Looking for a new hobby to do at home, MANY restrictions
October 14, 2014 5:51 AM   Subscribe

I'm casting about for a new at-home hobby, but need something that doesn't take up much space at all, doesn't require staring at a glowing screen or tax eyes much, and doesn't aggravate my RSI.

I live in a fairly small space with pretty much no additional room for storage of craft items, etc., and definitely not collections, and I have to bogart the kitchen table for anything that requires space to spread out. Also, I "internet" all day for work, so need to try to avoid more eye and wrist strain. Here are things that I've done and enjoyed in the past:

Reading! My #1 best thing in the world! Still love, still do, but need to restrict somewhat because Eyes. I do listen to audiobooks sometimes, but usually end up falling asleep.

Puzzles! Love them! I do challenging crosswords every day, and love abstract thinking / logic puzzles (not the matrix type, which I find boring), but have pretty much exhausted the kind I like best, and don't find enough good new ones. I do puzzle games on iPad every day.

Games, games, games! <3. I love, but mostly play things I can do alone, since my husband is not that much into board games (we play occasionally). I've been seeking out computer games that don't aggravate the RSI too much, but still, ye olde glowing screene.

Collage, physical and digital. This has always been a fun and absorbing hobby for me (and I've even sold some), but taxes my space limitations (many magazines and files of cut-out images), and my RSI problems (carefully cutting out a lot of things) and requires a staging area for ongoing projects that I don't really have available. Digital goes back to the glowing screen, plus RSI issues.

Jewelrymaking. I dip into this every now and then, but it's a pain finding space to store all the bits and pieces, requires staging space, can be a bit of an RSI problem, plus I eventually get bored with it, and I don't even wear very much jewelry and am not interested in selling pieces.

Pets. I have a dog, and we do training exercises and other games, but I don't have the space for something like agility training.

Cooking / Gardening. My interest comes and goes; these are fun when I'm in the mood, but aren't reliably absorbing for me.

Knitting, crochet, embroidery, etc. Not really my cup of tea over the long term (I do a project occasionally, am happy when it's done, and don't feel like starting another for a long time), plus storage and RSI issues. I am hopeless at sewing, and hate it.

Photography. Again, something I've done for stretches in the past, and pick up again when I feel like it, but not an every-day absorbing pastime for me.

I'm not interested at all in: journalling; pen pals or letterwriting (oh god, I'm the worst); calligraphy (seems like something I should like, but isn't – likewise, bookbinding); sketching or painting (I'm rather artistic, but not in this way); electronics; modelmaking / miniatures; collecting (just doesn't do it for me); learning / playing an instrument (much appreciation, but subzero talent here; I think I was the only one in my fourth-grade class to totally fail "Recorder").

Despite all this maybe seemingly overwhelming restriction stuff, I'm actually openminded and really interested in all ideas, but it needs to be something to do at home, and I might as well add that so far I'm not much into physical stuff (I keep trying to love yoga). I feel like I'm overlooking a lot of possibilities, though. Any ideas for me?
posted by taz to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (32 answers total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
Learn Gregg Shorthand, and then take shorthand of TV. My grandmother did this so that she wouldn't lose the skill.

Imagine how useful this would be for taking notes! Policemen all had to learn it back in the day. It's a lost art.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:03 AM on October 14, 2014 [5 favorites]

I hate to sound all new age-y, but have you tried meditation? I usually find my RSI is agitated by stress, and sitting quietly for 20 minutes helps calm me down. It's probably not an all-engrossing hobby, but it can be relaxing to do after work.
posted by ayerarcturus at 6:06 AM on October 14, 2014

I always found bread baking to be therapeutic both for my mental state and my (minor) RSI. The kneading lets you use those muscles against something that provides resistance as opposed to flapping around in the air all day.
posted by rocketpup at 6:15 AM on October 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Scrapbooking. I know a lot of people think it's a bit twee but it is a very creative hobby. It would component your photography. Despite the idea you need all the supplies on the world to do it pushed by stores etc you really don't everything can fit on a nice neat tote bag for easy accesses and tucks away when not in use. If not your style card making is fun too and Christmas is coming.
posted by wwax at 6:19 AM on October 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Have you tried carving stamps? The materials involved are minimal (a simple carving set from Speedball, brayer, ink or inkpads, and carving mat) and it's infinitely rewarding, I've found.

How about making youtube videos of something you do well? Some of the youtubers I watch make 10-30 minute videos and do no editing. They just shoot and upload, which makes screen time for them fairly minimal. Might be fun to have your own channel.

Papercutting? Paper, cutting mat, exacto knife and you're in business. Check out Elsa Mora's blog, All About Papercutting for some inspiration and tutorials.

