Before I start, I realise I am in a privileged position during this strange time. I already work freelance from home, so I am used to staying in, and because I am freelance, I don’t answer to an employer. I don’t have small children in the house, so juggling childcare and work is not an issue for me. I have enough rooms for a change of scene and I do have a garden. However, others in a similar position to me might just benefit from these tips. It isn’t all plain sailing and I too have down days and feelings of anxiety. Just recognising that and setting simple goals can really help.
These are the kind of things that I have found to be a good distraction from the current situation, in which missing family and friends, and the events I enjoy is a constant ache. These things are in no particular order:
- Continuing to research family history: I have putting together a file of things I’ve gathered over the years, to help me make further progress on my extensive family tree. I’ve rejoined a research website and I’ve also contacted relatives for information. I have realised this task helps with my sense of identity and pride in what my working class forebears endured and achieved, for example, two of my great-aunts lost husbands in WWI, two of my great uncles were killed and another died in his fifties as a result of his experiences. My grandfather fought and survived, as did his brother. There is a sense of triumph in finding information and checking it, and I’ve a few family members on the site, so we help each other, even though I’ve never met them.
- Sorting and finishing craft projects: if you have anything unfinished, either finish it or get rid of it. I’ve started some kits I’ve had around for a while, and been through them all to see what I will actually complete. I’m sorting them all into one specific sewing box. It’s ok to donate, sell or give away something you’ve started or will never do at all, even if it was a gift. Think what you would use it for after you have finished the work. The same applies to other kits.
- Declutter by using up all those pampering products you might have been hanging on to because they were ‘too nice’ to use up. If you like baths, a long pampering bath can be a lovely way to start or end the day. I’ve taken time to reorganise bathroom cabinets too, to find those things pushed to the back. You’ll soon realise which products you really like and want to replace when all this is over.
- Gardening: Sewing seeds really gives one something to look forward to, and we had lots of seeds that we hadn’t got round to using, so it’s fun to see whether they will still germinate. Without garden centres, it’s back to growing from seed or swapping (at a same distance) with friends and neighbours. Just a brief walk around the garden, or sitting outside on a bench for 10 minutes, can give our bodies their daily vitamin D, and is a boost to the spirits. If you don’t have a garden, try mustard and cress of herbs on your windowsill, and beansprouts in a dark cupboard are easy and satisfying to grow.
- Try making a junk journal. There are many tutorials on YouTube, and it’s not difficult at all. You can use recycled materials and spent a little time every day recording what you are doing. These are the historical documents of the future, as well as the artworks of today.
- Decluttering and organising can be very absorbing. Even if you just do one drawer a day, empty out, clean and then decide what goes back in there, often organised into dividers now you have the chance, can give a real sense of achievement. It’s great feeling to not have to search for things and open a beautifully organised drawer. You can find things to make dividers from what you already own, including plastic boxes that have lost their lids, or cardboard covered with pretty paper.
- Wardrobe makeovers: Take time to wear clothes you never normally reach for. You will either find out you really like them, or remember the reasons you don’t reach for them. I know we can’t go to charity shops at the moment, but you can have a bag ready to take when they reopen. I’ve been creatively mending loved garments that I wanted to keep, so my beat up old cashmere hoodie is now covered with crazy patches and embroidery. If lockdown continues for a few more months, I might even use my long-neglected sewing machine. Once you end up only with things that fit you and you will wear and love, you’ll enjoy your clothes again.
- Jigsaws and puzzles: these are a great way to keep the mind busy in down time. I had none, so I have been doing them online, but you may have some lying around forgotten, so dig them out and crack them open. Likewise books of crosswords etc.
- A lot of people have been baking and cooking. It’s a good time to try new recipes, or if you have never baked, time to have a go, it’s easier than you think! Home-made cakes taste so much better, Soups are very simple to make and are much healthier when homemade.
- Reading and audio books and podcasts: These help because it’s like someone talking to you. I’ve been deciding which poetry books to keep, by re-reading to see which still give me a thrill. Audio books are great when you’re doing something with your hands or if you live alone, while you’re eating. Audio doesn’t tie you in one place like a TV does: you can listen anywhere you can take your device.
Good luck and keep busy. This will all end one day just like the ‘Spanish’ Flu did. Meantime staying safe is the most important thing.