How to Spend Hours at Home Without Going Crazy

The entire state of California was the first to have been told to stay at home, by order of the governor. In an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, the nation’s most populous state — almost 40 million residents — must now practice shelter-at-home protocol (click here to see what that entails).

“Home isolation is not my preferred choice,” Gavin Newsom admitted, “but it’s a necessary one.”

Since then, other states have followed suit, with more to come. Have you always wanted to work from home and management said no? Well hallelujah brother, because by government decree, you’re following orders, and your commute time shrinks to zero, as does your use of body wash.  Are you searching for the right way to reply to that email, or looking at coronavirus memes?  Who knows?  At last you can microwave fish leftovers in your dirty pajamas without your pesky co-workers complaining, the sensitive freaks.

Work at home life

Some, however, because of possible exposure to the virus, are forced to be home. While the idea of staying at home sounds nice, when it’s unexpectedly imposed it can be downright terrifying, even more than the threat of a pandemic.  But even after the stresses of making a living and keeping to a schedule disappear, one can easily be overcome by the very thing they yearned for: free time.  After scrolling through Netflix for hours and watching a bajillion previews on Amazon Prime, you begin to wonder if your TV is silently judging you. You try to start your novel but are paralyzed by the idea of writing more than 240 characters. You want to do something, but what?

Don’t worry, we’ve got ideas for you. Along with the help of a few friends, here are some suggestions that’ll keep you from going mad while this whole virus thing blows over.

Breathe some fresh air. Photo credit No Man Walks Alone

Get outside while you can. The mandate, while it does encourage remaining at home, does allow you to go outside “to engage in outdoor activity, provided the individuals comply with social distancing requirements as defined in this section, such as, by way of example and without limitation, walking, hiking, or running.” That means as long as you stay six feet away from others (except those in your household with whom you can walk side-by-side) you can leave your house and get some air. In fact, among other things, the Center for Disease Control encourages exercising regularly for mental health, especially during times of crisis. Not only is it good for your physical health (it boosts your immune system), it also releases feel-good endorphins that help you stay positive, meaning it’s especially beneficial for your mental health. Who knows when things might change and full-quarantine happens, so take advantage of going outside while you still can. Just remember to try to chose a path or area with the least amount of congestion as the jury is still out about how dangerous the virus is when someone coughs in the air. And if you’re near a national park, guess what — right now they’re free. Because as long as you’re not sick, everyone could use a dose of nature these days.

Practice some literary self-care. Photo credit No Man Walks Alone

Read something other than the news.  ReLit is a charity organization in the UK that promotes bibliiotherapy treatment, which can be used to promote mental health.  The evidence is compelling, and there are various benefits, one of which is that is serves as a form of escapism, reminding us that this will all soon be over, and there are still many wonderful places to visit and beauty to behold. My friend Derek Guy of Die, Workwear just wrote a fine piece on this very subject specific to menswear, and it’s a timely reminder of why such distractions can be good for you.

Nicola Radano, who in Italy is under much stricter quarantine regulations, works at home from 8-1pm, eats lunch on his terrazza, exercises a bit or watches some TV, eats dinner, and then rounds out his evening with some light reading.

“These days it’s the book Men & Manners by David Coggins and the magazine WMBrown, among other things.”  Each have short, bite-sized articles and chapters covering a range of subjects that are engaging and easy to digest. 

Currently I’m reading Jamie Ferguson’s book This Guy, shown above.  Unlike other photobooks, which can be interesting but impersonal, Jamie’s is not only chock-full of striking photography but more importantly includes individual interviews with his subjects, giving added depth and dimension.  It gives you the sense that you’re there alongside Jamie and his subject, a fly on the wall of dusky bars, lush open spaces, and intimate living rooms in far-flung cities around the world.  And while it’s true you can find much of his work online, I recommend you buy it on Amazon and help support a guy that could very well be out of work for the foreseeable future.

Hana Llapashtica of Antalya. Her own picture.

Listen to something other than the news. For starters, allow me the indulgence of promoting the StyleForum Happy Hour podcast. Each episode is a short 30-45 minutes and so for we’ve chatted with Greg and Kyle of No Man Walks Alone about the current menswear shopping landscape, Ethan Newton and Tony Sylvester about vintage clothing, and most recently Jamie Ferguson, Milad Abedi, and Robert Spangle about photography. We’ve got more in store, so subscribe and give it a listen for some interesting tangental stories in the world of men’s fashion.

Other podcasts I enjoy are Blamo!, hosted by the always amiable Brooklynite Jeremy Kirkland, and HandCut Radio which has the delightfully effervescent Brit Aleks Cvetkovic at the helm. Both are easy to listen to and interview their guests with a light touch. Aleks, though, just recently announced a series of video interviews on his Instagram in light of the present crisis. “Right now it’s crucial that we all think of the people behind the brands we love.” He’ll be reaching out to artisans, craftspeople, and small businesses, so stay tuned.

However, nothing quite lifts my mood like good music. My wife and I met Hana Llapashtica (shown in the above picture) and her family from Antalya while on a boat tour off the coast of Turkey, and every now and then we chat online about what we’re listening to. She’s incredibly smart and has great taste, ranging from Beyonce to Interpol, and she’s introduced me to some really cool bands I otherwise would never hear of, like Altin Gün, a group with a percussion- and synth-heavy 70’s psychedelic sound. I can almost guarantee you don’t have anything similar in your music library, but you really should — it’s got an infectious groove that will help transport you out of lockdown.

