6 things to do when you’re stuck at home in self-quarantine

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prison cell bars
Feeling locked up?
Photo: Denny Müller/Unsplash

Has the government in your city or country shut down everything due to COVID-19? Are the bars, gyms and other nonessential places closed? Are you stuck at home, cooped up with nothing but Facebook and Twitter to fan the flames of your outrage and fear?

Don’t worry. There are plenty of things to do at home. Why not take advantage of all that extra time and use it for something you enjoy?

Read a book

You can’t get out to a bookstore or a public library, but if you own an iPad, iPhone, Kindle or similar device, you can read a book. A dedicated e-reader like a Kindle is best, because it’s easy on your eyes and doesn’t have Facebook or Twitter on it. But most e-reader services, including Kindle, also offer iOS and Android apps, and maybe even Mac apps. There’s even a Kindle cloud reader that will let you read your books in any browser.

You can download any number of samples and books, directly to your device, and purchase them instantly. You can probably download books from your local library as well.

Reading a novel will take you off to another world, and is the very best way to escape for hours at a time. This is my favorite thing to do when stuck at home.

Learn that thing you’ve been meaning to learn

Learn to play the guitar, or to speak French.
Learn to play guitar or to speak French.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Have to been planning to learn to play that dusty old guitar under the bed? Or maybe you keep starting a foreign-language course, and you never got past the first chapter. Now’s your chance to make some progress. Now, it won’t be easy. The guitar is absurdly difficult to master, but it can also be a lot of fun with just a few chords. Foreign languages are best practiced in-situ, but that’s not possible right now, so an app like Duolingo or Babbel is a great place to begin.

No guitar? Load up GarageBand on your Mac, iPhone or iPad, and start from there. GarageBand is a marvel, and has more than enough tools, sounds and instruments to create all kinds of music.

What about programming? Try Apple’s Swift Playgrounds, available free on iOS and Mac, and learn how to code.

Or you could fix up the lights in your garage or tackle some other household task you’ve been putting off. There must be plenty of things you never started due to a “lack of time.” Well, you don’t have that excuse any more.

Catch up on TV shows

Maybe you prefer to escape into a screen. There are a ton of great TV shows available online, so if you haven’t already signed up for Netflix, Apple TV+, Hulu or Amazon Prime Video, maybe you should take a look. Worried about the cost? Well, one month is probably affordable, and hopefully you won’t need more than a few weeks. Especially as you can’t actually go out and spend any money.

Do some spring cleaning, already

With coronavirus taking over the news, it’s easy to forget the ongoing climate crisis. But thanks to this worldwide emergency, mild spring weather its arriving earlier than usual in some places. So why not take a day to spring clean your home?

Work out

Lifting frying pans is a serious business.
You can do plenty of workouts right in your home.

Even if you’re not a regular gym-goer, being stuck at home will decrease your exercise levels. And if you are a gym junkie, COVID-19 lockdown is going to drive you crazy. Exercise is essential to keeping your immune system fit. Plus, it will cut your stress level and help you sleep.

A great place to begin is with our own CultFit Home Workout, from Cult of Mac’s resident fitness freak, Graham Bower. This series of videos covers four weeks of training, all of which can be done in your own home — as you may have guessed from its name.

Learn to cook

Maybe it's time to learn to bake bread?
Maybe it’s time to learn to bake bread.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Probably a lot of the bars and restaurants in your city or town are closed. Maybe you’ve panic-bought a few sacks of rice, but have no idea what to do with it. This might be the time to learn to cook. A true home cook can take a look inside even the most neglected cupboard and rustle up something good to eat. That’s real cooking, and it takes time to learn.

Fortunately, you have plenty of time. A few tips to get you started. One, if you follow a recipe, then follow it. Even an experienced cook won’t freestyle the first time they use a new recipe. Otherwise, what’s the point of the recipe? A good recipe has been tested over and over, and is almost certain to work.

The other tip is not to rely too much on recipes. If the guacamole recipe says to add half a tablespoon of salt, and not half a teaspoon, then it probably is a typo. Use your commons sense. In a related tip, always add less salt/chili/brandy than you think you need. You can always add more, but you can’t remove it.

None of that will teach you how to cook up a meal from the depths of the pantry. For that, you need practice. Just try not to burn anything. Share your favorite recipe sites in the comments, but I like Mark Bittman, BBC Food and Serious Eats.