Food52 Staff

15 Things to Do While You’re Hunkered Down at Home

The small and meaningful to-dos we're checking off our lists.

March 17, 2020
Photo by James Ransom

Now more than ever, home is where many of us are seeking refuge and solace in light of the novel coronavirus. This is a tough time, but we’re here for you—whether it’s a new pantry recipe or a useful tip for your kitchen, here are some ideas to make things run a little more smoothly for you and your loved ones.


I’ve always professed to be a homebody, but some days into a work-from-home situation, I—as well as, I'm sure, every other “homebody”—have been thinking a lot about how our relationship with our home changes when it becomes the only place we inhabit. When the act of “coming home” no longer exists, because, well, you rarely leave.

While I was processing these thoughts, I received an email from a friend, saying she and her husband were holed up in their home upstate, cut off from the city. The good news, she added, was that they now had time to finally get to that pantry reorg they’d been planning for months. It would be something for them to look forward to doing—together, in the evening hours—a glass of wine for company.

Shortly after, I found myself sitting on the floor with my equivalent of a “junk drawer”—my beloved IKEA fjälla boxes bursting with junk. Ok, not all junk. Buried in there were birthday cards and notes I want to keep, but mostly there were receipts (for things I forgot to return), useless bank stuff, and business cards for shops in obscure places. 30 minutes later, I’d reduced the contents of both boxes to half, and was feeling a level of contentment I haven’t felt since COVID-19 brought on a permanent state of discouragement.

I was reminded yesterday about how Shakespeare allegedly churned out his best work while being quarantined for the plague. While this is a legacy I'm ill-prepared to emulate, I thought: What if we all found small (because no one needs one more thing to be overwhelmed by) but meaningful ways to make our time at home—all the extra time we didn't expect to have—more fulfilling?

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Top Comment:
“I've worked from home (self-employed computer programmer) for almost 35 years AND I live in rural NW Montana in semi-hermit mode so pretty much business as usual … EXCEPT, I am 64 so "high risk". I am not fearful, but I do want to protect others as well as myself. The crazy thing is, although I often do not go off my property for 7-10-14 days, now that I "should" not … psychological something or other … it feels odd. So, still some "coping" which for me is lightening up on the work schedule, getting outside!!!, connecting more often with friends (Instagram, Slack) and trying new recipes. I am a scratch cook, sourdough baker (bread, crackers, rolls), lots of soup and stews and seafood (salmon, sardines, shrimp). The big thing, though, for me, is focusing on neighbors. This is the time for reaching out to our community … and offering/accepting. For me, I find that thinking about helping others is calming.”
— Liz S.
Comment

I’ve since made a list of daily post-work to-dos that include: checking up on old friends I haven’t reached out to in a while (I’m turning to long, news-filled emails. Remember those?), baking bread (I’m a bit terrified), and wiping down my spice drawer and bottles (turmeric, must you be everywhere?).

Turns out half the Food52 team were thinking along the same lines. I asked my colleagues, newly housebound, to share all the projects that they’ve been tackling during their time at home. We'd also love to hear from you! Follow along at Home52 and share all the little projects you’re working on to distract you, comfort you, and make your space a place you want to be.

"I did a very detailed dusting of every leaf on all of my plants over the weekend. They’re all so shiny and happy now—and much less likely to make me cough and freak out!" —Rebecca Sutter, UX designer

"I'm finally getting around to cooking the recipes I've saved on site!! Yesterday I made the Genius Caramelized Cream Eggs and it was delicious. I’m also finally reading some of the books that have been chilling on my bookshelf." —Danielle Curtis Williams, marketing coordinator

"I cleaned out and organized my 'pantry,' aka the big floor-to-ceiling cabinet that I pretend is a pantry, where I keep all my dried and canned goods. For the first time since I moved into my apartment, each shelf has a designated purpose! Next up? My freezer." —Alex Egan, senior SEO strategist

"I keep whole spices (bay and curry leaves, star anise pods, chiles) in the freezer for longevity, but now that I'm braising, stewing, and infusing more, I moved some of these spices to pantry jars so they're more visible." —Coral Lee, associate editor

"I’m hoping to order some peel and stick wallpaper and finally add some life to my dining area. I’ve been meaning to do it for months but now that my evenings are free, I can!" —Caroline Mullen, assistant editor