I have a couple public playlists on Apple music that I update fairly regularly, one for upbeat cocktail music and another for more chill music. If you feel like watching live performances, Vulture has a comprehensive list of a bunch of musicians streaming live. You can even ask Jens Lekman to call you personally via Skype to sing you one of his songs. My wife and I chose The Opposite of Hallelujah for this Saturday.

Watch something other than the news.  Even the CDC recommends taking breaks from watching too many images of the crisis, although even amidst it all, there are uplifting stories of the human spirit soaring, such as No Man Walks Alone donating 20% of its sales to Meals on Wheels Covid-19 Response, and Rota Pantaloni and I Sarti Italiani selflessly tailoring masks for those on the front lines.  Andy Poupart, who goes by StyleAfter50 on Instagram and StyleForum and lives just down the Peninsula, says he’s been catching up on older flicks.  “We’ve watched a bunch of Humphrey Bogart movies — The Big Sleep, Maltese Falcon, and Casablanca.”  Just across the Bay, Derek Guy is currently watching new episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm for the best humor therapy out there right now.  Nicola, mentioned previously, has been watching the movies Serpico, Carlito’s Way, and La Grande Bellezza, the latter of which I still haven’t seen and now have no excuse in the world.  

You too can cook this. Photo credit Matt Hranek

Try your hand at cooking.  I’ll admit it, I’m lazy when it comes to cooking.  It’s not that I don’t like cooking; when I start I actually get really into it.  It helps when I find an easy recipe I can actually see myself doing.  If you don’t follow Matt Hranek of WMBrown Magazine, you really should, because his stories are full of such recipes, with step-by-step instructions.  His latest was duck confit, which is simple as getting duck legs, cutting off the fat, and simmering it in a pan for three hours with whatever spices and seasonings you want.  When it’s done, simply pour everything, fat and all, in a heat-resistant container and put it in your fridge, where it’ll last weeks, unless you eat it all first.

If you’re still looking for things to do, here are about 100 other things you could try.  At the end of the day, though, there are many different ways to respond to these new restrictions, for the simple fact that they impose a different reality for everyone.  My own jobsite is allowed to continue because San Francisco is trying to prioritize housing projects, but only if they comply with social distancing rules, which in some cases means a reduction in force.  I had to tell two guys to stay home, which is never easy to do, and even more so during this time of uncertainty.  Both of these guys are family men and are wondering when the government’s financial aid kicks in and how they will adjust to reduced wages. These guys aren’t just statistics, they’re my coworkers, and they’re not alone.  Millions in retail, construction, agriculture, hospitality, food service and others can’t simply work from home, and the thought of making ends meet is understandably causing anxiety on a scale they’ve never had to confront. 

In many ways I’m fortunate. I can still work, I’ve got a wonderfully supportive spiritual family that I speak to almost daily, and current restrictions still allow for pleasant walks in the Marina. It could be a lot worse, and it is for a staggering amount of people all over the world. But small things make a big difference, so I’m going to end this article with these final suggestions:

  • Stay in touch with your friends and family. Call, send a text, email, direct message, anything. For this reason I prefer the term physical distancing, since now more than ever do we need support socially.
  • If you are a spiritual person, keep that a priority.
  • Love your neighbor. Be kind to one another. If you can, surprise someone who is out of work with a practical gift, such as money or groceries.
  • If you find them valuable, order take out from local restaurants and buy from small businesses. They don’t have the safety net of larger corporations and may not survive this.
  • Don’t panic, get information and plan. Preparedness eases anxiety. Robert Spangle (Thousand Yard Style) has put up a series of PREPARATIONS videos in his Instagram Stories as well as a Situational Escalation Planning document based on his years as a Marine that covers everything from slight danger to full-on lockdown.
  • This is the first week of many. I hope you and your loved ones stay safe and healthy.
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Peter Zottolo
Peter works in construction, but has an extensive collection of custom suits which he gets so that he can wear suits on the weekend. Even though he lives in San Francisco, he has never used the word "impact" as a verb. He writes about classic menswear and is one fedora away from being a complete dork.
Peter Zottolo

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5 thoughts on “How to Spend Hours at Home Without Going Crazy

  1. Good article Peter; you outlined a plethora of divergent alternatives to home incarceration. The two opportunities that you didn’t mention is “reading the Word of God (the bible) and prayer”. In these troubled times, I have found that the Word of God contains the answers for both time and eternity. It also teaches contentment, peace and assurance that in spite of our severe circumstances, God is still in control, while prayer draws us closer to the heart of God and helps us to focus on others rather than ourselves. One of the greatest rewards in reading the Word of God is the outcome…GOD WINS!!!, and so do all who receive His Son, Jesus Christ by faith.

    • Thanks for the added suggestions, Raleigh. I agree with you in spirit and mentioned similar sentiments in the article using general terms, as the subject can be personal for many people. Stay safe my friend.

  2. You are absolutely correct Peter, the subject is quite personal, but it is worth the risk of offending a friend for a season in the light of his/her eternal destiny.
    God bless you Peter, as you continue the work that brings peace, comfort and assurance to others. Stay safe my friend.

  3. Maybe try a video game, a medium still ignored by the majority of the population, they’re not just for kids and teens any longer, they’ve matured quite a bit.

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