Keeping myself occupied for a month
May 3, 2017 5:29 PM   Subscribe

I have about a month off with minimal responsibilities (obligations maybe 1-2 days/wk) and it's making me depressed. Too much time doesn't sit well with me. I can't leave completely and take a real vacation because of things I need to take care of at home. I'm looking for ideas and small projects to occupy my time. I've got the binging on television down. What else can I do?

One month isn't enough time to learn a language or an instrument or take on big projects. I'm looking for day-long projects or trips. I'm about 45 min from Boston, I've already done the touristy things. I don't want to put too much in my interests because I want to be open to anything. I've already thought of things I think I might be interested in – I want to know what I can't think of. If you're at work fantasizing about having this time off, what would YOU do?
posted by bobobox to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (34 answers total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
Declutter. Deep Clean. Throw a really great party. Stupidly complicated cooking. Do the mending. Go to the local neighbourhood groups that only meet during business hours. Get my bills and paperwork in order. Research better insurance. Garden. Visit friends with small children who go to bed too early to catch up in the evening anymore.
posted by kjs4 at 5:40 PM on May 3, 2017 [18 favorites]

Oh, and exercise. Couch to 5K is a great place to start.
posted by kjs4 at 5:41 PM on May 3, 2017 [7 favorites]

A month isn't long enough to learn a language or an instrument, but it IS long enough to get started with a new exercise program. If I had a month off, I would spend more time practicing yoga, or spend some days with a trainer learning how to get better at running or weight training.

I have a list of books I want to read that keeps growing longer because during the work week I never have as much time to read as I want. A month off would allow me to put a pretty big dent in my Goodreads queue.

A month might also be long enough to learn beginner-level knitting or crochet or simple embroidery techniques.

A home repair or home improvement DIY that would make life too chaotic with a normal work schedule could be accomplished in a month. Painting, deep cleaning carpets, power washing the exterior of your home, all of these could be satisfying. Planting a garden, if you have space for that.

You could also meal prep and freeze a LOT of home-cooked food for when you eventually return to work.

That's the kind of stuff I would love to do with a month off at home. I might be boring, but I can live with that.
posted by little mouth at 5:47 PM on May 3, 2017 [4 favorites]

Doing chess problems is always relaxing and interesting. The Polgar sisters have done some interesting work!
posted by aquafortis2 at 5:48 PM on May 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

I would take at least a few days to do projects that would make my life easier once I was back at work, such as
--spend a full day making freezer meals.
--deep clean a room or two in my home.
--clean out closets and weed out clothes and other items to donate.

I do a smaller version of this sometimes when I have a long weekend--I'll spend the first day being super productive, and then spend the rest of the time doing things I enjoy guilt-free.

A few other ideas--
--try out new restaurants/coffee shops.
--binge-read instead of binge-tv watching. Get a pile of books about a topic you're curious about, or a genre or author you've been meaning to try.
--complete an enormous jigsaw puzzle.
posted by bookmammal at 5:48 PM on May 3, 2017 [4 favorites]

I have no idea if you own home, if you do, here's an idea. My entire backyard is being renovated. From excavation through to decking and gardens, it's taking a month and is made much easier by me being at home to deal with various issues as they come up. Now I'm not saying you need to renovate your yard but if there's any maintenance things that need doing around your place and you'll be there, far easier to plan for it now than try to take time off work to meet with plumbers, technicians etc.

Otherwise, I would focus on all the things you fantasize about doing when you're stuck at work and can't get out. Movies, coffee, antique shopping, craft, training for a marathon, enrol in a short course, having the time to toilet train a puppy, the lists are endless. What are your hobbies?
posted by Jubey at 5:55 PM on May 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

  • Plant a garden.
  • Choose four great novels you've always meant to read and read one per week, preferably while enjoying spring outdoor time in woods or a park.
  • See how many Project Euler problems you can solve
  • Take stock of your life.
  • Reorganize your closets.
  • Volunteer.

posted by Nerd of the North at 5:57 PM on May 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

If you are 45 minutes from Boston you haven't done ALL of the touristy things!

Purgatory Chasm for a hike

Beauport House Amazing home tour of basically the first pro interior decorator.

