Whether you’re social distancing or self-quarantining, there will come a point where you reach your limit of idle entertainment. You’ve watched all the Love Island episodes you can bear, you’ve streamed all the movies you’ve been meaning to watch since you first subscribed to Netflix, you’ve played all the board games you can, you’ve stared at your Twitter feed for so long you felt like your eyes were going to fall out of your head. (Not speaking from personal experience, of course.)
That gnawing, antsy feeling you have now? It could be satisfied by doing something around your house that’s actually productive: projects you can start and finish and see a tangible result. Sound good? Here are some ideas.
1. Employ the full KonMari method
You saw the memes, you watched the show, maybe you even read the book. Now, it’s time to take the gospel of Marie Kondo’s KonMari method—a tidying system in which you go through everything you own, decide which items “spark” joy, and toss the rest—to heart and give it a go for yourself. Kondo (and her many disciples) claim that doing the system once ensures you never have to again, so doing it now ensures you’ll feel organized and well-equipped for the outside world, too (that is, once you can venture out again).
2. Just organize something
Maybe you don't want to say goodbye to any of your stuff and “thank it for its service,” or perhaps you live with people who aren’t wild about deciding if those mismatched, chipped, but sentimentally valuable mugs are worth keeping. That doesn’t mean you couldn’t stand to get things in order.
Consider tackling a single organization project and using your time at home to ensure you stick with it. Start with the pantry and fridge—tossing expired food is a lot less emotionally draining than sifting through old, treasured belongings—to ensure you’re in good shape to keep cooking for yourself. (This will also help you identify anything you might be missing for your next grocery order.)
Then work your way through other parts of your living space by organizing your dresser and/or closet—which could be made easier with the assistance of closet organizers, under bed storage bins, and clothes hangers. Or try sorting important papers and files (alas, taxes may be delayed but they won't ever fully be canceled). Or tackle your garage or storage space and do your best Martha Stewart impression by labeling as many boxes and bins as you can. The point is, pick a tidying project and bask in the beauty that comes with having everything in its place.
3. Try cooking something new
Get your Julie and Julia on and turn the daily task of cooking into a fun project by choosing a cookbook and making your way through every appealing recipe in it (for which you have the ingredients). Possible options (in addition to the Julia Child’s OG Mastering the Art of French Cooking): Alison Roman’s Nothing Fancy to prep for the dinner party you’re totally going to throw once this whole thing is over, or Samin Nosrat’s Salt Fat Acid Heat to learn why the food you’re making tastes so good. You don’t have to document each meal you make with an actual blog or YouTube channel, but if you wanted to share some pictures to Instagram—possibly with a hashtag customized for the occasion—your followers can’t fault you for it.
You also don’t have to buy a cookbook to do this project. Instead, pick a food blog—Smitten Kitchen is a great option (though there’s also a great physical cookbook, too)—and see how many recipes in its archives you can get through.
Or, if cooking is appealing but you don’t want to totally DIY, try ordering a meal kit subscription service (just be patient, as shipping may be slower than usual).
4. Deep-clean your bathroom
Your bathroom is more than just a place for you to wash your hands. (Though, yes, it’s obviously a good place to do that, too—for at least 20 seconds, please!) It’s also a place where you probably have a whole lot of stuff sitting around, including but not limited to old and expired medication, bottles containing dried-up cosmetics, and toothbrushes belonging to long-gone houseguests. You get the idea. Slide on some rubber gloves and get to work on clearing out the old, unusable stuff (make sure you follow proper instructions for tossing medication) and reorder the stuff you still want to use. Once you’re done, give the whole space—including your shower—a good wipedown to ensure it’s as sparkling and sanitary as can be.
5. Go shopping in your own closet
Getting dressed for work doesn’t have the same importance when you’re commuting from your bedroom to the kitchen table. And remember getting dressed to go out? That was nice. Not to mention a casual day hitting up your favorite boutiques... If your inner fashionista is crying to come out, create new outfits with stuff you already own. Try on long-forgotten items (or, hey, everything in there). Pair pieces you rarely wear with ones in heavy rotation, mix up athletic wear and business casual wear, or take a trip down memory lane with formalwear you haven't seen in a while. You'll be ready with some new style ideas once we all emerge from isolation (or you'll at least make yourself smile in the process), and if you live with other people, you can model outfits for each other. If not—and you feel the world needs to see your Project Runway-worthy-worthy styling skills—broadcast it on an Instagram story.
And when you come across things you truly cannot abide, toss ‘em out or give them a wash and bag them up to donate or sell.
6. Unleash your creative side to the (virtual) world
If you’ve always threatened to start a podcast—or write a short story, start a YouTube channel, get into Soundcloud rap, learn how to cross-stitch, or create one of those Instagram accounts where American Girl Dolls wear modern-day clothes and pantomime every episode of Vanderpump Rules—have at it! Not only are you (presumably) bored out of your skull, but everyone else you know is, too. This means engagement levels with your content are probably as high as they’re ever going to be—and if you get a following started now, they might just stick around.
7. Get to Inbox Zero
Some things are good to have in excess. Emails in your inbox are not. If your digital mailbox runneth over, take the time now to tackle it head-on. Unsubscribe from email lists you don’t even remember signing up for, delete old emails from those marketing lists you never got around to opening, and finally respond to those emails you’ve been putting off for weeks.
You can expand this digital cleansing to social media and software: Unfollow or mute accounts that make you roll your eyes when they come up in your feed. Delete phone apps you never use. Finally clear off your computer’s desktop of all the random files you’ve downloaded in the last year (or five). Basically, declutter your electronics to make using them a more relaxing and productive experience.
8. Get your yard ready for spring
If you have a yard, now is the time to do some DIY landscaping. Start aerating, weeding, and watering (but not too much). If you have a lawn mower, get going on that, too. Moving around in the fresh air and cultivating new life from the earth will help you feel better about the general state of things, no matter what’s going on.
9. Make your own fancy treat
Perhaps your former life (last week) involved an afternoon break in which you’d get up from your desk and swing by a shop to pick up a kombucha or latte. You can still take a break—and even go outdoors!—but it may be more difficult to grab a (technically) non-essential item like your beloved ‘booch or java. But you can replicate either experience with an at-home kombucha brewing kit, which we tested and loved, or our favorite espresso machines or milk frothers, which can help you build up the barista skills you’ve always suspected you had.
This isn’t limited to kombucha and lattes. If your favorite outside-world treat is a cookie from your local bakery or a pasta dish from a restaurant you like, check out their social media pages to see if they’ve presented ways to have it delivered or make it at home (or have an email address for you to ask them about it). This will give you a project with a tasty reward—and something to look forward to when it’s over.
10. Learn a new language
Overseas travel isn’t happening right now. But you can prepare for the day it does—or pick up a new skill—by learning a new language through an app. Duolingo is a free, trendy and endlessly memeable option, with games that help you learn new vocab words and daily reminders to log in and get them done. For a classic, try Rosetta Stone’s app, which provides daily 10-minute lessons and real-time pronunciation feedback for $5.99 a month. It also has a free trial period, so you can see if you like it before committing. With either option, daydreaming of your future trip to Paris is certainly a way to infuse some joie de vivre in your life right now.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.