Winter is a great time to do all those little chores, tasks, and even enjoyable projects that you have been putting off. They just aren’t important enough when you’re relentlessly busy, but as summer ends and fall winds down into winter, you tend to have more time on your hands.
Personally, I’m enjoying the slower pace of life this time of year, but there are days when I feel a bit aimless. Especially because the pandemic is limiting social opportunities, we all have to find constructive ways of filling our free time.
My remedy has been to make a list of activities I’ve been procrastinating on doing for the past year (or years) and try to do one of them each day. Some items on my list are not exactly what you’d call fun, but when I complete them I’ll end up with a sense of accomplishment. Also there’s a kind of shadow in the back of my mind about tasks I’ve been avoiding, and wiping away that shadow leaves me with a feeling of lightness and grace.
Here is a list of possible projects to get you started. But you alone are the one who knows what needs doing in your home and your life, so spend some time brainstorming, and you’ll probably find items to add.
Start spring cleaning early
I like spring cleaning as a concept, but as soon as the weather warms up all I want to do is get outside. My curtains, for instance, basically never get washed, and moving the couch and beds to clean underneath — who has time for that? Well, right now we have time. I recently noticed the layer of dust on the bedroom curtains, shoved them into the washing machine, and now I have fresh, clean curtains. Next project — extracting the accumulation of dust from under the clawfoot tub.
Call people you’ve lost touch with
I’m not a big fan of conversing on the phone, but it’s more personal than emailing, and when you haven’t spoken to someone for six months it can be refreshing to catch up by phone. One person a week is probably enough. My friend Eifion calls me from Wales a couple times a year, and maybe one of these times I’ll actually call him first. He’ll be delighted.
Write a letter
If you want to go really retro, consider the lost art of letter-writing, especially suitable for reconnecting with people you haven’t spoken to for years. They will be so thrilled to receive a letter in the mail. And they might send you one back!
Make a photo album
When I was 25, my mother collected photos of me from childhood and beyond, put them in an album (the kind with sticky pages and plastic cover sheets), and gave it to me for my birthday. Even though I was not getting along so well with my mom at that point (much better nowadays, thanks), I was deeply touched. I still like looking at that album. You probably have boxes of unsorted photos in the back of a closet and/or a zillion .jpgs cluttering up your hard drive. Nowadays, if you have a smidgen of computer know-how, you can make albums online and get them printed inexpensively, adding your own captions. It’s actually quite creative and fun.
Cook up stuff squirreled away in the kitchen cabinets
Speaking of spring cleaning, now’s a good time to go through the cupboards and make space by utilizing food you forgot you had. I have plans to cook up those two packages of butterscotch pudding, childhood comfort food I bought in a fit of nostalgia but never get around to making. Probably next week…
Watch videos of your friends’ performances
In the world of Netflix, when a friend gives us a DVD of their performance art / poetry reading / play performance, it’s likely to sit on a shelf for years. Why not take it down now and watch at least the first ten minutes? Your friend will be gratified.
Study a foreign language
Even if you don’t have a penchant for languages, it can be great fun to learn a whole new way of communicating. Given that many Spanish-speaking people live in our region, why not learn to carry on a basic conversation in that soft, melodic language? Or enjoy bragging to your friends that you’re learning something exotic, like Norwegian or Kurdish? Duolingo is a free website that makes language learning fun and not intimidating. For some languages, you can get courses on CDs from the library.
We rarely mend our clothes these days because they’re so easy to replace. But what about that favorite flannel shirt you just can’t throw away, even though it’s torn? Why not sew up the gap, or sew on a patch? Sewing machines are handy, but you don’t really need one if you want to make an article of clothing, embroider a picture or pattern, or venture into quilting, starting small with a potholder. Needles and thread are inexpensive, and you can buy odd lengths of fabric at a thrift shop. I have a friend who addresses insomnia by hand-stitching quilts, an activity that contributes to her sanity.
Research your family tree
If you have any information about your ancestors, you have probably thought of going online to find out more. FamilySearch.org is free and has lots of data, from census to military records. You can even build a family tree on the website, accessible to other family members. But be careful, it can become addictive. In short, a great way to pass the winter.
The other day, when I was staying with a relative and feeling restless outside my regular routine, it occurred to me that I could relax. Instead of focusing on boredom or anxiety, I could focus on the luxury of stillness. By bringing the wandering mind to the little tingly sensations of the body, we can create a bit of space in our thought, and into that space, ideas often flow. Maybe even ideas for new winter projects to inspire and entertain!