7 Mundane Things I Actually Can’t Wait to Get Back to Doing

I don't need an epic vacation—I just want to pick out my own produce at the grocery store.

Depending on location, most of us have been in quarantine mode for weeks now. I think it is safe to assume that most everyone is getting a little restless (I for one am so over being cooped up). And while it is unclear how much longer we’ll need to practice social distancing—at the very least, shelter-in-place orders will be in place for another month or more in many states—it certainly doesn’t hurt to make a list of all the things we want to do when it is finally safe to return to some semblance of normal.

For some, this list probably involves once-in-a-lifetime adventures, like hiking the Pacific Crest Trail or taking fabulous vacations (I hear Morocco is nice). I get that, and I personally think a trip to Maui is in order. But for the most part? I just want to return to all of the everyday activities that make life feel normal. (In case you’re one of those people, here’s a travel writer’s perspective on when it might make sense to travel again.)

Here are seven mundane things I can’t wait to get back to doing when social distancing restrictions end:

Wearing shoes

Aside from putting on sneakers for walks around my neighborhood and short drives to pick up groceries, I’ve been barefoot nonstop since March 2. I even do my workouts barefoot now. And while some research indicates that going barefoot is “good for the sole,” I miss my shoes. I cannot wait to not only wear them but to have a reason to wear them. Part of this is because I happen to love shoes (and shoe shopping). But the main reason I miss my shoes? They have come to represent freedom to me. Freedom to go where I want to go and do what I need to do when I want.

I’m already contemplating which shoes I’ll wear for my first post-pandemic outing. Will it be the super cute boots I barely had a chance to wear before coronavirus made the need for footwear nearly obsolete? Will it be my favorite designer dupe summer sandals? My reliable Sam Edelman ballet flats? My gym shoes? Only time will tell. In any case, putting on that pair of shoes for the first time in however-many-weeks-or-months is going to feel so liberating. While some things will go back to normal, there are several everyday habits that will likely change forever after coronavirus.

Routine medical and dental appointments

I had braces a few years ago, and I still wear my retainer every night. Even so, back in February, I noticed that one of my teeth had shifted ever so slightly. I added “call orthodontist” to my to-do list, but before I actually took the time to schedule an appointment—well, you know the rest.

It is easy to put off taking care of all of those dental and non-urgent medical appointments (skin checks, routine mammograms, annual physicals, etc.) for another day. They take time, not to mention they can be uncomfortable and can be expensive for those without health insurance. But keeping up with these appointments is important because when we miss them, we miss the opportunity for a doctor to catch an issue that needs to be addressed, or the chance to get something annoying-yet-benign (like a shifting tooth) corrected. As I was procrastinating the scheduling of my ortho appointment recently, I didn’t anticipate that a worldwide health crisis would soon keep me from scheduling it at all. When my orthodontist’s office eventually opens back up again, I plan to be first in line for an appointment. Same goes for all of my other pending medical checks.

Waiting in the school car line

When school is in session, I spend up to three hours a day in the car. I’m either driving to and from school, driving to and from extracurricular activates, waiting in the school car line, or sitting around in parking lots waiting for the after-school activity du jour to end. It is surprisingly exhausting, and the break from the kid-related commuting is one of the things I most look forward to about summer break. Admittedly, I’ve spent plenty of time complaining about all of this driving and how it impedes my work schedule. Now, though, I would love to be back in that school car line. The endless cycle of driving and waiting around, and driving and waiting around again, doesn’t seem so bad when replaced by our current reality. At this point, we can only guess when school will be back in session (please let it be in time for the 20–21 school year!). Whenever it is, though, I’ll be embracing all the school car line has to offer—not hating on it. Here are some more commonplace occurrences we’ll never take for granted again.

