After all that December stress, there comes a time of rest.

Or at least an illusion of rest. The January. This is the month when it all begins. All your new habits and New Year’s resolutions are kicking in!

January is actually way better to focus on self-care than on any radical changes. At least that’s what I think. You can check out some more on that in my December dream post. I mean the actual self-care, not the one where you binge-watch something on Netflix or treat yourself in all that New Year’s everything-must-go shopping endeavors. No, I mean real self-care. The one that you can do every day and that doesn’t cost anything.

Self-care is different things for different people. What is self-care for an introvert might be a small personal hell for an extrovert. And vice versa. I’m not going to pretend I know much about self-care. It’s a new subject for me as well. But I thought it’s a good idea to put on paper some things and options that I have been exploring for the last couple of weeks.

I’m an introvert and a thinker. INTP is my type. If you don’t know what that is, check out this Wikipedia page on Myers-Briggs Type Indicators. I also have an entire arsenal of craft supplies, that is most likely borderline backshit crazy. But hey, we are all crazy here.

I have tried to make this self-care list quite extensive but it doesn’t mean it actually is. Feel free to suggest some new activities and ideas in the comments.

More is not better. You could try to do one of these activities per day or stick to one for some period of time. I don’t know what’s the better approach and if there even is one, to begin with.

These are things that I qualify as “zero-cost” self-care. For the sake of clarity, I have grouped them together into several categories. What they all have in common, is the quiet time and actually being alone. Again, an extrovert might not enjoy this at all and actually might need a totally different set of activities.

Self-care ideas for creating and playing

I’m an artist so it might seem to you that this is the only thing that I do. Create and play all day long. That’s not exactly right. A professional artist creates under pressure on delivering the results. If not from a client than just from herself. However, creating without any expectations for results is very relaxing. It’s a definition of learning while playing. There are millions of variations in this category. The most important thing is, to do something totally new or something that you know you enjoy, but do it without any expectations that it should be good, usable or that you will even show it to anyone. Accept the fact that you will just “waste” your supplies and then you are good to go.

It might seem counter-intuitive but Pinterest is not your friend on this one. Neither is YouTube, Instagram or Google. These are great when you are set on a specific project, you want to execute it on a level with proper results. And all here below is not about results at all. It’s about playing and goofing around. So you have 0 minutes of research time. I know, how will you even get started. Well, that’s the fun part actually. 

1. Make salt dough ornaments, sculptures, pottery, or “things”

I don’t bake per definition, but salt, water, and flower can be found even at my house. Do not go on Pinterest for inspiration. Just make some dough and figure out the details yourself.

There are bazillion recipes on the internet and each one claims to be the best. This is what I use: 1 unit fine grain salt, 1 unit flour, ½ unit water. Some extra flour for making the dough not sticky. Baking 30 min, on 200 deg C but a lower temperature is perhaps better.

You can make whatever you want, unusable cups an plates, Christmas tree decorations, masks, sculptures or “things”. Try to paint the dough. You can roll some leaves into the dough for textures. The possibilities are endless.

2. Do origami from paper that you already have at home

Even if you don’t have a nice colorful paper you can use a ruled sheet from a notebook. No Pinterest research time. You may use a book if you have one, but otherwise, just try doing something from the top of your head. Just fold and unfold. It will be absolutely useless however, brain relaxation is guaranteed.

3. Get creative with photos on your smartphone

You might need an app or two. But again no Pinterest research time is allowed. You have seen enough already.

You can start easy, just make a nice arrangement of still life, or try to make something abstract from everyday things that you can find at home. In apps like Snapseed, you can tweak things a little. The point is to think of an idea just to test it out.

4. Make something from old clothes

They might be your own, your husbands or your kids. No Pinterest research time allowed.

Personally, I’m not that good at sewing even though I do enjoy it. Here is just a short list to get your imagination rolling: bunnies from socks, owls, gnomes from old sweaters. It doesn’t need to be presentable, it doesn’t need to be Art or art. You might end up throwing everything away and that okay.

