The Things We Did to Pass the Time: Hobbies the Pandemic Left Behind

The Things We Did to Pass the Time: Hobbies the Pandemic Left Behind

“I have crocheted more afghans than I can tell you,” Vice President Kamala Harris said in an interview with The Washington Post last year when reflecting on her activities during the height of the Pandemic. A lifelong crocheter, it was during the Pandemic she found herself tucked away in her Brentwood home, revisiting her childhood hobby alongside her daughter, an avid knitter herself. 

The two are not alone. In the height of the 2020 Pandemic that is currently stretching into its third year, we saw an uptick in an assortment of hobbies, all with a unique origin story attached. A shortage of flour alerted us to the influx of new bakers who were glued to their phones, devouring viral TikTok recipes. Sharp increases in the cost of lumber reflected further home improvement and DIY interests; if we were now mandated to work and play at home, a proper interior upgrade should be next on the agenda. And then there was the great toilet paper shortage of 2020 which served as a nod to the newest initiates into doomsday prepping culture. Every week it seemed there was a new viral hobby dominating news headlines, casting its spell on a new demographic. There was indeed something for everyone.

During this time, hobby shops everywhere became critical, nonessential businesses for supplying craft enthusiasts with their temporary fix. This new, increased demand saw hobbyists ransacking craft store shelves for anything promising a distraction from their ever-present worries and stressors.  “I noticed that most of the folks who were trying something new were often unemployed,” said Rebecca Kersinger, a sales associate at a local craft store in Los Angeles. “We wound up having to become unofficial experts on all sorts of crafts in a short period of time just to keep up with the customers and their questions. It was a madhouse.”

According to LendingTree, during the height of the Pandemic, six out of 10 Americans picked up a new hobby, inspired by either the prospect of earning money on the side or getting a boost for their waning mental health. Often it was both. “The stimulus money helped some buy all the starter materials they needed,” said Kersinger.  Like faux plants and interior design elements, sewing machines, Cricut Makers, candle-making accessories, jewelry tools, and beading elements were hot-ticket items. “They were usually selling their crafts directly on their social media pages or through Etsy.” She nodded her head, further acknowledging the impact of the platform’s influence. “Etsy was big during the Pandemic.” LendingTree’s research shows that of those who did turn to a new hobby, only half actually earned money.  Those who managed to profit chose to either pay off debt or add to their savings.

“Even though most of the time we were able to keep up with demand, painting supplies were a bit scarce for a while,” Kersinger remembered when considering the rollercoaster and uncertainty of the time. “There were a lot of virtual Paint N Sip activities taking place as well as routine artists who needed the supplies to do their work. Some learned our inventory dates and would call the store looking for hard-to-find items. They knew about the new shipments we were expecting to come in.” Kersinger explained. She especially empathized with the artists because their livelihood quite literally depended on it. “An artist being able to sell their artwork could be the difference between them eating sometimes or paying their rent. I made sure to sit aside paint items for a few of them if I knew they needed it,” she admitted.

Despite the popularity of crafting, Americans most commonly developed reading, cooking, and mediation hobbies during their downtime. Long heralded for her exemplary flutist skills and compositions, the famous singer Lizzo quickly discovered the healing power of meditating on music while playing her flute. She found herself leading guided meditation sessions on social media, performing for her audience of millions. With her flute as the medium amidst a backdrop of incense and healing crystals to set the mood, she hoped to promote healing and peace amid the stressful time.

Beyoncé is another musician who found herself pursuing a few new hobbies during the lockdown, hers centering around holistic health and care. When she noticed her daughters suffering miserably from seasonal allergies, she looked to the healing power of local honey to help curb their symptoms. Because she’s Beyoncé, things were taken a step further when she invested in two beehives that house 80,000 bees. To date, the Queen Bee has harvested hundreds of jars of honey!  In addition, she also experimented with the healing qualities of CBD, which led to her finding pain relief from muscle soreness and joint inflammation. And the pesky insomnia that plagued the artist pre-Pandemic? CBD turned out to be just the cure for that too.

While it appears the worst of the Pandemic is behind us, most of us continue to indulge in the hobbies that sustained us during those dark, tumultuous times. The mental health benefits and community camaraderie are just the beginning. Whether you become a voracious reader, fitness enthusiast, makeup junkie, holistic health dealer, or even a well-traveled polyglot, you are a member of a unique community that helps make this journey called life that much more satisfying.


Tips to Milk Your New Hobby for All It’s Worth

  1. Establish a Budget: It’s important you don’t put yourself into debt, so plan a realistic budget of what you can afford to invest in your new interest. 
  2. Know Your Options: There may be discounted, lower-cost tools or free resources you can use while starting. Perhaps you can partner with someone further along in the craft and collect their hand-me-downs, watch free online tutorials to learn tricks of the trade, or sign up for free trials to use expensive software. Exhaust these lower-cost options before spending the big bucks.
  3. Solicit Feedback: Share your plans, ideas, and outlook with those in your network to help lockdown your strategy and establish community support. This can also double as free publicity for your burgeoning plans- these people will purchase your product one day!
  4. Solid Moves Only: Lastly, if you struggle to pay your bills and keep the lights on, focus on those immediate needs first. Your hobby can wait until you have the proper time, mental energy, and bandwidth to invest fully.

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