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25 Productive Things to Do When You’re Stuck Inside

Being at home isn’t boring…as long as you have a plan.

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Trapped at home with nothing to do

You’re stuck inside, and you’re starting to get a little antsy. You already watched all the movies that had been on your must-see list and scrubbed your house from top to bottom with the household products that kill coronavirus. And if you have children, you’ve been attempting to entertain and educate them…while desperately trying to keep them from breaking anything and everything that you ever treasured. Now that our new reality has settled in, it’s time to figure out how to get through the days and weeks ahead. We’ve got some ideas.

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Get in shape

All those fancy, pricey workout apps are being incredibly generous at the moment, and most are offering a month or two free to get us through these trying times so that we can keep stay fit and (relatively) sane. You could try everything from indoor cycling (yes, this would involve purchasing a bike) to doing a strength class or even just meditating. We adore the Peloton app, but the Beachbody and Physique 57 apps are great, too. To use in conjunction with one of the many offerings out there or to do your own thing, a set of hand weights from Target will come in handy. And if you want to switch things up, try these dance-inspired workouts that don’t even feel like exercise.

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woman and her dog on the couchGetty Images, via petco.com

Adopt a dog

If there was ever a time to add a little chaos into your life, this is it. But seriously, you have plenty of hours to train and bond with a new dog, as well as get everything settled before you have to return to your office. Plus, this will give you a much-needed excuse to get out of the house while maintaining a six-foot distance from another person. (And in case you were wondering, dogs don’t seem to carry the coronavirus.) You’ll also be doing some real good, since shelters always become extra stressed in times of crisis but dogs still need care. If you’re not quite ready to commit, you can always foster a dog in need.

Of course, there are a few things you’ll need before bringing home your new BFF, including the right dog bed. Try this comfy striped option from Petco. Or choose from one of these dog beds for every type of dog.

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Binge-watch a show (or all the shows)

You haven’t had wide-open days like this in…well, forever. Now’s the time to plant yourself on the couch with some popcorn and hot chocolate and take an entire day to binge-watch a show, maybe one based on a best-selling book. Bonus: HBO Now, Disney+, Hulu, and Netflix are all offering free trials. Not sure what to watch? We recommend Westworld, Mad Men, Survivors, and Call the Midwife. Get comfy with the right pair of leggings, like this high-rise All in Motion pair from Target.

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Visit a museum from the comfort of your couch

Our favorite museums have opened their doors (virtually, obviously), so we can take a stroll to the most amazing places without ever leaving the house. Even if your trip to Paris was canceled, you can take a virtual tour of the Louvre’s Egyptian antiquities, the Galerie d’Apollon, and more. Or “Gogh” to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Here are some other museums open online 24/7 right now. If you have kids, delve deeper into art with a book like Vincent Van Gogh: Sunflowers and Swirly Stars.

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Go back to school

There’s no time like the present, and currently, tons of colleges that have opened their “doors” and are offering free online classes. According to Business Insider, you can study at top-tier schools like Princeton, Yale, and Harvard via Coursera and edX. Audit the classes for free, or for an additional $40 to $160, you will receive a certificate that you can pop onto your resume when you’re done. Stock up on some good, old-fashioned #2 pencils when doing this, because writing—not typing—will make you smarter.

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See a concert

Grab some vino and settle in for an evening of John Legend, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jewel, and more. Plenty of great musicians are offering free music while we’re stuck at home, and this is the perfect opportunity to take advantage of concerts that we couldn’t afford, didn’t have time to see, or weren’t fast enough on Ticketmaster to score a seat. For example, Rufus Wainwright is posting daily concerts on his Facebook page, John Legend is doing Instagram Live videos, Lizzo popped a track onto Instagram, and Miranda posted a never-before-heard song from Hamilton that had been cut from the production. Just Google your favorite artist, and chances are, they’re contributing on some form of social media.

If your whole household isn’t on board with your listening choices, opt for a good set of headphones. These Beats by Dr. Dre headphones will do the trick—and make the concert even better.

