no paperclip chains
October 8, 2010 8:44 PM   Subscribe

I'd like a list of repetitive things I can do or make to alleviate stress and boredom.

I really like experiencing the state of "flow," when you become immersed in what you are doing, and time flies. I know that flow can be found in everyday tasks, but I like the idea of spending time on simple projects and keeping my hands busy as well. I am crafty, but I'm a bit of a stress-bucket and starting creative projects can be difficult, as I inevitably question my design, or my skills, or the minimalist in me says "where can I even put this thing?" So I'm really looking for things to do that will serve a purpose after completion, as well. Examples of this kind of thing that I have enjoyed, at the risk of sounding the the most mundane person ever, include making spools out of scrap cardboard and properly winding all my embroidery floss, making home made magnets with the words on 'em, also thinking of printing sticker labels and sticking bookplates in my books? Simple silly things such as these...
posted by to recite so charmingly to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (29 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
Knitting or crocheting
posted by emilyd22222 at 8:47 PM on October 8, 2010 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Modular origami, needle felting, and macramé come to mind. Or if you are into stamping (i.e. you have tons of various rubber stamps already), you could do stamping for gift cards and gift tags and that sort of thing. Or pruning things - and not just stuff in your own yard. If you know how to do it right, you could go around and offer to prune bushes and trees in neighboring yards. I love pruning things. Just don't go too crazy with it or you have no plant left.
posted by AllieTessKipp at 9:08 PM on October 8, 2010

Knitting, particularly knitting dishcloths and socks. You can't get much more useful than dishcloths and socks!
posted by ErikaB at 9:12 PM on October 8, 2010

you may want to check out the posting history of orange swan
posted by mannequito at 9:17 PM on October 8, 2010

posted by 3FLryan at 9:22 PM on October 8, 2010

Best answer: I recently enjoyed putting all my teas and spices into matching jars and printing out labels for them :)

Making Christmas presents?


Entering my books into LibraryThing or a similar catalogue.

Creating websites.

Computer coding.

All of these things induce "flow" for me, yet have practical outputs. I know exactly what you mean about being a minimalist and not wanting to create crap for the sake of it. That's the problem with knitting etc for me. There are only so many gloves/hats/socks a person needs. (Although Christmas presents are good for knitters to make.)
posted by lollusc at 9:28 PM on October 8, 2010

Counting breaths to ten.
posted by unknowncommand at 9:29 PM on October 8, 2010

Digitize your books. If you have a digital camera, you can make a... book flattener thing (linky) to make digitizing easier in an affordable way and without harming your books.

Make cardboard (or wood if you're good with that) dividers for all of your drawers.
posted by anaelith at 9:40 PM on October 8, 2010

Best answer: I finding mending things (replacing buttons, darning holes) to be meditative this way. By far the thing that's most mindlessly immersive and productive or me though is weaving. Not only the weaving itself but all the prep including warping, adjusting tension, etc. which is about half the work. It's a big project though, not sure if you're up for that.
posted by cali at 11:07 PM on October 8, 2010

I was coming in to pipe up for weaving too. I love losing myself at my big floor loom, but there's a wide range of infrastructure costs & setup times needed. There are simple looms and small projects, or, you know, coverlets and rugs.

Spinning also comes to mind.
posted by janell at 11:43 PM on October 8, 2010

Making chain or scale mail items, plus you can sell them for a ton of money. Best bang for your money is apparently chain mail codpieces for male strippers.
posted by meepmeow at 12:06 AM on October 9, 2010

Make 1000 origami cranes.
posted by Diag at 12:49 AM on October 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm really looking for things to do that will serve a purpose after completion, as well.

Knit hats for premature babies or socks for soldiers or scarves for foster kids.
posted by headnsouth at 4:09 AM on October 9, 2010 [4 favorites]

Memorise Pi to ever increasing digits? Memorise useful pieces of information, perhaps get a phrasebook in a foreign language and then start at page one and don't advance to page two until you know that you can get page 1 with 100% accuracy and so on throughout the book. The boredom filler will then also be a source of a new handy skill.
posted by Biru at 4:27 AM on October 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seriously, knitting.

There is nothing more repetitious than a knitting pattern on a long scarf. After a while you've memorized the pattern and can just go at it without stopping. Depending on your skill level it can take a few days or a few weeks of spare time. Socks and hats are great for keeping on hand for killing time waiting at the doctor's office or sitting in line at the DMV.
posted by TooFewShoes at 6:18 AM on October 9, 2010

I really like headnsouth's idea of combining a craft with service. If you can do that, you'll get so much more out of it. I think a neat thing to do would be quilting, and donating the quilts. I'm pretty sure there are a lot of different types of charities out there that would be grateful for something like this that would be both practical and beautiful. If you find a simple quilt pattern that you like, that will relieve you of the stress of design - all you'd need to do is choose the colors and go! You can also really tell a story with a quilt... they can become works of art.

If all else fails, yoga can be incredibly beneficial and is relatively easy to get into. It's both repetitive and relaxing. Thinking of it as a craft, it's really nice that as you get better at yoga, you get healthier. It's always been time well spent in my experience.

