I noticed some changes this week as we’ve been Sheltering in Place for a month. At the beginning, we felt paralyzed. “I always wanted time to clean out the junk drawer and get rid of some old clothes in my closet, but now that I have it, I can’t find any motivation.”

That was my story, too. I had a few shelves in the kitchen that were badly in need of organizing but I just couldn’t start – until this last week. I sat on the floor with the contents of the shelves strewn around and I was looking at “a thousand light bulbs” that were so old, they were virtually useless. I use energy saving bulbs now, but I never got rid of the old ones that were blue and red, rounded with thick stems and they came in strange shapes and sizes. It took me all of 20 minutes to sort through them and pack the old ones in a cardboard box, ready for the trash. I felt a rush of joy, I know that Marie Kondo, organizer extraordinaire, would be proud of me. But why had I waited so long?

It seemed that friends started doing similar things this last week. They were finally doing loads of laundry, cleaning out closets, the area under the sink, storage places and tossing old makeup. I’ve come to the conclusion that when we were initially asked to stay home, we went into shock. A kind of lethargy set in when we had to give up our routines, our daily schedules and habits, and face a new kind of existence. It took some doing, about three weeks for most of us to come out the other side as we have come to accept that there is no expiration date on our sheltering.

We are creatures of habit, not necessarily a bad thing, and it isn’t easy to accept a different kind of life. No more book club meetings, trying a new restaurant, going to the movies and going to work. I work at home so that wasn’t so different. But I was used to going out in the afternoons to sit with friends at my local knitting store, going grocery shopping and going to restaurants.

Nowadays, we find books and TV shows that take us to new places and distract us from the “new normal,” (I call it the “new abnormal,”) and we amp up our creative projects. Settling into a new routine isn’t easy but it isn’t a choice. It’s a must. We have to learn how to be comfortable ourselves for long periods of time if we live alone. If we live with someone else, we have to learn how to be compassionate and tolerant of our partners.

Creating a new and healthy routine helps me feel less vulnerable. I write in the mornings like I always did but now I can’t rely on my trainer to motivate me to work out. Instead, a friend and I call each other at a designated time and say, “Start now.” We hang up the phones, put on music and we work out for an hour, something I might not do if I couldn’t call him. After I exercise, I call around to see how friends are doing. We can be a great support for others when they need it and when we need it, we can get the same support.

The days just seem to pass. There are tons of podcasts, exercise classes and suggestions online if you can’t find ways to fill in your time. Mostly, it’s about making friends with ourselves and I wouldn’t be surprised if we miss this time when it ends. It will end so let’s be as present as possible and make the most of it. What does your new routine look like?