10 Things That Bring Me Joy When I Can’t Leave Home

2020 has been quite a trip so far! Although it’s just barely half over (and we still have SO FAR to go), it feels like an eternity in some ways. Our family has spent most of our time at home since March, as I know so many of you have as well. We do have some parks to visit and the occasional drive-thru treats, but for the most part, we’re just home. I remember in March thinking that I’d never stayed home for more than a few days without leaving—now it’s our new normal.

Don’t get me wrong, I look forward to eating at restaurants and having playdates and flying as much as anyone. I’m not trying to sugarcoat how extremely difficult this year has been. What I am trying to do, mostly internally, is to make the most of it!

Since our time at home currently has no end in sight, I’ve been thinking towards the fall and holidays, trying to get my brain around how different things might be this year. I’m also working to embrace this time by doing things that are helpful for me, which is staying busy with projects and distractions as much as possible. I hope this post is helpful and I would LOVE to hear some of the things that are bringing you joy as you continue to stay home.

1. Organizing

At the risk of sounding extremely cliché, organizing my home makes me feel like my brain is somehow more organized as well. It’s extremely therapeutic for me to take a messy space and make it nicely organized. There have been many times when a little organizing project has somehow created mental space for me, in addition to physical. It’s a helpful way for me to feel more at home and more at peace with my surroundings.

2. The Outdoors

I haven’t been one of those people who has worked out every day in quarantine. In fact, for the most part, I haven’t been consistent in any type of physical activity besides watching little kids (which is extremely consistent, haha). However, what I have done is go outside. It’s been extremely helpful to me to take walks outside or sit on the porch to have my coffee. Even walking to our mailbox has felt like a treat and a chance to breathe fresh air. Being outside is an instant mood lifter!

3. Making Stuff

Little projects, whether with my children or for my children, have been incredibly helpful for me. One positive thing 2020 has taught me so far is that I love to make things! I love making things that have no purpose—just for fun. Currently I’m making holiday ornaments with my girls every day. It’s something that really, we don’t NEED to be doing in July, but it’s bringing me joy during a challenging time. I find that sometimes when I am overwhelmed keeping my hands busy is helpful. Also crying—haha. Crying always helps. I love to cry!

4. Food

I probably don’t need to tell you how incredibly helpful good food can be in pretty much every season of our lives. It’s a great time to try a dish over and over—I’ve made so many variations on noodle dishes for our girls (their favorite) and I finally feel like I have a few that are keepers. It’s a small thing, but I value feeling productive, so testing out recipes and honing our favorites is something fun that I look forward to.

5. Family Movie Night

We just started an official Sunday night tradition of family movie night. Last week, we watched The Parent Trap (the 1998 version—I love them both, though!) and now I’m so excited to continue sharing movies from my childhood with my little girls. It’s so special and it’s something to look forward to every week!

6. Guilty Pleasure TV

I’m currently watching The OC (for the first time). It’s so bad … it’s horrible actually! But it’s bringing me a smile at the end of every marathon day and a way to connect with my husband. I look forward to our “bad TV” before bed, so I guess it’s fulfilling a need right now. So I say—embrace all the guilty pleasures you can!

7. Loungewear and PJs

I definitely miss wearing “real clothes,” though I am not one of those people who is going to put on a jumpsuit and heels just to hang out at home. Although I occasionally put one on just for a minute!

For the most part, I’m living life in a rotation of yoga pants, cozy pjs and the occasional comfy dress. I don’t think I’ve worn any shoes besides Vans and Birkenstocks since March. It’s so funny.

That said, comfy clothes are definitely bringing me a LOT of joy! For the rest of 2020, I will only be adding comfy clothes to my closet since that’s what is getting a lot of mileage right now!

8. Books

I’ve become super into listening to audiobooks. I use the Libby App, which you can use for free as long as you have a public library card. You do have to wait for books in a queue, but it’s completely worth it in my opinion and I reserve so many books that there’s always one available to listen to. My favorite book I’ve listened to this year is Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. What I am currently listening to is The Danish Way Of Parenting by Jessica Joelle Alexander.

If you prefer physical books, I recommend The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield. I have it at my beside table right now and it’s really perfect for when you need a pep talk and motivation!

9. Decorating My Home

Few things bring me more comfort and joy than planning a space and decorating it! When we first started to stay at home in March, I noticed right away that our hardware store was WAY more busy than normal. It got to the point for a while where we wouldn’t got there unless it was a weekday because it was so ridiculously busy. But I totally get why! Completing a home project, whether it’s landscaping or painting a room (or painting some cabinets) is so incredibly fulfilling!

Planning and completing projects is probably the number one thing that brings me joy in our home, well besides snuggling our babies. So for the rest of 2020 and however long we feel safer at home, I’m going to have a continual list of projects in the works!

10. Resetting my Expectations

On a practical note, this is probably the most helpful things I’ve done in 2020. I’ve lowered my standards on really almost everything. It helped! Honestly, I don’t need to run a half marathon this year—I don’t need to finish my side project and I definitely do not need to compare myself to other moms on the internet.