So basically, I think you'll get the most out of a craft that makes you step outside yourself and your day-to-day life a little, involves a skill you can gradually improve, and is something that doesn't leave you with a lot of stuff in your house. There's something very stress-relieving about making something beautiful and letting it go.
posted by belau at 6:28 AM on October 9, 2010

posted by sammyo at 8:11 AM on October 9, 2010

Posting on Metafilter.
posted by mazola at 8:17 AM on October 9, 2010

Best answer: the minimalist in me says "where can I even put this thing?"

I write letters. I have a large set of aquaintances and family members who are spread all over the globe. I spend some time accumulating [or making] nice stationery and getting nice stamps and envelopes. I have some pens that I like. When I have some free/fidgety time, I usually try to send someone a letter. Or even a postcard, doesn't have to be much. I think some people have a hard time with correspondence because they view a blank page as a bit of a daunting task. I usually just figure the general purpose is to say "hi I am thinking of you" and everything beyond that is gravy. You can expand this by

- making envelopes out of old maps
- looking on ebay for old unexpired postage [sometimes you can find crazy deals]
- taking a walk to the post office
- sorting and organizing your stamps
- keeping an eye out for nice postcards when you travel

Also the nice side effect is that sometimes you get stuff back as well and that always helps perk up my day.
posted by jessamyn at 9:14 AM on October 9, 2010 [4 favorites]

Another vote for crochet. (I'd say 'and knitting', but I don't knit.) In particular, something like granny squares are great for this -- while there are many complicated patterns out there, a basic granny square is dead simple to do, and you can knock one out fairly quickly and it's very portable. For a slightly more complicated but functional pattern, there are small objects like this crocheted coffee mug cozy.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:19 AM on October 9, 2010

Best answer: Clean the house. Seriously. Wash the baseboards, dust the blinds, scrub grout, everything. It's mindless busywork and it feels wonderful afterward. Also, everyone will be really jealous of you when they come over.
posted by thinkingwoman at 12:19 PM on October 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you will be sitting still, try folding lucky origami mini stars. I truly abhor talking on the phone, but when it is unavoidable, I fold these like there's no tomorrow. I like watching them slowly fill up a glass jar. They also make a cute and inexpensive gift.
posted by lovelylucy at 12:57 PM on October 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: These are all great answers, thanks everyone! Are there more things that I can do with an assembly-line type of vibe? For instance, I enjoy making zines, and as much as a I enjoy the work of creating/laying out a zine, the step-by-step process of cutting paper to size, folding, piling, and stapling is particularly enjoyable in its hypnotic rhythm. Can I recreate this type of systematic set-up? From the answers above, stamping, making envelopes, and baking are most similar to this process, although I definitely appreciate all the suggestions. Are there any more obscure yet useful tasks?
posted by to recite so charmingly at 2:52 PM on October 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Assembly-line wise, the immediate thing that springs to mind is stuffing envelopes. Volunteer for your favourite charity or political campaign, and offer to stuff and address envelopes for them. I find it kind of tedious, but it might be the sort of repetition you are after, especially if you listen to music or something while doing it.
posted by lollusc at 12:24 AM on October 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Needlepoint! So simple and soothing. If you don't want to put it on the wall when you're done, give it as a present.
posted by runtina at 8:23 AM on October 10, 2010

posted by leapfrog at 8:39 AM on October 11, 2010

Paint things with acrylic paint. You can buy the paint in little bottles in a craft store for under a dollar. If you want to do assembly line type work, do a pattern that you need to do in several colors. You can cut up cardboard into postcard size pieces and mail them, or paint shoe boxes or whatever. I used to do a lot of work like this to sell and it's relaxing.
posted by Melsky at 6:19 AM on October 12, 2010

Sometimes when I'm bored and have time to kill I make paper beads. I get sucked into searching through magazines to find good patches of colors I like, then I have to cut them into triangles. Then all the triangles get rolled into beads. You can use an old egg carton to sort them by color or whatever. My plan is to just keep doing this forever until I have enough to make a beaded curtain. It may take a while but it's a great, repetitive, brainless project that's also more or less free. So long as you own things like magazines and glue.

I also love cutting out snowflakes. And while nannying for a 12 year old girl this summer, I rediscovered the joy of making friendship bracelets. And the other answers on this thread really make me want to take up knitting!
posted by GastrocNemesis at 5:24 PM on December 16, 2010

Oh and also, the cutting-pasting-assembly line is exactly how I would describe making place cards for wedding receptions. I volunteered to make them for my sister's wedding and it was really fun. I used 2 different colors of cardstock, put a small rectangle of one color on a bigger rectangle of the other. Punched a couple holes in the corner so I could tie a little bow with ribbon. Added little fake flowers. They turned out great, and that's the sort of project that you could really come up with a million different ideas for. Plus, if you get good at it, you can either do it as a favor to friends or potentially make money off it. (Of course, making cards this way means they can't be printed on . . . but maybe you could take up calligraphy too!)
posted by GastrocNemesis at 5:30 PM on December 16, 2010

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