45 Things You Can Do At Home That Don’t Involve A Screen

by Jo Yurcaba
Originally Published: 

We're less than a week into the CDC's social-distancing decree to stop the spread of the coronavirus, and people are already running out of analog activities. If previous crises are any indication, screen time is likely to skyrocket. (According to data from the market-research company Nielsen, streaming jumped 61% during the January 2016 snowstorm and 2017's Hurricane Harvey.) Considering that multiple studies have found social-media use having an adverse reaction on well-being and mental health, preserve your unplugged time.

So whether we're social-distancing for a few weeks or a few months, streaming movies and refreshing Twitter will get old quickly. Here, 45 things to do at home sans screens.

If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC or NHS 111 in the UK for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all Bustle’s coverage of coronavirus here, and UK-specific updates on coronavirus here.


Clean out your closet


Put on a Spotify playlist and Marie Kondo your intimates drawer. Underwear with holes or stains? They do not bring joy. Here, the decluttering wizard shares 10 tips on tidying up.


Read a book

Good fiction can be a welcome escape from reality. Here, some of the best pandemic novels, new March 2020 releases, and books to read when you have a lot of alone time.


Bake bread

A 2015 study found that baking can relieve stress. If you're low on supplies but want comfort food, I recommend this nine-ingredient banana bread from Stress Baking.

If you need to make a grocery store run, take precautions: Wipe down your cart with sanitary wipes at the front of the store, stand at least six feet away from others, and wash your hands when you get home.


Clean everything

Experts have that said a regular cleaning schedule can help reduce stress.


Do a drip painting


Have some old art supplies lying around? Dig out the paint, a paintbrush, and a piece of canvas to make a drip painting, the abstract style popularized by Jackson Pollack. Lacking the appropriate supplies? Test out a spoon or spatula as a paintbrush, and cardboard as a makeshift canvas. Here's a handy how-to.


Pull out some board games

Board games challenge your brain by working your memory and perceptual speed (i.e., the ability to compare numbers, letters, or patterns). If you live alone, consider solitaire. Partnered up, or living with roommates? Get out Monopoly, Clue, or maybe Settlers of Catan if you're OK with hating each other for a few days afterward.


Do a puzzle

Like board games, studies have found that puzzles can improve memory, problem solving, and spatial reasoning skills. You'll be surprised at how quickly you can get lost in a 1,000-piece puzzle.


Teach your old dog a new trick

If you're feeling really ambitious, consider teaching your pet something new. Here's a step-by-step guide for dogs and one for cats.


Start a garden


As my dad always says, there's no better time to prepare for the apocalypse than the present. Here's how to start a beginner's vegetable garden, or a simple flower garden.


Clean out your kitchen cabinets

It's time to discover what lurks in the deepest corners of your pantry — a monster, mouse, or very expired potato chips.


Get all dressed up with nowhere to go

Take the old saying literally. But really, unveil that cocktail attire in the back of your closet and have a night out inside.


Make a blanket and pillow fort


The COVID-19 outbreak is not a snow day, but cull some winter-storm activities to boost your spirits, like a pillow and blanket fort, complete with flashlights and ghost stories.


Give yourself a massage

Use a foam roller or tennis balls to massage stiff muscles. My recommendation? Place two tennis balls in a long sock, leaving 2-3 inches between them, and tie a knot at the open end. Lay on the floor, placing one ball on either side of your spine, and slowly roll them up and down your back.


Take a bubble bath


Release stress with a pre-made soap, or concoct a DIY bubble-bath soap from common household ingredients.


Make a face mask

Pamper your skin, which might be unhappy from all the COVID-19-related stress. Here are some DIY face mask recipes — plus, hair masks for natural curls and other hair types, if you're in the mood for additional potion mixing.


Make a list of all the places you'd like to go

Since traveling is off the table, brainstorm a list of dream trips and itineraries — without Googling.


Give yourself a manicure or pedicure

Avoid going to a nail salon and save some money by doing an at-home mani/pedi. May we suggest some DIY foot soaks and scrubs?