5. Slow stitching

No picking on Pinterest. Once again, just get some old clothes and most likely you will find a needle and a thread somewhere around your house. You cut the fabric into geometric shapes and make your composition as if it was an abstract painting. You stitch by hand. Stitching can be visible or not, it’s all up to you.

Make something useless and pretty.

6. Try weaving

Any yarn will do, or even a cord. You could cut some old t-shirt as well. As for the loom, you also don’t need anything fancy. You could use some nails and an old picture frame. As usual, no Pinterest time allowed.

7. Draw a mandala with what you have at home

Ruled paper and a blue pen are fine. It’s not something that will be hanging above your sofa.

Most mandalas are based on a geometrical spread, like six, eight, ten or twelve arms. They are about symmetry. You can either draw them by hand or with some tools like a ruler and calipers. Just remember – no Pinterest.

8. Write a short story based on a prompt or lyrics from a song

No research time allowed. You look for a prompt in a book that you already have. A prompt is something that gets you going. These are not the first words of your story. This is not the clue of your story. A prompt is a spark of inspiration. Can’t decide which book to use? 5th from the left. You open it on a random page and you start reading from the top. Let’s say two sentences. Yes, the chance is what you have in your hands is a cooking book and you have a list of ingredients for chicken soup. Well, though luck, run with it.

9. Paint something abstract

I assume you actually have some paint at home. It could be spray, it could be acrylic or just what your kids use for school. Any brush will do, actually the less professional the equipment the better. So let’s try to paint with Q-tips or a toothpick. I don’t need to mention that you don’t need a canvas. Any piece of paper will do. A torn piece of cardboard will do.

Your painting shouldn’t be anything specific. It should be, as my daughter puts it, “something, just this” without specifying any further what and why. It doesn’t even have to something at all. Just enjoy and observe how your brush or q-tip touches the surface and what sort of marks it leaves.

10. Crochet something easy and colorful with the yarn that you have

Once again I assume you have yarn and crochet hooks at home, or knitting needles, whatever your jam is. Do not look up any patters. This you can just do from the top of your head. Pick a small project you can finish in one sitting, like a headband, smartphone poach, earphones poach, cosmetic bag, soap sack, you get my drift. And no, it’s absolutely prohibited to Pinterest for inspiration. You have what you need already.

11. Paint stones

Unless you live in a swamp, you should have some stones in your surroundings. They don’t need to be perfect round pebbles, they don’t need to be in a perfect size. Some paint (or old nail polish) and a brush or different objects with a round tip will absolutely do the trick. You can make mandalas, you can paint frogs, owls or write words.

Self-care ideas to organize and clear out your spaces

The previous ones where fun, I know. These ones will be hard work but it’s worth it. Every single time I make an effort to do one of these, I feel really good afterward.

12. Declutter the most dreaded part of your house

Everyone has one so let’s skip the denial part, shall we? For me, it’s the space behind the sliding door at the attic. No matter what I do, within weeks it just gets full of crap.

Mind, declutter means to get rid of things and not to organize them, so no buying of storage boxes or storage solutions, thank you Ikea. You don’t need to think about how to reorganize the space. You do the work of opening the boxes and throwing away or donating what you don’t need or want. That’s it.

Let’s face it, it’s hard work. It will take you quite some time. It will be hard to force yourself to do it. But this self-care is one of the best ones there is. You will see how much stuff and crap you are getting rid of.

13. Organize your kitchen drawers

This is basically clean up and reorder. A small thing with a relatively big payoff. Don’t buy any organization solution. If you think you need some dividers and organizers, try cardboard boxes first.

14. Clean the garden

This might not be one of those January ideas but you can start as soon as March I guess.

Our garden, even though, the size of a postage stamp is a lot of work. It gets cluttered somehow easily. Cleaning every once in a while takes a lot of courage, to begin with, but it’s a guaranteed fulfilled afternoon feeling and that’s what self-care is all about.

15. Do some gardening

Not my favorite activity, I’d rather paint or photograph but, gardening is usually outside and it makes you move a bit. Not to mention, it’s so nice to sit and relax in a well-maintained garden. Who knows you might even find a good place for those stones you have painted.

Self-care ideas to sit back and relax

After all that work just relax.