What I actually need is to drink more water and go outside and hide my phone while I’m playing with my kids. Other things can wait. This year is physically and mentally exhausting. I don’t see anything wrong with lowering the bar. 🙂

OK, it’s your turn!!! I’d love to hear what is bringing you joy!! Please tell me everything! xx- Elsie

Credits//Author: Elsie Larson. Photography: Amber Kelly. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.
  • The OC was so bad, I loved it. Season 4 is really fun and underrated. And the Stephen Pressfield book is so good! Love this list.

    • Big Magic is my holy grail audiobook. Bad day? Need to escape from work? Feeling stuck? Enter Big Magic. And Elizabeth’s voice is just so so good! Seriously LOVE. It’s like my emotional safety blanket on rough days.

    • The OC! Such a nostalgic guilty pleasure for me. I can’t imagine seeing it for the first time now.

  • This may be a silly question, but how do you handle movie night with two little kids? In other words, do you let them stay up late to watch the movie? What time do they go to bed? I have two littles and they go to bed around 7:00!

    • Haha- we usually start watching our movies at like 4pm. And we only make it the whole way through sometimes. 🙂 But we’re forming a habit! In a few years it’ll be legit!

      • We took movie night to the next level with our kids and bought a projector for outside. So now we pop popcorn in the popcorn maker, set up blankets and blow up mattresses and watch a movie in the backyard under the stars. It’s my favorite night of the week 😍

  • Elsie, this post is refreshing and lovely. I’d say, more, more & more of such!

  • I’m with you on organizing and getting outside! But for me, exercise has been key. Having my husband working from home now means he can watch the kiddo so I can get a work out in when he would normally be commuting. The time to myself and endorphins and feeling of accomplishment has been SO beneficial to my physical and mental health!

  • Hi Elsie!
    This has been so hard on me with childcare and elder care and working full time. But I do think finding small joys to make staying home manageable is important. Here are mine:
    – sitting outside
    – growing and eating fresh herbs
    – audiobooks (love Libby!)
    – podcasts (Table Manners with Jessie Ware is a current fave)
    – music
    – wearing my favorite jewelry even though I only wear sweats!

    Sending love ✨🌈

    • I love these, Amanda! My husband planted an herb garden at the beginning of summer and it is such a small joy to have fresh herbs all the time. Especially loving that we have tons of basil right now.

      I also totally hear you on wearing jewelry no matter what else you’re wearing. Such a mood boost for me as well!

  • We have been staying in as much as you all too! What has been bringing me joy is:

    -Working on the house together. My husband was a carpenter for almost 10 years, so he saves a lot of time and money for us, by doing the work himself (I help as much as Our 20 month old allows). He’s going to try his hand at toy making soon too!
    -Time spent as a family is just amazing. Our toddler is growing so fast, and I’m grateful we’ve both been able to see it.
    -Crochet has become a favorite of mine. I’m making Christmas gifts right now for my nephews.
    -Husband and Wife movie nights. We don’t have a theme. We just take turns picking. I think “Wayne’s World” has been one of the best ones so far!

    Have a great rest of the summer!

  • Would love to hear the noodle recipes your kiddos love. Since I have been cooking breakfast, lunch,and dinner pretty much 7 days a week- I could use some new ideas to switch up the monotony!

  • I love this! It’s definitely been a huge change for everyone, but the things I’ve really appreciated is having my husband work from home (I already worked from home) and being able to take a walk every day with him and our dog. And we have lunch together everyday and watch a show together – currently, it’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. I think it’s important to keep an eye on things we can be grateful for right now, when so many people are suffering from illness and from being out of work.

    xoKaelen | Darling Marcelle

  • California, here we come, right back where we started from…. CALIFORNIAAAAAAAAA here we COMEE!!! 😂😂 My sisters and I binged that show years ago and we always scream sang the intro song!!! 💕💕

    • I would love to hear what other movies you watch with them. My kiddos are similar ages and we started a weekly movie night when everything shut down. My kiddo makes “tickets” and the stuffed animals man the popcorn stand. I’m loving introducing them to my old favorites and discovering great new movies. Abominable and Onward were big hits with everyone.

  • I really love this post! Great ideas! I am teleworking full time and my 10 year old son drags me away from my computer for a walk when he has his afternoon break from school and it is the best thing! I have also been drinking my tea outside in the morning. I absolutely loved your last sentence about what you really need. Thanks for being so real and putting things into perspective!!

  • I love a good movie night! My husband and I try to do the same on Sundays.
    I had high hopes for binging all the shows I haven’t had time to watch, but my focus just isn’t there. I have been getting so much reading in since I’ve been working from home, though. I also bought a little inflatable pool for the backyard and it’s been the BEST way to spend my weekends at home.

