When Your Whole Life Gets Canceled, Here’s What to Do Instead
Stuck at home? Do these things to get through a quarantine healthier, happier, smarter, and even a few pounds lighter!
Call it quarantine math: With the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommending no gatherings with more than 50 people for the next eight weeks plus the White House saying to keep groups under ten people for at least two weeks and minus the usual activities like work and gym, people are asking: How are we going to make it through with our sanity still intact? Even though we’re being advised to practice “social distancing” (staying at least a few feet away from people in public), there are ways we can make the best out of a tough situation. Learn how much coronavirus is costing the world—so far.
Scavenger hunt via text
You’re probably already texting with your loved ones so why not add some fun to the mix? Each day one person in the group chat sends out a request for a strange item—say, a prom picture or a four-leaf clover—and everyone has to find one in their home, snap a picture of it and send it to the group. You can up the fun by making a theme day allowing people to send in multiple pictures. How many things do you have in your house that remind you of an ex? Or that look like food but aren’t? Or have strange instructions on them?
Check off some home repair projects
Remember that stair that squeaks creepily in the middle of the night? The hole in the wall from when your toddler had a falling out with Thomas the Tank? The falling-down fence that has made the neighbors gossip about your mental health? Now is the perfect time to take on all these little household projects. If your handyman skills are a little rusty, brush up with some DIY tutorials. It’s not the most exciting option but adults still gotta adult! Just think about how good it will feel to have those things off your to-do list. It’s also a good time to check off the 16 things smart homeowners do once a year from your list.
Play an epic board game
Board games are standard stuck-at-home activities but this partial quarantine isn’t just one random snow day, it’s days or even weeks long, giving you plenty of time to play an entire game of Risk, Monopoly, Dungeons and Dragons, or even a really intense game of Scrabble. Spread out, take your time, and get really strategic. Who needs to actually use their kitchen table anyhow? Find out 15 of the top board games.
Learn a new language
Forced confinement is the perfect time to pick up a new language. Whether it’s through an app like DuoLingo or conversing with native speakers online via a service like Lingualia, you can practice everything from the basics to conversational fluency. ¡Que divertido! Start with these Spanish phrases everyone should know.
Organize your closet
Just because the outside world can feel like a dreary place doesn’t mean your home has to! One way to brighten it up is to start cleaning out and organizing your closet, pantry, fridge, desk, or other clutter hotspots. Plus, you can shop for organizers online which is surprisingly satisfying even if you have no intention of ever actually using them. Find out the 15 things you’re doing to your closet that professional organizers wouldn’t.
Have a spa day
Self-care is one of the first things to go in our busy, overscheduled lives but now that your schedule is wide open, your pores can be, too! Take a hot bath, apply a face mask, slather on some rich lotion, put on your tooth whitening strips, and prepare for the ultimate ladies’ and gentlemen’s night in. (Dudes can love skincare too!) These are the 12 must-have products you need for a spa day at home.
Binge watch a different show
Streaming TV shows and movies were made for long days at home. But we know you’ve seen every episode of Friends, Parks and Rec, and The Office at least 100 times. So take your viewing up a notch by watching an indie film, a documentary about a subject you know little about, or a show that’s totally out of your comfort zone. Or watch your old favorites; sometimes you need something that feels familiar inside when things get weird outside. These are 9 classic shows you didn’t know were on Netflix.
Carve a soap sculpture
Hand sanitizer may be scarce these days but there’s plenty of bar soap and chances are you have a few lying around your home. A simple paring knife is all it takes to create a beautiful sculpture. (This one is not for the kids or anyone with butter fingers.) Plus you can still use it to wash your hands when you’re done admiring it! Friendly reminder: Go wash your hands now, computer keyboards are germ factories!
Make a stop-motion video
Move over, Pixar! All you need to make a charming animated stop-motion short is your phone and some creativity. Apps like Stop Motion Studio (available for free on Apple and Android) let you turn your favorite story or song into a cute animation you can share with friends. Use Lego figures, Barbie dolls, stuffed animals, or even kitchen utensils to share your vision.
Take a free class
No cash for tuition? No problem! EdX offers free courses from universities, including luminaries like Harvard, MIT, and Berkley, in hundreds of subjects, no student loans necessary. Brush up on skills for your job or take a course in something purely for fun. You don’t get official credit for them but you get to keep all the knowledge you learn. Consider any of these 45 free online courses from top colleges and universities.
Read a free e-book (or five)
E-books are the best of all worlds: They come in a wide variety, are instantly readable on a device, and are delivered 100 percent germ-free making them the perfect activity for those staying in to avoid illness. Many libraries offer popular e-books for free through apps like Axis360 (on Apple and Android) and Libby, all you have to do is sign in with your library card. These are the 100 best books everyone should read.
Channel your inner Gordon Ramsay
Ever wondered how anyone has time to make a dish like beef bourguignon, one of Julia Childs’ signature entrees…that just happens to have two pages of ingredients and four pages of directions? Well now you have nothing but time so let out your inner four-star chef and cook something fabulous. For extra fun, have a friend or family member “judge” your dish. These 10 tricks that are only taught in cooking schools will help start you on your way.
Do a jigsaw puzzle
Puzzles are like chips—once you pop one piece you just can’t stop. On a regular weeknight that can be a problem but now you can sit and indulge in the biggest jigsaw puzzle your heart desires. (Yes, even if that’s 50 pieces. It’s cool.) Hint: Use a plastic tablecloth to cover the puzzle when you’re not working on it so you can still use your table for eating. These are 14 of the most challenging jigsaw puzzles you can buy.
