Optimizing Your Space and Time to Avoid the Slump of Being Stuck at Home

Slightly blurred image of bedroom with black striped bedding and large white euro pillows. The wall behind the bed is covered in black, white, and gold artwork. The windows are framed with long black curtains. There's a white lotus capiz shell chandelier hanging above the bed and a few plants throughout the space.

Being in one space for days and weeks on end can be impossible to navigate. After we get past the day or two where we kick back, embrace the “laziness” factors and binge watch a TV-show, we’re suddenly met with the stark reality of boredom and extreme isolation.

Amidst the increase in isolation across the globe due to COVID-19 I wanted to share how I’ve navigated being stuck at home for almost two years without being bored out of my mind and simply bashing my head into a wall.

Define Your Spaces

One of my favorite things to pass the time involves looking at a lot of home and apartment listings – most of which have one thing in common: they label rooms. My personal favorite are the listings that define spaces as “sleep, live, eat” rather than more formal room names. It defines the space in terms of function.

Defining the function of the spaces you have available and then utilizing them in that way is critical to maintaining peace of mind.

Under normal circumstances you’re only really home when you’re asleep or relaxing, so these fixed definitions aren’t as pertinent. Your work space is in an office outside of your home. You go to restaurants and clubs and various events where you consider yourself to be living life.

Being home all the time means you might not want to embrace doing everything from bed. Your sleep hygiene, productivity levels, and mental health may decrease.

Being confined to one single space – using your physical bed to sleep in, watch tv from, eat in, and do work from – isn’t healthy. For those who are bed-bound and unable to shift to being couch-bound, your circumstances are different and remaining in bed is what is most optimal for your health, you know your body.

For those of us not confined for health reasons, or those of us who can confine ourselves away from our bed during the day, I propose a fixed separation of spaces for set functions. You’re creating a routine for yourself in a much smaller box than the expanse of the outside of world, but it isn’t impossible and you should be able to actively use all of your space.

For me the bedroom is for two things: sleeping and unwinding. The bedroom is a sacred space free from cell-phones and social gatherings. Aside from actually sleeping, it is a place I can journal, read, or meditate.

The mental impact of this is creating a specific place in your home designed to evoke a sense of peace and calm. A private sanctuary away from the rest of the world. A place where your brain recognizes that it doesn’t need to be on high alert, it can wander, and your body relaxes and in turn sleeps better.

The living room is where life is lived. This is the space where you entertain, where you can engage with the outside world, and where you exist in the mindset that you are actively doing things.

For me, I don’t like to use a physical desk – years of working from bed proved that comfort is something I enjoy while working, so I use my couch in place of working from bed.

My couch is also a sort of sanctuary. It is the place I spend most of my time especially during severe flares where I don’t do much but nap. I embrace the concept of being “couch-bound” to describe how I live most of my life. This allows me to maintain the sacred space that is my bedroom, but gives me the creature comforts remaining in bed all day would provide.

For me, getting out of bed, making it, and then crawling onto the couch is the only accomplishment I need every single day to mark it as a successful day. It is a low benchmark to most people, and although I live my life in severe pain, the critical pain that would leave me tethered to my bed isn’t there, and that is worthy of daily celebration.

In my living room, my brain is mostly on, or engaged in what it can manage. It’s where technology is rampant, writing is completed, and friends are entertained.

As an interior designer, I don’t have to pretend my relationship to the space around me doesn’t play a huge role. Most people simply aren’t paying attention to how these spaces make them feel.

Having designated spaces when you’re home all of the time frees you up to not only move about, but also have a change of scenery and feel a little less trapped.

Plan How You’ll Spend Your Time

Transitioning from working from an office to working from home, or shifting to online coursework changes the structure of your day and how you can spend your time. There’s a lot more freedom – meaning of course you can procrastinate and scroll through social media or watch Netflix – but you’re also going to feel more bored.

Why? Because chances are you’re going to be using your time more effectively without even realizing it.

Put in your planner when you’ll go through emails, when you’ll work/study, when you’ll focus on x project, when you’ll cook, and so on.

In the chronic illness realm, this is called “pacing” where we have the same set of tasks essentially every single day and we pace ourselves through them to optimize our days – for us this is maintenance for many conditions as routine disruptions can cause flares. For me, even if the tasks aren’t the capitalist driven productive line items, keeping the routine of the mundane helps ward off boredom and feeling as if I’ve wasted my day.

What to do With Extra Time

Personally, I have so much pain brain that my “spare” time isn’t spent much differently than if it was spare time after work or school. My extra time is mostly filled with researching medications, doctors, and therapies; writing; and photography. Although they make up all of my own life, think of your spare time as a time to dedicate towards hobbies.

It’s easy to get caught up in social media for hours and hours at a time, but you can fill your feeds with useful information. My constant pain and inability to focus on something like a long essay or a book, means scrolling through twitter fills a lot of time. Rather than absorbing useless information, I’ve followed hundreds of activists, educators, doctors, and scientists who fill my feed with educational content ranging from disability politics to advances in medicine, interesting histories, and worldly events.

Facebook is a rather desolate place, but unfollowing the masses of people I’m friends with and following some design pages, house blogs, and rock hounding groups makes it a much easier place to glance through.

Duolingo is a great app for your phone that allows you to learn a new language for free. Of course, a paid version is available, but if you want to spend 15-30 minutes a day on it the free version is perfect. I’ve used it to try and learn French and to refine my Spanish.

Crafting, starting a blog to review movies or TV shows, propagating your houseplants, creating your own cocktail, and taking advantage of audio-books and podcasts are all great ways to fill gaps in your day.

Of course, there’s always some other things you’ve been pushing off that can also help fill your time:

  • Go through your closet and make a stack of items to donate (or set up a Poshmark account to earn a little extra money).
  • Go through your makeup/hair products/bath products and toss what you don’t use.
  • Organize your kitchen.
  • Organize your pantry.
  • Clear out your inbox.
  • Rearrange your decor to freshen up your space.

Being stuck at home, unable to socialize or attend events, and having the world seemingly stop working as you know it is hard to process. Thankfully, there’s hundred’s of thousands of us who are disabled, chronically-ill, or both who spend most of our lives at home and this life isn’t as devastating as you make it out to be.


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