We’ve been talking a lot about routines since the stay-at-home order was put into effect (see here, here, here, and here). But as the weeks creep by, we’ve noticed that our daily self-care doesn’t start and end in the bathroom anymore—it’s in the kitchen, or the yard, or the living room. The structure of a routine feels especially good right now, when everything else seems so uncertain. So last week, we rounded up some friends of ITG (digitally, of course) to discuss the routines that have been helping us feel grounded. The following is the extremely honest result of that conversation.
Ali Oshinsky, Editorial Assistant: Hi, I’m Ali, and I think we should all start by saying where we’re quarantining. I am currently living at my parents’ house in Florida with my two teenage brothers.
Ashley Weatherford, Senior Editor: I’m Ashley, and I am in quarantine in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn.
Walda Laurenceau, acupuncturist: I’m Walda, and I’m quarantined in Bed Stuy as well. We’re neighbors Ashley.
Ashley: Oh my gosh, small world.
Ali: Thank you all for carving out an hour to talk about quarantine routines. The first thing I’m wondering is, what is something you thought you were going to do in quarantine that you have not been doing?
Jessica: I thought I was going to exercise more. Five days a week, for sure, every morning. And I’ve become unbelievably inert.
Walda: In the beginning of the quarantine, I really wanted to use this time to catch up on sleep. But I ended up going to bed really late, because I was feeling anxious. I just kept thinking, ‘When is this going to stabilize?’ And now I feel like I have to stabilize things myself. In the last week and a half I’ve been forcing myself to get into bed at 10PM.
Sierra: I thought I was going to cook really beautiful project recipes, and get out of my comfort zone. It turns out that all I want to make is simple comfort food.
Ali: I find myself cooking more than I ever have, out of necessity. Sometimes it feels exhausting.
Sierra: Yeah, I mean, even for someone like me who loves food and cooking, cooking is not a joy every day. It’s great that it can be a thing you control and hopefully find creativity through, but right now cooking is a necessity for so many people. And it can feel like a burden. I’ve been thinking a lot about ways we can alleviate that.
Ali: So what have you been cooking?
Sierra: [Laughs] A lot of cheesy pasta, a lot of roasted chicken—very, very simple standbys for me.
Ashley: I’ve been making a lot of pasta too, and things in general where I feel like I can get a lot of leftovers out of it. I’ve also been making really indulgent breakfasts… It doesn’t even have to be breakfast food, as much as a hot meal. I’ve been making an egg, avocado, and bacon sandwich, or a BLT, or beans and rice…
Jessica: When quarantine started, my friends and I were cooking proper meals and even made a micro Instagram account for our efforts called Cuisine d’ Quarantine. Everyone was so gung-ho, and then got so bored and angry with cooking. It feels like in quarantine, every week has its own kind of content franchise.
Ali: Oh, totally. I was in the baking phase, and then I was in the crafting phase…
Jessica: The crafting phase. Big time.
Walda: I think the hardest part is that I find myself saying things like ‘I could be doing better,’ or ‘I could be doing more.’ I’ve been trying not to judge myself for that.
Sierra: It’s been hard for me to figure out what level of transparency I want to have on social media. I feel this full-on curtain has been opened on social media, and… I don’t know! I’ve been feeling more protective of my privacy now than ever before.
Ali: But that has also made me feel better about social media in general. Something unstuck itself, and now I feel more freedom to be silly, or post whatever I want without thinking about it too much.
Jessica: I agree. The wheels have completely come off. I never used to post, I was so embarrassed about the selfie… But now I really don’t give a shit anymore?
Walda: There’s something freeing about what you just said! If you care less about what doesn’t really matter, you can focus more on what does. I’ve really been evaluating my friendships, which has been beneficial.
Ashley: My relationships have definitely strengthened during this time. My friends and I have busy lives, and we all make up 10,000 excuses for why we have to push back drinks or whatever. Just saying, ‘Hey, how are you doing?’ is the essence of a friendship anyway, and getting back to that feels good.
Walda: There are a whole host of opportunities to check in, and that is my honest opinion. I don’t care how busy you say you are—you can check in.
Jessica: For real.
Ali: Even with people I’ve realized I’m not as close with, I still feel like I have to check in. I can’t do a quarantine friend breakup.
Walda: It doesn’t have to be a long-ass conversation, right? You can just say, ‘Hey, thinking about you, checking in.’ If they reply back, great, if they don’t, then at least you did your part as a human being.