"I spent some time this weekend moisturizing all of my wooden cutting boards and utensils! My recommendation? John Boos Block Mystery Oil and Board Cream." —Kelsey Burrow, director, public relations

"I cleaned out my glassware/mugs/teapots/random-stuff-I-never use cabinet (Hello, French Press. I was wondering where you were!). Now, when I open that cabinet door, I don't see stacks of very breakable items about to tip over. I donated everything I didn't want to keep, so nothing went into the trash can." —Erin Alexander, associate editor

"I am doing so many little projects, it's hard to pick (Go, Aja!). Most recently I cleaned my bathroom, every corner of it, and then made a pile of all the towels, bath linen, and toiletries and made a huge donation to a homeless shelter." —Aja Aktay, home buyer

"I’ve started doing long-distance origami challenges with my dad who lives in Northern California. He’s incredibly patient—he used to cut out all my paper dolls when I was little— and there are so many lovely tutorials on YouTube and Pinterest for fantastical shapes, birds, and my personal favorite, corgis (it’s true)." —Maggie Slover, senior copywriter

"I finally have time to babysit my dough starter. I’m looking forward to diving into levain breads, fears notwithstanding." —Josh Dion, senior video editor

"I have a backyard at my new place, and haven't had nice weather to do anything with it...until now. First up? A big clean-up job followed by laying sod (if I can still get it in a week or so). I also plan on building planter boxes around the edge to grow veggies." —Rob Strype, video editing lead

"More gardening prep here: sweeping up winter debris and getting seedlings going." —Cody Kestigian, data scientist

"I'm building a deck." —Timothy McSweeney, senior graphic designer

"I’m trying to fix some uneven wall panels and paint in my home with new moldings (Lucas, you’re my hero!) It’s no small task, but I plan on tackling this slowly, one small finite task at a time." —Lucas Monaco, senior QA engineer

Tell us what you've being doing to make your extra time at home feel more productive, fulfilling, or just comforting. We'd really love to know.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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Arati Menon

Written by: Arati Menon

Arati grew up hanging off the petticoat-tails of three generations of Indian matriarchs who used food to speak their language of love—and she finds herself instinctually following suit. Life has taken her all across the world, but she carries with her a menagerie of inherited home and kitchen objects that serve as her anchor. Formerly at GQ and Architectural Digest, she's now based in Brooklyn.

22 Comments

amazinc March 20, 2020
Good Grief, Ines...when this mayhem is over, will you come to my house and do same? Oh, I don't have a basement, but all the other chores are available. Thanks for making me giggle (and be a tad jealous of your energy).
 
Ines L. March 19, 2020
Even though I am retired, I've kept very busy doing the following: gardening, stenciling my basement floor, organizing every drawer in my house, cleaning windows, creating art journals, reading two books simultaneously, talking to out-of-town friends and family via Face Time, shopping on Amazon (Nice getting packages!), walking my dog around my neighborhood( He is driving me crazy!), washing my dry hands many times a day and today, I ventured out to Starbucks!
 
Author Comment
Arati M. March 20, 2020
Wow Ines I wish your energy would rub off on me! That's amazing!
 
Diane March 19, 2020
I'm getting caught up on my letter-writing. Got the first one done today. I'm also getting back to my photo organizing to make more photo books.
 
Author Comment
Arati M. March 19, 2020
Hi Diane. This is a wonderful idea. While clearing out my junk "drawer" I found letters written to me by school friends, and it was lovely even re-reading them...
 
Liz S. March 18, 2020
I've worked from home (self-employed computer programmer) for almost 35 years AND I live in rural NW Montana in semi-hermit mode so pretty much business as usual … EXCEPT, I am 64 so "high risk". I am not fearful, but I do want to protect others as well as myself. The crazy thing is, although I often do not go off my property for 7-10-14 days, now that I "should" not … psychological something or other … it feels odd. So, still some "coping" which for me is lightening up on the work schedule, getting outside!!!, connecting more often with friends (Instagram, Slack) and trying new recipes. I am a scratch cook, sourdough baker (bread, crackers, rolls), lots of soup and stews and seafood (salmon, sardines, shrimp). The big thing, though, for me, is focusing on neighbors. This is the time for reaching out to our community … and offering/accepting. For me, I find that thinking about helping others is calming.
 