Please go to Brimfield Antique Show in May! It's 3 times a year and SO much fun to walk around for a day. You could walk it for miles and never see it all.

Such a perfect time to take a book and drive to Pickity Place. A nice lunch, walk through the herb and flower gardens, sit with a book. Combine it with a movie at the Wilton Town Hall Theater (One of my top 5 movie theaters!) Real butter on the popcorn, real lemonade, and it's in the town hall.

Worcester area? Come to Moore State Park for an incredible hike when the rhododendrons and azaleas are in bloom. Old Grist Mill, waterfalls, pond, etc. When you are there go down to a real old fashioned country dairy bar - Still four corners. Burgers are still like 3 bucks and the fried clams are awesome. You could also hit Schultz's farm. EVERYTHING is homemade.

Tower Hill botanical garden is great for a nice walk, a nice lunch, and a stroll through a terrific gift shop.

Crompton Collective is a great antique Co-op, with a good lunch spot, too.

Want a LONG drive for breakfast? Some favorites - Rose 32 in Hardwick. Stop at the book bear used book store , too. Sterling has Meadowbrook orchards. You can pick berries and make a pie when you get home.

Speaking of berries...we use this pick your own site a lot.

Beaches. There are probably 50 within an hour and a half of you. I have enjoyed making it my second job to find my favorite around here. A breakfast and a stroll on a beach sounds like good work for a day. Wingasheek, Plum Island (go ALL the way to the end), Good Harbor, Cranes, Singing beach, there are SO many.

Fried clams? Have you decided whose are better? Clam box, Farmham or Woodmand? Those areas are filled with historic homes and wonderful farms.

Boston Harbor Islands? You could take a ferry from Boston...

Old Sturbridge Village and Plimoth Plantation aren't just for kids. It's really wonderful to get to walk around and speak with the historians without a bored kid tugging on your leg. I LOVE going.

I think I could go on for hours but the kid that is always bored at those museums want to me to tuck him in. Right. NOW!
posted by ReluctantViking at 6:00 PM on May 3, 2017 [16 favorites]

You absolutely have enough time to learn how to knit, and finish a simple scarf or hat.

You could also pick up Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, and go through as many activities as you care to. It's not a book that you need to finish, so don't worry about that. Just have some fun making art.
posted by Banknote of the year at 6:05 PM on May 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

Spend some time on the Smithsonian Transcription Center.
posted by gudrun at 6:14 PM on May 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

nature walks
books, books, books
visiting coffee shops
writing in journal
writing letters
arts and crafts
volunteer work
posted by bearette at 6:25 PM on May 3, 2017 [3 favorites]

One month with a few half-hour sessions a day of casual play and practice is PLENTY enough time to get some chops with:

recorder, ocarina, thumb piano, melodica, harmonica, and many others! Those are all inexpensive and come in a variety of models and can be lots of fun.

Now, maybe you don't want to learn the basics of a musical instrument, that's fine too! But please don't avoid learning because you believe it is out of reach :)
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:27 PM on May 3, 2017 [6 favorites]

Oh boy, I hate that I am coming back in here but Genealogy! If you ever had an interest and are from the US (not necessary but you can get so many documents), these are the days! Go to the NEHGS on Newbury and lose yourself in amazing old records - grab some chocolates at Burdicks while you are at it. If you need help getting started head over to the subreddit r/genealogy or pm me.
posted by ReluctantViking at 6:28 PM on May 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

Write out bucket list. Rock climb. Reacquaint self with old instrument I stopped playing. Set goals, break them down, do chunks of them. Write letters to old friends and colleagues. Pay respects to deceased friends and families. Volunteer. Write out novel idea I've been kicking around. Konmari. Kripalu. Make it a mission to compare and contrast all the hamburgers in a 10 mile radius. Write it up and get published in local paper or blog. Interview for a better job. Don't speak for a day. Spa day. Get good and drunk and read Bukowski. Go meet all neighbors. Invite city council member over for dinner. Learn to cook a new food. Quit all social media. Drive to Acadia. Head to NYC.

