The Small Stuff That I Was Too Busy For Before Self-Isolation

James Barrett
Photo credit: Eugenio Marongiu - Getty Images
Photo credit: Eugenio Marongiu - Getty Images

From Redbook

As we navigate a new normal in the midst of a pandemic and self isolation, we look to find new outlets without leaving home to keep us happy. Amid the chaos, I’ve found a breath of fresh air in the downtime -- the small stuff in the everyday.

It’s the random stuff that might be so small, you do them all the time without even noticing. Reinvigorate your passions that you sidelined for one reason or another, and do that weird thing that brings joy to your day. As I’m quarantined with my family in our home in the suburbs of New Jersey, here’s the small stuff I was too busy to notice or care for before self-isolation...

Mother Nature is all around me.

The stillness of the days allow me to see more as I’m not rushing from one activity to the next. I haven’t seen any bears yet (and hopefully won’t), but I’ve noticed more nature in my backyard than I have in years. This isn’t because they’re suddenly there now; I just never took a moment to look.

Photo credit: Jeremy Lwanga
Photo credit: Jeremy Lwanga

I even dug up my old binoculars and now I can birdwatch in my backyard from my deck. It’s calming and becomes a fun game. It’s also about being in the moment because even if I tried, I couldn’t capture a photo that would do it justice; that’s not what it’s about.

Catching up with neighbors (from a distance).

Living in suburban New Jersey, leaving the house to go to the park or anywhere really is off the table. Self isolation is no joke. It leaves my family and I the opportunity to go for daily walks from our house. I’ve lived in my house for the last 25 years, so we know the veterans of our neighborhood who grew up there with us.

Photo credit: amriphoto - Getty Images
Photo credit: amriphoto - Getty Images

Throughout our walks, we’d see some neighbors outside and stop to catch up (from a safe distance). Some we haven’t spoken to in years, but old friends pick right back up and the conversation is filled with nostalgia going all the way back to elementary school. I feel embarrassed living just a few houses away from these neighbors knowing we always got too caught up in our schedules and lives to simply stop and catch up.

Supporting small businesses.

The quarantine has me rethinking where I spend my money. I’m not just swiping my credit card like I used to for instant gratification for something I need. Instead, this pandemic has really put small businesses in the forefront. Whenever I want to purchase something now if it’s an item or food, I see where I can get it locally first to support places in my community. I know it might take a little longer than an instant "add to cart" on bigger online retailers, but we need to help keep these businesses afloat and not second guess their livelihood.

Photo credit: Tim Mossholder
Photo credit: Tim Mossholder

The simple joy of family game night.

Everyone has probably hit the stage in quarantine where binging television shows is getting stale. It’s important to interact and stay stimulated, even though you can’t leave your house. With my 11-year-old nephew home, my family started playing board games every night. In our basement we have shelves of them, but I can’t tell you the last time we sat and played any together.

Photo credit: Andrea Colarieti / EyeEm - Getty Images
Photo credit: Andrea Colarieti / EyeEm - Getty Images

Playing with my family of five in the house, I forgot how much fun it is (and how competitive I can get). It gave us something to look forward to every night. Our goal is to play all of the games collecting dust in the basement that we never play.

Rediscovering old hobbies.

If you’re like me, you have a to-do-list of things that you probably never get to do. Quarantine so far has taught me that I was keeping myself busy before doing things that I didn’t necessarily love doing. With this extra time in my house, I’ve rekindled some hobbies that I haven’t pursued in years.

Photo credit: trinetuzun - Getty Images
Photo credit: trinetuzun - Getty Images

From my first art class in high school, I fell in love with collaging as a medium. I started collecting magazines where I’d cut out cool photos and also different hues of color to create my own design. Picking this back up brought me instant nostalgia, as I haven’t collaged since my early college years. I was easily reminded why I loved it so much to begin with, and will bring this hobby with me out of quarantine.

Exploring neighborhoods near my house.

I thought I knew all of the neighborhoods around my home. Going on walks and runs through various side streets and neighborhoods has become a brand new adventure. I felt silly because some streets (with my house in the distance) I was walking on for the first time. Conversations throughout self-isolation have left me and my mom talking about the architecture of the houses, how the leaves change color and how many hills we're going to walk up.

Photo credit: James Barrett
Photo credit: James Barrett

Appreciating the art of cooking.

With limited restaurant/delivery options available to us now, it made me realize how much we actually ordered out before the pandemic. I’m not much of a cook, but I always wanted to be. I finally used the air fryer I bought six months ago. Now I’ve been using it almost everyday and it’s been a staple in my quarantine life. Besides the air fryer, extra time in the day has given me and my family the opportunity to find new recipes and try new meals out that we’ve never cooked before.

Photo credit: James Barrett
Photo credit: James Barrett

Two months into quarantine, I find myself not always running to my living room to watch another show...but continuing to find these activities that I haven’t gotten enough of. They’re small reminders that what you have shouldn’t be taken for granted and that you don’t need to leave your neighborhood to find something new to explore. It’s the small stuff that I didn’t take enough time to notice before isolation, but now it’ll be hard to forget.

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