Swinging with Charlotte

61 Fun and Productive Ways to Make the Most of Self-Isolation

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Whether you’re stuck at home alone, with a significant other or with the whole damn family, you’re probably growing bored right around now. Self-isolation can be a headache, but truth be told, I’ve been working from home for 12 years and full-time with SVV for four, so I know my way around some being-stuck-in-the-house-with-my-spouse routines. I figured I might as well put that expertise to use by coming up with an exhaustive list of ways to stay entertained in self-isolation. After all, you’re sequestered to your house for the indefinite future—you might as well use that time for good!

From self-care to family activities, I’ve rounded up and linked to some great resources and blog posts from my industry friends that give you further ideas of how to spend this self-forced time at home.

And in case you still aren’t taking it seriously (yet), I’ll re-link this powerful story in New York magazine that hopefully changes your tune.

  1. Catch up on your podcast listening. New to pods? Start here with my personal favorite podcasts.
  2. And also your never-ending reading list. Lucky for you, I compiled a list of 75+ books I love!
  3. Start reading blogs again. Us bloggers could use your traffic more than ever, and most of us offer all of our content completely for free! Though we personally don’t run ads on C&C, we do appreciate you visiting us from time to time. And you can even subscribe to get my full posts sent to your inbox, free of charge!
  4. Do a brain game or word puzzle. Gotta keep that brain sharp, even if you aren’t using it as actively as normal. There are SO many free iPhone apps that will keep you entertained and also thinking.
  5. Watch these travel movies to satiate your wanderlust until you can travel again. And also these.
  6. Plan an at-home spa day. Who doesn’t need a weekly manicure, pedicure and face mask? I know I do. Even if you can’t leave home to go to the store and stock up on supplies, Sephora is offering free shipping with the code FREESHIP for the time being. Bonus: Sephora’s brand of sheet masks are my absolute favorite!
  7. Try a new wine. Or bourbon. Or beer. Or all of the above. You know that’s SVV’s and my form of survival! And even better is that Nashville just approved beer deliveries during this time. (Drink responsibly, though. Please? Now is not the time to develop an addiction.)
  8. Cook a new dish or 20. SVV, our resident chef, has currently made a mouthwatering bolognese one night, a pork butt the next and homemade tortillas with crispy pork last night. Our house smells downright dreamy right now.
  9. Mix up a new libation. Ever wanted to make use of that bar you’ve spent hours stocking over the years? Now’s the time! For the past six months, SVV and I have been working on our Sazerac and Old Fashioned recipes, but we’re using this time to branch out and drink more than just bourbon straight. My current go-to cocktails? The gin and tonic, in true English style, as well as the ever-popular (and easy) Moscow mule.
  10. Download the Calm app. Stressed beyond measure? Now is a good time to take up meditation. It’s also free for the first 30 days! You can also do your own meditations and learn to balance your chakras.
  11. Take a workout class from home. We’re big fans of Yoga with Adriene on YouTube, but Peloton, FitOn and myriad other services are offering free online memberships for the time being.
  12. Go for a walk or a run. If you live in an isolated area like we do and won’t encounter others, it’s a great time to get some fresh air paired with a little exercise. Ella and I went outside yesterday for an hour-long walk in the sunshine, and it was the mood-booster we both needed.
  13. If you live near one of the national parks still open, consider a socially-distanced hike. For the time being, all the open NPS-operated parks are waiving their entrance fees.
  14. Learn a new skill. I’m using these weeks to finally watch the various online courses I’ve purchased, but I also signed up to take a mural/street art history course, which will be fun.
  15. Sign up for a free trial of Ancestry.com. For those who want to learn more about your ancestral past, this is a great use of your time.
  16. Learn a new language. Been putting off signing up for Rosetta Stone? Me, too! But why not learn a new language, either via an app or by finding a tutor online who is self-employed and could use that income? Skype is a great way to take one-on-one lessons; we’ve been doing it for years. Plus, we all have to help each other out during these hard times.
  17. Clean up your passwords. Last week, I spent a solid few days deleting all old passwords, generating strong new ones and moving everything over to LastPass for ease. Your online security is important in an era of identity theft.
  18. Start a blog. Don’t care to blog but want to jot down your thoughts? Start a journal instead! Or write letters to loved ones. Who doesn’t love getting snail mail, particularly in times like these?