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Go on a virtual ride

Sure, Disney parks may have closed their doors, but that doesn’t mean you have to get off the rides. Tons of people have popped their ride experiences onto YouTube, so you can go on the Frozen ride, Slinky Dog Dash, Space Mountain, and more. Think of it this way: This is one of the few times you won’t have to wait on long lines at Disney. Simply search for your favorite rides on YouTube, and you’ll be transported there in a virtual instant. Or, “go” to your local water park or amusement park. You can even try the scariest rides in the world from your armchair. Who’s brave now? Grab a Mickey Mouse T-shirt for your little one to really get in the zone. For a trip down memory lane, check out the discontinued Disney rides we wish would come back.

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Call a loved one

Catch up with a long-distance friend or family member with a phone call or Skype session. Your loved one will be touched that you thought to call, and the gab session will boost your spirits, especially if you’re feeling lonely. Try playing a game with them over the phone; FaceTime makes this super easy to do. One of our faves is Scrabble. After all, how can you go wrong with a classic? Here are another 24 little ways to be a true friend.

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Write a letter

As meaningful as a phone call or an “I miss you” email is, a handwritten letter is an even more special surprise. Grab some pretty stationery, take your time crafting a thoughtful note about how much that person means to you, and slip it into the mailbox to make someone’s day. If it’s been a while since you’ve done more than jotting down a grocery list, try this one-minute trick that will instantly improve your handwriting.

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Rearrange the furniture

Rethinking your room’s setup can give your home a fresh look without spending a dime. If moving large pieces of furniture are too much of a hassle, mix up your knickknacks or organize your shelves. Start with these interior-designer tricks for styling bookshelves. You’ll bust boredom for the day, as well as break out of a rut from your same old arrangement. Or if you really want to change things up, buy a small statement piece that you can have delivered but doesn’t require people coming into your home to set up.

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Organize one small space

When cleaning the house sounds too boring or too overwhelming, pick one spot that could use some TLC and go to work. Focus on your junk drawer, work bag, or desk. It won’t take long, but you’ll feel so much less scattered—and might find yourself wanting to keep the momentum going with another organizing project. One idea: Sort all of your makeup with a sleek organizer. Here are other things organized people do on the weekend.

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Have a private dance party

Make a playlist of your favorite songs—you know, the ones you can never resist dancing to—and get moving! It’s an equipment-free workout that’s way too fun to feel like exercise. Plus, you could have a boost in mental health. One Australian study found that a tango class could reduce depression, stress, and anxiety in people with depression. These affordable Bose Soundlink speakers from Best Buy will help get the music flowing through your home—and make it sound a whole lot better than if it were coming from your smartphone or laptop.

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Play dress-up

Take a good, hard look in your closet and devise new ways to pair pieces together. Your creative combos are sure to score compliments…while you’re taking your appropriately socially distanced walks and once you’re back in the real world down the road. Plus, you’ll get more use out of the clothes you already own by coming up with new outfits. Spruce up your closet with a set of velvet hangers from Target, and use these easy styling tricks to revamp your wardrobe in just one weekend.

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Cook a gourmet dinner

Takeout and 30-minute meals might be your go-tos in normal times when you’re too burnt out to spend time at the stove, but now you can take your time with a more involved recipe. If you didn’t get a chance to pick up fancy ingredients, dig around in your cupboard for shelf-stable foods you’ve had sitting around, and turn them into a swanky three-course meal. (Think of it like your own personal episode of Chopped.) Go all out by setting the table with your good silverware and china. If your cookware could use an upgrade or an expansion, snag this Farberware Reliance three-piece frying pan set.

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Do meal prep

Maybe spending a long time on a meal isn’t your thing. In that case, cut down the cooking time for future meals by prepping ingredients when you’re feeling motivated and in the kitchen anyway. Wash and chop vegetables you’ll use throughout the week, or throw together entire recipes that you can freeze for later. Even if you’re not a pro at slicing and dicing, this Never Needs Sharpening Cutlery Set from Farberware will make it all a lot easier. Check out these other brilliant cooking shortcuts you’ll wish you knew sooner.

