Whether you’re self quarantining, abiding by a shelter in place order, or you just don’t have anywhere to go these days because pretty much everything has been closed or canceled, chances are you suddenly have a lot of time on your hands and are stuck at home.
If your job doesn’t enable you to work from home, you might be wondering what the heck you should be doing with yourself.
You may be feeling the restriction of not being allowed out quite sharply. My advice is to try to think of it less as a restriction and more of an opportunity you don’t get often to restructure your time.
Here’s my list of 30 ways you can utilize your newfound free time!
1. Clean your entire house – deeply!
One of the first and most obvious ways you can use your time at home is to clean – more deeply than you ever have!
I know when my schedule is busy, cleaning can get shortchanged. A quick tidying up or wipe down wins out over a thorough scrub down. Now would be a great opportunity to actually take the time to pull everything out and clean it WELL with cleaning solutions and everything 🙂
You really can feel the difference being in a space that has been deep cleaned versus one that has been cleaned half-heartedly.
A clean space goes a LOOONG way in making us feel happy in our home environment!
Also, deep cleaning your home now during quarantine or sheltering in place is a smart idea for health reasons. Doing a deep clean will help protect you just in case something in your space has been contaminated, and will give you peace of mind either way.
2. Reach out to family and friends that you never get around to.
If you’re under a shelter in place order or are being quarantined, you can’t meet your friends at the bar for happy hour, or go out to dinner with family, or go visit your grandparents.
So now is the time to call or write letters or emails.
I’ve been meaning to write an old friend a letter. I’ve been meaning to write a new friend an email to check in. I haven’t done either because they just get repeatedly placed on the rolling “I can do that later” list, AKA the list where tasks go to die.
Now that you HAVE time, take the time to reach out to people. I promise they will really appreciate it.
3. Send postcards if you have some saved up to pretend to travel
If you’re like me, you may have a small postcard collection accumulating somewhere in your home.
I know I love to look at old postcards in used book stores, and I almost always walk out with at least two.
Since traveling isn’t really a thing right now, you could send a few of your collected postcards to people and pretend to travel.
I know it’s not nearly as thrilling as the real thing, but it’s the best you can do at the moment with non-essential travel being banned. Besides, you didn’t actually travel to those places to get those postcards anyway, so it doesn’t really matter that you’re pretending to send them from that place while you’re actually sitting at home.
As I mentioned in #2, now more than ever, I think friends and family will really appreciate receiving correspondence from you.
4. Reorganize everything
If you’re like me, you might have a closet somewhere in your house full of stuff that you tell yourself you’ll get around to organizing “at some point”.
We’re at that point now.
Particularly if you are not working at the moment, there’s no reason not to do those kinds of things now. You’d be amazed at how much energy it actually takes out of us to know in the back of our minds at all times that there are tasks waiting for us to do.
Imagine the relief you’ll feel when instead of seeing the closet full of stuff or pile of stuff that has been waiting to be put away for over a year and you’ve just gotten used to the ugly sight of, you see empty, clean space and a reminder that you don’t have to worry about that task anymore.
5. Write something
Whether it’s a short story, poem, screenplay, etc., now is a good time to do some creative writing. Creativity is a good, positive energy to get flowing at a time when everything can feel very negative and unsettling.
6. Keep a journal
Along the same lines, start a journal if that’s something you’ve always thought about doing but haven’t had the time for.
I’m a big fan of the Happiness Journal by Gretchen Rubin. I’ve always kicked myself for not being better about keeping a journal. I’ve never been able to remain diligent about it, and so far this is the only method that has worked for me.
There’s only space for about three sentences per day, depending on the size of your handwriting, so being selective about what is worth recording and being concise is key.
Keeping a journal is very rewarding on its own, but you’ll also create a treasure to share with your kids and grandkids if you start a journal now and they want to know what it was like when the whole world was in the grips of a global pandemic.
7. Read a book with your family
There are lots of great books out there that lend themselves to reading aloud and that the whole family would enjoy, or you and your partner can enjoy, etc. (whoever you happen to be cooped up with).
My family and I just selected The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James, and our goal is to read 1 chapter a night. It’s nice to enjoy a simple pleasure like reading with the family, especially because it’s an activity that doesn’t require any digital nonsense.
8. Learn something new – read blogs
Obviously now is a perfect time, especially if you’re not working at the moment, to read all those blog posts you’ve bookmarked to return to read later when you have free time! If you’re supposed to be working from home, they may still have to wait until the evening, when you might otherwise be going out to meet friends for happy hour. Feed your mind.
