3 Ways a Quarantine Google Calendar Helped Me Take Control of My Home Life

updated Mar 9, 2021
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A woman sitting at a computer desk, reviewing a digital calendar app

In March 2020, my husband had elbow surgery, so we were living an unfamiliar shelter-in-place lifestyle earlier than many. Then when the COVID-19 restrictions finally got to our city a week later, the anxiety levels only increased. I realized that with a pandemic looming, I’d have to add disinfecting, grocery inventory, and so many more little tasks to our new routine. They might not seem like huge efforts separately, but together, they were overwhelming.

You see, I hate living in disarray. I’m one of those people that cleans as I walk by a room and I can’t have any clutter on my work desk. My husband and I usually share household tasks (he’s definitely the cook in our house), but since he was down for the first two weeks of quarantine, I knew I had to do something to help organize the new workload.

After the first weekend of shelter-in-place and too many breakdowns later, I decided to tackle my quarantine the best way I know how: a Google Calendar with recurring events. My professional Google Calendar is already a color-coded dream that runs my life, why not my quarantine too?

So I sat down one Saturday, made a list of the things I was struggling to think about and get done, and placed them all on the calendar.

Credit: Google Calendar, Courtesy of Muriel Vega

Without the end of shelter-in-place visible on the horizon, this calendar is helping me adapt to a situation I can’t control and create a little more calm in my household. While I’m not pressuring myself into being productive during quarantine (we should be kind to ourselves!), having a structure to know when to do what helps me keep my anxiety a little more at bay. While I know that they seem like mundane tasks—when to order groceries, pick up my CSA, re-up prescriptions, disinfect doorknobs—it helps me feel a little more human in the midst of chaos. And now that my husband is back to normal, the calendar has also helped me divide our household tasks between us and avoid petty fights about cleaning or cooking. 

My calendar features three sections, each one tuned into our different home life priorities right now:

Organizing Our Food Supply and Meal Plans

The first tasks I added to the calendar were food-related. Every Thursday, I do a grocery inventory at home and check for what we need to re-stock (cleaning supplies, medications, groceries, office supplies, dog and cat food, and if we’re honest, snacks). If you’re trying this at home, my tip is to pick your food inventory day based on your workload; for example, for me, Thursdays are a lighter meeting day.

Then also on Thursday after the grocery inventory, I set appointments to remind me to buy any retail essentials online, place my curbside pickup order with our neighborhood market, and order a loaf of sourdough bread from a local baker. Plus, since I’m already going to be out, we use this day as take-out day. I call in the morning to place my take-out order with our restaurant of choice and pick it up following the market that evening. All of this is documented on the calendar so I don’t have to dedicate mental space to it.

Keeping Busy With Low-Touch Home Projects

My schedule is still divided into work days and weekend days. And while our weekends aren’t filled with friend hangouts anymore, I still wanted to feel slightly productive over the weekend. So the second addition to the Quarantine Google Calendar was scheduling a series of small weekend projects that could be tackled without running to the store.

We don’t have any major home projects going at this time since we finished a kitchen renovation in January, but we do have a bunch of small organizational tasks that need to be tackled. To create my project calendar, I walked around the house and jotted down everything that needed attention. The list includes:

  • Spring cleaning the closet
  • Painting the stain on our bedroom ceiling 
  • Shredding the stack of papers next to the shredder 
  • Organizing travel photos within Google Drive 
  • Organizing the hallway closet, including inspecting any old bedsheets
  • Ordering mulch and spreading it around the backyard 
  • Hanging pictures in the hallway 
  • Organizing file cabinets
  • Patching holes on the wall

These are not earth-shattering projects by any means, but they are tasks that we think about and then often forget because they’re not a top priority. Aside from the backyard materials, which I ordered for delivery from Home Depot, I had most of the elements to finish up my home projects already at home.

After I made a list, I added one task per Saturday to the calendar. This allows me to relax still but feel accomplished by the end of the day. It also doesn’t put pressure on me if I don’t feel too energized that day.

On Sundays, I added routine cleaning chores—the same small list of things I like to do once a week. I disinfect the whole house, vacuum, change bedsheets, and get my mail from the mailbox. Since we’re being more mindful of germs and we don’t get a ton of mail, I only get the mail once a week now. (Our mailbox is plenty big enough to handle it, so our mail carrier doesn’t have to struggle or touch the old mail at all.)

Remembering to Stay Active & Connected

The last section of my calendar is the most simple and straightforward, keeping me on top of my activity goals by designating the day for either a socially-distanced one-mile walk around the neighborhood or an app-assisted at-home workout. On workout day, I use the Peloton app for yoga or cardio classes and Chromecast the class to my TV in the living room. I also add Zoom happy hours with friends to my quarantine calendar as I schedule them.

As a final tip: I’m not always on my computer or phone, so I’ve added our quarantine Google Calendar to Alexa for reminders. No matter what I’m doing around the house, Alexa reminds me of what’s next if I ask her.

In a way, this quarantine calendar helps me free up brain space and keep my emotional bandwidth a little more flexible since I’m not worrying about things like when I last disinfected. The routine of knowing what task comes next doesn’t remove the stress of living in the time of a pandemic, but it does make it a little more bearable.