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Bake a batch of cookies

Whipping together a batch of your favorite baked goods is fun, not to mention comforting. Plus, you’ll score some serious brownie points in your house. (Pun intended.) To bring out your inner Martha Stewart, you’ll want to pick up this KitchenAid Mixer from Walmart. It’s a bit of a splurge—but totally worth it, especially since you’ll have it for years. Here are another 13 high-quality items that more than pay for themselves.

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woman at home with a face mask, hair towel, and cucumbers over her eyes. town and anchor face serum.Getty Images, via townandanchor.com

Pamper yourself

Yes, this is 100 percent productive. You need to make sure you’re taking care of yourself both mentally and physically in these stressful times. So, fill your tub with warm water and bubbles, and settle in for a relaxing soak. Make it even better by lighting candles and playing your favorite soft tunes, or smear your face with a homemade facial mask. Then, give your face a little extra love with Town & Anchor’s Vegan Anti-Aging Face Oil, and finish your at-home spa day with one of these soothing self-massage tricks.

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Curl up with a book

Grab your coziest blanket and hunker down on the couch with a good read. Studies have shown that reading can keep memory strong, help you sleep, and increase your empathy. Find a page-turner that you can’t put down, and you’ll be occupied the rest of the day. Our suggestion? Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. When you’re done, work your way through this list of the 60 best romance novels of all time.

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two men, adult grandson and grandfather, in the kitchen juggling with oranges. target klutz juggling set.Getty Images, via target.com

Learn a new skill

Whether you pick up juggling, dust off your piano, or perfect your lemon meringue recipe, now is the time to learn a cool skill. Bonus: You’ll have a brand-new party trick to show off to all your friends once this is over—or, if you can’t wait, on FaceTime once you’ve mastered it! If juggling sounds appealing to you, pick up a Juggling for the Complete Klutz set to get you started.

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Start a blog

A blog is a fun way to share your ideas, but the hardest part is getting started. Use some of your down time to set up a page using a free blogging service like WordPress or Blogger. You can even spend your days working ahead on posts if you’re worried you won’t have time later. Even better, all of this can be done in your pajamas. Blogging is also one of the easy ways you can make money from home.

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Create a time capsule

Gather household items that represent your current everyday life. Stash objects such as photos, an invitation, a to-do list, and a letter to your future self in a small box or a specially made capsule. Put a note with today’s date and a reminder not to open it for 10 or 15 years. You’ll have fun putting the time capsule together, as well as reflecting on its contents when you open it later.

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Find your “om”

Studies have found that meditation can help ease anxiety, improve reasoning, and maintain good relationships. Find a guided meditation program online or check out the book Practicing Mindfulness to reap the benefits of this simply daily practice. It’s just one of the ways you can declutter your mind—and a skill that will not only come in handy now but also for the rest of your life.

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Research an interesting topic

Find a subject that interests you—whether it’s a diet trend, an invention’s history, or a wacky conspiracy theory—and let yourself get lost in the depths of the Internet. (But for the record, we do not support quoting Wikipedia as fact to everyone you know.) Jot down your notes in a fancy notebook.

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Plan a trip

Even though it looks like we’ll be hunkering down for a while, that doesn’t mean you can’t daydream and plan for the future. Spend some time researching amazing locations, like these 50 most beautiful cities, ranked by travel experts. You’ll give yourself a mental escape and be in good shape for when you can finally head out on that trip. If you can’t decide on a location, break out a globe and give it a spin! If you’re a parent, it’ll also pull double duty if you’re attempting to homeschool your kids right now.

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Bust out the board games

Gather your family for a tournament with your favorite board games. Let everyone pick a favorite game, then sit back for a fun competition. Go with a classic like Monopoly—and before you play, learn what the experts have to say about how to win it. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little knowledge and a little friendly competition!

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest