What Are You Waiting For?
As states and cities begin to ease restrictions on social isolation and public activities, many Americans are looking forward to returning to the everyday activities the Covid-19 pandemic put a stop to. But there are days (if not weeks) remaining of staying close to home, which means it’s time to tackle some of those items on your to-do list that you’ve somehow managed to avoid completing. Don’t fret; we’ve done the hard work and put together a list of projects, pastimes, and pursuits to keep you and your family engaged and entertained. Get to it!
Related: Ways to Help During the Coronavirus Crisis in All 50 States
Tune Into Meditation
It seems simple enough — so simple, in fact, you probably aren’t doing it, or got bored when you did. Given that meditation can reduce anxiety and promote emotional health, it’s a skill that just might help you through the uncertain days ahead.
Related: I Started Meditating, and This Is What Happened
Write It All Down
Remember how you used to ask your grandparents and parents what it was like during the Great Depression, World War II, 9/11, or any other time of crisis? Well, you’re living through history now. Before you start forgetting what it was like in those early days of self-quarantine and social isolation, write down a few of your strongest memories in a journal. Some day, you can share these memories with future generations… or just look back yourself and reflect on those trying times.
Teach Yourself to Sew a Face Mask
With premade face masks impossible to find, homemade masks are a must for going out. You could improvise one quickly from a bandana or T-shirt, but a sewn mask is more durable. If you own a sewing machine and have an old pillowcase or flat bedsheet, you can sew a mask in an hour or two with little or no experience. There are tons of tutorials online, some easier than others for a newbie to follow. Some of our crafty staff members have success with this one and this mask pattern.
Related: 20 Small Things You Can Do to Make a Big Difference in the Pandemic
Make Your Garden Grow
Indoors or outside, plants are good for your physical and mental well-being. If you have a yard, now’s the time to get flower beds and vegetable gardens in shape. Build a raised-bed planter. Add fresh mulch to landscaping. Or just find a hardy houseplant to give your space some greenery. Spider plants, snake plants, pothos, and jade plants are all easy to care for, and stores such as Home Depot will even deliver them to your door.
Related: 22 Tips to Keep Gardening Dirt Cheap
Learn New Job-Related Skills
The workplace you return to might be drastically different than the one you left, so don’t let this idle time go to waste. Seek out professional webinars, learning sites such as Lynda, and tutorials on YouTube that pertain to your field. Volunteering can be another way to gain skills. VolunteerMatch, Points of Light, and AARP are good places to start.
Reconnect (Virtually) With Friends and Family Members
Is there an aunt in another state or old high school friend that you’ve lost touch with? It may seem daunting to reignite a dormant relationship, but even just a quick text to say “hello” or a call to make sure they’re safe and healthy can help brighten their day (and yours) during a crisis.
Related: 20 Hacks and Tips for Video Chatting on Zoom, Hangouts, and More
Learn How to Bake a Loaf of French Bread
Baking bread is one of those simple tasks everyone should know how to do, yet few bother trying because it can be a (very) time-consuming process. It doesn’t have to be, as this easy French bread recipe by the legendary Craig Claiborne proves. (You can also find it in “The Essential New York Times Cookbook” by Amanda Hesser.) If you own a food processor, you make this dough in minutes with a minimum of effort.
Related: Best Cheap Bread Makers
Download Your Kids’ Playlist
Chances are that your favorite musicians are ones you discovered in high school or college, and while they may be great, chances are they’re not reflective of what your kids are listening to right now. Instead of rolling your eyes at the latest K-pop band or Taylor Swift, invite your teen or tween to share their favorite tracks with you and give them a serious, respectful listen, You might find there are more hooks than you expect.
Start or Restock an Emergency-Preparedness Kit
No one knows what the next big disaster might look like. If you don’t have a robust first-aid kit, build one or buy one. Make sure you have ready access to nonperishable food, bottled water, flashlights, a weather radio, and other supplies recommended by the Department of Homeland Security.
Dust Off That Musical Instrument or Warm Up Your Voice
We may not all be John Legend or Alicia Keys — entertaining thousands over social media — but there’s nothing preventing you from revisiting old musical hobbies. Maybe it’s time to dust off that old guitar and take a few lessons via YouTube. Or if you miss singing along to the radio during your commute, consider downloading one of the many karaoke apps available. Better yet, invite your other household members to join you for a musical session, being sure to be respectful of those who need a bit of peace and quiet to work or rest (including the neighbors). And remember, this is about using music to uplift your spirits, have fun, and decompress, not for seeking musical perfection.
Conduct a Taste Test
One of the things we love most at Cheapism is conducting taste tests of food, such as store-bought cookies, mac and cheese, non-alcoholic beer. It’s not all that hard to do, either. Just choose a favorite food or beverage, buy a half-dozen or more different varieties, then gather the family around to sip, sniff, touch, and taste their way to discovering a new favorite.
Finish Those Home Improvements
Remember when you painted the living room two years ago, but never got around to touching up all those little spots you missed? Well, now’s the time to tackle that list of home repairs and upgrades.