16. Read a book that you already have

Pick a book that you already have. Perhaps you haven’t found the time to read it yet or pick one that you already know but really like. There is a book that I keep coming back to every once in awhile, it’s surprising how many new details you can pick up on when you reread a book.

17. Meditate

No apps, mats or yoga pants. You sit down where it’s quiet and where you won’t be distracted. It could be inside, it could be outside. One of my favorite places to meditate is the roof at my work. Just me, the wind, 10 minutes of relaxing music and no thoughts.

I have been meditating in our garden, in our living room, in a forest. You can literally do it everywhere. Music is optional but it helps me to turn off. I usually use the same music and it’s a Pavlov reaction by now.

18. Take a long warm bath

It could be with bubbles if you have them at home. It could be with herbs if you can go outside and just pick some. If you want to use herbs, I do recommend some research beforehand. Lavendel works relaxing and that’s all I know.

Your bath should be long, undisturbed and warm. You could combine it with some beauty treatments but even better combine it with that book you are already reading.

19. Stare through the window

Unless you live on a very busy street, in that case, don’t do it.

Staring through the window even if it’s a brick wall that you are starring at, will make your mind wander. Try not to control where your thoughts are going but in case of some negative thoughts about the problems that you are having, give yourself a gentle slap on the mental face.

Self-care ideas for going out of your house

Let’s take it outside.

20. Go for a walk in a forest

Forest is my favorite place for a walk. You can google around to find a forest in your neighborhood and routes that will be just right length and difficulty for you. The point is not to break records, tick the most viewpoints or even discover new places. The point is to let your mind wander while your feet are moving. So get yourself lost in a forest.

21. Go for a walk in an open space

Walking in an open space is a totally different experience.

Again, check what you have in your neighborhood. The point is to find a place where you can see far. It could be huge fields or meadows, it could be next to a big lake or a seashore. Find the open space and let the wind ruin your haircut.

22. Go for a run

Do not buy running shoes or any other gear for the occasion. Just put on something sporty and comfortable, head to a park or nature area and run one or two kilometers. It’s not about the distance but about the blood running faster.

Since it’s not training you don’t need to be precise. My favorite part of this is picking a Spotify playlist with some energetic music and do run 1 – walk 1. I run one song and then walk one song. There is a good mood guarantee.

23. Go to a museum

Some musea you can enter for free others do have an entrance fee. I have a special card that allows me to enter musea for free. The card itself does cost money of course but I’m using it often also for other things.

So pick a museum and go alone. You can pick an exposition that interests you or one that will be a total surprise. The point is to go out of the house and see something new. Stay there for a while, sit down. Stare at the peace. Read what’s written on the boards and plates. You didn’t come here for a direct strike of inspiration. You came to relax and recharge.

24. Go to an art exhibition

Very similar to the previous one and once again it might cost you money to enter. I have that golden ticket pass, so I don’t pay.

Go alone and take your time. You can put your favorite music on while you stroll through the halls.

25. Go to the library

The entrance is free even if you are not a member. If you are not a member you won’t be able to take books home but you can still read them there.

Don’t use the computer to look things up. Just stroll through the shelves and see what you can discover by chance.

Goodnight sleep is also a good self-care idea

After all that busy day taking good care of yourself or just after a busy day working, get to bed on time!

26. No screens 2 hours before bed

This is something I break regularly but when I don’t break it, it works like a charm. Why do I don’t stick to something that works? Because I am merely a mortal and I get distracted. What could you do in the 2 hours before bed then? Well, some of the ideas above. Reading, a bath or a walk are very good options. You will sleep like a baby.

28. Dim your lights

When I was younger I hated that it was so dark where my parents were hanging out. Now, at a certain moment, our living room turns into a cave light only by a fireplace. Not an actual cave and not an actual fireplace but it’s dark and cozy.

28. Air your bedroom

We sleep with windows open even in winter. I should probably add that we live in the Netherlands and our winters are very mild. Even if you live near the North pole, you can still just open your bedroom window for a few moments to change the air and lover the temperature.

That’s all I have for you this time. If you have some cool ideas for me and others to try, just leave a comment.