8 Things You Don’t Have to Do Anymore

Photo: tolgart/Getty Images

Years ago, in a prenatal yoga class, I heard a question that fundamentally changed the way I think about everything, from hosting Thanksgiving to handling my inbox: “What can you not do?”

The instructor didn’t mean it as an assessment of our limits (“What are you not able to do?”) but rather as an invitation for us to take stock of what we could drop from our crowded lives (“What can you stop doing?”).

That invitation was life-altering, and I want to pass it on. Even if you’re a hyper-organized planner who zooms through to-do lists and self-soothes by researching better ways to bullet journal, you need a release valve. If it feels weird to let yourself off the hook, please allow me to give you permission. You’ve earned this slack.

Here are eight things you don’t need to do after surviving a global pandemic.

Reconnect with a bad friend

After a year of canceled travel plans and curtailed celebrations, many of us have folks we can’t wait to see. We also have people we’re not exactly looking forward to reconnecting with. Ask yourself: Has this person’s absence from your life been a relief? Maybe they’re toxic. Maybe you’ve just grown apart and you don’t miss them. Maybe you never really liked them all that much and you were just close because of circumstances.

Whatever the reason, you have a year of separation between you now. Consider it a gift and don’t invite them back in.

Reach your “goal weight”

There’s been a lot of judgy, bad takes on pandemic weight gain. Whatever number of pounds you think you want to lose, cross that off your to-do list. Throw it away. Burn it to the ground. Find some movement you love, eat food that makes you feel good, do something that relaxes you — knitting, yoga, walking, murder shows. Weight is not health; moving your body happily, eating nourishing food, and taking care of yourself by reducing your stress are all things that actively contribute to your health. Focus on those instead of the scale.

Hold on to stuff someone gave you

The sweater your mom gave you that was obviously on clearance because who would willingly wear that color? The junky plastic toys your kids somehow accumulate? The yogurt-maker your partner bought years ago and never took out of the box? Give it all away. If anyone wonders where the eggplant-shaped bowl or loud toy they gifted your family ended up, just confess that you did a truly massive clean out to keep your sanity during the ‘rona, smile, and then change the subject.

Wear uncomfortable shoes

Sure, work clothes are a thing. We may need to wear them again someday. And dressing up is a thing, too — some people even enjoy it. In 2021, though, there is no reason to wear ill-fitting, bunion squeezing, toe-pinching shoes. And no, you don’t have to go full orthopedic to achieve this. Cute, supportive flats, boots, sandals, and even heels (especially if you can learn to love a wedge) are out there waiting for you. Side note: If your pants don’t fit and are hurting your gut — and your feelings — when you put them on, buy some new ones. There’s a whole TED Talk about how changing your pants can change your life.

Save “special” acorns

There are “special” acorns and favorite rocks strewn all over my house. They gather in drifts on the coffee table and in jars that hold pens. I find them under my desk and in my kids’ beds. Then I reached a point in the pandemic where I got each child a basket for their treasures and explained that anything carried in from outdoors that doesn’t live in the basket will be returned to its point of origin, no warnings, no questions. It keeps the house neater and reduces my mental load when tidying up so that I don’t have to discern which rocks will be missed and which will not. And it’s an important, evergreen lesson — we all have to learn to be responsible for our own special acorns.

Go to work sick

No one in my family has vomited in over a year. It’s hard for me to express how much gratitude I have for this simple fact. Some other parents and I were talking about how we plan to wear masks in crowded places again next winter because it feels so good to have healthy kids. Handwashing and carrying hand sanitizer are both habits we’ll also keep in my household as well as actually taking sick days, from both school and work, when we need them.

Remove your body hair

Your body — the one that carries your suitcase, craves ripe strawberries, and hugs your friends — also grows hair. For whatever reason, we’ve decided that this is bad, especially in particular areas. If you don’t feel like shaving your armpits anymore, don’t. You are not required to attack the thicket on your shins in order to wear shorts in public or even a bathing suit. You don’t need a pandemic as an excuse to wear your leg or underarm hair however you please. Or your facial hair! All you men who grew pandemic beards, why not just keep them going? We’ve spent the past year slowly letting go of unnecessary vanity. Let’s keep it that way.

Reach inbox zero

Even the guy who coined the phrase “inbox zero” thinks it’s overrated at this point. There is nothing inherently better about an empty inbox, and there is definitely something much worse about spending time every day laboriously deleting marketing campaigns and sales pitches — it demands you give attention to something you likely didn’t want to receive in the first place. Make sure emails from actual humans are surfacing in your inbox. (Gmail is very good at this.) Set specific times of day to check your inbox and deal with things that actually need your attention. Give up on the rest.

Annaliese Griffin is a writer and editor who most recently led the Quartz Daily Obsession, an award-winning newsletter. She lives in Vermont with her family.

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