There’s nothing like the word “Ebola” to get people to finally pay attention to preparedness. When you have a well stocked pantry with enough food to last a couple of months, stored water and a couple of ways to purify tap water, if need be, plenty of cleaning and sanitation supplies, and the knowledge and skills to use them, you are likely not panicking at all. If anything, you’re looking around to see if there’s anything you can add that might put you and your loved ones in an even better position if you do need to shelter in place.
You can read some of my recommendations for that here.
Collecting supplies is the easy part, though. Even if you don’t have the money, garage and estate sales, dollar stores, and thrift stores are full of items that will be on your must-have list.
What is often overlooked, among all the lists of what you absolutely must have in order to survive Ebola or some equally terrible crisis, is the disruption to your daily life that will occur.
Imagine suddenly not being able to visit family, friends, or neighbors. Grocery stores, the post office, gas stations, school, the hair salon, even the dog park will be off limits. Venturing out might mean taking the risk of bringing a terrible violence back home with you or encountering life-threatening violence from predators looking for easy prey.
Stuck at home
You’ve decided that sheltering in place, which sounds so much better than “stuck at home”, is the smartest thing to do in order to stay safe. Maybe you’ve been keeping track of publicized accounts of a terrible epidemic and realized they are a little too close to home for comfort. Maybe The Weather Channel is predicting the storm of the century. For whatever reason, sheltering in place is your plan of action.
You have enough supplies to get by for several weeks, but 10 hours into your self-imposed, or maybe mandatory, quarantine, you are about to climb the walls.
The kids are bored. The spouse is home from work and causing all kinds of trouble, and there you are. Thinking, “I have at least 30 more days of this.”
The key ingredient is routine
If you think about sheltering in place as an enclosed summer vacation, literally a stay-cation, it becomes obvious that the first thing to establish is a routine. I’ve heard stories of prisoners of war who created their own daily schedules in order to stay sane. You’re going to do the same thing, sans the bona fide prison cell and smirking, armed guards.
Start thinking about your current daily, weekly, and monthly routines, and jot down all of your current activities, appointments, and chores. Keep track of what you do and where you go every time you leave the house. In a time of Shelter in Place (SIP), you probably won’t be able to do any of this.
Here’s what my list looks like:
- Take daughter to college class on Mondays and Wednesday.
- Son goes to Trail Life on Mondays.
- Husband has weekly trip out of town.
- Husband works downtown every day.
- Walk the dog each morning.
- Chess club for son on Wednesdays.
- Internet writing class for son on Fridays.
- Internet writing class for daughter one day each week.
- Homeschool co-op each Friday.
- Grocery shop on Thursdays.
- Date night Thursday nights.
- Church on Sundays
- Math tutor for daughter, once/week.
- Monthly craft class for daughter.
- Baseball practice for son, Tuesday and Friday.
- Monthly hair appointment for mom.
You get the idea. Once you have listed everything that takes you out of the house, it’s time to analyze that list. You want to continue with your current routine as much as possible. What will help your family adjust to their temporary, new normal is having a routine that continues to provide a similar level of interaction, learning, and entertainment as before.
Looking for substitutions
With list in hand, look for anything that can be replicated at home. For example, my son takes French lessons at our homeschool co-op. We could access online lessons and I could start looking for an English-French dictionary and even a Level 2 French textbook at used bookstores. His French lessons could continue without interruption.
My daughter could continue with her math tutor by phone or Skype but would have to give up her college ASL class. It wouldn’t be prudent for the two of us to drive into central Houston twice weekly in a true worst case scenario. There are plenty of ASL resources online, so her education wouldn’t have to stall.
My husband’s employer would have to determine if he could work from home or not. In some cases, businesses would shut down. I see this as being the biggest, negative impact of a SIP scenario, and one of the biggest reasons to find ways to earn money online or providing necessary services to your community. In a pandemic, think Ebola-gone-crazy, leaving the house to earn money at all, won’t be possible.
Continuing to use my list as an example, I realize that I’ll have to eliminate my monthly hair appointments. Stocking up on a few bottles of Clairol Nice and Easy might be a good idea, or maybe I’ll just find out what I look like with white hair!
Date nights? It might actually be fun to come up with creative ideas for that.
Walking the dog? This is where a treadmill might be a worthwhile investment. It would provide excellent, aerobic exercise for us humans and our little dog, Moxie-the-stray (I shared her story on Facebook a while back) would enjoy the activity. If I could somehow project a film of a running squirrel on the wall in front of her, she’d never want to get off the treadmill!
Other substitutions that come to mind:
- Baseball practice —> Shadow pitching and batting. Watching tutorial videos on YouTube.
- Craft class —> Use supplies around the house to learn something new, such as crochet or quilting.
- Grocery shopping —> Re-create this by looking for new recipes that use what is already in the pantry.
- Chess club —> There are online chess clubs and games.
- Trail Life or Scouting —> Refer to the manual and find skills that can be learned right at home.
What is on your list that might not have to become a thing of the past, after all? When we think of hunkering down or being quarantined or sheltering in place, at first it seems that life comes to a halt, but as you can see from my examples, it doesn’t have to be that way.
Re-create your routine as you SIP
Once you’ve reviewed your family’s current routines and have figured out ways to make substitutions, it’s only a matter of setting up a SIP schedule of those activities, and maybe adding a few new ones, and posting the schedule. You could add things like:
- Family read-aloud time
- Family game night
- Casino night — Everyone learns how to play poker!
- Movie schedule — Just like the regular theater, post a schedule of the week’s movies. Make a big deal of “going to the movies” with popcorn or some other treat.
- Campouts — Put up the tent in the living room or basement and camp out!
It’s a lot like taking a cross country trip with little kids. You have scheduled stops, times when you break out snacks, little surprise gifts you’ve wrapped, and a selection of car games — all meant to make the time go faster and give everyone something to look forward to.
A time of sheltering in place is going to be stressful. Life as we have known it will have come to an end, at least temporarily.
Plan now how you could alleviate a large amount of that stress simply by looking for ways you could substitute current activities with an at-home version. These suggestions assume that you will have electricity, so you might also want to consider the type of routine you would have in a long-term power outage.