9. Create a budget and track your spending
This is another thing I’m always thinking about doing but don’t get around to sitting down and hammering out. It can take a lot of time to comb through your bank statements or card transactions to see what categories you’ve been spending on (or overspending), but now you have extra time!
10. Plan your next big trip
This one is really fun! As of right now, travel is severely limited, but that doesn’t mean you can’t plan for when travel bans lift!
Planning for a trip is one of the most exciting things to do, in my opinion, and you can take a trip in your mind before you actually leave your house.
Obviously it wouldn’t make sense to plan the details of your flights, etc. but you can figure out where you want to go, which places you want to see that are within the same region, research attractions and sites, and make an itinerary.
You could even look at lodgings – it might be premature right now to book an airbnb, but you can bet that as soon as travel restrictions lift, people will be booking things fast, so you’ll have a jump on everyone if you already know the exact place you want to book and can book it while everyone else is still searching!
11. Take a hike if you’re allowed to.
If the restrictions in your area allow for it and you aren’t sick, make sure you’re getting outside for fresh air. It’s easy to underestimate how important this is for physical and mental health! Find a beautiful open air area to take a hike or a walk in.
Make sure to keep up to date on the mandates in your area, but as far as I understand, a shelter in place order doesn’t restrict people from hiking or walking because local authorities understand the need for fresh air and nature in order for people to feel well.
12. Study up on a language
I am ALWAYS finding reasons to brush up on my Spanish “later”.
Hah. Yeah, right.
Now’s the time to implement a new study schedule! I’m sure if you’re stuck at home you could fit in a half hour a day a few days a week of language study into your schedule, and it’s a really rewarding and mentally stimulating activity.
You can also use it as an excuse to set up a recurring video or phone chat with a friend who speaks or is learning the same language.
workout videos at home or yoga
13. Move. Your. Body.
It’s super important to maintain some kind of physical activity. As I mentioned above, I highly recommend getting outside when you can, but you can also do workouts at home! My next post will be a roundup of some my favorite home workout and yoga videos – I’ll link it here when it’s posted!
Also, don’t forget to stretch!
Part and parcel with the workouts, but especially important if you’re sitting on your couch all day or at your table working from home (or hardly working from home). Shelter in place doesn’t mean don’t get off the couch for two weeks!
14. Read books you’ve been meaning to for the last 5 years
If you’re anything like me, you probably have about a bajillion books on your shelf, in your closet, in the trunk of your car, under your bed, and in random stacks around the house.
Wait, is that just me?
Chances are you probably haven’t gotten around to reading all the books on your shelf.
I know I have about 10 books I have copies of and have been “seriously considering” reading any time now for the last 5 years.
Just do it already! Having to shelter in place is the perfect excuse to let yourself do some leisure reading.
15. Cook and bake new things
Have you been wanting to try out some new recipes lately? Have two or three (or 50) blog posts saved with tantalizing flavors waiting to whisk you away (as soon as you get around to them)? Do it now!
Shelter in place and devour cookies.
16. Craft projects
This one may or may not be possible for you, since craft supply stores may be closed in your area, but if you already have a bunch of craft materials, like extra fabric for a sewing project, yarn for knitting, or supplies to make books or other things, now would be a great time to get your craft on! Nothing excites me quite like a good crafting project.
17. Listen to records
If you have a record collection, give some records a spin. You can shelter in place and CHILL 🙂
It can be easy not to listen to many records if you’re usually really busy, because they obviously require you to actually sit in your living room and listen to the albums instead of putting spotify on in your car or your earbuds. It’s a really nice way to be in your space.
18. Virtual hangouts with friends
Just because a shelter in place order is keeping you from seeing your friends in person doesn’t mean you can’t hang out! It’s 2020, after all.
You can still see them face (to screen to screen) to face!
I just had a happy hour hang out on Google Hangouts with two of my friends, and it was really comforting to see their faces and hear their voices. Whether you use Skype, Google Hangouts, Zoom, Facetime, or what have you, get face to face with people even from afar.
19. Cloud-gazing out the window
This one is a bit old fashioned, but just enjoy looking out the window if you can. You can watch the clouds, watch the birds outside, or enjoy the feeling of the sunshine on you. If you can’t just sit there because you get stir crazy, read a book by the window or look out the window while you talk to someone.
20. Spa day!
Give yourself a manicure of pedicure, give yourself a hair treatment, a facial, or anything you can think of that will make you feel pampered that you don’t usually take the time to do.
There are tons of DIY home spa recipes out there that you can make with very common ingredients. Try a few out!
