What to do at home when you’re in quarantine

Whether you’re stuck at home due to social distancing or a full-blown quarantine, you’re going to find that you’ll eventually go a little stir-crazy — or at the very least, feel bored.

“Human beings are not real great about endless time at home, not really knowing what to do with yourself,” says Lauren Murray, a clinical psychologist and associate scientist at Johns Hopkins University, School of Public Health in the Department of Mental Health and International Health.

Of course, while you could use this time to write that novel you’ve been thinking about, sometimes it’s better for us to have a more visible goal to work towards. Something we can spread over several days or even weeks, and little by little, see our successes. With that in mind, we’ve bought together five projects you can work on over the days and weeks that you’re stuck at home.


This seems like an odd place to start, but hear us out. Not only does yoga count as physical activity (so you can stay fit even when you can’t get to the gym), it doesn’t take up much room. Studies have shown that yoga can boost your mood, lower stress and anxiety and boost your self-esteem, which is an extra pick-me-up we all need when dealing with the unknowns of the COVID-19 pandemic. You can also very clearly see all your gains from yoga: one week and you’ll be able to touch your toes, another and you might have that downward dog form correct.

There are several online yoga classes to explore from the comfort of your own home, such as YouTube’s Yoga With Adriene or CorePower Yoga On Demand. As weird as it sounds, this is a sport you can do with friends from your own home, so if you know someone who’s a dedicated yogi, get them to lead a class over Skype. Not only do you get the benefits of working out, but you get to catch up with friends and have a laugh as you watch them fail.

Start that renovation project you’ve been putting off

Now that you’ve got the time, it might be the right time to start the small renovations that you occasionally consider doing. We’re talking simple stuff, like repainting the kitchen to brighten it up, or swapping out existing lighting with newer, funkier options.

These don’t have to be big projects, and you can work with what you’ve got at home (or what you can get from the local Bunnings, if possible). Online, you’ll find thousands of videos giving you the know-how on any project you’ve got in mind, from the simple (adding sides and doors to an existing coffee table to increase storage space) to the far more complex (it might be time to build that planter you’ve always wanted!).

Get cleaning

We know, sounds boring…but you might just be that bored. Based on what we know about previous coronavirus outbreaks (SARS and MERS), coronaviruses can live on surfaces for an average of 4–5 days. But some have survived at room temperature for up to nine days. It’s time to get in there with some elbow grease and get your home clean in a way you just haven’t seen since you moved in. Move all of the furniture, clean out the closets, get those surfaces sparkling.

The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending that, if possible, surfaces are cleaned in this order: detergent, then diluted bleach (at a ratio of 1:7, bleach:water). For those surfaces that bleach would destroy, it is recommended that alcohol wipes or sprays are used. They’re also telling those under quarantine to wash fabric surfaces — bed sheets, pillows, towels, etc. — regularly, keeping anything belonging to a sick person separate.

If you’re thinking that you might want to do more of a spring clean while you’re stuck at home, make a plan. Try to stretch it over as many days as possible: tackle your room today, the garage tomorrow, the kids room the day after, etc. You’re giving yourself a visible goal to work towards, which is good! If you have a lot of stuff you want to donate, it’s best to hold on to it for now (after a thorough clean). Try contacting your local charity shop to see if they have any guidelines for donations or things they are sorely lacking, and then plan from there.

Check out these articles on cleaning, decluttering and feng shui to get you excited about the possibilities:

Start a book or movie club

If you’re a people person, self-isolation sounds like actual hell. Luckily, modern technology means it’s easier than ever to catch up with friends and family. It’s not always that easy to come up with something to say though, and staying positive is something you need to do to maintain a sense of normalcy in this time. This is where a book or movie club comes in.

For those thinking a book club is more up their alley, get a group together — be it friends, family, or strangers you’ve found on Facebook — and decide on a book. Have everyone download it onto their phone or Kindle (if they don’t have a physical copy), and then decide on how many chapters you need to read a day. You might decide that you all have to read three chapters per day and that you meet once every two days to discuss what’s happened. Work out what suits the group, and then stick to the plan.

If a movie club is more your kind of style, there are hundreds of extensions and apps to help you. You might decide that you all watch the movie separately and then chat about it over Skype, or it might be more fun to have a Netflix Party (a chrome extension that lets a group all watch the same Netflix show or movie at the same time and communicate while doing so). This might be something you need to figure out via trial and error, but you’re in luck — you’ve got the time to do that!

Update your garden

It’s important to keep your Vitamin D levels up during this COVID-19 outbreak (no, really: high Vitamin D levels have been linked with decreased risk of contracting COVID-19). With this in mind, we’re recommending some time out in the sun. Not only will you get your recommended daily Vitamin D intake, but being outside in nature has been shown to decrease stress. As a bonus, if you grow your own food, that’s one less thing you have to try and buy at the shops.

For some people, this is the time to get in there and do the weeding. Even just 15-30 minutes a day is good for you (although you should still put on sunscreen after about 15 minutes). Put your gloves on (or don’t, no one is around to judge) and start pulling the weeds from the ground, or pruning the bushes, or even aerating the soil.

If you have a smaller garden or live in an apartment, it might be time to start a window garden. You can grow quite a few plants from the seeds of what you’re eating (find out how here), or you can get some live plants from your local plant store if you’re still allowed outside. This is a great project because it will require you to plan and build the container for the plants, plant them, and take care of them long-term. If you’re feeling more adventurous, you might look at a full balcony redesign.

This is a tough time for a lot of Australians, so keeping yourself busy and happy is a priority. If you’re in self-isolation or quarantined, look after yourself and your loved ones. We must continue to self-isolate as much as possible until advised otherwise by the government — let’s flatten the curve.

Written: 29 March 2020

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