  19. Catch up on your thank-you notes. I’m a big proponent of sending “thank yous” for anything and everything and am backed up on my own thank-you card writing, and I’ve already taken my own tip on this one.
  20. Color- and emoji-code your calendar. I’m borderline OCD and have had a color-coded Google Calendar for years. A year ago, I also added emojis to the front of every item, and not only does it give me great joy, but it’s a great visual cue when I’m skimming my calendar each week.
  21. Organize your home office. I don’t know how this happens but despite what a Type A control freak I am, my office drawers get out of order all too quickly. This weekend, I’m going to remove everything, throw out what I don’t need and sort it in a way that makes sense, complete with drawer dividers.
  22. Mow your lawn. That’s how SVV spent our first spring day yesterday, and our lawn thanks him for it.
  23. Get a head-start on your spring planting. SVV and my mom typically wait until mid-April to do our gardening for the year, but if we have a sunny day amid all the rain, I’d say we’ll likely go ahead and get started this spring ASAP.
  24. Purge your closets. With many people, often the lower-income class, out of work for the indeterminate future, I’m assuming that the Good Samaritan, Goodwills and consignment shops could use your secondhand items more than ever.
  25. Throw out all the socks that don’t have a pair. You’re never going to find the match, so stop trying already.
  26. Untangle that pile of necklaces you’ve been neglecting. Think of it as a two-for-one: a brain tease and a style challenge!
  27. Shower! I know it seems obvious, but as someone who has worked from home for 12 years, let’s just say that showering (and shaving) tends to be a luxury, but you feel so much better when you do. Don’t neglect showering, but do use this opportunity to go bra-less for as long as we’re all sequestered at home. You’ve earned it.
  28. Streamline your electronics. Time to delete all the files/apps/junk cluttering the hard drive of your computer(s) and phone and start anew! I recommend a paid Dropbox account for backing up all your files. Google Drive is trash.
  29. Clean out your fridge. Am I the only one who gets extreme satisfaction out of removing every item, throwing away anything expired, wiping down the shelves and drawers, then putting everything back all nice and organized? Yes? Oh.
  30. Nap. Then, nap some more. C’mon, when ever in your life again are you going to be forced to just be still? Don’t feel guilty; look at is as a reward for 20, 30, 40 years of hard work.
  31. Foster an animal. Isolation is a perfect time to adopt or foster a cat or dog who needs a home as there’s plenty of bonding time in your future.
  32. Or adopt some plants. I’m spoiled by marrying a guy with a green thumb, as our house is chock full of verdant plants that just thrive. If you have a black thumb but a green heart, try a monstera or spider plant to get started. They’re low-maintenance and easy to keep alive.
  33. Do a deep clean of your house. It’s officially spring—why not do your spring cleaning now when you’ve got nothing pressing on the calendar?
  34. Learn to knit or crochet. Back in my twenties, I was a huge knitter. It’s therapeutic and was something I did while sitting on trains, watching TV or doing anything else that didn’t require my entire attention.
  35. Paint just for fun. Or color, either way. Ever think about how, as adults, we never just create to create? Use this time to do just that.
  36. Leave uplifting chalk messages for your neighbors. I saw my girl Mayhem down in Atlanta writing out chalk sayings in her neighborhood, and it’s such a fun way to be creative while making someone else’s day.
  37. Support local businesses by buying a gift for a friend. Even before the COVID-19 outbreak locally, Nashville was hurting bad after the tornado (still is), so I stopped by several of the shops in the affected area and bought small things from each to gift to loved ones. Similarly, this is a great idea.
  38. Get an Ivy League education. These 450 Ivy classes were free at the time of publication. Take advantage.
  39. Call your mom. I’m lucky I live close enough to mine that I can see her whenever I want, but before that was the case, I talked to her every day on the phone, whether we were living 10 or 5,000 miles apart.
  40. Offer to help out your elderly neighbors. We as a society have to lend a hand to the most vulnerable. Know someone who is in that population and confined to their home for the unforeseeable future? Consider helping out with any yard work they need done or tacking on groceries for them on your next supply run.
  41. Take the Myers Briggs and/or Enneagram tests with your significant other. As an ENTJ and a 3w2, let’s just say the moment our psychologist friends gave both SVV and me the Myers Briggs test on a professional level and showed us how we complement and help each other out, it was a game-changer: both as a married couple but also business partners. DO IT.
