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20 Things You’ll Secretly Miss About Quarantine

There is an upside to spending all this time at home that we'll miss as things start to go back to normal.

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Home sweet home

Weight gain, feelings of isolation, news-induced nightmares, job losses, toilet paper shortages, illness: The list of downsides of the coronavirus quarantine is long and painful. Yet as places start to reopen and quarantines are lifted, we are recognizing that staying at home wasn’t all bad. In fact, there were a lot of really awesome things about quarantine—things we’re actually going to miss when we go back to “normal” life. Here’s an idea of when that’ll be, and what it could look like.

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The perfect excuse to say no

If you’ve suffered from FOMO (the fear of missing out), quarantine helped us discover JOMO, or the joy of missing out. While it was sad to miss graduation parties and work trips, it was also kind of a relief to have no obligations. And you didn’t have to worry about coming up with a believable reason not to do things! “Sorry, government/CDC orders” is an airtight excuse.

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Hair straight from a commercial

Quarantine gave us permission to let it all go—from curling irons to makeup to bras, we found freedom in letting our bodies revert back to their natural states. One perk: Many of us discovered our hair was much healthier and shinier when not subjected to daily washings, heat tools, and hair dye. Sure, the gray roots showed, but it was fine because the pit hair had finally grown long enough to be soft. Going back to blow dryers and razors again is tough. These are the 11 best hair clippers to use at home. 

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Finding new ways to save money

There’s no doubt that the pandemic has caused a considerable amount of financial stress for many people. But it also offered a unique opportunity to save money by creating a kind of forced frugality. With restaurants, movie theaters, malls, and other entertainment venues closed, we weren’t tempted to splurge on a night out. With only going to the grocery store once every two weeks, we did less impulse buying. With no one to see us, we didn’t feel the need to buy makeup or clothing. And gas money? Who needs gas when you’re not driving anywhere? Quarantine really helped us separate our needs from our wants. Here’s what you can cut out of your budget during the pandemic.

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A ten-second commute

Walking from your bed to your desk in the next room is a far cry from battling traffic to drop the kids at school and then get into the office. The average commute time for American workers is nearly 30 minutes every day, according to data from the U.S. Census. While working from home does have its downsides, the ten-second commute was definitely a bonus. (Not to mention, these memes about working from home are pretty funny.)

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Soaking in the sound of silence

The empty roads felt weirdly apocalyptic at first, but it didn’t take long before we learned to appreciate the reduced pollution and noise. For many, quarantine was the first time they’d experienced the sounds of nature around their home without interruption. Who knew there were so many types of birds in your area? Or how deeply you sleep when it’s truly quiet? Get an idea of how much your quarantine helped the environment.

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Indulging your inner sleeping beauty

Working from home, plus a reduced (okay, canceled) social life, left us with a lot of extra time on our hands, which many of us used to catch up on our years-long sleep debt. When was the last time you got to completely turn off your alarm and wake up naturally, go to bed as early as you like, or take a little midday nap in the sunshine? It felt good!

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Playing “Old Town Road” on the flute you hand-crafted out of wood scraps

Hip-hop dancing. Baking. Painting. Speaking French. Embroidering sarcastic sayings. People developed a wide variety of new hobbies and skills in quarantine and, while they’re saying they want to keep them going once life returns to “normal,” we all know it’s going to be tricky. Busy schedules have a way of taking over, and when you’re not home all the time, it’s a lot harder to monitor your sourdough every few hours or water your tomatoes three times a day.

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Cozy family dinners

During quarantine, dinnertime was no longer just a nice moment of the day; it became the defining event of the day, the thing everyone looked forward to. Not only did we have time to cook healthier, tastier meals, but most of the time we could count on everyone being home to eat together. Okay, this didn’t stop your kids from fighting or your spouse from zoning out on their phone, but at least you were all doing it at the same table, together.

Bonding with your next-door neighbor

Nothing brings people together like a shared crisis, and due to the nature of the pandemic, the people we ended up closest to were the ones we live closest to. There are so many beautiful quarantine stories of people delivering groceries for elderly neighbors, checking in on nearby single parents, filling driveways with positive chalk messages, organizing neighborhood “teddy bear hunts” for children on walks, making free masks, and performing lots of other little kindnesses to people we would usually just wave to before closing the garage. The sense of community was real and it was beautiful.

