New Skills Acquired When Required in this Pandemic Age

Being stuck at home is a challenge on so many levels. We’ve each mastered talking to the walls, reconnecting with friends and family by phone, email and Zoom (yes, we mastered that), starting new TV series, reading books, planning meals as if they were elaborate celebrations, treating ourselves to high tea and cookies on nice china, and staying on top of our work.


But we’ve each acquired new skills we never knew we needed or could master. We asked friends and acquaintances for what they’re learning and it’s an impressive mix.


  1. Clean a bathroom so it’s spotless. Grab that toilet brush, find the right sponge, cleanser and towel and clean away. Reward yourself with a long hot shower and a glass of wine. It’s amazing what a good job you can do, even if you haven’t tried this task in 50 years. You’ll be sticking your head in places you never dreamed you would in your old age. Wear crappy clothing to avoid bleach stains on good stuff and be sure you do all surfaces, from the sink to tile grout, toilet bowl, floor, inside of the shower or tub and more.
  2. Snip your partner or spouse’s locks like a pro. Hair. It always grows even on those who have very little on their head. This is no time to cry over not being able to go to a now closed barber shop or salon or risk having your hair person visit you at home. Unless either of you plan to start to wear a ponytail, we suggest a little snip here and there around the edges. How bad could it look? Anyway, who will see you? Someone suggested in jest to visit the local dog groomer, but we don’t want to emerge looking like our neighbor’s poodle.
  3. Color your roots or full head or go gray. This is a huge dilemma for many of us aging boomer women. So, DYI. Play beauty shop. Get out a big towel and some commercial dye or bleach. You can order it from the pharmacy. Do your research to find the right kind. Cover as much in the bathroom as you can because the chemicals may splatter. If you’re afraid to try this, there is an upside. Gray is still in in the home furnishings world so why not on our heads as well? At least your hair color will match the décor.
  4. Dust like a pro. Who knew you can’t just dust casually? You must concentrate and get up close to catch all surfaces. Use your Swifter duster with an extension to hit places that never get clean like the top of cabinets and paintings. Or find a cotton cloth and prepare to use some elbow grease, whether you’re dusting a large table, several chairs or your 250 snow globes, which may not have been dusted in years, if ever? Not sure how to do. Click on YouTube to learn technique. How successful were you? Try the old white glove test. 
  1. Clean out all your closets. Here Marie Kondo rules. Declutter and it will spark joy, she says. So, with the radio blasting 60s music or Pharrell Williams’ “Happy,” get cleaning to the beat, closet by closet. Who needs 30 unused wire hangers from the cleaners or wood tennis rackets from 30 years ago? How useful is a broken umbrella that inverted in one of New York City’s horrible windstorms? And eew you say as your hand lands on hardened play dough in the corner. And speaking of dust, it’s also okay to pitch tax records that are more than seven years old.
  2. Empty bookshelves. At our age, we all have way too many books. There are books, mostly first editions, we want to keep forever, maybe reread or pass onto friends and family. The bulk of them we’ll never read, didn’t like or will never reread. Places to give them: a library, school, hospital, museum, church or temple, historical society.  And don’t feel the rush to fill shelves with more junk. Empty is in.
  3. Cook This is your time to experiment in the kitchen, assuming others haven’t hoarded all the good ingredients. New sites have surfaced to entice us to test our culinary chops or to brag about our newfound skills. Some are impressive such as those who are posting big fat challahs studded with sesame, poppy seeds, raisins and saffron. One woman who lives near Barbara is among those teaching herself to cook. What did she do before? Takeout only?  “I’ve never liked to cook, but now I have the time to learn,” she admits. She baked chocolate chip cookies from scratch with her 13-year-old son. They called it “Home Economics” time. We were impressed.
  4. Vacuum. Some of us didn’t even know we had a machine in our house or even how to plug it in. It’s even more enticing to vacuum because we read that it’s aerobic. Create a rhythm and go room to room. Even one doctor friend mastered the technique. His wife posted a video of him showing off his new skill. At the same time, his wife is busy ironing pillowcases. Who irons anymore? She does now, and next we expect she’ll take up polishing silver. We’re sure there’s a YouTube video for that, too.
  5.  Provide video therapy and produce a teaching video. One therapist we know, and respect has had to help patients online, which she says is more difficult than doing so in person. “It’s tiring since you have to dig into the work.” Fortunately, she’s had great experience, so this is more of a tutorial to improve her skills. Margaret’s son who teaches music to graduate students in Italy has had to master how to conduct online classes.
