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It is week three of self-quarantine for most of us and, lets face it, things have to change. Work is, well, work (for those of us lucky enough to still have them) and organizing in a charitable way has been an amazing thing to behold right now, in this country…. but the need for finding a meaning for life INSIDE our own homes is more challenging than ever.

The first week was all about binge-ing Love is Blind and eating junky snax. The second week was all about resisting and then giving into Tiger King and then worrying about what that decision has done to our brain cells.

Things that, based on a casual survey of our immediate contacts, no one has done: read a book (though everyone has instagrammed a stack of books they are planning to read), it seems (even Ann Friedman admitted to not reading as much as she planned to, and if Ann can admit to it, so can the rest of us), no one has actually started taking foreign language classes, or learning to knit.

What we are all experiencing now, in terms of commitment to quality self-entertainment and self-improvement is that those things are hard in times of extreme stress. Which is that feeling you are currently experiencing. But, at the same time, our brain is already overdosed on junk, and we need to take care of our brain.

So, utilizing the meditation technique for slowing down a racing mind the next steps are clear: we need to give our brains something quality, but not too challenging, to do, and we need to build a routine around it. Once we have that, we can trick ourselves into thinking we are actually being productive and meaningful and life is not pointless. Which is the best we can all hope for right now.

In short, what we all need right now … IS A PROJECT.

Below, we have assembled a list of manageable, but life-quality improving projects you can take on, right now, in the privacy of your own home that don’t require becoming crafty overnight or purchasing a whole bunch of equipment. Hell, some of these you are probably doing yourself already piecemeal, but just not in an organized project way. Now, just make it a project:

  • Treat your home like a make-over project: Curbed published this list of 21 easy home-improvement projects you can do NOW, without buying a single thing, and frankly, we are probably going to do them all. From re-arranging your art and books, to micro-cleaning and moisturizing your wooden shelves, there’s a little something for everyone there.

  • Give Yourself A Lesson in Film: we have long propagated signing up for Criterion Channel, but the time is truly now. Not only are you going to (for the price of a cocktail, that you now can’t buy in a bar) have access to what Wes Anderson referred to as “The Louvre of Moviemaking” but the way the channel is set up in collections is perfect for PROJECT BASED viewing: spend this week seeing all of Catherine Deneuve classics (so beautiful, so stylish, so dangerous at times), then spend some time with the 20 movies ABOUT movies on their roster (the collection is perfectly titled “The Film Plays Itself“) or make March and Women’s History Month go a little longer by delving into the collected works of Agnes Varda or existential delocation as seen by Chantal Akerman. At the end of this journey, once we are all allowed to have dinner parties again, you will be a better person to sit next to.

  • Read a book series: I know that taking on something that is multiple thousands of pages in a time when you don’t seem to be able to focus on a single book may seem counter-intuitive but hear us out: there is a reason we all stuck through Lord of the Rings or the Harry Potter series as kids: longer forms of storytelling allow for deeper connections to characters, a greater sense of escapism etc. In other words, they help you get lost. Some good-for-your-brain suggestions on our end: Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell series: Wolf Hall, Bring Up The Bodies and now, most recently, The Mirror & The Light (if you can’t speak the truth at a beheading, when can you speak it?), Elena Ferrante‘s Neapolitan novels (pair with the HBO adaptations) or maybe Jussi Adler Olsson’s Department Q novels, if you lean toward the murder-y end of the reading spectrum. Alternatively, it is a great time to become a completist of a single author.

  • Subscribe to the New Yorker, actually read it: you know what I’m talking about.
  • Step away from a screen and toward a podcast, and then listen to ALL OF IT: Shows like Reply All or Armchair Expert were built for a time like this, so you can pretend that you are in a room with smart, engaging people who have smart, engaging things to share with you. The March 11th episode of Reply All, which dealt with a 90s music mystery, is a great place to start believing in podcasts again.

  • Julie and Julia your cookbooks: If you are anything like us, you have a huge stack of cookbooks that you love leafing through but don’t use. Commit to using them, all of them: say that once, twice, three times a week you will cook something new from a different cook book. Spend time picking these recipes out, make your household vote on it, go to a grocery store WITH INTENTION (not panic), cook it, keep yourself accountable somehow (social media posts, if need be). Trust me, you’ll love it:

  • Write Letters OR Make A Card. This whole list is mostly built around things people who are NOT into crafts can do. Having said that – greeting card making is the lowest form of crafting, and anyone can do it. How about you spend the next week or so making greeting cards to send to everyone you know for their birthdays, upcoming holidays etc. No one expects them to be fancy anyway. This seem too much? Share some positive vibes and join the Outrage Postcard Project 

What else are you doing? Share any creative (or just manageable, or even obvious) project ideas with us in comments or at [email protected]

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