32 Pandemic Habits That Are Worth Keeping

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The coronavirus pandemic and resulting restrictions have already put a mark on everything from our shopping to the work world.

Plexiglass barriers at the checkout, face coverings and other physical changes likely will be with us for some time.

Some changes, however, are less material and more mental. And not all of the adjustments introduced by the COVID-19 outbreak are necessarily bad ones. Certain new habits are actually worth retaining.

1. Stay stocked up for emergencies

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The great toilet paper panic of 2020 reminded many people of the old Boy Scout motto: Be prepared.

Pandemic aside, other natural disasters, from earthquakes to blizzards, could make getting to the grocery store difficult. You may not need 600 rolls of Charmin but it’s good to have an emergency stock of such necessities.

To get started, check out “20 Things That Are Actually Worth Stockpiling.”

2. Stream home entertainment

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Movie theaters are having to grapple with a new world of distancing regulations as they start reopening. Meanwhile, the pandemic has helped many of us discover that a whole entertainment universe exists on our computers, phones, tablets and gaming devices.

For some new ideas, read “15 Free Streaming Services to Watch While Stuck at Home.”

3. Tip generously

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Doctors and nurses aren’t the only essential workers out there. Don’t forget delivery people, who step out into a contagious world daily to get you your groceries, pizza and Amazon essentials.

Thank them in one of the few ways you can — by upping your usual tipping percentage, even after things calm down.

4. Leave cheerful chalk messages

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Chalk is cheap. If you have a sidewalk or driveway, you’ve got a huge canvas for hopeful messages and pretty pictures. Joggers and walkers appreciate cheerful decorations as they make their neighborhood circuits. You don’t have to be Michelangelo to coax a smile or two out of passers-by.

5. Adopt home exercise routines

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Many gyms and recreation centers closed down during the pandemic, forcing fitness fans to move their workouts home. It’s been a reminder that you don’t need pricey equipment to work out at home. An inexpensive jump rope, free workout videos and a small space can help you sweat out the stress of these times.

Get started with “9 Free Ways to Work Out From Home” and “7 Free Apps for Better Health in 2020.”

6. Shop smarter

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Maybe you tried online grocery delivery for the first time? Or discovered your neighborhood still has a milkman? Or tried a community-supported agriculture box of farm-fresh fruits and veggies?

Or perhaps you simply honed your grocery shopping to a smarter, more thoughtful practice, hitting one store instead of three, or planning your menus ahead of time rather than wandering blankly through the grocery aisles.

These are all smart shopping habits that can persist well after any outbreak.

7. Check on neighbors in need

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The coronavirus outbreak is hard on everyone, but the elderly, ill and those living alone may struggle more than others. Even as things start to settle into a new normal, keep up those habits of checking in on neighbors who might need help with grocery runs or simple home chores.

8. Wash hands thoroughly

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Even those who were dutiful hand-washers before the coronavirus outbreak likely learned something about cleanliness in recent months.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends washing for at least 20 seconds, or about the time it takes you to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice. For more tips, check out “Beware These 7 Hand-Washing Mistakes.”

9. Investigate new media

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Maybe you’ve heard some buzz about podcasts but never settled in to check one out. Or you know your library offers free e-books and movies, but downloading them seemed difficult.

It’s not, and discovering new forms of media during a pandemic means you’ll still be able to enjoy them when things are more normal again.

10. Get back to the garden

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Even if you only have a small yard or balcony garden, you can plant tasty edibles that save you a shopping trip. Also, you get the pride of knowing you raised the food yourself.

11. Declutter and donate or sell

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Stuck at home, many of us want those homes to look and feel clutter-free. And, finally, we have had the time to make it happen. Sorting through a closet, extra room or garage is a great, freeing feeling. Once thrift stores in your area allow donations again, you can feel good knowing your old stuff is a new treasure to someone else.

Then, again, you might be able to make a little cash. To learn how you can sell your unwanted items without having to meet up with the buyer in person, check out “7 Websites for Selling Your Clutter — Safely.”

12. Learn to work from home

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Working from home was once a rare privilege. During the pandemic, it became a necessity. Whether you love commuting to your couch or miss your office coffeemaker and co-worker pals, having the technical equipment and knowledge to work from home is a plus.

13. Enjoy games and jigsaw puzzles

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Lockdown led to some families digging through the old board game closet and pulling out such standards as Monopoly, Clue and, yes, the sometimes-forgotten jigsaw puzzle. Old-fashioned, maybe, but sometimes it’s easier to chat and catch up over a puzzle than a loud video game.

14. Honor graduates

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The class of 2020, whether graduating from preschool or med school, was robbed of the traditional emotional graduation ceremony complete with cap and gown and handshakes.

Family and friends celebrated their graduates anyway, with colorful yard signs announcing their graduates — some personalized with senior pictures. Why can’t we put yard signs out for grads every year? It’s a simple way to honor their years of hard work. What an A+ idea.

15. Support local businesses

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When everything from independent bookstores to restaurants quickly closed down in the pandemic, many local outlets quickly moved their businesses online. Supporting small businesses of all kinds is a vital way to help keep a vibrant economy alive and to help your neighbors.

