If it requires a trip to a home improvement warehouse store, it needs to wait.
I totally understand how frustrating that is. Like you, when I first heard how long we would be confined to our home, I planned on taking advantage of my husband’s reduced hours to knock out some of the projects we’d put on the back burner.
I wasn’t planning a shopping spree or anything, but I figured when we ran out for groceries, I could send my husband into a home improvement store to grab just what we needed for one project at a time. We could still limit ourselves to one trip per week as recommended. We’d stay in our own home the rest of the time.
That would be responsible, right?
Turns out, I was wrong.
Trips to the home improvement store are actually not essential for most of us, most of the time.
I know this feels like the perfect time. I have a mile-long list of projects we keep meaning to get around to doing. There are three outdoor light fixtures on the front of my house that I’ve wanted to replace for two years. My husband has been promising to paint our sons’ bedroom since one of them colored on the wall six months ago.
We are halfway through a kitchen remodel. My kitchen functions as-is, but I am dying to see the gorgeous tile backsplash I have planned.
As much as I wish it could be, now is not the time. We all have to forego non-essential trips for a while. Even those of us who are really, really desperate to see how the tile will look with our new countertops.
Part of the reason I thought this would be okay was because I thought the stores would be close to empty. I was so disappointed when I realized how crowded home improvement stores still are, even in the midst of this pandemic.
Last weekend, I found out firsthand.
I knew my kitchen and my paint and my porch chandelier weren’t essential. I gave up on those weeks ago. But when my husband pulled our lawnmower out of the shed for the first time this season to find that the belt needed to be replaced, I thought that might be important enough to warrant a visit to the store. We have little kids and a dog, and they need a safe place to play outside. I thought I could just send my man quickly into the store to grab the part while the kids and I waited in the car for a change of scenery. “A store that doesn’t sell food will be a ghost town,” I thought.
I was totally wrong. The store was packed! The parking lot at our local branch was as full as a normal Saturday. People were walking in and out in close proximity, laughing, stopping to look at things.
Did nobody get the memo about this global freaking health crisis!? We have to do better as a species, y’all.
Needless to say, we did not go inside. My husband ordered the part instead. We are still waiting for it be delivered, and our grass is knee high on our preschooler. But it’s better for our grass to be too tall for an extra week than it is to ignore the guidelines for helping to keep COVID-19 from overwhelming our healthcare system.
We could have thrown caution to the wind and played the odds. My family is comprised of young, healthy people. COVID-19 might pass through our family without incident — but it might not. Nobody is invincible.
We have to go out for food and my husband has to work, so we can’t eliminate every single risk. But it’s irresponsible and completely selfish for anyone — even a young family like mine — to even consider putting ourselves at risk for something like a lawnmower belt.
We also need to leave those stores accessible to people who can’t avoid shopping there. The world hasn’t truly stopped due to this virus. Some people have to be brave and do their best to safely carry out their essential duties. The rest of us have a duty to step aside right now and make it safer for essential workers to get in and quickly out of stores that carry the things they need to do their jobs.
It’s even more important in my local area. Tornadoes ripped through our town just a month ago, shortly before the rest of our lives changed drastically because of COVID-19. Hundreds of people lost their houses, and they can’t find shelter in the place they called home. They are displaced and their lives are upended. Many of them are now facing the prospect of job changes and financial uncertainty, too. They have to continue to attempt to rebuild their homes and their lives in the midst of this additional crisis.
The construction crews need supplies to make that happen. They need us to step aside and make sure they can get their materials without fighting a crowd.
Of course, there are exceptions. Use good judgement. I’m not suggesting that if your refrigerator stops working, you forego safe food storage. If your pipes burst, you’re going to need to run out and get the supplies to repair the leak. Some trips are completely essential. Those are still okay. Keep them short, wash your hands, wear a mask, and practice safe distancing. Keep an eye on the latest guidelines and follow them — but get what you need.
But if you’re just itching to complete your backsplash (like me), plant some flowers, or transform your master bedroom in the Midwest into a seaside oasis with a coat of paint in a shade with a name like “Honolulu Breeze,” you need to just … not.
Your home improvement project can, and should, wait. It’s time to hunker down, venturing out only for work, food, and emergencies, and do your part to flatten the curve.
Millions of lives depend on it.
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