These Tiny Triumphs Helped Me Make the Most of My Year, Despite the Pandemic

From thanking a stranger to clearing your inbox, no task is too small. Here’s how doing these simple tasks might help you pass the time.

The sourdough spree was fun for a while, but more than a year into the pandemic I find myself drawn to more modest tasks. Tiny triumphs that offer clear resolution. And I do mean tiny. For instance:

Cobbling. The other day, I retrieved a pair of vintage, rhinestone-trimmed stiletto mules from my closet. The soles had begun to peel away, so I glued them back on, clamping the heels in a vise to dry. It’s not often you see rhinestones in a vise. Then I put the shoes back in the closet. As long as I know they’re there, the history of parties is not over yet.

Sorting. I took about a hundred dessert forks out of my cutlery drawer, bagged them, stored them in the winter-hat bin, probably forever, and felt a glow of accomplishment.

Testing batteries. Yesterday I retrieved a quaint gizmo we own that measures the charge left in a battery. It’s gratifying to see the little needle leap up into the green zone, meaning that the battery in question is still fresh and usable. It is not dead, in other words. Good news!

Taking down the Christmas lights. Yes. It’s time.

Washing the car mats. If the prospect of waiting in line for a car wash tires you, hosing down the car mats will give you some small peace of mind.

Throwing out spices. If you have a jar of ground coriander with no detectable taste or odour, this doesn’t mean you have COVID and you can’t smell; it means it’s old and you should throw it out. This decision will give you 15 seconds of satisfaction before you find yourself staring at the many boxes of stale herbal teas you never drink.

Darning. I don’t knit, which is a popular pandemic activity, but I will darn. Moth holes in sweaters are depressing because they represent more proof (we now have lots) of an indifferent nature. Like viruses, moths also infiltrate and are difficult to banish. Darning is an uplifting investment in the future. It suggests that you are looking forward to another 10 years of wear out of that sweater.

Clearing your inbox. This is more than a tiny triumph. It’s major housecleaning. Clear your search history, too. It will only remind you of how often you googled “Celsius to Fahrenheit” when taking your temperature, or “Is frequent eye blinking a COVID symptom?”

Changing your filters. Have yourself a fun filter day: don’t just scoop out the lint filter in your dryer, wash it with soap and water. And wash the horrible little filter in your vacuum cleaner. There is also a little-known gunky food filter in most dishwashers. Clean that, too. Then wash all your face masks and hang them up like clothing for mice.

Organizing your photo albums. If you have more than eight photos of the dog wearing reindeer antlers at Christmas, throw out five. Then go watch TV.

Thanking a stranger. You probably know someone doing a good job under difficult circumstances and without much recognition. Maybe it’s a courier who regularly comes to your door or a friend who works in health care or a woman who offers free dance classes online. Let them know you appreciate their work. A tiny gesture of gratitude will improve their day and yours, too. Remember, no task is too small.

Next, check out 30 things you can organize in under 30 minutes!

Reader's Digest Canada
Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada