Things To Do While Self-Isolating

The whole country is pretty much in a lockdown mode (and those areas that aren’t are going to be rather soon). People are being told to stay home, and keep away from other people as much as possible in order to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

This is most likely a new thing for many people, but it need not be a prison sentence. There are plenty of things that you can do to keep your self occupied.


I know, you hate it as much as I. But now is a good time to tackle all those little cleaning projects you’ve been putting off. Reorganize your bookshelves and cabinets. Go through your wardrobe, and ditch everything that no longer fits, is horribly out of fashion, or hasn’t been worn in ages. Shine a light into all the dark corners, and get rid of all the dust bunnies and other denizens that dwell there. You’ve got time; there’s no longer an excuse.


Since you’re reading this, you clearly have a computer and internet access. The Gutenberg Project has an ever-growing collection of public domain works, so why not go and grab a few? Go back and read all those “classics” that they made you read in school – they might be better than you remember! Jane Austen. Charles Dickens. Shakespeare.* The Odyssey. Or how about those “classics” you never got around to reading in the first place? Frankenstein. Treasure Island. War of the Worlds. Tarzan. All the Sherlock Holmes stories, and all the Oz books (Baum wrote over a dozen!). The best part is that no teacher is looking over your shoulder demand you read them all the way through because there’s going to be a test!

(If you want to be “tested”, though, there are two books of puzzles by Henry Ernest Dudeney that will help you pass the time: Amusements in Mathematics and The Canterbury Puzzles.)

* Just keep in mind that his plays were meant to be seen and not read…..


It could be a new hobby, or it could just be something you’re interested in at the moment. In addition to all the online courses being offered, there are plenty of lectures and the like available, on every topic imaginable. And not just TED talks, either! Poke around the internet looking for articles and essays on everything from art to zoology. Many world-class museums have virtual tours or other ways to access their collections. Take advantage of it, and perhaps become a bit of an expert on Titian or Chinese textiles!


Speaking of museum collections, there are quite a few that have placed their collections of documents online for ordinary people to transcribe. It turns out the “collective wisdom of crowds” (crowdsourcing) is actually helpful in deciphering old journals and diaries. Or old science fiction fanzines at the University of Iowa…..

National Archives:
Nantucket Historical Association:
The University of Iowa

Perhaps you’d rather not read a bunch of old papers? The Zooniverse has over a hundred “citizen science” projects where you can help.


Eventually, you’re going to need to get outside. When the weather’s nice enough to allow it, go for a walk! Get some exercise and fresh air. Say Hello to everyone you meet – while keeping a safe distance, of course. Spring is beginning here; look for wildlife awakening from its Winter slumber. Perhaps there’s a nature reserve of some sort not too far from you? The facilities might be closed, but the trails should be open.


Get on the phone and call your friends and family. Hearing other voices is unbelievably important when being isolated like this. Check in on people; find out how they are doing and let them know you’re OK. Swap jokes and recipes, recommend books and movies, whatever. Maintain your social bonds!

Whatever you do, have fun! We’ll get through this.

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