Self-isolation has become our new normal, and it’s something that we’re all navigating — some with more challenges than others. It’s changing our relationships to ourselves, our families and our homes.
For tips on how to survive and practice self-care during the stay-at-home order, we turned to Moorea Seal, the local boutique owner and author of the “52 Lists” journaling series and home-design book “Make Yourself At Home.”
Seal’s own sense of home has completely changed recently. “I’ve been contemplating home and stability quite bit,” she says. “Not only in my career and as an author, but also as a person.” Seal separated from her husband a month ago and is currently staying in an Airbnb.
And now, after closing her storefront and pausing online orders, she’s leaning into this transformative period by focusing on writing and other hobbies. Here, we asked her how she’s staying motivated and creating a sense of home in these uncertain times.
Q: What has been the hardest part about being home during this time, and what’s been a good solution to those challenges?
A: The hardest thing about being home for me is having to reestablish my sense of what is home. It’s a time for me to realize, “What are my core needs?” For me that has been light. Light has been the most important thing for me. I decided to move the bed into the living room and put it directly next to the floor-to-ceiling windows that I have, so that way I can wake up to light and I can go to sleep feeling connected to the outdoors.
Q: Have you discovered any good surprises while spending time in?
A: I essentially turned the bedroom into a music studio. I haven’t written music in about 10 years, but music was a huge part of my life until it got overtaken by a retail business and authorship, so I’m coming back to that. I am an avid karaoke-er. I bought a karaoke-at-home mic that I can plug into an amp. I go on YouTube and look up karaoke songs and sing them. I also went and grabbed all my old journals and scrapbooks and things from my childhood. It’s a way to feel connected to other people and myself.
Q: What are some strategies you have, or that you’re hearing from friends and family, that can help with adjusting to being at home with others?
A: For families and couples at home, it’s important to get your own physical space and be honest with one another and say, “I need one hour by myself.” Now’s the time to get brutally honest with communication. That means a lot of us are having to build new routines for ourselves, which can be discomforting. It’s OK to take time to yourself and then come back, to make bonding time more intentional. That’s literally why I wrote “52 Lists for Togetherness.”
Q: For your friends and family members you’ve been in contact with, and for yourself, what’s a good thing to do at home to get that needed time to disconnect?
A: We should all be taking a bath or shower every day. If we’re stuck inside, we need to remember that nature does come into our house — and water is a part of nature, and we get to be in that physical space with nature and savor it. For me, as a single person, I’m needing to develop a new relationship with bed. I could just stay in bed this whole time, but I need to make sure I have time away from my bed — so it doesn’t become a spot where I weep all day, but a spot where I get to rest, recline and find comfort.
Q: What are some good ways to create a home-spa experience?
A: I really miss being able to sit in a bath. There is a brand called GeoCentral and they have some Himalayan salt crystals that they sell in large chunks. I take those and line them around my shower; they make me feel like my shower’s fancy. I definitely went on a facemask binge and bought a bunch from Target. I’m going to build a new routine for myself by doing a facemask every night. Now’s also a great time to do an exfoliating foot peel. There’s a brand called Baby Foot. You put these little booties on your feet and leave them on for an hour and then, over the next two weeks, your feet will peel off all of the grossness. If there was ever a time for a foot peel — you’re not leaving the house, you don’t need to be cute for anybody — do it now.
Q: What are some helpful, long-term house projects people can do a day at a time?
A: First, start with a deep clean of your house. Second, go through your closet and say, “What do I really want? What do I really need or use?” It’s a great time to redesign your closet. You could create a section of things that bring you joy, and you can create a section that brings you comfort. You can use that reorganizing to focus on your mood rather than your needs for getting dressed up. If you have something like a bannister in your house you’ve been thinking about painting forever, now’s the time to do the really detailed, boring painting projects. If you have storage space in your house, put a lot of things away so that your space feels fresh and clean and open. People can think of this as a time to rid themselves of the stuff they don’t need. Get back to basics and think about what brings you meaning in your home. (As for a place to donate all those items? Seal recommends Treehouse and Youth Care).
Q: Do you have any quick decorating or tidying fixes that can instantly improve a space?
A: Start with clearing space, so you can see what you’re left with when it’s as bare as possible. Then bring back out the things that you think matter most. That’s my guitar for sure, a photo that I have of my grandmother and her whole family, a piece of art with my Tibetan name, which was given to me by a Buddhist monk when I was 12, a photo of me and my dad when I was young. I have a couple of books on the counter that I don’t read often, but when I look at them they remind me of who I am and what matters to me. Also, right now, I want nothing but candles — little flickers around my space at all times. I just bought some candles called Lightli, and they are flameless LED candles. To see that little flickering light and know it’s not going to burn my house down is really comforting.
Q: What are some ways you use your home to maintain your physical and mental health during this time?
A: A lot of people are emotionally worn out from processing what’s going on, and we need various types of ways to release emotions in a healthy way. I realized I need to have some movement that’s not going to take up a ton of space, so I brought over my exercise hula hoop, and that’s been a fun way to get some movement. The living room is the only space big enough to exercise, and it’s nice to be near a window.
I’ve also been walking up and down the hallway doing boxing moves — punching, punching, kicking, kicking, back and forth — and I think that’s been helpful for getting out pent-up aggression and anxiety. Also, if you’re stuck with your family, get everyone together and have some fun with releasing aggression, but make it fun and silly. That can turn pent-up anger into something playful and productive.
Q: How has self-isolation changed your relationship to the kitchen and cooking?
A: What I’m going through right now, which I think a lot of people are going through, is, “Oh crap, I need to learn how to cook.” I’m a treat system person. I stocked up on a ton of treats and said, “Moorea, if you can practice making meals, you will win one treat every time.” It’s silly, but it’s helped get me motivated to make meals. I’m going to start with baking. I want to start from the basics — start with a pound cake and move into different levels of skill. My favorite treat is Cadbury’s Caramello bars. I like to eat them in bed, because now my bed’s in front of my TV.
Q: What are some creative ways to add some atmosphere to your home for video chatting sessions with friends and family?
A: There’s a lot of fun that can be had with video chatting. I’ve been taking people on tours of my Airbnb and showing them different ways I’m rearranging. It’s a fun way to show your family things that you’ve physically worked on in your space and it will make you feel motivated to keep doing stuff. If there are certain people that you chat with daily, try and chat with them in a different spot around your house every time. Make it as funny and creative as possible. You can even rearrange your space. There’s also an app that’s going to be really blowing up called Houseparty. It’s an app where you can play games with people while you chat and you can add in tons of people at once, so that’s been my go-to. If people want to add me on there, I’m Moorea Seal on Houseparty.
Q: What other things have you found, not mentioned above, that have helped you at home?
A: I’m trying to use my own “52 Lists” books, not only as something decorative in my space, but also as something I can use that’ll make me feel really good. I’ve stacked up all my books and put them on the table next to my bed. Every time I look in that direction, there are tools there for me to use. I’m really hoping they can be resources for people who feel trapped inside but realize there’s more to explore in their interior worlds. Also, if people need cheap directions on how to make themselves [feel] at home, I wrote a book on it (“Make Yourself at Home”). It encourages people to get creative with what they have, to find affordable ways to update and change their homes, and affordable DIYs.
Q: What’s next for you?
A: My next book that comes out in the fall is “52 Lists for Bravery.” I definitely think that bravery is what we’re all needing next and it’s available for pre-order on Amazon. I also have another planner coming out in July, and I’m going to do some videos of how I’m using a planner while trapped at home to feel more grounded.