  • -growing micro greens
    -propagating plants by putting little cuttings in water

    Both easy, low cost, and give you something fun to watch and check daily! 🌱💚

    Also the AMB podcast! I get a little spark of joy when I remember on a Monday there is a new episode! 💛

  • Thank you for sharing this. Although I’m from the southern hemisphere (New Zealand to be exact) where the global pandemic seems to be better handled than most parts of the world, we are still experiencing similar emotions. There is anxiety, grief, and just that yucky feeling of uncertainty lingering as we face our second lockdown here in Auckland. Doing things such as organising, DIYing, planting, watching Netflix, and so on, has truly helped me keep my sanity. I’m blessed to still have a job as a high school teacher and continue teaching from home, I know so many others have lost theirs as a result of this pandemic. I am also truly grateful to have a leader who acted swiftly (again) and continues to comfort, support and lead our nation with so much kindness. I hope and pray that this covid season will end soon so we can all live freely like we did once upon a time. Keep inspiring, keep shining. Stay home, stay safe, and be kind.

    • Reading “I am also truly grateful to have a leader who acted swiftly (again) and continues to comfort, support and lead our nation with so much kindness.” made me burst into tears, IT SOUNDS AMAZING!! <3

  • This list is almost exactly my list too.

    I’ve also been getting the big fancy bouquet of flowers at the farmers market every week. My toddler LOVES them and I pull out a few to put a vase in his room every week too.

    I’ve also finally learned how to “keep house” and have fully embraced regular cleaning in a way I never ever made time for before. My former roommates would all be astounded. It brings me such comfort and grounding during all of this uncertainty.

  • I’m afraid I’m not really “enjoying” much these days. July brought me a hell of a curve ball (my 5 year spouse ended out relationship for obscure reasons). I find myself submerged with responsibilities (my assistant left the organization a month and a half ago so I have to tackle all the admin stuff, my coordinator job and my new job (a new position under which my old position now falls) while trying to find a good fit to hire for the coordinator position and the assistant one, my property (a condo I’ve been renting out since 2017) has been on sale for 2 months so I’m handling visits and paperwork for that. I’m also a part time university student finishing up the summer term (my final exam is this Friday). And I’m juggling all of this while mending a broken heart and morning the loss of my spouse, my two step sons whom I love as my own, and my home (it was his house and we were actually shoping for a home together before this happened), dealing with the shame of having to move back in with my mother at 33 (because my condo’s for sale and rented out, moving back in is not really an option and I want to go through with the sale to buy a house of my own), concentrating on my studies so I pass this course and not letting my work fall behind………during a friggin pandemic! I mean, I do try to focus on the positive: I’m healthy, I have a good place to stay with a supportive family (I am safe), I own a property even if the market is slow, it will sell, the weather has been phenomenal and I’ve been walking so much which has helped clear a lot of my thoughts, I’ve been journaling and making plans for the future, I have a great job and have not been affected financially by this pandemic (there are so many people living through financial uncertainty right now, I cannot complain about my situation). Reading blogs like these helps me too. I like how you’re always talking about magic and little joys. The positivity is refreshing and helps ease stress and sadness. So I guess I can also say that this blog also brings me joy during this difficult time of my life. So thank you.

    • Caroline, my heart goes out to you as you are going through this difficult time. Remember to give yourself grace – it’s wonderful to be grateful for your job, finances, etc., but you are going through a hard time of your own!

  • Have you watched Friday Night Lights? My favorite relational drama, small town everything. Im not into sports, but I love this show. When you said, lower the bar, i thought, yeah, keep it low down so we can reach those drinks ha ha.

  • I loved the OC so much when I was in college that I bought all the DVDs. I’m dying to watch them again. Love this list.

  • Thanks for sharing, Elsie.
    I can relate to a lot of what you have written here. It’s been a rough season, but there is also a lot to enjoy and be thankful for.
    One day at a time…

    Blessings to you and your family.

  • Growing up, my best friend’s family wouldn’t spend money or go places on Sunday – but they would always stretch a big blanket on the living room floor, make a homemade pizza, and watch a movie together. It’s a great tradition and something we try to prioritize now with our child!

  • I can totally relate to you wishing to travel again after staying home for such a long time. But to me looking forward to “flying” sounds just cynical considering climate change is one of the biggest threats to humanity and is making itself so visible right now via the Californian heat wave.

  • I miss flying, and I want to do my part to save the planet. They are not mutually exclusive, unless you’re saying that and jet setting around the world every day I guess. I don’t think that’s the case here. I think there are lots of us missing the ability to travel across the world, and the reality is that you need a plane to do that unless you can get A LOT more time off work than most workplaces allow. Please keep being honest in your posts and sharing, Elsie.

  • I have been working really hard on my blog (learning SEO, growing my social media presence) and learning how to do all the “hard” cocktail techniques I thought only pros could master. I still have a long way to go but I’m having fun, trying new things, and creating a delicious sip to enjoy on my patio with my husband a few times a week. Cheers!

  • Elsie! This is a great list of practical and inspiring activities. I wish I could do more of them! I am currently working from home with my 4 month old son. Getting outside is definitely my #1 sanity saver. I’ve just started doing our weekly grocery shopping which has made me feel less trapped at home. I always pick up a new beer or whiskey and a fun new snack for my husband and me. Reading a few cooking or lifestyle blogs, and the ABM podcast are also my little escapes throughout the week. I end up listening to the podcast multiple times because I just feel like I’m listening to friends chit chat, and that is super comforting. Hang in there.

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