Grocery shopping for myself

grocery shoppingCourtesy Dawn WeinbergerI rarely used grocery delivery or curbside pickup services pre-coronavirus. Now, these services are our grocery lifeline. I am not comfortable going into grocery stores at all right now, even with a mask and six feet between me and the next customer, because my husband is in the high-risk category. Do I appreciate that pickup and delivery options exist? Absolutely! Do I wish I could go back to “regular” grocery shopping? Absolutely, times a billion. Grocery shopping is time-consuming and monotonous, sure. But it also allows for spontaneity, flexibility, and the ability to go back through the checkout line if you forget something. Ordering groceries through an app in the coronavirus era, on the other hand, allows for none of those things. You don’t get to select your own produce or decide for yourself whether brand B is a good substitute for brand A. If you are in the kitchen baking and suddenly realize you are out of vanilla extract, you don’t get to dash to the store for that one needed item. You might not even be able to get your groceries when you want or need them if your store doesn’t have any pickup or delivery time slots open. For all of these reasons, I am very much looking forward to the day I can go back to my Sunday afternoon grocery shopping ritual. If you do find yourself needing to step inside a store, follow these tips for avoiding germs while getting your groceries.

Browsing my favorite stores

shopping in storesCourtesy Dawn WeinbergerShopping apps and online sales are great, but they don’t compare to the experience of perusing my favorite stores in person (this is how I find the best deals, like the Current/Elliot jeans I scored for under $30). Even when I don’t intend to spend any money, I love going to Nordstrom or stopping by consignment shops on weekends just to see what’s new. I enjoy wandering through the mall with my daughter when she has a day off from school (for some other reason than COVID-19), killing time at boutiques in between appointments or meetings, and combing the clearance racks at Marshalls. Obviously, this is all off-limits right now—and I miss these shopping excursions so much. When social distancing is lifted and non-essential shopping is once again deemed safe, one of the first things I’ll be doing is engaging in some good old-fashioned brick-and-mortar retail therapy. Even now, there are ways you can still support your favorite small businesses.

Going to the hair salon, nail studio, and massage therapist

OK, so getting highlights, pedicures, and massages isn’t necessarily mundane. But they do help us look and feel our best, which in turn helps all of those activities that are, indeed, mundane feel a little less so. Not only that, but these little luxuries are also part of my routine and, over the course of the past several weeks, I have come to appreciate my routine more than I ever dreamed I would. I’m doing my best to tolerate my long-overdue-for-color hair, my bare nails, and my sore and tight muscles as best I can, but I’ll be happier overall when I can return to my regularly scheduled self-care regimen. So will my stylist, nail tech, and massage therapist, who rely on the income their clients provide in order to pay their bills and keep their businesses running. By the way, this is why I’m not coloring my own hair during quarantine.

Not cooking

tacos eating outCourtesy Dawn WeinbergerEven under normal circumstances, we prepare most of our meals at home. Sometimes, though, we are tired, busy, out of everything, or craving street tacos—so we go out. We also live in Portland, Oregon—the best foodie city in America, according to WalletHub. Dining out here is basically a way of life.

Right now, we are cooking every day out of necessity. But we are still sometimes (okay, frequently) tired, busy, out of everything, or craving street tacos. I realize now how much I took for granted the ability to pick up takeout at the end of a long day when I just didn’t have the energy (or desire) to throw another steak on the grill or follow another new Instant Pot recipe.

Plus, so many people in the food service industry are out of work. Our inability to go to their restaurants makes it harder for them to put food on their own tables (some places are still open for takeout, of course, but we have chosen to forgo that option—a decision that was heavily influenced by one of Portland’s most prominent restaurateurs). I will be elated when I can safely emerge from my own kitchen and start dining out again.

Now that you’ve thought about all things you want to do when quarantine ends, here are 27 things you should do for yourself during self-isolation.

Next, take a look at our Coronavirus Guide to discover more ways to stay sane, keep your family safe, and make the most of together time.

Dawn Weinberger
Dawn Weinberger is a freelance writer in Portland, Oregon, who has contributed to numerous publications and websites over the past 20 years, including RD.com, Glamour, Women's Health, Entrepreneur, and many others. Dawn has a BA in journalism from Western Washington University and is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. She writes about everything from health and medicine to fashion, shopping, and business.