Related: 13 Steps to Painting a Room Like a Pro
Wrap Up Those Take-Home Work Projects
The days of wine and procrastination may be ending soon as stay-at-home restrictions are eased. If you have to report to work soon, it’s time to actually watch those webinars and finish those other busy-work professional development projects your boss assigned at the beginning of the lockdown. Returning to work at the start of recession is the wrong time to look like a slacker.
Cut the Cable Cord Once and For All
You can view all (or much) of your favorite cable programming without paying for the whole cable lineup by using a streaming media player from Roku, Google, or Amazon, or a set-top box such as Apple TV. Without a cable subscription, monthly entertainment costs can dip to about $10 a month, and there is still plenty to watch.
Master an Instagram Trend …
You have a lot of time to surf the web. Chances are good you’ve seen the latest coffee-to-make-at-home trend, the latest dance (too many to mention), or the latest way to wear something you might remember from the ’80s. Pick something that looks fun and recreate it, adding the results to your own social media feed. If you have kids at home, they may be amused (or mortified), but it is sure to be memorable.
… And That TikTok Dance
Back in the day it was called the running man, but now it’s shuffling (potato, potahto). Mastering a dance move can be so consuming you may not even realize you’re exercising. Best of all, it doesn’t require equipment or a lot of space.
Update Your Dating Profile
If you’re an online dater, these may be solitary times, but once pandemic limitations are lifted, there will likely be a lot of people out there like yourself with the need to connect with others. This is a good time to look at your profile and adjust it for when dating begins again, especially if you’ve learned anything about yourself while stuck alone in an apartment for weeks on end.
Related: The Safest State for Online Dating and Other Surprising Facts About Love in America
Learn How to Make a Really Good Cup of Coffee
Maybe in your rush over the years to get out the door and start your commute, you’ve settled for whatever your Keurig can spit out to fuel your morning, Now you have plenty of time to make sure that first caffeinated sip is a good one. Become a coffee snob and buy a Chemex or grab your French press to make cold brew, and splurge on some quality beans. Upgrading your equipment is an investment that will only be more valuable when you (eventually) need the pick-me-up to head back to the office.
Learn New Rules of Engagement
The world we’re returning to won’t be the same as the one we left a mere few weeks ago. New limits guidelines will abound, so use the meantime to get a clearer idea of what to expect. Consider, for example, reaching out to your doctor, dentist, and other healthcare professional to find about the new ground rules going forward.
Freshen Up Your Resume
Professional hiring expectations have changed significantly in recent years — career experts recommend keeping your resume to just one page, for instance — and nothing will kill your job chances faster than an outdated resume. Look for gaps in your skill set that you might be able to address by taking on new duties at your current job while you hunt for your next one.
Get Your Affairs in Order
Make sure you have a legally binding will where it can be found, as well as life insurance documents, and essential health care records in case you become incapacitated. If you haven’t filed a will, you can do so online with a reputable company such as LegalZoom for about $100. Make sure you have a durable power of attorney designated and that your mate knows how the household bills are handled.
Related: 20 Ways to Prepare for the Loss of a Spouse
Start a Virtual Book Club
Maybe you miss the pop-culture breakroom chatter at work. Maybe you have a stack of books on your nightstand you can’t quite commit to. Kill two birds with one stone and invite your friends to read a book, grab a glass of wine, and come together for a video conferencing call to discuss it. If you all have fun, it can be a club you can keep going after quarantine ends — and even try it in real life.
Find Out About Your Ancestry
Been meaning to find out more about your past? Pre-lockdown life was often so busy that we’d forget to do things such as order that Ancestry.com DNA kit. If you’re not keen on sharing your DNA information — or don’t want to spend the money — the National Archives has a wealth of free genealogical resources online.
Show Your Kid Favorite Movies From When You Were Their Age
After a few weeks of being cooped up at home, you’ve seen “Frozen” and possibly “Frozen II” so many times you are more than ready to let it go. Instead of revisiting (yet again) the entire 21st century Disney catalog, take the time to look up the movies you remember liking as a kid. Already done that? Find out what grandma and grandpa watched as kids, and screen those classics. It might blow your kids’ minds to know their elders weren’t always old.
Related: 26 Best Hollywood Movies About Getting Older
Dive Into Podcasts
Podcasts can be a time commitment, but they can also be richly rewarding and some of the best in-depth reporting and creative storytelling around. Plug in and walk around (and around and around) your block, and you may just feel like you got out of your neighborhood, if only virtually. You can find them via services including Apple Podcasts and Spotify, or any number of podcast best-of lists that pop up online.
Start a YouTube Channel
If you’re a creative type who happens to have free time during this pandemic, consider sharing your passion with the world. Starting a YouTube channel is free and doesn’t require fancy recording equipment. All you need is a phone or computer and some motivation to create. From movie reviews to cooking to simply documenting your daily routine, there’s someone else out there who will appreciate your content. Who knows, it could prove to be a profitable hobby.