If you're a girly-girl, nail art can be fun. A few new bottles of polish won't take up much room and it takes some practice to get good. There are tons of tutorials online, too.
posted by GoLikeHellMachine at 6:35 AM on October 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

- singing. Just explore the different things you can do with your voice. Doing it with your eyes closed works well, and it uses breathing and other muscles to do it well (just try to keep your throat relaxed; maybe read a little about it and/or watch some videos while you get started).

- cooking in a focused, creative, inventive way. Pick a dish you like, or which intrigues you, and refine and experiment with it. Find some neighbors who will be your guinea pigs and have them over once a week to try your latest innovation on rice+beans niçoise.

- refine every part of your living room to make it the perfect place for X, where X is whatever you want to do (relaxing, hosting dinner parties, challenging your dog to retrieve his ball from ever-more-interesting hiding places, etc.)
posted by amtho at 6:38 AM on October 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Jigsaw puzzles. You can buy a storage board/bag that you do the puzzle right in, and then close up and store when not working on it. There are loads of types and sizes of bags/boards.

Watch movies/documentaries and write reviews. Go through best of lists and see all of them, or watch movies from a particular year, or watch all the movies on a particular topic.

Take free online classes on topics that interest you — also might spawn a new hobby!
posted by clone boulevard at 6:42 AM on October 14, 2014

Sorry, I suppose the movies involve a glowing screen. But a lot of the online classes are often mostly listening and not looking at a screen.
posted by clone boulevard at 6:43 AM on October 14, 2014

This may sound silly, but if I had some free time and decided not to spend it destroying my eyes/hands/back, I'd start cataloguing my clothes. Either by photographing myself in each individual piece, or by creating outfits I think are interesting or flattering or fun and taking photos to make a record of them.

I find that when I'm able to think about it beforehand, I can actually put together some really fun outfits that make me feel happy and at home in my skin -- particularly for formal or professional events, which can be tricky. But so frequently, I don't really have TIME to figure out what to pack/wear in an organized fashion.

So that's what I'd do, anyway.

BONUS: you'd probably dig up a bunch of stuff to give to good will, and would probably also find at least one pair of boots or blazer or whatever that you totally love and forgot you even owned.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 6:46 AM on October 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

Consider a video game console and dance games (might want to try at a friend's to see if it's your thing).

Cooking and baking! Pick a particular cuisine or type of baked good and go to town.

Consider an e-reader, which is much much easier on the eyes than a glowing screen.

(and pardon me for meddling, but how long has it been since you got them checked? It may be possible that an adjustment to your prescription, or glasses just for computer work, and/or adjusting the ergonomics of your station might help.)
posted by canine epigram at 6:46 AM on October 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Design crossword puzzles. Draw or use an existing grid, enter new words and write clues for them. Publish. I've tried and found it extremely challenging.
posted by chocolate_butch at 6:55 AM on October 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Learn a new language. You can use a combination of books, online video chat with a native speaker, online course materials, or listen to Pimsleur.
posted by Hawk V at 6:56 AM on October 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Have you done K9 Nose Work with your dog? Easy to do indoors, even in small spaces. Very satisfying partnership with your dog. Dogs love K9 Nose Work - they adore that you are asking them to search and find specific scents. The website can link you to instructors and classes. The classes are helpful because some of the initial training is learning how to communicate with your dog that you want him/her to tell you when he/she finds a specific scent.
posted by apennington at 7:12 AM on October 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

Consider brewing beer
posted by mcstayinskool at 7:36 AM on October 14, 2014

Can you combine an audiobook, podcast, or music with one of the activities you find mildly entertaining but not mentally absorbing?
posted by yarntheory at 7:37 AM on October 14, 2014

Cooking, but to scratch the artistic itch even more, perhaps cooking with a focus on creating attractively styled plates. I'm always impressed with people who can arrange food on the plate so that it looks inventive and delicious, and haven't been able to move past the "plop a pile of peas on the plate and call it a day." I can't imagine that tools would take up that much space: some uber-sharp knives, some shaped molds, maybe a pastry bag and tips?
posted by Liesl at 7:49 AM on October 14, 2014

Have you tried strength training? A bag of resistance bands, including handles, door anchors, and leg cuffs, easily fits on a shelf. You might find it more interesting and definitely less woo than yoga.
posted by crazycanuck at 7:57 AM on October 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

How about making dolls' house furniture from scratch, both with new materials and recycled? I imagine it would be easier on the RSI because it's such a range of activities (cutting, gluing, sewing, nailing, etc.)
posted by humph at 7:59 AM on October 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Backyard bird watching: get a window feeder (if you're in an apartment, check with your landlord on this: a lot of mine have not liked them), or set up one close to a window; then get a good bird guide for your area, a notebook, and some binoculars. No real eye strain, no repetitive hand movements, and it can be very relaxing to watch birds do their thing. Have fun!
posted by ElectricGoat at 8:27 AM on October 14, 2014 [4 favorites]

Build a ship inside a glass bottle.

