No one likes to be stuck inside, but on the plus side, it could be a great way to spend less while still keeping busy.
(You could use any savings from not going out to bulk up your emergency fund or pay down debt, for example.)
With that said, here are 19 free or mostly-free things to do when you’re bored at home.
1. Borrow and enjoy digital books, audiobooks, and movies.
Your local public library is at your fingertips anytime of the day or night when you use the OverDrive app. You can use it alone or in combination with the Kindle app, on all kinds of devices. If you are a reader, listener, or watcher, you will love having thousands of choices for free.
2. Channel your inner Marie Kondo and KonMari your closet (or your house.)
Getting rid of items that no longer bring you joy can make you feel like you’re taking action. (Because you are.) You can make “go” piles and store them until you can give away or sell them, and organize the “stay” piles in the meantime. As a bonus, the process will wear you out physically, which is good.
You don’t need to hit the gym to keep in shape. There are a whole bunch of bodyweight exercises you can do right at home, without any special equipment. Yoga and tai chi are great options as well. (Here are some yoga and tai chi channels on YouTube to get you started.) All you need is room for yourself.
4. If you have a dog, teach it some new tricks.
(Or just reinforce the old ones.) Several quick training sessions a day can really make a difference, and be fun for both of you. They’ll also help wear your dog out mentally, which can help reduce the stir crazy level for them as well if they can’t get their regular level of exercise.
5. Make something to eat and enjoy the process.
Cookies, brownies, cakes, pies, whatever you like. Most just take simple ingredients that you likely already have in your home. (Flour, sugar, butter, salt, oil, eggs.) Teach yourself or your kids and make it a group activity. Or, if you’ve stocked up on beans in the rush to the store, try out some of these 50 bean recipes.
6. Learn to finger knit.
Knitting has been shown to have health benefits, and finger knitting is a very easy way to get started. If you don’t have yarn at home but do have an old sweater, you could unravel it and use that yarn. Cording or string might work as well, since the point is mostly to de-stress and keep occupied, not to make something fabulous.
7. Play MMORPGs.
Massively multiplayer online role-playing games are exactly what they sound like. They’re also huge time sucks, so they can be a great way to while away many hours when you’d otherwise be bored at home. There are both paid and free MMORPGs out there. (Just beware of getting sucked into paying for in-game items.)
8. Have online lunch or dinner dates with family and friends.
I know, you’re stuck at home, so you can’t leave. But if you and your friends and family have access to the internet, there’s no reason you can’t set a time to meet up online with Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, Facetime, etc. It may feel a little odd at first, but it can work and help you stay social. Of course, you can also just set times to get together online without food as well. The point is to stay in contact, chat, and enjoy each other’s company.
9. If you can work from home, do.
Keep in mind that even if you can’t work from home for your employer, you can work from home for yourself if you like. Turning a hobby into a way to make extra cash or doing online tutoring are two things you may be able to do without leaving the house. Just make sure to clearly separate out your work & home life time (and if you have the space, put your work in a room you can shut the door on both while you’re working and after.)
10. Have a routine.
Keep a set schedule of things you plan to get done throughout each day. Get up at the same time each day, take regular breaks, and get enough sleep. (But not too much.) Staying both mentally and physically active vs. obsessively reading up on whatever is keeping you home is much healthier.
11. Catch up on paperwork.
(I never promised these would all be fun things do to while bored at home.) Chances are you’ve got some paperwork piled up somewhere that you just haven’t gotten to. This is the perfect time to tackle that and finally get it off your plate. You could also use the time to fill out what’s known as a legacy binder. That has all the information your family would need if the worst were to happen. (Here’s the one I’m an affiliate for: the In Case of Emergency Binder. Chelsea helps you take care of just about everything you could imagine in there!)
12. Binge watch shows on Netflix.
Yes, sometimes it IS perfectly fine to mindlessly zone out for a while and just mentally get away from it all. Look for long-running shows in your favorite genre. (Here’s a binge guide made just for these times.) If you have young kids, parking them in front of the TV part of the time can double as a learning experience too. (Here are some of the best educational streaming shows for preschoolers.)
13. Start learning a new language.
Duolingo is free, fun, and actually really effective. (I’ve been slowly learning Dutch, but they have many many languages to choose from, including endangered ones like Navajo.) Depending on the language you choose, you may also be able to practice by setting the shows you watch to that language.
14. Build a blanket fort.
Kids love to stretch blankets over chairs and hide out inside, but there’s no reason adults can’t share in the fun too. So get out the blankets and hang out for a few hours with a good book and a cup of coffee. It’ll give you an instant change of scenery, which can leave you feeling less cooped up. Think of your blanket fort time as a mini-vacation.
15. Have game nights.
If you live with family, take turns choosing board games or cards. If you don’t (or if your family isn’t big on games) join up with friends online. Similar to the virtual meetup idea, all it really takes are video chats and some coordination. Board Game Arena is a site that lets you play online, but they appear to be a little overloaded right now. There are also many games that are just MADE for playing with groups online (like DnD, which relies heavily on your imagination.) Roll20 makes DnD really easy, but you can also do it for free by looking up the rules online and using an online dice roller. Of course there are whole bunch of other board games that are easy to access online for free, like chess, backgammon, scrabble, etc.
There are all kinds of writing-related activities you could do to keep from getting bored. You could write actual, old-fashioned letters to far away family & friends. You could journal, blog, or even start writing a book. All it takes is pen & paper or a computer.
17. Move around every hour.
No matter what you’re doing while stuck at home, make sure you move your body on a regular basis. That can be as simple as standing up and stretching or going to get a glass of water. If it’s safe to do so, incorporate a little outdoor time into your schedule as well. And even if you’re stuck indoors due to a snowstorm, you may be able to go outside now and then, or maybe crack a window for some fresh air.
As long as the phone lines and internet are working, it’s usually possible to volunteer right from the comfort of your home. Ask your favorite charity, political organization, or local organization how you can help. For example, you might be able to call to encourage people to register to vote, answer questions, etc.
19. Create art or crafts.
This is great for both kids and adults, because all it takes is some imagination and time. You don’t have to have a ton of special supplies to create art. You can use scrap paper, trash, or items you decluttered around the house to make sculptures, a pencil & paper to draw with, or even your photo to shoot interesting photos. The key is to get creative and look at ordinary things in a different way. Have fun creating, and remember that you never have to show it to anyone if you don’t want to!
Need even more ideas? Check out this giant list of fun things to do with friends and family. Some of them work just fine as things to do when you’re bored at home as well!