  6. Learn social skills. It’s never too soon to learn. One 6-year-old we know (Barbara’s grandson) has mastered the importance of keeping a conversation going. He’s a quick study and uses a sports analogy. “You do so thinking of it like playing and keeping the ball going back and forth.” In other words, keep the conversation going from one to the other. Out of the mouths of babes and helpful for adults who never inquire about others.
  7. Meditate. You say you can’t do it. Concentrate. Sit still. Come on, no excuses. What else are you doing now? It’s a good skill for those of us who might be having panic attacks over how long this pandemic might last and whether we’re going to come down with the virus. Better than meds.  YouTube teaches meditation well.
  8. Learn to use dental floss more than once a day, practice using your electric toothbrush for two minutes and/or a Waterpik® This won’t make much of a dent in your day, maybe five minutes tops, but again you have the time.  And why not master these skills? Do it enough days in a row and it will become a habit. You’ll save your teeth and they will look great even though you have no place to show them off, except maybe in a Zoom chat when you smile. 
  9. Stop binge-watching favorite TV series. It’s so easy to get hooked. At one point, Barbara was watching as many as three each night of the “A Place to Call Home,” “Anne with an E,” and “Delicious.” Now with so much more TV time possible, she’s limiting her and her guy to two per night of their current favorite, “Enlightened” with Laura Dern.
  10. Become the next HGTV star. Another neighbor of Barbara’s has tried her hand at a new career: construction. She scraped her popcorn ceiling, ripped up carpet and put down hardwood laminate and replaced trim. She had never done such work before but bought the flooring and finishing gun, which is a nail gun for trim and borrowed a saw from a friend. She used YouTube videos for help. She admits to watching a lot of HGTV in the past. Her reason is basic. “I’m just not a fan of paying for people to do things I’m capable of doing myself.” Anyway, who wants a stranger in your house right now who might be carrying the malicious microbe.
  11. Favor cloth napkins. At a time when we’re all trying to watch what we order and use, we’ve switched back to cloth napkins as many do in Europe, using a napkin for a week. Hoarding has made it difficult to find paper products. So, we’re trying to allocate our use of paper towels and use dish towels instead. We also try to control our use of toilet paper, unless there is a stomach issue over which we have no control.
  12. Avoid pantry envy. With some folks organizing their spices, refrigerator shelves and pantries, we are trying not to feel ENVY at the chock-full cabinets they post on FB, Instagram and in emails. We haven’t figured out, however, how to control our nasty thoughts such as: Did you do a grocery-store hoarding expedition? Or, do you also have a year’s worth supply of toilet paper because you’re just a great Costco shopper year-round?
  13. Learn to nap and not feel guilty. It’s actually healthy for you. God knows, you have the time to do so and no one will know the difference. Set your alarm if you want a 15-minute power nap and dream away.  Because we’re not supposed to go out, at least you can dream about going somewhere fabulous.
  14. Learn how to converse politely with Siri. This is no time to curse at her for not understanding what you are asking. Who wants to lose a friendly voice right now? Anyway, she comes in handy if you need to set an alarm to take that nap.
  15. Practice hitting elevator buttons with your elbow. It can be a challenge and is a new skill that Margaret has mastered unlike one resident who used his foot to push buttons both in the lobby and inside the elevator. We all learned from this that elevator buttons are designed to take the pressure of fingers only, not a shoe. We also learned if the practice continues, there are penalties. Who does this?
  16. Learn to play store if you miss going to the grocery or pharmacy. Arrange cans, boxed foods and other non-perishables on your counter and pretend you’re picking the groceries you need for dinner. Have your list ready? You can even do self-checkout. No credit cards or cash needed. Or, if you miss trips to the pharmacy, this is a great opportunity to clean out your medicine cabinet. Then line up your pills and pretend you’re picking up your prescriptions. Yippee. Play both types of stores and you’ve used up at least an hour in a day.


  • Deb Roach

    As always, a terrific blog.

  • Nancy Weisman

    I straightened out the junk drawer in the kitchen. YIKES.
    Desperate times call for desperate measures!
    Now I’m going to start practicing hitting elevator buttons with my elbows, which though fun, will likely be hard for someone of my height!
    Also I don’t have an elevator.

  • Savitrijn

    Very helpful Thanks

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