Going Stir Crazy? 20 Things to Do When Stuck Inside

Our grown kids and siblings care about our well-being. Ours reminded the two of us that we need to avoid public places and large crowds while the Coronavirus spreads and takes its course. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warning is that anyone older—age 60 plus-- should remain indoors as much as possible. That’s us. So, as a help to keep ourselves busy, happy and hopefully healthy, we’ve come up with 20 ideas to ward off cabin fever while we stay inside. Share yours. We’re all in this together. Here’s to everyone’s health. 


  1. Marie Kondo at least one room or several and you will feel a spark of joy in doing something tangible and sensible. Purging your stuff feels a bit like losing weight on a diet. You’re lighter and less incombered. Barbara started with her kitchen, getting rid of utensils she never uses, chipped dishes and glasses, old contents in a pantry and torn, ripped and dirty dish towels. Then, she scrubbed countertops and appliances. She was delighted with the results and the kitchen sparkled.
  2. Rearrange the contents of an end and coffee tables. Switch them out or clear some of the objects away or put out something new—maybe a recent gift or book. Move some chairs around. It gives the room a new look—sort of akin to a non-invasive facelift.
  3. Go through bookshelves. Remove those you no longer want, and your local library or schools might make good use of. Categorize in boxes--some for the public library, some for your religious library, some for the school down the street. Give any to a friend, neighbors or family members that might have meaning for them. Take down any books you haven’t read for a long time and reread. It’s also a good time to reread the classics that you might not have read since grade or high school.
  4. Start a new book. Pick from your library or one gifted to you or download on your iPad any that you’ve been dying to read. It’s one way to escape the confines of being stuck at home when the author takes you to faraway places. It gets you outside yourself as well. Barbara started “Friendship” by Lydia Denworth; a scientific analysis of why friendship matters not just to avoid isolation but for the psychological and health benefits which the author has observed among both humans and animals. Barbara highly recommends it and now knows better why she values the friendships of several, including writing partner Margaret.
  5. Go through old papers and toss. We all have cabinet files, piles on our desk or drawers filled with old notes, prescriptions, bills. Save what you need. The IRS rule is to keep tax papers of the last seven years or so.
  6. If you have an attic or basement, start discarding stuff you’d never take with you if you move. Margaret found dozens of suitcases, many not even on wheels, that her husband had saved in the attic of their St. Louis home. She donated them to a senior center and a children’s home. Send off (finally) to your grown children (ask first) what you no longer want to store, send to the dumpster, Goodwill, or other charitable organizations. Do you know someone who wants all those American Girls’ dolls, their outfits, furnishings, books? Or how about those Lionel train cars and tracks? Yes, they might be valuable, so find out. Researching the value could take days or weeks so don’t get obsessive about doing all fast.
  7. Assess furnishings room by room. Replace lamps you really dislike; get that area rug cleaned; ask your grown kids if they’d like their large bears from childhood bedrooms that you’ve been safeguarding. Good question: Why have you been safekeeping certain items for 25 years?
  8. Cook something new. Maybe, an entire meal. Spend time going through your cookbooks you barely now look at and find a dish or dishes you would love to try. You now have the time to make the best chocolate cake ever from Scott Peacock and Edna Lewis’ “Southern Cooking” or that short ribs recipe from Deb Perelman’s “The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook.” Also, challenge yourself to make something from whatever is in your pantry and fridge. Perhaps concoct a soup with all sorts of goodies on hand. Just throw them in. Create a new recipe or dish and come up with a clever name.
  9. Call up a friend or family member you haven’t talked to in months. This is the propitious time for a real conversation not a text or email. Call several. Again, you’ve got plenty of time.
  10. Start a new TV series. Barbara and Margaret both loved The Crown and Anne with an E. Barbara enjoys A Place to Call Home which is 67 episodes so that should keep you busy for a while. Add one in for humor such as The Wonderful Mrs. Maisel.
  11. Bring out board games if there are two of you or invite a neighbor over who feels OK about venturing out. Maybe, a game of Monopoly, Clue or Checkers. Turn on some good music. Break out a bottle of wine. If by yourself, bring out the playing cards and start a game of solitaire or play online. Put together a jigsaw puzzle. You have the time to really get into finishing this.
  12. Turn on lots of music or if you have a piano or any instrument, play it again. Consider a dance party, whether you’re alone or with a partner or spouse. It’s fun and great exercise.
  13. When was the last time you took down books or your 250 snow globes and dusted the contents and shelves? It feels wonderful to get stuff really clean. Disinfect. Now’s the time to do it with coronavirus top of mind. Or polish the silver, if you still have any. It’s the perfect opportunity to do so and you can turn on NPR and learn something new.
  14. Speaking of clean, clean out your refrigerator. Take everything out. Toss what’s old. Clean shelves with soap or disinfectant and put stuff back so it makes organizational sense.
  15. Read about the Presidential candidates. Instead of just going by your visceral reaction—you don’t like an outfit or finger pointing or a smirky glance, read up on their positions. What have they done to make the world better and even the Senate or House? What are the pros and cons? Bring out the yellow pad or your laptop and make a list.
  16. Write a note or a letter to a friend who deserves congratulations or sympathy. Notes and letters that arrive in the mail are wonderful to receive because they’re such a rarity today. Too often we forget there’s a U.S. Postal service. Or, speaking of writing, work on that novel you’ve talked about finishing.
  17. Read up on other periods in history when quarantines and health risks occurred. Start with the Spanish flu epidemic, or go back in time to the bubonic plague, or fast forward to the more recent Ebola outbreak. How did these play out? What did people do to cope day to day?
  18. Meditate. All the stress from political and world news and the virus updates is causing us angst. Sit still, picture a beautiful beach or mountains, perhaps put on some classical music and don’t let your mind wander to imagine yourself getting sick. Try it for a minute one day, then five, then 10 and so on. Do it at the same time each day, and it will become routine, like brushing your teeth.
  19. Speaking of teeth. You have time now to take really good care of them, brush, floss, rinse at least twice a day or after every meal.
  20. Update your passwords. That will occupy a big chunk of time. Print out a list and keep in a safe place. Or sign up for one of those password-protected sites. 

Most important, if you venture out, be vigilant about where you go and who is around you.  Keep your hands washed. A little precaution can go a long way. Like any health scare, this too shall pass, and in the meantime, you can pass the time while confined inside by keeping busy and accomplishing things you’d never make time to do otherwise. This is the silver lining.



  • Debbie

    Add deleting, (re)organizing, reviewing all the files, apps and settings on your computer, iPhone, etc.

  • SUsan BErger

    And we can add knitting to your fabulous article!

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