  42. Play a board game, Ping-Pong or organize a Nintendo tournament. A few years ago, we bought my mom this original Nintendo that comes preloaded with all the games, and I can tell you what we’ll be doing this weekend! Bonus: It’s now only $110 via Walmart’s website.
  43. Download the free Houseparty app and play games with friends from all over the world. Second only to doing so in person is a virtual happy hour playing Heads Up with your pals around the globe! This is the perfect time to be social … while simultaneously isolating.
  44. Or organize a happy hour via FaceTime. Group FaceTime is a lovely way to get actual face time with your favorite humans around the globe—from a socially-acceptable distance.
  45. Work on your knock-knock jokes. La Jolla Mom has a round-up of 125 funny ones to share with your kids.
  46. Visit Disney World—virtually. Disney World and Land may be closed, but you can still Spring Break at these amusement parks via these virtual rides.
  47. Take a virtual tour of popular attractions. From the Smithsonian to the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, these attractions offer virtual tours and exhibits, which is a fun way to burn a couple of hours.
  48. Teach your kids about the U.S. states. My former roomie Kate crowd-sourced via Facebook one fact from all the 50 states via Facebook for her four-year-old daughter, and I so LOVE this idea for teaching kids off-beat facts about geography and history.
  49. Allow Josh Gad to read you a bedtime story. Who wouldn’t be cheered up by story time with Olaf?
  50. Do travel-related homeschool tasks with your kiddos. My friend Leslie has some great ideas here.
  51. Plan to take one of these wildlife experiences for when the world goes back to normal. While you’re at it, start teaching your little ones about the various animals you’ll meet in the meantime (here’s a great list of books with which to start).
  52. And also observe wildlife from afar versus these cool webcams. I don’t know anyone currently not in love with the roaming penguins of Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium, but the Elephant Sanctuary’s EleCam in Tennessee is also addictive.
  53. Host a vision board party (virtual or with other self-isolated clusters who show no symptoms). Are you an optimist who wants to take advantage of this self-imposed downtime? Create your own reality for life post-coronavirus. It’s never too early to start!
  54. Watch a free concert. What’s the next best thing to seeing your favorite act in person? Watching them perform an intimate acoustic set via webcam, of course! From Coldplay’s Chris Martin to Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard to the most beautiful man alive, artists are using this time to entertain their fans—for free.
  55. Pick up a musical instrument. I grew up playing piano and guitar, but SVV gave me a ukulele a couple years ago. Now is the perfect time to watch some YouTube tutorials and teach myself how to play!
  56. Start a music jar for your kids. I love what blogger Elsie Larson does, and that’s introduce her two little ones to a new artist each week via her music jar. You can easily implement this with your own family.
  57. Have a dance party. Charlotte and I are on a big “Shake It Off” kick, where we’ll listen to it 17 times straight (“again!” she says the moment it ends), and it’s not only a source of hours of entertainment for both of us, but also a much-needed cardio release.
  58. Learn a TikTok dance. I confess to having lost hours of my life perusing TikTok over the past few months, and today, SVV and I plan to learn a dance and challenge our friend Christie and her mom in Seattle. Even if you choose not to post on there (I rarely do), I suggest you download the app anyway—it’s an insanely fun way to kill some time and watch some really creative people choreograph the next big viral dance sensation.
  59. Make to-do lists. I love a good to-do list, written by hand, because it means I get to cross things off when I’ve completed them. That said, reward yourself for small victories (we abide by the “if I accomplish X, Y and Z today, I get to pour myself a bourbon” motto), but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t complete them. Many, myself included, are driven by goals, and sketching out a game plan can be both comforting and motivating and keep us on track in uncertain times.
  60. Compile the ultimate COVID-19 playlist. SVV and I are huge Amazon Music fans—which FYI, Amazon Music is offering 90 days for free if you sign up in the next five days—and have put together everything from house-painting playlists to 90’s country hits over the year. For our COVID-19 playlist, I’ve got a few favorites: “Alone” (Heart), “Ridin’ Solo” (Jason Derulo), “You Are Not Alone” (Michael Jackson), “Home” (Edward sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros), “Drinking Alone” (Carrie Underwood), “Tired of Being Alone” (Al Green), I could go on for days. Hey, if we can’t have fun with this isolation, we’re all screwed, you know?
  61. Exercise gratitude. Hey, we are all still here right? I don’t know what it is about this global pandemic, but I’m feeling even more grateful for this life than ever. Namaste, friends.

