32 Pandemic Habits That Are Worth Keeping

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Senior woman and small business owner working on a tablet in her art studio making her hobby a business
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The coronavirus pandemic and resulting lifestyle restrictions have put a mark on everything from our shopping to the work world.

And while the threat of COVID-19 has receded somewhat, many changes it wrought — from plexiglass barriers at checkout stations to pulling up restaurant menus on your phone — may be here to stay.

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. The following new habits are actually worth retaining.

1. Staying stocked up for emergencies

Woman in pantry
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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. Streaming home entertainment

Two women sit next to each other and watch TV
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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 “17 Streaming Services That Are Completely Free.”

3. Tipping generously

pizza delivery mask working
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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 germy 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 now that things are calming down.

4. Leaving cheerful chalk messages

Drawing with sidewalk chalk
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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. Adopting home exercise routines

Couple exercising at home
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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 exercise. Even just 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 Exercise Products You Need for Working Out at Home.”

6. Shopping smarter

Woman shops for groceries with a list
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Maybe you tried online grocery delivery for the first time? Or discovered your neighborhood still has a milk delivery person? Or tried a community-supported agriculture box of farm-fresh fruits and veggies?

Or perhaps you simply honed your grocery shopping to a smarter 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. Checking on neighbors in need

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The coronavirus pandemic has been hard on everyone, but the elderly, ill and those living alone often have struggled more than others. Even as things 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. Washing hands thoroughly

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Even those who were dutiful hand-washers before the coronavirus outbreak likely learned something about cleanliness over the past few years.

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

9. Investigating new media

Woman reading a novel on a tablet
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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 seems difficult.

It’s not, and discovering new forms of media during a pandemic means you’ll still be able to enjoy them when the pandemic is behind us.

10. Getting back to the garden

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

11. Decluttering and donating or selling

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When we were stuck at home, many of us wanted those homes to look and feel clutter-free. And, finally, we had the time to make it happen. Sorting through a closet, extra room or garage is a great, freeing feeling. Take that clutter to a thrift store, and you can feel good knowing your old stuff is a new treasure to someone else.

Or, you might be able to make a little cash. Learn how you can sell your unwanted items in “6 Websites That Will Sell Your Clutter for You.”

12. Learning to work from home

Woman working at 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 are glad to be back with your office coffeemaker and co-worker pals, having the technical equipment and knowledge to work from home is a plus.

13. Enjoying games and jigsaw puzzles

Jigsaw puzzle
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COVID-19 lockdowns led to some families digging through the old board game closet and pulling out such standards as Monopoly, Clue and, yes, the often-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. Honoring graduates

Woman in cap and gown holding a diploma
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The class of 2020 and some members of the class of 2021 — whether graduating from preschool or med school — were robbed during the pandemic of the traditional in-person graduation ceremony complete with cap and gown and handshakes. Even for the class of 2022, things haven’t quite been normal.

Family and friends celebrated their graduates anyway, with colorful yard signs announcing the achievement — some personalized with senior class 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.

15. Supporting local businesses

Man shopping for books
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When everything from independent bookstores to restaurants quickly closed down in the pandemic, many local outlets just as 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. Staying connected with video chats

Woman using video chat on laptop
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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 even just one or two friends. Why stop now? Sheltering in place taught many of us to use easy videoconferencing apps.

17. Purging the freezer

Frozen foods
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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. Learning something

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

19. Deep cleaning

Young woman cleaning air conditioner, indoors
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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 lockdowns, some of us 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. Rediscovering 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 just 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. Pampering yourself

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The stress and extra time from a lockdown combined to help some of us rediscover the need for 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 best-seller. Small treats can make a big difference.

22. Rediscovering old favorites

Woman drinking tea and reading a book
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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. Making meals an occasion

Set of china dishware
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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. Passing on old playthings

Toys in a toy box
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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 is that you give someone else’s child an out-of-season Christmas.

25. Celebrating creatively

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Pandemic birthdays meant no big parties, no dinners out and no bounce-house gatherings for the kids. Instead, families 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. Being your own stylist

Woman dries hair after a home treatment
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With hair, nail and wax salons among the last businesses to reopen in some areas, home personal care became more important during the pandemic.

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. Rediscovering the neighborhood

Senior dog walker
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Are you traveling again? Maybe not. Even those who love vacations still may be somewhat hesitant to fly. 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.

28. Using virtual appointments

An older man talks to his doctor remotely on his laptop
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Telehealth, telemedicine, a virtual doctor appointment 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. Enjoying creative hobbies

Mother, daughter and granddaughter knitting together
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From crocheting and knitting to stamp collecting, many crafts and hobbies seem almost like lost arts. Days spent in lockdown were 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. So, why stop now?

Who knows? You might even spark a new business.

30. Baking bread and goodies

Family baking together
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So many people turned to home baking in 2020 that yeast and flour were hard to come by in many areas for a while.

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.

Need a recipe for rustic bread to get you started? Check out “7 Health Foods You Can Make for a Fraction of the Cost.”

31. Giving 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 get together in person.

32. Cooking 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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