As we move into the extreme social distancing phase of the coronavirus outbreak, many of us are finding ourselves with a lot of extra time to spend at home. For some, that means making the change to working from home, while for others whose jobs have been suspended, it may mean full days to fill. Those with school-aged children may have the added responsibility of daily online lesson plans, sometimes on top of their own work. But unless you didn't work, or already worked exclusively from your home, you have likely gained some extra home time formerly taken up by your daily commute. A 15-minute commute means an extra 2.5 hours each week, while an hour commute is a whopping 10 hours more to spend doing something else.
Below, I've shared some ideas on how to spend that time. It's really just the tip of the iceberg. Pick one or two or try to do them all, whatever feels right for you. Come up with your own list. If you're not used to having a lot of unstructured time, it might be helpful to make a to-do list and pick something each day, or write down what you want to do each day on your calendar.
1. Learn something new There are a plethora of free and paid internet resources available to help you learn something new. Check out Masterclass (learn from top professionals), BluPrint (arts and crafts), Coursera (educational topics), or search YouTube for the topic you're interested in learning about.
2. Make/do some art Paint, draw, knit, crochet, sculpt, quilt, play an instrument, put together a Lego kit, make some jewelry, stamp it up, write, journal, practice photography, make a video, build models, color, origami. Whatever your thing is – now is the time!
3. Declutter/organize Now is not necessarily the time to take on a big project (unless you absolutely want to). You're going to be spending a significant amount of time at home, so you don't want to become overwhelmed. Instead, focus on a small project you can complete – tackle a junk drawer or a pile of mail, sort through some old photos, unsubscribe and delete some emails. If it feels good, do some more.
4. Try a new recipe Pick a dinner you wouldn't usually have time to prepare made with ingredients in your pantry. Bake some cookies, or a cake, or bread. In fact, if you have a little bit of yeast and beer on hand in your home, give this delicious no-knead bread recipe a try. No beer? Do a Google search for “no-knead bread” (sorry, all recipes still need a little bit of yeast).
5. Do some meal prep You won't always have extra time on your hands, so if you're feeling up to it, use some time now to help a busier future you by prepping some meals to freeze for a busy night once things get back to normal.
6. Catch up with a friend Now is a great time to catch up with a friend you've been meaning to talk to. There are so many ways to connect: phone, text, FaceTime, Skype, Messenger, and GoogleHangouts are a few.
7. Check in on a family member, friend, or neighbor, especially those who are experiencing this on their own. Some introverts may be reveling in social distancing, but others may be feeling a little alone right now. Now is not the time to “stop by,” but again, there is plenty of technology to choose from to help you make that connection.
8. Tackle that to-do project Take a little bit of time to focus on those long-standing to-dos you just haven't had a chance to get to – hem those pants, sew on that button, do research for getting that new appliance, fertilize your house plants, fix that leaky faucet, write that “thinking of you” note, get those tax receipts together, hand wash that sweater.
9. Read/listen to a book Now is the time to read the books that have been sitting on your shelves waiting for you to have time to read them. Or dive into that pile of magazines. Download a title you've been wanting to get to on your eReader or listening device. Did you know most libraries have books (and other digital content) available to download for free with a library card? Virtually check out your local library to see what they have to offer. Only take what you need – most libraries have a daily limit on lending, so make sure everyone can benefit from this resource.
10. Listen to a new podcast/music There are a bajillion podcasts out there about every topic you can imagine. Google “podcast” and a subject of your choice and find something new to explore. Rather listen to music? Ask friends to suggest something new you might enjoy. Like show tunes? Broadway performers have started singing for us from their living rooms. And if you're sad about missing the festivities of St. Patrick's Day, tune into Dropkick Murphy's livestream concert tonight!
11. Watch a Movie Sure you can binge watch a favorite TV show instead, but whatever you watch, make it an experience. Make popcorn and turn the lights down like you're in a movie theater.
12. Get some fresh air Use your best judgment based on your current situation (isolation, quarantine, social distancing), but just about everyone should be able to at least go outside and get some fresh air, even if it's limited to their yard. If you're social distancing to help flatten the curve (thank you for being a responsible member of society) you should be fine taking a walk on your street or in a local park. Just remember to keep your distance from others doing the same thing – no crowds or bunching please.
13. Do some yoga Yoga stretches our bodies, helps us calm our minds, and reminds us to breathe. And in a time when we may all be holding our breath, breathing is especially important. Find a class that piques your interest on Yoga with Adriene and give it a try.
14. Have a dance party I have often said our everyday lives need more impromptu dance parties, but I think it's even more true now. FYI, this is only for the people in your home. Even if it's just you. Pick a favorite song, turn it up, and get moving!
15. Rest Most of us don't get enough sleep during our regular schedules. Use this opportunity to go to bed a little earlier or sleep a little later. You may find you like how you feel so much that it becomes a priority when things get back to normal.
16. Visit a museum A blog-reader bonus! Google Arts & Culture has partnered with 2500 museums and galleries all over the world to offer virtual tours and online exhibits.
Remember, all of this time doesn't have to be productive. Balance work and play. Take breaks. Be gentle with yourself and the other people in your home. As for me, I've accomplished the first thing on my own list – starting this blog. It's something I've been contemplating for a while now as my social media posts have become longer. And since I've suspended home organizing sessions for the immediate future, I decided now was the time. How do you plan to spend your extra home time?
As you are aware, the coronavirus situation has been changing rapidly these last few weeks. And while I have always taken precautions against the spread of illnesses like colds and the flu through actions like washing my hands regularly, not working when I'm sick, and giving my clients the leeway to cancel when they or someone in their home is ill (no client of mine has ever incurred a cancellation fee due to health reasons), this virus has presented a different challenge for us as a society.
While the information about how this virus presents continues to evolve, there seems to be a period of time during which those who have been exposed to the virus do not show symptoms, but are still contagious. And while Connecticut has only 6 confirmed cases to date, that number is really a snapshot of where the contagion was a week ago. We won't have an accurate picture of where it is now until next week, but it is likely already to have spread into much of the state.
Since none of us is immune, and older adults and those with underlying medical conditions are especially vulnerable to what for them can be a deadly virus, it is important for us to do our best to slow the spread of the virus by limiting close contact with others whenever possible, in case we should inadvertently pass it on before having any symptoms. This “social distancing” is meant to slow the spread of the virus, which decreases the chances of our medical infrastructures becoming overwhelmed, which will hopefully mean all those who do become sick will have access to better care.
As someone who is younger and healthy, while I'm less likely to become seriously ill, I am still a potential carrier for the virus. Today, I have the ability to lessen my contact with others and mitigate any possibility of inadvertently spreading the virus to or from a client. To that end, for the immediate future, I will be suspending home organizing sessions with my clients.
While the work we are doing together is important, nothing is more important than our health and the health of our family members. The clutter will be there when we're able to resume.
Thank you for understanding and supporting KnockOut Organizing. I look forward to picking up where we left off when the time is right.