According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, journaling can help people manage anxiety by allowing them to prioritize their problems and worries, and write positive messages to themselves.


Practice yoga or stretch


Practice the most well-known limb of yoga, called the asanas, or physical postures. If yoga's not your cup of tea, consider these daily stretches for people who work in a sitting position or people who are on their feet. Plus, here's how to stretch your neck.


Reminisce with old photos

Break out the yearbooks and albums. Feeling artsy? Create a makeshift gallery wall, or tape up your favorite images around the home.


Floss your teeth

None of us do this enough. Now's the time to build a routine.


Rearrange your furniture

Switching up decor can have psychological benefits and give you a creative outlet. Consider tiny upgrades, like adding a plant, which are proven to reduce anxiety, or consider interior-design changes to further alleviate stress.


Have a cooking contest


Challenge your parter or roommate to a cooking contest à la MasterChef. Set a timer, establish the viable ingredients, and begin the battle.



A 2018 study from the CDC found that more Americans are meditating, up from 4.1% to 14.2% between 2012 and 2017. Meditation is known to reduce stress and anxiety and increase your attention span, and could reduce age-related memory loss. So light a few candles and sit in silence. If you need something to do with your hands, consider a cup of tea.


Send some snail mail

On March 17, the U.S. Postal Service said it had experienced "only minor operational impacts in the United States as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic." It's the perfect time to write heartfelt messages to loved ones.


Sit and stare into space

Multiple studies have found that boredom can be good for creativity and productivity, but with smartphones and streaming services, people are rarely bored. Take some time to stare out the window.


Have a picnic


Get a few snacks or a meal together for an impromptu picnic — on your porch, in your yard, or on the floor of your studio apartment.


Sort through bills and papers you've been meaning to throw out

Recycle what you can.


Make birthday cards in advance

Get out construction paper and Elmer's glue, forage for flowers or leaves outside, and put your crayons to work.


Polka dot your pants

With a wee bit of bleach and some Q-tips, you can speckle jeans, towels, or socks.



Cracking knuckles? Credit your good hand-washing hygiene.


Make your own bath bombs


It's an easy process, requiring just a few household ingredients. If you don't have a bath-bomb mold, consider using a muffin tin.


Test out a new recipe

For example, try a personalized ice coffee. This recipe explains how to make a simple syrup, or you could test out a homemade cold brew.


Wash your sheets

Please, for the love of God. We spend one-third of our lives in bed, but a recent survey found that Americans, on average, wash their sheets once every 25 days.


Eat in absolute silence

Can you remember the last time you ate alone without watching TV or scrolling through your phone? I can't. Try being present in the moment.


Draw a self portrait

Get out a pencil, paper, and a mirror, and draw yourself. Consider using a famous portrait for inspiration.


Flip through old magazines

Reading 2010's best sex tips is funnier than you'd expect. My favorite is from Cosmopolitan, which suggested grasping a penis "with both hands and twisting them in opposite directions."


Practice your smokey eye

Try your hand at the elusive smokey eye, or practice putting on fake eyelashes.


Choreograph a dance to your favorite song


If you're more coordinated than I, play a favorite song and choreograph a dance. It'll be like middle school all over again.


Scream into a pillow

Let out some of those emotions.


Make a list of things that make you happy, and do one every day.

My list would include porch hangouts, making coffee, stretching, reading, and playing Justin Bieber's "Beauty And A Beat." Don't judge me.


Do some jumping jacks

Getting your heart rate up for 1-2 minutes releases those feel-good endorphins. Feeling ambitious? Make them burpees.


Do your hair in a new way


As Dolly Parton says, the higher the hair, the closer to God. Challenge accepted.


Dress up in '80s gear for an impromptu aerobics workout

Make up your own Jane Fonda–inspired routine, screen free, and enlist your roommate as a willing participant.


Practice your go-to karaoke hits

The best time to belt it out? When you're home, alone, and in your pajamas. Now's the time to rehearse those high notes.

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