push of a button to block out the sun when the glare is too strong and would otherwise make it impossible to read a laptop screen.
I've sunk a fair amount of money into home improvements over the years. I've installed a sprinkler system, upgraded a regular bathtub to an oversize soaking tub, and bought some higher-end kitchen appliances. And while all of those things are nice to have, the above features have really made our current situation a lot more manageable.