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16 Activities for Quarantine That Can Boost Your Wellbeing

Treat this “pause” as a time to get organized and start new healthy habits.

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Activities for quarantine | Woman at her window

Activities for Quarantine

By now, those of us who can are (hopefully) staying at home and practicing social distancing. Limiting the number of people we come in contact with helps stop coronavirus from spreading at a drastic rate. This means, we’re doing our part to flatten the curve, preventing hospitals from overcrowding. Sounds easy enough, right? So why does staying put in our homes seem so daunting?

It’s because we’re social beings, says Kim Lavoie, PhD, Professor and Chair of Behavioral Medicine at the University of Quebec at Montreal (UQAM) and Co-Director of the Montreal Behavioral Medicine Center (MBMC). We’re focusing on what we’re missing out on instead of recognizing the opportunity we’ve been given (err, forced into). The solution? Change your attitude towards self-isolation and take advantage of this “pause” right now.

“View it as a chance to catch up on all the things you’ve put on hold when you’re distracted from life,” says Dr. Lavoie. This is the quintessential time to tackle your to-do list so you can stress less—and it’s also a great time to adopt healthy habits. You need 21 days to make a habit stick, says Dr. Lavoie, so starting one during a time when you have ample free time can boost the chances of it being a success.

Here, 16 around-the-home tasks to tackle and activities to try. They’ll be great for keeping you distracted and entertained, easing your nerves, relieving stress, and making your life in the future a little bit easier.

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Activities for quarantine | Clean your makeup brushes

Clean Your Makeup Brushes

Most dermatologists and makeup artists recommend washing your makeup brushes at least once a week. Most of us aren’t quite meeting their recommendations (once ever, maybe?), but we should be: Dirty makeup brushes hold oil, debris, and bacteria, and wiping that all over your face is a surefire way to get acne. Have a gentle cleanser or dish soap like Mrs. Meyes or Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Liquid Soap? Good. Now, here’s what to do:

1. Wet the bristles.

2. Add a drop of soap to the palm of your hand and gently massage the bristles into it.

3. Rinse the bristles thoroughly (make sure the water runs clear).

4. Squeeze out excess water.

5. Let dry with the bristles hanging off the edge of a surface. (Don’t let them dry on a towel—the bristles can get mildew.)

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Activities for quarantine | Clean closet

Clean Out Your Closet

If the KonMari method is too much for you (you know, when you take every single item out of your closet, and only put back in any item that “sparks joy”) then do this: Flip through your pieces and remove anything that you haven’t worn in years or you hated when you wore it recently. Take that pile, and divide it into a pile for a second-hand shop, a pile to take to a consignment shop, and a pile you’re not quite ready to say goodbye to. Bag the items in the two former groups and put them aside for post-quarantine errands. Take the items in the latter pile and store them in under-the-bed containers such as these Amazon top sellers, until you’re ready to donate them.

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Activities for quarantine | Clean sweaters

Wash the Wardrobe Item You Never Wash

Sweaters. The ones you’re unable to wash on the gentle cycle in the wash, never get washed, right? But they probably smell a little musty, right?  There are three ways to go about washing them.

The first: Fill a large container or small sink with cool water, add a touch of mild detergent, and about a 1/2 cup of white vinegar. Turn the sweater inside out, swish it around in the water, and let it soak for about 10 minutes. Remove it from the water, empty the container/sink and refill it with clean water, and swish the sweater around. Gently squeeze out the water (never wring) and let the sweater dry flat on a clothing rack (never hang or it’ll lose its shape).

The second: Spot-treat. Use a cloth to wet the area—such as a stain, the collar where makeup builds-up, and under the arms. Apply a touch of laundry detergent (liquid or bar) to the cloth and sponge the spots. Rinse the cloth clean, and sponge the soap out of the areas with the wet cloth. Let the sweater dry flat on a clothing rack.

The third: Just spritz the sweater with The Laundress’s Wool and Cashmere spray, which is antibacterial, and it will leave the garment smelling as if it were freshly-washed.

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Activities for quarantine | Polish shoes

Polish Your Shoes

Apparently, you can polish your scuffed leather shoes naturally, with olive oil, but if you’re a little wary, order a shoe polishing kit from Amazon. For professional-like results, you’ll need a kit with a cleanser, a small and large horsehair brush, a polishing cream, and protective cream or wax, like this set from FootFitter.

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Activities for quarantine | Clean pantry

Clean Out Your Fridge and Pantry

Right now, you probably have more grocery items than you typically do, meaning storage space in your kitchen is tight. Clear up some real estate by sifting through all the items and tossing anything that’s expired. Then, reorganize the goods so you’re able to see everything clearly, making it easier to decide what to eat and prevent foods from expiring. Consider hiding the tasty comfort foods at the back, if you want to encourage healthy eating.

