Smart Solutions: Small things can make a big impact at home

By Jeanine Matlow
Special to The Detroit News

Even with lifted restrictions, many local folks may spend more time at home enjoying the simple things in life and making some tweaks along the way. Here’s some feedback from two Homestyle readers who reached out to me recently before I asked if they had any tips to share.

Lorraine Boore from Livonia has been repurposing what she has on hand, from making napkin rings with a paper towel tube and adding family member’s initials on them to putting leftover rotini pasta in her homemade chili to stretch the meal a bit. She’s also growing a small vegetable garden.

When paper goods were in short supply, she took out the cloth napkins that had been tucked away in a linen closet. “They are easily washed and returned to the table. We each have our own,” says Boore who lives with her husband Ken and their daughter who has been staying with them. “I have many clean ones for backup. I wish I would have done this years earlier for cost saving and resource saving.”

Fabric napkins can replace paper varieties that may be in short supply during the pandemic.

In Oxford, Sarah Tripp Emino lives with her husband in the farmhouse her grandparents built where she also grew up. “We are so fortunate to live in the country with lots of wildlife to watch,” says Emino who enjoys daily walks.

In the beginning, the toughest adjustment was not being able to see their young grandsons up-close. “We love seeing them outside, watching them play, when they deliver groceries with their mom,” she says. “Sometimes we pick up groceries at their house and get to watch them ride their bikes.”

Knowing their visits would be less frequent; Emino started ordering treats for the grandkids online, like a box of assorted candy bars. “Even their dad liked that!” she says. “The candy became part of their movie nights.”

Though it had been several years since she’d done any sewing, Emino made face masks for family members around the country. This gave her a reason to go to the loft where she keeps her sewing machine.

Now the loft, which was mainly for visitors, has become her sewing retreat where she can listen to music and enjoy the view. She’s also rethinking her home office. “It would be the perfect place to write,” she says.

While sorting through stuff, Emino has been reviewing old farm records and projects like the renovations done by her parents when they first moved to the 1911 farmhouse in the early ‘50s. Her mother, who was a dietician, designed the kitchen remodel and she still has her original drawings.

During times like these, it helps to have a schedule if you’re retired, says Emino who worked as an attorney (her husband was a DJ). The avid reader also worked in libraries for years. Before the pandemic, she stocked up on titles from her library book sale.

Discovering what you like to do can make a difference. “My advice is to find a project that engages your brain and pursue it,” she says. “It may not be something you enjoyed last year or even last month.” Be it painting, puzzles or any other pastime, that sounds like a good suggestion.

Jeanine Matlow is a Metro Detroit interior decorator turned freelance writer specializing in stories about interior design. You can reach her at