16. Stay connected with video chats

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The lockdown inspired many people to discover just how simple it is to organize a video chat to stay in touch with a large group of far-flung family members or just one or two friends. Why stop now? Sheltering in place has taught many of us to use easy videoconferencing apps.

17. Purge the freezer

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Did you empty out your pantry during the pandemic? Many home cooks used the lockdown time to turn to tasty but forgotten options hiding in their freezer or cupboard. It’s a good reminder that we’ve often stored plenty of good eating in our homes — and sometimes we need to eat it up.

18. Learn something

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Kids aren’t the only ones who benefit from distance learning. The coronavirus outbreak has proved that online education has become a well-developed technology. Learn Spanish or sign language or coding or photography with the help of YouTube videos, podcasts and other online courses.

19. Deep clean

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Who has time to clean the dryer vent, rotate the mattress or wipe down the top of the refrigerator? During the lockdown, some of us have had nothing but time. It’s a good reminder that if we seek out those weird little cleaning jobs — maybe pick one or two a month — the house will both look and run better.

20. Rediscover letter-writing

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Spotting a handwritten envelope in a pile of boring bills can make someone’s day.

The mail kept coming during the outbreak, but for many of us, it only served to remind us that we only receive bills and advertisements.

Make it a goal to be the letter writer in your family. You don’t need fancy cards or stationery — blank white paper is fine. You can also clip out and share a magazine recipe or article that caught your eye.

21. Pamper yourself

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The stress and extra time from a lockdown combined to bring some of us to rediscover self-care.

Keep up that habit and pamper yourself where you can, whether with a candle-surrounded bubble bath, a fancy new hand lotion or that hot new bestseller you’d ordinarily wait for from the library. Small treats can make a big difference.

22. Rediscover old favorites

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Dig out that old novel that was your favorite read in college. Introduce the kids to “Casablanca” or another classic movie. Sometimes old friends are the best friends.

23. Make meals an occasion

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When you’re stuck eating every meal at home, it’s time to get creative. Break out the fancy plates and glasses. Spread a picnic on the living-room floor or in the backyard. Home meals can be special, and just as enjoyable as restaurant dining — at a much lower cost.

24. Pass on old playthings

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Kids grow up fast, but there’s no flashing red light that alerts parents to when the Barbie dolls or Lego blocks have officially been outgrown. Endless hours stuck at home may have inspired you, however, to sort through a generation’s worth of playthings and make plans to pass them on.

It’s a good plan to tackle this type of toy-sorting annually, leaving your home with nicely decluttered spaces. The bonus: giving someone else’s child an out-of-season Christmas.

25. Celebrate creatively

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Pandemic birthdays have meant no big parties, no dinners out and no bounce-house gatherings for the kids. Instead, families have had to get creative.

Yard signs, drive-past parades of teachers and friends, and group video chats with far-off family can stay a part of birthday celebrations even years from now.

26. Be your own stylist

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With hair, nail and wax salons among the last businesses to reopen in some areas, home personal care has never been more important.

Whether it’s cutting your own bangs, plucking or waxing your eyebrows, or home manicures and pedicures, it’s smart to practice doing these simple services for yourself. Even in normal times, these habits are great for saving money.

27. Rediscover the neighborhood

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Feel like getting on a plane anytime soon? Maybe not. Even those who love traveling may be hesitant to do so now. But there’s never been a better time to play tourist in your own hometown. Explore and appreciate those local parks, waterways and scenic sights — socially distanced, of course.

28. Use virtual appointments

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Telehealth, telemedicine, virtual doctor appointments or whatever it’s called — visiting your doctor by video conference or phone isn’t just a pandemic solution. Many people have problems with transportation or live a good distance from specialists.

A virtual doctor may not be able to do everything. But for some situations, it’s an easy and convenient solution.

29. Enjoy creative hobbies

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From crocheting and knitting to stamp collecting, many crafts and hobbies seem almost like lost arts. Days spent in lockdown have been a perfect time to dig out needles, yarn and scrapbooks and rediscover the fun and mental engagement of creating something for a gift or just for the satisfaction of doing it. Who knows? You might even spark a new business.

30. Bake bread and goodies

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So many people have turned to home baking in recent months that yeast and flour were hard to come by in many areas for a while.

If you can get your hands on these staples, keep that baking habit going. Home baking — whether to produce sourdough, biscuits, shortbread, biscotti or any other tasty treat — is a pastime that will comfort us long after the pandemic has passed.

31. Give thoughtful small gifts

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The lockdown prevented many of us from visiting loved ones, but package and mail delivery allowed us to reach out anyway.

Sending a jigsaw puzzle to a bored aunt, mailing yeast to a baker friend whose city has yet to restock, or simply sending a good old greeting card all are ways to send love when you can’t share a hug in person.

32. Cook up novel recipes

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The coronavirus outbreak sparked some novel cooking ideas, many requiring only the simplest ingredients. For example, marshmallowy dalgona (whipped) coffee requires just instant coffee, sugar and water. Cookie cereal and White Claw slushies, among other trendy dishes, also have had their viral moments.

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