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Pandemic Projects: Viral additions to the Home in the Midst of Chaos


Once upon a time, the world made sense.


We went about our regular routines and, when we had a bit of time, we thought about how we could improve our lived lives by enhancing our environments, our shared spaces, the tiny places we call home and where we work. Most days we didn’t have an opportunity to seriously improve those spaces. We are truly busy beings: we have work, with many of us having jobs apart from those jobs (thanks, late capitalism). We have families and friends, we have loved ones, and some of us have children, including the pet kind. We want to be out and about enjoying our lives, being active, staying healthy, adventuring, dating, or even just relaxing and recovering from all the work we do. The life of a human in the modern age. 

Even still, as is our nature, we make lists and plans and set goals and intentions, whether in our minds are written down, whether text messaged hopes or emailed ideas, about how we would like our world to be constructed. And then, one day, a very recent day, a pandemic hit, the likes of which few alive have seen, the likes of which puts all on pause, and home life becomes paramount. We question everything: Do I like this set up? Am I growing food? Do I need a shed? Is that the color I really wanted for that wall?


Lori Anbuhl. Front and back garden.


The questions we used to whisper come roaring back, sitting in quarantine with the quarters we created. And while some of us are quite content, happier to read a good book or get to backyard grilling sessions, others of us realized we could use a new patio and a garden box. We asked around our local facebook pages and chatted with some pros about pandemic projects. This is what we found. 


I’ll start with my house. One of our housemates is a handyman, with lots of free time on his handy hands. We’ve moved rooms, renovated a whole office into a new bedroom (for me, hehe), and he’s currently working on transforming my old room into a new office. It’s all been tossed around as ideas, considered, planned…but there wasn’t enough time till now. Pandemic projects begin.


Eric, in Boulder, told us he put new blinds in the dining room and cleaned out a spare room to be his wife’s home office. He also rebuilt a man cave home office, cleaned carpets, and fixed a busted interior door or two. That’s a classic honey do list if we ever heard one. 


Beth Blacker, a professional organizer living in Boulder, had a lot to share. “I have been working with soooooo [emphasis hers] many clients that, unfortunately, found staying at home created more clutter and chaos. They didn’t have a good system in place before [the] COVID stay-at-home orders, were too overwhelmed by all of the craziness, and retreated to doing nothing. Trust me, I get it.” We get it, too, Beth. “I strongly encourage everyone to try to tackle small areas at a time. Even if it means setting a reminder to do 15 minutes worth of decluttering at the same time every day. And if you have kids, I cannot stress enough how important it is to have them engaged in the process. Even 2 year olds can understand cleaning up and taking care of their things at their age appropriate level.”


Patty Ross, at Clutter Consignment in Boulder, echoes Beth. People “are trying to unload more [stuff]. They’re spending more time in their home and reimagining what they would like their house to look.” WIth appointments booked out two weeks, and a history of not even needing to take appointments, it’s clear to Patty that people are downsizing, “in their homes and minds”, and reevaluating their relationship to space. 


Lori Anbuhl in Erie started by telling me to join the Green Thumbs of Erie Facebook page. Her full, gorgeous yard wasn’t a last minute plan, but part of that planning and prepping we all do. She says that she, “planned and designed it, worked on it last June and July. It was a lot of work but it has paid off.”


In watery moves, Kyle Roth told us she, “cleaned out my pond and it was one of the hardest things I’ve done in a while. Took out every rock and power washed it. To anyone thinking they want a pond… don’t do it!” Ummm. I do what I want, Kyle, and I want a pond, but not till I can afford to have someone powerwash all the rocks for me. The before and after is ridiculous, though. 


Kyle Roth. Before and after pond cleaning.





My personal friends on Facebook had a whole host of activities planned: Felicia has “a garage full of furniture to clean and refinish…and about 40 plants [that] need to be repotted.” Ashley and Sheila bonded over gardening. Ashley points out that COVID “definitely helped me take the time to learn I like it.” Chris Ortega, in Lafayette, built a hotel for bees, butterflies, and other insects. It’s stunning (not stinging). 


Mike McDaniel is canning foods and working on his beautiful garden. He taught me that cucumbers are called cukes if you’re a cool green thumb person. Anthony is building a fruiting shed. Marco “filled [his] sidewalk strip with red lava rock & planted some perennials. Also laid a walkway with pavers and designer flagstone to my door.” Gorgeous.


Marco. Lava rocks laid.



Let’s be honest and say that the world is crazy right now and, for many of us, not losing our collective minds is an important part of daily life. Focusing on a project may be a great way to deal with stress, process the excess energy, and cultivate a space that works for you. You may have the resources to go bigger and add new rooms, build a garage, or add a home theater [ok, that’s me. I definitely bought a projector and screen for my bedroom theater]. 


While thinking through all this, I had a lovely conversation with the ladies that lead TruDesign in Lafayette. Founded by longtime collaborators Lindi Bolinger and Cynthia Stafford, two interior designers with more than 25 years of experience, they point to their “shared vision: to delight clients with timeless environments that celebrate life.” Lindi pointed out that, even as a designer, she realized she wasn’t enjoying her home experience as much as she wanted, and has sought to improve her lived world. It’s not just you, friend. 


They talked about the need to update spaces, to reevaluate, and about the role of forethought in design. Don’t make the decision, they warn, to buy a new piece without proper consideration. Rooms have energy and we have to plan accordingly. “The spaces we’ve used for three hours,” they say, “feel much different when we’re there for eighteen.” This is forcing us to reduce clutter, reconsider layouts, and plan for new satisfactions. They’re open to guiding you through your updates.


Whatever you do, stay sane. We’re living slightly smaller lives in the modern world. We’re social distancing and our homes are back to being our castles…drawbridge up, moat ready to stave off any viral interloper. Grab a trash bag, a hammer, a shovel, or a paintbrush and get started. Your pandemic project glory awaits. Oh…send us pics when you’re done.  




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