Home improvements: making the most of life under lockdown

Home improvements: making the most of life under lockdown

By Kate Hilpern

We’ve all got them – those odd jobs in the home we’ve been endlessly procrastinating on. Now's the time to get stuck in and make your home somewhere you enjoy spending time in.

Whether it’s cleaning or decorating, quick fixes or longer but ultimately satisfying home changes, here’s our guide to seizing the moment.

You could even turn some of them into family projects in a bid to stop too much TV slumping.

Beautify your outside seating space

An unloved balcony, patio or roof garden is no place to spend sunnier days, especially if it’s a graveyard for dead plants and damaged furniture.

Scrub or replace old pots and order new plants online. De-grime patio furniture with warm water and washing up liquid and a garden hose or jet wash. If any furniture needs replacing, consider something different like a hanging chair or hammock. If the area is covered, you could go for floor pillows and add colour with an outdoor rug.

Even the smallest space can be turned into a pretty garden, like your window sill. Get creative with hanging baskets and planters and utilise wall space with wall planters, vines and creepers and fairy lights.

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Organise your wardrobe

Dedicate some of that your new-found time you're not spending commuting to sort out your clothes. Make three separate piles – ‘keep,’ ‘charity’ and ‘needs attention’ (could be dry cleaning or sewing that button back on that you’ve been meaning to for months). 

Ditch items you haven’t worn for a year and if you find yourself dithering endlessly over certain items, add a fourth ‘undecided’ pile to come back to at the end.

When you re-hang the ‘keep’ pile, co-ordinate clothes into sections (by season, colours or trousers, skirts) so it’s easier to browse and get inspired by new clothing combos.

Revive your kitchen appliances

You’d think your washing machine and dishwasher would be among the cleanest appliances in your home. Wrong. With both these and others such as your microwave and coffee machine, grime builds up over time.

Either order dedicated cleaners (there are plenty available online) or go natural (check recommendations online – for washing machines, for example, pour a quarter of a cup of bicarbonate of soda and the same quantity of water, plus a cup of white vinegar, into the drum before running the machine on a hot wash).

Always check your manual – some discourage use of certain products, which could invalidate your warranty. 

Clear out your shed or garage

See this not as a single goal, but as micro-goals. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and all that. You could even split it up into regular 20 minute sessions over several weeks. This has the added bonus of preventing wistful nostalgia setting in, which can have the upshot of you leaving your grandmother’s chipped, cobweb covered crockery set at the back of the garage for yet another decade.

Do the fun stuff first. And remember not everything has to go to charity shops or the tip – you may be able to repurpose some things in your home, sell them on eBay, give them away to friends or via social media or Freecycle once the isolation period has passed.

Take control of your kitchen cabinets

If your kitchen cupboards are crammed full of redundant pots and pans, food you didn’t even know you had and gadgets that seemed a good idea at the time but haven’t seen the light of day since, then this is the job for you.

If you haven’t used something in a year, get rid of it. And don’t have endless spares – seriously, when was the last time you had to make 25 cups of tea all at once?

For food, check all use-by dates. You could even have a competition with the kids as to who can find the oldest.

Make your space work better for you. Add new shelves in cupboards where there are gaping spaces at the top, install dividers to separate baking trays from saucepans and mount things on the back of doors. And don’t decant food unless you have space – those Kilner jars might look nice, but you’ll have to record the use-by date and chances are they’re no more than half full.

Do some DIY

Get going with all those little tasks, whether it’s hanging a picture, bleeding the radiators, fixing a curtain rail, sorting the squeaky door or fitting a bathroom lock.

But don’t just do the dull stuff – get creative too. There are oodles of ideas online and much of it is dead simple. Wrap some twine around a jar, paint it and peel away the twine to create home-made pen holders, for example. Make some sough-dough present tags or order some plain mugs to decorate with coloured Sharpie markers, bake for 30 mins to make it permanent. 

If you’ve got outdoor space, cut the bottoms off large plastic fizzy drinks bottles, put in tomato plant seedlings with earth and hang them up. or use an old over-the-door shoe holder to grow herbs outside your kitchen.

Paint your walls: jobs to do at home during lockdown

Paint a room

A lick of paint can instantly transform the look and feel of a room and what’s more, the whole family can get a slice of the action. No wonder that paint shops say business is booming. 

Always begin with a clean wall and don’t forget to repair any holes or broken areas. Use masking tape to save floors and windows and prime the walls especially if you’re painting over a darker coloured wall with lighter paint. 

Too daunting? Even one feature wall can be transformative and if you don’t want to paint, there’s always wallpaper.

Revitalise your shower 

Unclog your shower head by mixing equal parts white vinegar and water and pouring it into a plastic bag. Put the shower head inside, ensuring the holes are fully immersed, then tie it up and let it soak for around an hour before removing and wiping away any deposits. 

Banish mouldy spots from your plastic or vinyl curtain by bunging it in the washing machine with a little detergent. For glass screens, spray white vinegar on the glass and use a non-scratch cloth to wipe it down then rinse off with warm water.

Tackle dirty grout by spraying on a mixture of one part white vinegar and one part water – when it stops bubbling, scrub with a toothbrush.

Hey presto – shower nirvana.

Marie Kondo your drawers

If it doesn’t ‘spark joy’, it’s got to go. So says everyone's favourite Japanese organisation consultant, Marie Kondo, who promises to transform lives by decluttering.

Time, then, to sift through your socks and manage those man-drawers with the two-pronged approach of asking yourself if it brings you joy, otherwise thank it for its service and chuck it out.

As for those joy-giving belongings that get to stay, make sure they are re-organised to be both visible and accessible. 

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Set up a home working space

Rule number one – aim to separate work life from home life. Easy peasy if you have a spare bedroom, but even if you’re short on space you can create an ‘office zone’ – in a landing, under the stairs, in an alcove or even in the corner of a kitchen or bedroom. You could use different paint colours, a rug and/or a screen to help.

Multi-purpose furniture if needs be, with a dressing or dining table acting as a desk (although do invest in an ergonomic office chair if you can). If you are buying a desk, remember glass ones are great for creating an unobtrusive working area and slimline desks doesn’t dominate space. 

Don’t forget storage – plenty of desks incorporate this, but otherwise dedicate a bit of your wardrobe, a drawer or an ottoman at the end of your bed. Try to work near windows and sunlight and away from the hub of the household, especially the telly.

Think in the long term

It’s easy to assume that only larger-scale home projects can add genuine, long-lasting value but actually many of these smaller tasks can help make your home look and feel more spacious, organised and cared for too. 

So before you embark on any home improvement, aim for the results to shine through for the longer-term – for example, when your friends are able to visit again and when you actually come to sell. 

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