I give you permission to try to do anything that you decide is best. You can also do nothing and that's fine too. Good luck.
posted by enfa at 6:36 PM on May 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

ReluctantViking has a great starter list. When I have a little chunk of time and am sick of my house, I do some sort of "Go see all the X-es" where that can be a set of libraries, all the historical markers in a town, all the covered bridges in the county, something. Just a little structure and then most of the time you wind up noticing some stuff along the way.

There is also a big MeFi contingent that does trivia on many Thursdays and are nice (I sometimes go but am not a regular) and you can find them over on IRL.
posted by jessamyn at 6:42 PM on May 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

Take a class - improv, art, language, yoga, bird identification, cooking, kayaking.

Volunteer through Boston Cares or something closer to home. Maybe your local library could use someone to shelve books or read to kids.

Get lunch with people you don't get to see very often because you are usually both working too far apart to get lunch.

Go to all the museums.
posted by bunderful at 6:49 PM on May 3, 2017

A month is so totally absolutely without a doubt plenty of time to learn a language or an instrument. You'll be conversant in either doing a few hours a day 3 or 4 days a week for 4 weeks and best part is with 21 repetitions you'll have formed a good habit to continue learning.
posted by chasles at 6:51 PM on May 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

Buy Mage Knight.

Learn to play Mage Knight.

Play Mage Knight.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 7:08 PM on May 3, 2017

I would do the things that are annoying when done on the weekends when most people are off work, like a Costco run.

Book a 90 minute massage.

Take naps.

Take the train to NYC and just wander.
posted by misseva at 7:45 PM on May 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

Last summer I went from puny upper body strength to visible lady biceps doing only 15 to 30 minutes of yoga a day for a month. Along with the visible increase were a whole bunch of really obvious strength gains. I used the Yoga Studio app, which cost me all of $5 plus the cost of a mat. I did it first thing in the morning so I could slack off as much as I wanted the rest of the day and still feel like I'd accomplished a thing.
posted by deludingmyself at 8:05 PM on May 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

As above, and also what I would do if I hadn't already done it:

- Massive cleanout, declutter, and organisation of the homestead
- Raise some simple food crops (e.g. herbs, chillies) in pots
- Start composting
- Start a very basic exercise regime (e.g. Starting Strength or kettlebell training or just brisk walking)
- Make lots of sauerkraut? Make mead? Cook and freeze your meals for the rest of the year?
- Mage Knight (for me it would be Relic or LotR LCG but Mage Knight is a good one).

You'd be surprised how much time you can "kill" (which you aren't really, since it's productive time, though perhaps a little drawn out) by pottering around in the garden. A half dozen pots of something and a composting bin will keep you going for hours. It's spring there so the perfect time to start pruning and such, plus you're outdoors, like humans are meant to be. Benefit the planet as well by getting some nice fauna-attracting plants planted, such as flowers and small shrubberies that are nice for bees, butterflies and small birds.
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:18 PM on May 3, 2017

Two things come to mind. If I did not already work with my hands, I would want to build something. A piece of furniture, shelves, something for the backyard, anything that required physical labor and a touch of artistry. Two, I would write. Just spend an hour a day writing. That may be your life story, a few things about what you are good at or your hobbies or fiction or anything, but I would write.

I would also try to either establish a new healthy habit or change an existing habit. I would use the time to become more disciplined and focused.
posted by AugustWest at 8:36 PM on May 3, 2017

Learn a programming language. Learn how to solder. Learn calligraphy. Make candles. Do an overnight camping trip. Brew some beer. Spend a hundred bucks in small increments at record stores.
posted by brennen at 10:18 PM on May 3, 2017

Install a new operating system (dual boot, so you don't lose what you currently have), set it up just the way you like it, learn to use it.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:20 AM on May 4, 2017

I'd invite people over for dinner/brunch because I never have enough time for that. I'm not sure if volunteering is feasible but I'd start with an animal rescue to see about walking/playing with dogs/pets.

Some other small projects: see if there's a weekend course at the local camera store and get better at shooting, clean up my electronic life, definitely declutter, possibly reclutter by thrifting furniture and making a go at restoring/recovering something, learn to make good pie crust, and I'd challenge a bit on the language front -- you can't learn a language but you could learn fundamentals + travel phrases as a running start with plans to continue in your new commute/etc. perfect is the enemy of the good and all that.