Author Comment
Arati M. March 18, 2020
What a heartwarming sentiment, Liz. Your neighbors are lucky to have you around. Also, your kitchen must smell heavenly right now...all those stews and breads!!
 
Liz S. March 18, 2020
And I am fortunate in my good neighbors who look after me. Thanks, Arati M. for this post to help us all :)
 
AntoniaJames March 18, 2020
I've been working from a home office for going on 20 years, and my clients are all still busy, so my routine hasn't changed that much, except that the gyms are all closed, so I'm cycling for 1.5 - 3 hours every day, weather permitting, instead of working out and walking, which I was doing 6X per week during the cold weather months here. I have found Regina Leeds's "The 8-Minute Organizer" (which I discovered a few months ago) to be a wonderful resource, as I continue to work through a wide variety of projects and constituent tasks. I highly recommend it! I imagine that many libraries have it available online. ;o)
 
Lydia M. March 18, 2020
I’ve started writing letters to people I haven’t spoken with in a while and using pantry items that otherwise never leave the shelf. Always looking for new project ideas! Going to sort through our towel collection today...
 
Author Comment
Arati M. March 18, 2020
I just found some unused white miso that I'm going to turn into a soup! But you're right, it's a time for discoveries, and re-discoveries (of foods, friendships...)
 
Ellen B. March 17, 2020
Can’t imagine why the spices in that drawer aren’t in alphabetical order!!
 
Author Comment
Arati M. March 17, 2020
Maybe that's the next project! :)
 
mdelgatty March 20, 2020
And with the labels right-side-up...
 
Bonny M. March 20, 2020
My first thought, as well! I'm not an OCD person, but my spices have to be alphabetical!! (And right side up, lol)
 
Anne March 17, 2020
I've been working on small cleaning projects for several weeks. I've cleaned out my linen closet, and all cupboards and drawers in my bathroom. Next I'll tackle the window gutters.
 
Author Comment
Arati M. March 17, 2020
Wow, you're way ahead of me. I've done my junk "drawer," my spice rack, and tomorrow I'll tackle my medicine chest. So much more to go!
 
amazinc March 17, 2020
I've been whining about the color of my living area for years...even bought paint samples in small cans to check them out on various walls. Guess what. The cans are still unopened and the large poster boards I bought to paint the samples on are still pristine. Now that I'm not pressed to go to our village for shopping or pressed to visit friends, I WILL get this chore, if not finished, at least started. New color?? Coming up!!
 
Author Comment
Arati M. March 17, 2020
That's amazing. Any idea what color you'll go with? :) I'm tired of my all-white walls and hope to live vicariously through you!
 
AntoniaJames March 18, 2020
Four gorgeous colors I just put up on the walls of my Colorado house: Benjamin Moore Silver Marlin (third-floor loft office and carriage house apartment) 2139-50, Benjamin Moore Misted Green (primary bedroom) 2138-50; and Benjamin Moore Kentucky Haze (living room, nearby dining area in this open floor plan) AC-16; and Benjamin Moore Sea Haze (entryway, large stair wells going up and down near same, other nearby halls, and kitchen) 2137-50. And no, we didn't select them based on their similarity of numbers, although I suppose it's no coincidence that they work so well together. We created sample panels and then wall tests for many others as well as those - spending days and in some cases weeks on each decision -- but it was well worth the effort and expense. We are altogether delighted. We had Misted Green in our SF Bay Area house https://abioproperties.com/listings/144-ronada-avenue-piedmont-ca-94611/ but were amazed at how different - and how more beautiful - that color is here in the pure, bright Colorado light, and in a larger room with much higher ceilings. That's proof that one really should use the panels, putting them in a variety of different places within the space, considering them at all times of day and night.

Have fun, Arati! (And congrats on doing something about the all-white walls. I simply cannot imagine that, though I understand that many people live in all-white spaces.) ;o)
 
Dominique D. March 17, 2020
I altered a bunch of clothes that were too big on me! It's the type of thing you think of doing for months (if not years) and lacking the motivation to do it all. But it's great! It's like I have 4 new sweaters :)
 
Author Comment
Arati M. March 17, 2020
Ah, how lovely—thanks for sharing! I'm not a very skilled alterer/tailor, but that's definitely something on my bucket list!!