For more survival tips on how to stay calm and sane during turbulent times, watch this video by my pals Caz and Craig Makepeace.

How are you surviving self-isolation? Any genius ideas to keep yourself and your loved ones entertained?



Ways to Stay Busy During Self-Isolationt
  • March 20, 2020

    Loved these ideas — we’re in the same vein, looking for things to do and things to enrich our lives. Actually, my introvert side came out, and I’m enjoying the stay. It will get old, of course, but for now, my closets are better off, I’ve tried new recipes, made 4 baby blankets for charity, and caught up with my blog a bit. Here’s my post on Staving off those Social Distancing Blues: ohtheplaceswesee.com/2020/03/14/staving-off-those-social-distancing-blues/

    • March 21, 2020

      Oooh thanks, Rusha—off to read it now!

  • March 20, 2020


    I particularly like number 7. Yesterday, the governor of Texas announced that all restaurants and bars could only do take out or delivery. In doing so, he is allowing Take Out mixed drinks, wine, and beer. Many of the liquor stores were already delivering. So we are good for the duration, however long it may be.

    • March 21, 2020

      We have many friends in the spirits industry and our ABC board and the governor will not even grant them temporary rights to deliver/ship. It’s such a bummer as many of the small guys probably won’t survive this recession. =(

  • March 20, 2020

    Today is my birthday. (74 yuck) We had to cancel our plans to rent the Dallas Cowboys stadium so Willie Nelson could sing Happy Birthday to me. Maybe, next year.

    • March 21, 2020

      Oh man, well, 75 sounds like the perfect time to reschedule that!

    • March 21, 2020

      P.S. Happy belated birthday, Ray!!!

  • March 22, 2020

    It took a while for me to get back to my normal rhythm. I haven’t read blog posts for such a long time, but it’s one of the things I decided to pick up fully now that Corona is forcing me to stay at home. I decided to quit my job as well. I didn’t know how Corona would affect NL yet but I wasn’t happy anymore so I decided to change things up a bit. That’s helped me be more creative. I’m curious to see what’s on the agenda for the upcoming months 🙂

    • March 22, 2020


      I assume you are in Newfoundland. I have a buddy I served with in Vietnam that lives in Spaniard’s Bay, NL.

    • March 31, 2020

      I know what you mean, Dominique! We went from three straight months of travel plans to…absolutely nothing on the agenda. And I don’t hate it. For once in my life, I’m letting Fate take the wheel.

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