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Being bored is usually seen as a negative, something to be avoided at all costs. But boredom researchers (yep, that’s a thing!) say that being bored can lead to increased creativity, better ability to focus, increased problem solving, less stress and anxiety, and an enhanced feeling of well-being. We never thought we’d say it, but we’ll miss being bored sometimes. Our brains need down time too!

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Getting to see your kids grow in real time

Working parents know all too well the pain of missing important milestones like baby’s first steps or a first lost tooth. Pictures and video just aren’t the same. But being in quarantine allowed us to watch our kids grow in real time, without the interruption of school, work, or daycare. It’s amazing how much little ones change, even day to day.

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FaceTiming grandma every night at bedtime

Video and regular calls went way up during the pandemic as people felt the urge to reach out to loved ones more frequently. Even if relatives weren’t directly in harm’s way, we still wanted to check in and make sure everyone was doing well. Not only that but we had the time for extended chats, allowing for a deeper level of connection.

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Being able to really help

It’s hard to help people who have relatively few needs (or needs that you don’t know about). But the pandemic made all of us needy in very similar ways, allowing us to help each other in truly meaningful ways. From sharing a cup of sugar to driving someone to the hospital to a simple “how are you?” text message, these acts of service took on a whole new, more powerful, meaning.

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More options for working from home

Companies that had always said that there was no way their employees could work from home suddenly found a lot of effective and interesting ways to make it work when they had to. Quarantine showed us how to really take advantage of technology to simplify jobs and cut out a lot of unnecessary meetings and busy work. Will those accommodations stick now that we don’t have to work from home? Get a look at what office culture could look like going forward.

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Fresh-baked bread and three-course meals

It’s almost certain that you increased your cooking skills during quarantine, with many people finding real joy in learning to create in the kitchen. Busy nights call for quick food you can throw together (or take out!), but quarantine nights allowed for slower, more complex meals. We got to re-learn what it’s like to enjoy the process of making and eating good food.

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The week-long Risk games

Activities normally reserved for camping trips or power outages suddenly became the norm in quarantine as folks rediscovered their love for all kinds of games, from Monopoly to lawn darts to jigsaw puzzles. Ironically, Pandemic, the board game, was one of the top sellers! We’ll miss late nights around the table strategizing over where the virus will spread next (even though we’re still kind of living it).

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Seeing the bottom of your laundry basket

It’s much easier not to fall behind on the basic household chores like laundry and dishes when you never leave your home! We had the time to do chores, but also more desire to do them, as we were confronted with the laundry mountain multiple times a day. Here’s a list of what to do when bored at home that’ll help you plan fun and productive activities.

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Blowing your daily step goal out of the water

It may sound strange that one of the best things about being forced to stay at home was the outdoors, but the truth is that while many of us were out of the house pre-quarantine, we weren’t spending much time outside. Quarantine made daily, or even thrice-daily, walks around the block something to look forward to. Then there was getting to soak in the sunshine as you worked from your deck or gardened or played with your kids in the yard. We got to watch sunrises, sunsets, and cloud formations we never would have seen normally. Native animals re-emerged. Oh, and we logged so many more steps—when all you can do is walk, you do a lot of walking.

All the overjoyed pets

If there’s one group that was absolutely thrilled about quarantine, it was our pets. Dogs and cats (well, some of the cats) relished all the extra time, attention, walks, and treats they got from owners. No longer did they have to watch mournfully at the window as we left; their humans were there with them all the time—exactly as they’d always wanted. We’ll definitely miss all those extra furry snuggles. Here’s how to help your pet cope with post-quarantine separation anxiety.

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Hooting and singing while hanging out of your car

People couldn’t congregate as normal, so we were forced to find other ways to celebrate, including birthday drive-bys, graduation “traffic jams,” Zoom game nights, Netflix parties, virtual dating, and driveway parties. Not only were these get-togethers generally more chill, but they required a level of creativity and participation that made them feel fun in ways normal parties didn’t. Plus, when else are you not just allowed, but encouraged, to drive by your friend’s house multiple times as part of a parade while scream-singing “Happy Birthday” and honking? Pandemic or not, these 12 wonderful things will never be canceled.

Charlotte Hilton Andersen
Charlotte Hilton Andersen, BS, MS, has been covering health, fitness, parenting, and culture for many major outlets, both in print and online, for 15 years. She's the author of two books, co-host of the Self Help Obsession podcast, and also does freelance editing and ghostwriting. She has appeared in television news segments for CBS, FOX, and NBC.