If you have space for a small vegetable garden, that is a nice hobby and will give you fresh veggies to cook recipes with. Cooking, another hobby!
posted by peachpie at 8:56 AM on October 14, 2014

Going along with the ship in a bottle idea..what about building terrariums with air plants? I've seen some really pretty examples in restaurants and shops around here recently. You could look on Pinterest for ideas, or just the web; I've also seen some cool books that you could probably find in a library. And if you were able to sell collages maybe you could sell these!
posted by stellaluna at 9:37 AM on October 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

Seconding chocolate_butch: design crossword puzzles. Especially cryptic crosswords, which combine your interest in logic, literature, and collage.
posted by feral_goldfish at 9:41 AM on October 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Get yourself a subscription to GAMES magazine for pencil-and-paper goodness.
posted by math at 10:09 AM on October 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

There's a bunch of board games that can be played solo!
posted by ignignokt at 10:14 AM on October 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure how bad your RSI is, but basic juggling is on my "someday" list, probably because I've watched Mirrormask too many times. Also, card tricks, in a similar vein.
posted by Sequence at 10:17 AM on October 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

apennington has it. You have to break up sessions (dogs do not enjoy boot camp drilling).

You could alternate scent work with trick training and fill some time writing (long-hand with your non-dominate hand) training plans.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 10:31 AM on October 14, 2014

If you like making collages, you may enjoy the world of artcards or artist trading cards. Some of the most beautiful ones that I've seen have been ones made by talented collage artists. An artist trading card (ATC for short) is only 2.5" x 3.5" so it doesn't take up much space and it's not a large commitment in terms of time or materials.

So what do you do when you've gotten into the ATC hobby? You trade them, of course! I've used Swap Bot for several years. It's a little clunky, but it works and it's fun to receive cards from other artists in the mail.

Other art card trading sites include ATCs for All and Illustrated ATCs.

Again, you'll see some painted or drawn art cards, but collage art cards are just fine. A lot of the swaps involve specific challenges, like incorporating a book page or a brown paper bag into the work. It can be really fun to work with unusual materials in such a small space.
posted by Ostara at 12:59 PM on October 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

If you like logic puzzles, take a look at this set called "Runes", it's about 30 pages of puzzles that all link up with each other, so that you need the answers from some of the puzzles to solve other ones. It gets quite difficult, but me and my Mom did it about 6-7 years ago and she found it to be one of the best puzzle/game experiences she ever had.

Runes Puzzle
posted by markblasco at 2:39 PM on October 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Re-theme, expand on, or design your own board games and card games. That's a solo activity related to one you already enjoy that can sometimes turn into something to do with your husband. BoardGameGeek is full of people who do this, and this FPP gives you some relevant blogs there to look at--one game designer, one person working on boardgame theory, and one woman trying to play a game every day this year (a lot of them solo).

Incidentally, the subject of that FPP was very nearly to do with a bunch of home-made board game mods on BGG, one of which was based on Love Letter, which would be easy to re-theme and change up. As another example, a friend and I once took a copy of Battle Cry and a big pile of cheap and trashy Magic the Gathering cards, and in just a few hours knocked out a sort of steampunk magitech game called Wizards of 1865--it was a blast. And games like Igel Ärgern and Apples to Apples ship with tons of variants in the rules themselves.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 2:51 PM on October 14, 2014

Learn how to play the ukulele! There are some great resources out there and I suppose short YouTube videos might violate your glowing screen rule, but there's also some great books out there as well.
posted by OkTwigs at 8:27 PM on October 14, 2014

I enjoy working with polymer clay - it's not expensive, doesn't take up much space, and the things you can do with it are practically unlimited; Pinterest is a great source of ideas. There's also air-dry clay if you don't want to purchase a toaster oven for clay-baking only (I got mine at a thrift store for $4). There are books you can get used from Amazon on working with polymer clay - or you can check them out from the library. The clay is somewhat stiff when new and has to be conditioned before you use it, either by working it with your hands (which I think has helped my hands, like kneading bread dough) or by running it through a pasta maker (about $15 on E-Bay) - again, the pasta maker needs to be for clay only. Other than the pasta maker and the toaster oven, all the clay and tools can be kept in a bag or tote easily.

Another thing I'm getting interested in is making mobiles from all sorts of things; again, Pinterest has some fantastic ideas.

Now's the time for Christmas ornaments, which you can make out of whatever you have in the house.

I love the idea of the artist trading cards and thank Ostara for the links!

Hope you find something fun to do!
posted by aryma at 10:51 PM on October 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Memorise poetry?
posted by Perodicticus potto at 2:33 PM on October 15, 2014

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