Related: 35 Hobbies That Pay Off in Jobs
Try Grooming Your Pet Yourself
It may be a while before your dog (or cat) gets to see the groomer again. In the meantime, it could be worth giving it a try yourself. Look up YouTube videos and order supplies you might need, and give it a go — being very careful not to hurt your fur baby. Be sure to take before and after pictures.
Related: 30 Adorable Photos of Pets “Working From Home”
Learn to Make Pasta
Did you shove your pasta maker to some back corner of your cupboards? Maybe it’s time to break it out and finally figure out if you’re a pasta-making pro (or if you should go ahead and donate that thing once lockdown is over). And it doesn’t have to be a pasta-maker — it can be any culinary endeavor that was too challenging or time-consuming to try when life was normal: Make tamales. Throw some empanadas together. You get the picture.
Learn a New Language
Learning a second (or third) language can exercise parts of the brain that don’t often get flexed. The BBC has a robust site offering video courses and other resources in more than 30 languages, all of it free.
Conjure Up Some Magic
You may have no interest in performing in Las Vegas, but knowing some sleight of hand is a fun way to amuse kids or just redirect an awkward conversation at a party. It takes plenty of practice to get an illusion to look seamless, but guess what? You’ve got the time to get it right. YouTube is a great place to start; just search for “magic for beginners.”
Wash Your Car … and Some Neighbors’ Cars, Too
Time for some good clean fun this weekend, and that means knocking off the winter dirt and salt from a few vehicles. This can be done in a safely socially distant way either at home with a bucket and hose or at the local spray-wash site. If you’re lucky, a local car detail shop may pick up your vehicle and drop it off afterward.
Organize Your Pantry
If you’ve stocked up on dried pasta, beans, and various canned goods, your pantry may be looking a little cluttered. You don’t need to go full Marie Kondo, but do set aside some time to take an inventory of what you have and plan out several meals you can make using those pantry products to save an unnecessary trip to the store.
Clean Out Those Closets
Start with one simple, defined task, such as weeding out clothing the kids (or you) have outgrown, before moving onto the next chore, whether that’s putting away winter wear for the season, getting rid of odds and ends that have been stashed away, or unpacking those moving boxes you forgot about.
Related: 30 Essentials You Need to Buy to Keep Your House Organized
Move the Furniture Around
There’s a lot of sameness in our lives right now. Same people, same tasks, same surroundings. One way to shake things up and maybe feel like a little light has come into your life is to move furniture and/or household knick-knacks around, even from room to room. And when you’re done inside, give your patio furniture some attention.
Plug Into Professional Networking
If you’re lucky enough to go back to your old job, that’ll be great. If that doesn’t happen, you’ll wish you had spent this time reaching out to former work friends and references. Make phone calls, touch base on Linkedin or Facebook, or by email. Doing so will give you a leg up if your position changes or disappears.
Related: 24 Job-Hunting Tips for Workers Over 50
Compile a Real Photo Album From Your Digital Pictures
Looking at old vacation photos and party pics can be a needed reminder that we once lived bigger, more exciting lives — and we will someday again. Make an album through one of the many apps available such as Shutterfly, Costco, Blurb, or Snapfish. Find a really great photo? Put it on your wall with Mixtiles.
Clean Your Inbox
If you’re like most people, you use a free email service suh as Gmail or Outlook. But if you don’t weed out your inbox every so often (as well as sent, drafts, and every other folder), you’ll run out of space eventually. Don’t pay for extra storage space you don’t need; take an hour and clean out old and unneeded emails, and you’ll likely discover you’ve got more storage than you need.
Plan the Trip You’ve Been Putting Off
Maybe it’s a road trip back to your birthplace. Perhaps you’ve always dreamed of singing along at the Grand Ole Opry. Maybe you and a sibling have always wanted to trek from pub to pub across Ireland. No matter what it is, if we’ve learned anything during lockdown, it’s that life is precious and we shouldn’t put things off. You might not be able to do it anytime soon, but you can whet your appetite with a virtual tour of a museum, photo archive, or cultural landmark. Google Art & Culture is a great place to begin.
Related: 20 Zoo and Aquarium Live Streams for a Virtual Visit With Cute Animals
Inventory Your Kitchen Drawers…
You can really clear up your cupboard and counter space by getting rid of redundant kitchen tools and keeping only the essential items. Assuming one does the dishes regularly, there’s no need for a bunch of extra spatulas, cutting boards, cutlery, plates, or cups. Consider how many you typically use in a given meal, account for times you may have guests, then pack up and donate the rest.
… And Clear Off the Countertops
Appliances that are used rarely are another source of kitchen clutter. For example, are you really using your panini maker on a regular basis? If not, consider using a pan to finish off your grilled cheese sandwiches. It’s better to invest in quality cookware you’ll use often than to crowd your cupboards with novelty appliances you hardly ever use.
Be Excellent to Each Other
These are trying times. A little patience and kindness with others — and yourself — goes a long way. Or, in the immortal words of Keanu Reeves: “Be excellent to each other.”