Ciao a tutti,
This is Barbara, Annette’s friend and Italian member of her team, and I live in Modena, Italy. The global pandemic that hit us a few months ago shook up my plans for spring, and Annette thought it would be interesting for you to read how I dealt with what happened.
When I’m not collaborating with Annette on one of her projects, I am a freelance marketing consultant and a stylist. The first big impact Covid-19 had on my life was that all the events I had lined up for the season were either canceled or pushed to the end of the year. Meanwhile, my beloved home (that had housed my office for the past eleven years) had to be repurposed to accommodate working space for my husband Max (who’s a product manager for an international corporation) as well as homeschooling space for both my children, aged 15 and 9.
Here’s how I organized our space (a medium-sized flat of around 1560 square feet) and our days to weather out the pandemic:
Everyone got their own ‘work’ space, complete with device and closing door.
This was my number one priority. The week Italy went in full lockdown (on March 8), we brainstormed what we needed to change to achieve this; we moved around some furniture, repurposed a few props I had stored in our garage (since Ikea shipments were delayed until the end of April), and we managed to create work stations for everybody in different rooms. This way, we can all have conference calls, classes, or Intercontinental aperitivo without disturbing or being disturbed. Having well-defined working areas has also helped with keeping healthy boundaries. My husband and I “go into work” and “come back home” at designated times, and I reckon this has been a great way to reduce overwhelm at a time when work is often frantic to make up for the long-distance mode.
We got to work on our home improvement list.
Before Coronavirus hit, I had a long list of home projects I wanted to tackle—some organization ones and a few adjustments that required Max’s technical expertise. We usually have a hectic life, as we both travel for work, and we frequently visit family in another region, so the projects had piled up over the years. Tackling them one at a time, making clever use of what we already have (since shopping opportunities are limited), has been a great way to take our minds off things we can’t control while allowing to make the space we live more functional and purposeful. Plus, ticking the projects off the list enables us to feel productive even on days when it seems we are aimlessly wandering around.
We wrote down routines, meal plans, and chore lists for everybody.
Lockdown means no cleaning lady, no restaurant meals, double the meals we eat at home and double the mess and dirt. Drafting a routine for everybody, allowing time for cooking, cleanup, and laundry, might seem like a control-freak approach to a shake-up. On the other hand, doing it with common sense allowed us to have guidelines to follow when we felt lost while empowering everyone in the family to do something for the others. Make no mistake, we NEVER follow routines and chore lists to a T. We are a very imperfect bunch. But having that mainframe in place has inspired us to do better, and it has helped us feel more in control of the situation.
I lowered the bar.
As I said, we were never perfect in the first place. But pretty soon after we started sheltering in place, I realized we couldn’t expect too much from ourselves. At this time, concentration is shot, moods swing wildly, and I think we have a stronger need to feel comforted. So there are days when the kids are allowed limitless screen time, others when we splurge on delivery from our favorite ice cream place, others when I take a day off, and binge read a book I love. It would be putting unnecessary (and way too much) pressure on ourselves to expect to perform at our best at these extraordinary times.
The truth is we were very lucky; as far as we know, nobody in our family was infected by the virus. Last Monday, Italy inaugurated phase two of the pandemic, so businesses that had closed will gradually reopen, and the real new normal will take shape. Restaurants will reduce their seats to allow for a safe distance between patrons; shops will implement queues and booking times to protect shoppers; sanitization procedures will be compulsory for all businesses. So far, people seem to be acting responsibly, and we are hopeful we will be able to keep the curve under control (if not flat) until a vaccine has been developed. To be honest, in our family, we haven’t gone outside much so far, aside from finally resuming exercise (Max is a runner and a cyclist) and longer walks. We are still working from home, and we will be for the rest of May, at least. If people can keep adhering to distancing, mask-wearing, and hands washing, I reckon most of Italy will have reopened by June. That should give us time to learn new routines and new ways of socializing while relieving the stress on our economy and our hospitals at the same time. It is not over, but I think we are better equipped to deal with it now. Also, I like to think this was a wake-up call to all of us to craft more sustainable ways of life.