I'd also bike /everywhere/.
posted by warriorqueen at 4:29 AM on May 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

Go visit someone in a nursing home. I am crazy busy at work right now and tormented by the fact that I can only see my recently incarcerated aunt once a week. People there are so grateful to see someone and maybe get taken outside to sit in the sun for a few minutes. Wherever you are I'm sure someone knows someone you could visit.
posted by InkaLomax at 4:55 AM on May 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm making a yoyo quilt out of old frayed shirts. You can learn the basics in five minutes on youtube. You draw circles around a saucer or something, cut out the circles, sew the circles into little poofs, sew the poofs together, et voila, "interesting" looking but quite serviceable middle-weight quilt. It takes forever, but it's remarkably satisfying because it turns dumbTVbinge into productive dumbTVbinge. Seconding everybody who said exercise. And especially yoga, because one time when I'd been yoga-ing regularly I wiped out on a slick, just-waxed floor and fell naturally into a plank pose, emerging uninjured and unwaxed. Yesterday I watched one of those "kid tries fivethousand times to do a skateboard trick" videos and it occurred to me that he wasn't wasting his time because he was training himself to fall. I need to spend time learning how to fall. If you got to where you fell safely automatically? Man, would that be a month well spent.
posted by Don Pepino at 5:38 AM on May 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

The months of May and September are magical at the beaches outside Boston and I would totally be taking advantage of that.

Also, not knowing your location-- which 45 minutes away are you?-- I would take a day trip to Western Mass. and visit for instance this bookstore.
posted by BibiRose at 6:08 AM on May 4, 2017

AskMe has taught me to ask myself "what can today me do to help tomorrow me?"

So, if I had such time off my first inclination would be to follow pretty much everything kjs4 said; take the time to get down those things that cause little nagging troubles in my life, so that I will feel more organized and relaxed when those tasks have been taken care. In particular, decluttering has made my life so much more management and less stressful on those days when I'm super busy. But still, experience tells me that I can get all those things done in a week, ten days tops.

After that, or maybe if you're more organized than me to begin with and you don't have a list of nagging things to do, it sounds like a good time to do some volunteer work. Go read to kids. Work for Habitat for Humanity. Do some canvassing for your local politician. Spend some time at the animal shelter. Do some honey-do/handyman type work for a domestic violence shelter. Work at the local native plant society pulling non-natives and restoring the natural habitat. Be a docent at the aquarium or zoo or local beach where seals come to molt and breed. Volunteer to help a small festival with set-up/take-down. Mow lawns or harvest fruit trees for older neighbors. Teach someone's teenager how to change a tire. Drive an older person to the grocery store or a doctor's appointment. Babysit for friends so they can get a night out. Teach their kids how to make blueberry muffins or cardboard frogs or something fun. Get involved with the local river or beach clean-up association and participate in their volunteer days.

I am also a person who needs to have things to look forward to or else I get depressed, so I totally get where you are coming from. Still, I envy you a little bit with the blank canvass. Enjoy your time off.
posted by vignettist at 7:55 AM on May 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

Learn to code. Learn to knit. Learn to juggle.

Read all of last year's Nebula award winners.

Get a vinyl cutter and stencil All The Things.
posted by sourcequench at 9:30 AM on May 4, 2017

Organize that box or hard drive full of photos while you still remember the context.
posted by Jesse the K at 3:29 PM on May 4, 2017

Response by poster: Thanks for your enthusiasm and ideas! It's too easy to forget all things you wish you had time for when you were busy.
posted by bobobox at 9:19 AM on May 5, 2017

Response by poster: turbid dahlia, do you have a mead recipe you particularly like?

(I'll be setting up a schedule for myself to get to many of these suggestions!)
posted by bobobox at 5:20 PM on May 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

bobobox, I'll admit I haven't gotten so far as making legit proper actual proper legit mead yet. I HAVE fermented plenty of fresh berries into carbonated soft drinks that, after a little while longer, turn a bit boozy. This is really the best advice I've found: Wild Berry Soda with Sandor Katz.
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:54 PM on May 10, 2017

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