To combat those all-day hunger/boredom pangs that seem to be inevitable when working from home, prep healthy snacks, like a fruit salad, veggies for dip, and trail mix. They’ll help you to make healthier snack choices.

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Activities for quarantine | Organize photo library

Organize your photo library

Scroll through your phone and delete the pictures that are taking up precious storage space. Heart your favourites and consider getting a few printed to update the frames in your quarters. Explore Shoppers Photo Studio for printing options and other things you can do with your photos.

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Activities for quarantine | Tackle inbox

Tackle Your Inbox

Organize your crowded inbox by creating folders. Fast Company suggests not having a folder per topic, but instead using just five: Inbox (for immediate matters), Today (everything that requires your attention today), This Week (everything that requires your attention by the end of the week), This Month/Quarter (anything that requires a longer-term response, and FYI (important information you’ll refer to time and time again). Sentimental? Add an extra folder, “Keepers,” which may include sweet messages from family, friends, or colleagues.

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Activities for quarantine | Gratitude journal

Start a Gratitude Journal

Studies show reflecting on and recording the things you’re grateful for can make you not only feel more optimistic, fulfilled, and content, but also exercise more and visit your doctor less. Start a new healthy habit of writing down a few things you’re grateful for each day in a gratitude journal, and you may leave this isolation period feeling happier than ever.

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Activities for quarantine | Stream a workout

Try a New Workout via YouTube

A new workout can be alluring, but it can also be intimidating walking into a new and trying to follow the instructor’s moves that everyone but you seems to get. Luckily, YouTube has plenty of free fitness videos that can introduce you to a new workout routine you’ll love.

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Activities for quarantine | Try a new skill like cooking eggs different ways

Teach Yourself a New Skill

You’re probably familiar with all the beauty tutorials out there on YouTube, but there are plenty of other helpful how-tos at your fingertips. Here are a few videos you may find interesting and helpful:

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Activities for quarantine | Learn a new language

Learn a New Language

Download Babbel or Duolingo and get yourself in the habit of getting through a few practices each day to help you learn a new language. For Babbel check out these tips to make the app more effective, and for Duolingo, check out these ones. You can also listen to Coffee Break Languages throughout the day to reinforce the language. The podcast offers under 20-minute language lessons and cover a range of topics at entry and intermediate levels.

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Activities for quarantine | Re-read favourite novel

Re-Read Your Favourite Novel

Revisit the most-loved book on your shelf, and you’ll discover new things you love about it. Consider:

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Activities for quarantine | Discover a new podcast

Discover a New Podcast

Peruse the “browse” section of your Podcasts app and discover a new favourite. Here are a some noteworthy picks you need to know about:

(Also, learn about what can happen when you pair a podcast with a dreaded task.)

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Activities for quarantine | Discover new journalists

Discover New Writers and New Stories

Explore your go-to media outlets and make note of your favourite articles. Click on the byline of each article and save the page that links to all the articles the writer has written. Now you have a list of articles to read and enjoy instead of scrolling mindlessly through social media.

(Learn what happens when you read every day.)

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Activities for quarantine | Do taxes

Get Ahead on Your Taxes

Sort through your 2019 receipts and organize your papers for your accountant. Future you will thank you. While you’re at it, get organized for 2020 by sorting through the receipts you’ve already accumulated and creating a filing system, so no prep work will be required for next year’s tax season.

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Activities for quarantine | Watch a classic movie

Watch a Classic Movie You’ve Never Seen

Here’s a long list of movies everyone should watch to understand more jokes, understand more references, and maybe learn a thing or two. Grab some popcorn (it’s a good snack option, you know), forget about all the other productive activities on this list, and enjoy the downtime.

  • Casablanca
  • Gone With the Wind
  • Psycho
  • Singing in the Rain
  • North by Northwest
  • Some Like it Hot
  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s
  • Charade
  • Funny Face
  • Roman Holiday
  • My Fair Lady
  • High Society
  • To Catch a Thief
  • To Kill a Mocking Bird
  • Citizen Cane
  • The Wizard of Oz
  • It Happened One Night
  • All About Eve
  • The Philadelphia Story
  • Rear Window
  • Lawrence of Arabia
  • An American in Paris
  • Vertigo
  • The Grapes of Wrath
  • It’s a Wonderful life
  • Mary Poppins
  • Rebel Without a Cause

Next, learn more about coronavirus and COVID-19.