You could also combine a spa day with a virtual hang out with friends!
21. Create an obstacle course for your pet
Some people may say this one is a waste of time, but I say it’s well worth the entertainment value, not to mention the health benefits to your pet, who may be in dire need of exercise. Also, there’s the potential for instantaneous YouTube fame. Seems like a no-brainer to me.
22. Do a puzzle
I love puzzles! But usually it’s hard to justify taking the time to sit down and do one, unless its a holiday and I’m in the mode of not doing anything but loaf around anyway. Now I can add global pandemics to the list of times when it’s acceptable to do something as “non-productive” as a puzzle.
23. Practice an instrument
Much like practicing Spanish, practicing my guitar is something I never seem to be able to find structured and consistent time for. Now is a good time!
Try to get in at least 30 minutes of practice a few days a week. I’m guessing that will be an improvement upon the two times you’ve pulled your instrument out in the last year… 🙂
No judgment! I’m definitely guilty of that.
24. Focus on your side business
I’m trying to utilize this time as much as I can to focus on my blog and build it into a real business. My other forms of work have been suspended until further notice, so I might as well just go all in and see if I can’t get some lift off.
If you’ve been trying to start an online business on the side or have thought about doing so, now would be a great time to to it!
I used this blogging course from Alex and Lauren at Create and Go, which is how I set up my whole site.
Actually, to be be completely honest, this course is a lot better now than when I took it! They combined two courses into one – Launch Your Blog and Make Money Blogging for Beginners – so you get two in one!
I’m not technical at all, so it was super helpful to have step by step instructions for WordPress and getting your blog idea together. I can’t recommend them enough!
I also used their Pinterest Traffic Avalanche course after I got started, which has really boosted my traffic!
I must confess, I am a master procrasinator, so having a shelter in place order in effect has been helping to FORCE me to work on my blog more, which I need! You should take advantage too!
25. Get your taxes done early
Let’s face it – taxes are a pain in the ass.
They’re boring, confusing, and time consuming, but you’re going to have to do them at some point, so you may as well just knock ’em out while you’re stuck at home.
Then you won’t have to worry about them until next year, and the zombies will have taken over by then.
Try starting a daily meditation practice. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or take very long.
Just try to sit quietly and keep returning your thoughts to your breathing, or whatever thought you select to be your focus, anytime you notice that your mind has wandered.
(And it WILL wander – that’s the nature of our brains! Don’t judge yourself WHEN this happens to you.)
27. Take an online course
There could hardly be a better time to take an online course!
If you’re not able to work remotely, you likely need something to do.
A shelter in place order shouldn’t keep you from letting your mind explore something new.
Learning something new is so fun and very satisfying, and doing it online ensures you won’t be put at risk by being exposed to a group of people.
Take a course on one of your interests. There are thousands of courses out there.
One caveat here though – I would advise you to make sure you either already have or can easily procure any supplies you might need, which could be tricky if certain types of stores in your area are closed.
28. Put together a portfolio of your art
If you have various works of art in closets or boxes or in notebooks, etc., now could be a good time to compile them into a portfolio. Whether it’s photographs, poems, stories, drawings, or any other type of art, it’s nice to have a collection that you can show someone if you’re looking for work or applying to some kind of graduate program.
Organize your stuff now while you have time.
29. Take your time with your daily routine
Taking your time getting ready in the morning or getting ready for bed in the evening is something we don’t have the luxury of doing. If you have more time in your schedule now because of COVID-19, take advantage. It feels good to have the time to be able to do things well and have everything prepared. If you need tips on how to create a routine, check out this post.
30. Put your computer away
My final item is an ironic one. Put your computer away!
Of course I love and appreciate that you are reading my blog right now, and I want you to come back!
But with a shelter in place order in effect, now is a time when it is incredibly easy to find yourself spending too much time behind a screen. Make sure you are setting aside some device-free time to go take a walk, take a nap, cook something, read a book, do a puzzle, clean, or SOMETHING that doesn’t involve you staring at a screen for hours.
Then after your break from technology come back and see me here at Cultivate Happiness Now! I’ll have missed you.
That’s all I’ve got for now. Keep calm and carry on.
I know that phrase has been borrowed from WWII era and re-purposed into all kinds of silly mugs and throw pillows having to do with everything from coffee to bitcoin to pugs, but now more than ever it seems an appropriate time to revive the phrase.
Resist the urge to get too COVID crazy. The shelter in place order will pass at some point.
Now more than ever is the time to intentionally cultivate a happy outlook and environment.
Until next time.