Ali: OK, next question. What is the thing that you have been doing every day, or consistently throughout quarantine? Mine is organizing the fridge. I do it at least once a week. With five people living here… The other day someone had stored half a lemon under a small carton of heavy cream. I mean? If the fridge is messy, I am a bunch of nerves, and I don’t know why those are related.
Jessica: I’ve gotten so obsessed with cleaning. I bought a steam cleaner, which looks like a vacuum but boiling hot steam comes out of it. I have been steam cleaning my entire apartment from ceiling to floor every week.
Ashley: Obviously I clean the things that come into my apartment, but I’ve also been feeling like I should dust more. And vacuum more.
Walda: I’ve been cleaning out my house. That whole Marie Kondo thing.
Ali: But I’m living in my teenage bedroom now and I’m finding so much stuff that I never got rid of, and I’m so glad I never did. Random art supplies, old photos, old letters from summer camp… It’s so much fun. And I’ll probably never get rid of any of it now.
Ashley: I have not been dumping things either. I’ve been buying little home and kitchen items. I want to jazz up this place now that I’m forced to look at it all day every day.
Sierra: I feel like I am no longer working from home—I’m sleeping in my office.
Walda: But I still treat each morning like I’m going out. I meditate, work out, shower, get dressed, put my Boy Brow on…
Jessica: That’s very civilized. I’m quite used to working at home, and there was always something at 6 or 7PM I’d have to get primped for so I’d stay slovenly during the day. But now, I’m like you! I wake up, take my shower, make my bed, clean my house, do the dishes. I dress in a proper outfit. I think that kind of structure is very good for mental health.
Ali: Maybe I should try some of this. I’ve fully stopped wearing pants.
Jessica: My brand just makes shirts, and I attribute how we’ve kept relatively stable orders throughout this to the fact that people still need to dress their top halves.
Sierra: My dog forces me to go for walks, which has been a joy.
Ashley: We have a backyard, and my favorite thing to do is quite literally go out there and watch the plants grow. It’ll be the slightest change from the day before, but just enough to be like, ‘Oh, look! This fern’s unfurling!’ or ‘I see a bud!’ That has truly been my greatest pleasure, with breakfast being the second.
Walda: I’m enjoying those kinds of moments. I don’t want to give those up when we start to get back to normal.
Ali: Do you guys think any of your quarantine routines are going to stick after all this? I keep thinking about how I’ve really gotten myself in the groove of a midday workout. I’m the most consistent I’ve ever been with it, and I don’t know how it’s going to translate.
Ashley: I’ve been taking a midday shower, which I find so invigorating. I’ll wash my face in the morning and do my toner, then I’ll do a little work from bed, eat breakfast, do my serum and moisturizer, a little more work, and then shower. It’s like a cup of coffee almost.
Sierra: Knowing that it’s on me to take care of my nails or split ends, as opposed to outsourcing it, has made me take better care of myself. I’ve just stopped fussing. I’ve also been getting my husband into it, specifically with Baby Foot. Just to get this on record, he really has the most disgusting feet.
Walda: What is Baby Foot?
Sierra: It’s basically a mask for your feet that takes off all the dead skin.
Ali: But it makes it shed like a snake. It’s not gentle.
Sierra: I convinced him to do it, and that was very satisfying. I think he recognized that there was a need.
Jessica: I gave myself a bikini wax yesterday. It was high comedy, and so undignified. I was cursing at myself in German, you can’t see anything, it’s the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever done. I was quite proud at the end but of course, I never want to do it again.
Walda: For me, I think a lot of things will stick, especially my morning routine. Honing in on that quiet time in the morning has made me feel so much more energized.
Jessica: Living a more intentionally interior life, as you said, has made me realize that I have more time than I thought I did. What is this obsession with busyness that we all have? We fetishize it, it’s like a badge of honor to be busy. I have started to work so much more efficiently and effectively, and even though we’re stuck at home, something feels very expansive about this time.
Sierra: I think cooking at home will stick, especially as we’re going into a recession. And we’ll probably have a bit of Zoom PTSD for a while, but I do think video calls and remote drink plans will be part of our lives. But the biggest change I’ve noticed is this heightened awareness of the people around me. Like, I do contactless pickup at my local coffee shop, and now I know all the people’s names who work there. I never really took the time to do that before.
Ashley: I have a lot more empathy for other people. You don’t know what’s going on in people’s lives, and the things they don’t post on social. There are so many things that make dealing with this more of a challenge, and I definitely have an expanded level of empathy for other people’s paths.
Sierra: I hope that part sticks.
This conversation has been edited and condensed.
Photo via ITG.