It Took a Pandemic for Me to Finish Chores on My To-Do List

I binge-watched 'Tiger King' and then got to work

illustration of a woman with her long to-do list for her home

The Spruce / Hilary Allison 

Ever look at the pile of to-do projects around your house and think, “What’s it going to take to for me to get that done?” For me, it took a pandemic.

I live in Seattle, and on March 23, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee issued a stay-at-home order to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Stores, restaurants, and gyms closed. Plans were canceled. Kids were already staying home from school. Life slowed down . . . way down. 

After binge-watching Tiger King for a few days (OK, who didn’t?), I needed to get off the couch and get to work. It was “no excuses” time. I pulled out a legal-size notepad and made a list of all the things around the house that needed to be done.

I had 22 items, so this slacker got busy.

Getting the Job(s) Done

I didn’t work down the list in order. I started with simple projects, like rewiring an old lava lamp that my mother had given me. I’m not particularly handy, but I ordered the parts online, made sure to remember how it looked when I disassembled it, and put it back together the exact same way. It worked! For an entire $8.99 plus shipping and handling, that old treasure got a new life. 

Home improvement stores were deemed essential services in Washington state, but I was too wary of our new world to venture out of the house. I continued to order supplies online and each day delivered a new project to my door. 

Touch-up paint and trim? I already had the leftover paint in the garage, so I only had to buy the brushes and rollers. This was easily under $20. Done! Plant grass in the yard’s bald spots? Another under-$20 task, and dunzo! All of this was actually kinda fun, so I was determined to keep going full speed ahead.

Some tasks didn’t require any purchase, such as filling in the holes that my dogs had dug in the backyard or washing the blinds and windows—inside and out. I stripped and waxed the kitchen floor (a rare event), scraped moss off the outside stairs and patio, and sanded and painted the bathroom vanity. I was stuck at home and couldn’t go to the gym, but it felt great to be physically active and get that mental boost of accomplishment. 

You’d be surprised at what you may already have on hand to do the job. The aforementioned paint, for example. This saved me a trip, was already a perfect match, and it got rid of those bothersome paint cans in the garage (that mysteriously seem to multiply on their own).

I had help in the form of my old roommate Gerry, who did a lot of the outdoor heavy lifting. He’s the one who got up on a teetering ladder and trimmed trees. Gerry brought over his pressure washer, cleaned the gunk off the fence, and sealed it with waterproofing stain. I sat on the front porch after work and we chatted and laughed from a good 15-foot distance as he dug new water wells around the trees. It felt good to have that human interaction—and not think about COVID-19 for a while. 

This wasn’t on my list, but I cleaned out the garage and set things out on the curb with a “FREE” sign. Success! Nearly everything was scooped up in one afternoon, but I’m still stuck with a 7-foot artificial Christmas tree (which tells me a basement clean-out and another free pile needs to happen in late November). 

A Few Bumps in the Road

Not every project went smoothly. I never thought I’d be writing the words “restore squirrel,” but there I was, fingers coated with Gorilla Glue trying to piece together a vintage concrete squirrel lawn decoration that had broken into about 200 pieces. It was like doing a 3-D puzzle that turned out bad. Hilariously bad. 

And I’ll never use spray paint again. In spite of my best efforts to contain the spread of “Ballet Slipper” pink paint, a lot of it ended up on the ground. Yes, the metal railing around the basement stairwell looks nice now, but it took two weekends and a lot of multi-syllable swear words. That’s why I’m not going to attempt to paint those clothesline poles. Seriously, who is going to walk into the backyard and say, “Wow! Look at these clothesline poles!”

How Did I Do?

I didn’t get all 22 items scratched off my list. I wanted to take out the laundry chute in the hall closet to make more room to hang coats, but that would involve a worker being in the house with a crowbar and patch kit for a certain amount of time. I read the Centers for Disease Control’s recommendations for having in-home service and repairs done during the pandemic and decided this project could wait. 

Once I got over my fear of being in stores, I masked up and bought wood filler and tinted scratch cover to fix a few gouges in the hardwood flooring. I got discouraged when the scratch cover turned out to be the wrong shade. Oh well, that’s what throw rugs are for, right?

Restoring that cool old pink stove? Eh, it’s happy on its own in the garage for now. And did I ever figure out the sewing machine? Not yet, but there’s time to watch more YouTube videos on how to correctly wind a #@*% bobbin!

We don’t know how long the pandemic will last nor how long we’ll want to stay on self-imposed social restriction. It’s been challenging for all of us. But for me, keeping busy and having something to show for this rough time has helped my mental and physical health.

I’m making a To-Do List, Part Deux.