Take a star tour
Laying outside and staring at the stars is a luxury most working adults don’t have these days. But now that you don’t have to worry about waking up extra early to make your commute to get to your 9 a.m. meeting, you can take an hour to stargaze. Not an astronomer? Use a star-gazing app like Skyview ($1.99 on Apple or Free on Android) to chart your night sky then read up on the stories behind each constellation. Start by trying to spot these 14 iconic constellations.
Feng shui your furniture
Nothing makes you see your house in a new light like having to spend all your time in it. Are the tangled cords on your TV driving you nuts? Are you sick of tripping over the ottoman? Have your kids entirely taken over your bedroom (and every other room)? Does your house just have a musty feeling? Use this time to rearrange some furniture, change out decorations, hang paintings, freshen things up to make them feel new again, and ditch things with bad energy.
Bake some homemade bread
There is no smell better than fresh bread baking but who has the time to sit around waiting for yeast to reproduce, dough to rise, kneading, and then baking? You do, now! If you’re already a pro, take this opportunity to pass on this skill to your child. Use your great-grandma’s family recipe or try our two-ingredient “Best Bread In The World.”
Write a journal
We are living through distinctive times and no one can tell your experience better than you! Journaling is a great way to organize your thoughts, relieve stress, and preserve memories. Bullet journaling is the new trend; you can make it as fancy as you like with doodles and colored pencils or keep it simple in a plain notebook. We’re also big fans of gratitude journals.
Folding paper into animals, stars, boxes, and other fanciful shapes is a great activity for kids and grownups. Use your creations to tell a story (or make a stop-motion video, see above) or use string to hang them in your home as a colorful decoration. Pro-tip: Use real origami paper or wrapping paper with a different color on each side for the best results.
Magic done right is, well, magical. Magic done wrong is hilarious. You can’t lose either way! Use this time to teach yourself some simple tricks to delight your friends, young and old. And you don’t need to have a lot of fancy equipment to learn the basics. Everyone should have a ball, a scarf or a deck of cards handy! Find out why we say “abracadabra!” during magic tricks.
Small space workouts
Working out in a gym is a luxury, a fact that is easy to forget—that is, until you’re trying to get a sweat on in your cramped living room. Don’t let being confined to your home make you fall down on your fitness goals. Thankfully the Internet was made to meet this challenge with video workouts, bodyweight workouts, and even a 20-minute workout that will change your body in four weeks.
Make a cool beanie
Learning to crochet a blanket or knit a beanie is as simple as ordering a kit off Amazon or Michael’s and watching some YouTube tutorials. OK, that and a lot of time. But once you get the hang of it, you’ll be making masterpieces in no time! If you don’t have access to a crochet hook or knitting needles you can do finger weaving—an activity that will keep kids entertained for hours.
Check in on vulnerable neighbors
Quarantines can be terribly isolating for people who are already lonely, like the elderly or people with chronic diseases. Take a few minutes to text, call, or knock on their door to make sure they’ve got what they need and give them some much-needed social interaction in a safe way. Get inspired by reading these 22 heartwarming stories of people helping out their neighbors.
Make a flipbook
Flipbooks are just fun. You don’t have to be a great artist to grab a stack of sticky notes and draw some stick figures. Put a little drawing in the same corner of each paper, moving through a sequence of events. Flip through the notes to “play” it. Or upgrade it with an official Flipbook Tutorial.
Headstands and cartwheels are among the things that look easy, especially when kids do them by accident, but are actually pretty tricky. Be the star at your next party (OK, yoga class) by using this time at home to practice your balancing skills. Headstands, handstands, somersaults, and cartwheels are all just as fun now as they were years ago. If you have a kid home with you, ask them to teach you. Make these 13 tiny changes to make your home feel instantly happier.
Write letters using calligraphy
Calligraphy isn’t just good handwriting, it’s an art form. There are plenty of calligraphy templates online, allowing you to practice your lettering like a pro. Use your new skills to write thank-you or love notes to people you can’t see in person and lift their spirits. Need to brush up on the basics? Here’s how to have neat handwriting.
Each area has its own unique population of wildlife and learning about your native flora and fauna can teach you a lot about where you live. Check local park guides for pictures of birds, flowers, and animals and see how many you can cross off simply by looking out your window with binoculars or wandering around your yard.
Get sucked into a podcast
Podcasts—audio programs that you listen to through your phone—are one of the best ways to become smarter in your spare time. With subjects ranging from comedy to history to fictionalized drama, there’s something for everyone. You’ll be amazed at how fast time flies when you’re listening to a riveting story. Need a family-friendly option? Kids and parents rave about the Myths and Legends podcast.
Get. It. On.
Experts are predicting a baby boom about nine months from now and with good reason. Nothing relieves stress and adds some fun like some sexytimes. Although parents with children home too may find this more of a challenge—where there’s a will (and a door lock), there’s a way! Or try one of these ways to strengthen your marriage in an hour or less.
Catch up on car maintenance
Changing your oil and checking the wiper fluid are things that are all too easy to put off until later. Well, later is now! Use this time to go through our car care checklist.
Become a chess master
Chess isn’t just a board game, it’s the board game. In fact, some would say that with its combination of strategy, luck, and history it’s the ultimate board game. But while the rules are relatively easy to learn the game itself takes a lot of practice. Challenge your kid or your neighbor down the hall or play online. For an added challenge, try other varieties like 3D chess or 4-player chess.
Get your garden started
Gardening is good for your mind, body, and soul. It gets you out in the sunshine, communing with nature, and getting some healthy germs from the dirt under your fingernails. It may be too early to get planting in your neck of the woods, but you can definitely try your hand at these 15 low-light houseplants that thrive in near darkness.