40 (Mostly) Free Things to Do When You Want to Get Offline

updated Apr 20, 2024
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(Image credit: Melanie Rieders)

If you feel like you spend too much time looking at screens, you’re in good company. But what to do when you truly want to step away from your smartphone or laptop for a few? Or what if you love to be connected, but find yourself in a situation where internet isn’t an option? Power outages, faulty equipment, and moving to a new home can all leave you in the dark for a few hours or even days. When that happens, you need a list of things to do without internet at the ready. 

Here, we’ve put together some super-easy (and mostly free-of-charge) things to do the next time you want to disconnect from technology. From catnapping to coloring, here are 40 ways to have fun that don’t require WiFi.

1. Go for a bike ride.

If you’re lucky enough to own a bike, now’s the time to give it a whirl! Hit the trails, or even just the sidewalk, for a fun day of exercise and fresh air. 

2. Meditate.

Ever heard of a silent retreat? It’s a rejuvenating experience that can bring you back to harmony with yourself and your inner thoughts. Experience a mini version of this when you practice meditation during your time sans internet. Simply create a silent environment (or play some calming music if you have it), sit still, and be alone with your thoughts. And when you’re connected again, maybe try to continue the practice using one of the many meditation apps out there. 

3. Gather some friends and play a card game.

Cards Against Humanity, Exploding Kittens, Catch Phrase? Whatever your choice of off-color adult party game or card game, now’s the time to enjoy a screen-free night with some of your closest pals. What could be more fun than gathering around the table playing a game and laughing the night away? 

4. Go for a hike.

The internet is down, and the great outdoors is calling. Lace up those sneakers and hit the trails for a challenging hike. Just be sure to consult our list of hiking essentials you’ll need before you embark on your next outdoor adventure.

5. Edit your wardrobe.

Try a 30-minute closet clean-out to kick things off. Once you get going, you’ll probably want to add on another 30 minutes, then another, and another.

6. Get outside and walk.

It might seem like a no-brainer, but one of the easiest (and cheapest) things you can do when you’re sick of being on your phone or computer is simply go for a nice long walk. Whether it’s a leisurely stroll through your local park or a brisk walk to a friend’s house nearby, getting outside for some fresh air is a foolproof way to re-energize.

7. Cook something that you know by heart.

Bored with being online but not sure what to do to stay busy? Bake something simple and delicious from scratch (think: chocolate chip cookies or quiche) and treat yourself to a short (and savory) break from technology.

8. Pick up a magazine.

Print media isn’t dead — it’s just been waiting for you to sign off. Instead of spending a Sunday afternoon mindlessly scrolling through your social media feeds, try picking up the latest edition of your favorite magazine (or some treasured retro ones) and take in some old-school editorial images for a change.

9. Read a really good book.

The only thing better than picking up a magazine is getting lost in a really good book for a few hours. Do your brain a favor and devote some downtime to reading a real book (eBooks and audiobooks are completely fine as long as you stay away from your web browser) and use your imagination for a while.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

10. Organize your junk drawer.

What better time than now to finally get that crowded junk drawer under control? Keep your mind (and hands) busy for at least an hour by cleaning out and organizing the messiest drawer — or closet, if you’re feeling adventurous — in your place.

11. Call someone you love.

Feeling social but not in the mood for guests? Try calling up a friend the good old-fashioned way, and catch up over the phone (sans Instagram or Facebook).

12. Take a nap.

Uninterrupted sleep is a luxury few people can afford — especially during a busy work week. Next time you find yourself feeling bored (but sick of being online), simply shut off your phone and take a quality catnap instead.

13. Upgrade your bedroom.

Your bedroom is where you spend the most time recharging, but it’s often the room people neglect the most. Take advantage of your desire to disconnect and spend an afternoon sprucing up your bedroom (think: a solid closet clean-out, rearranging your furniture, or simply softening up your bed sheets) for fun.

14. DIY something.

Feeling bored but ambitious? Pull out your neglected art supplies and use this opportunity to make something simple but fabulous for your home. Whether it’s painting an old piece of furniture or shibori-dying your dish towels, crafting will keep you busy (and on budget).

(Image credit: Diana Liang)

15. Organize your bathroom.

If you’re anything like me, then you’re probably sitting on a ton of obsolete toiletries — expired medicine, old cosmetics, useless hair products — in your already storage-deprived bathroom. Now’s the time to get rid of (and recycle) all the stuff you aren’t using anymore and perhaps even employ a cheap bathroom organizer or two.

16. Infuse some lagom in your life.

Lagom is a Swedish lifestyle trend that’s all about finding balance in your everyday life. Use this time offline to consciously make your home and brain a more streamlined space, by infusing some lagom into your life and clearing out the clutter.

17. Throw out old paperwork.

No matter how organized you may be, chances are you still have tons of obsolete paperwork crowding up your home workstation. Do yourself a favor and pull out your paper shredder so you can declutter your desk (and mind).

18. Start a home recycling system.

While you’re busy getting rid of all your old unnecessary paperwork, why not finally forge a simple home recycling system while you’re at it? You can use everything from tote bags to laundry baskets to sort your recyclables, and you’ll be making the world a better place while you’re taking a technology break.

(Image credit: Emma Fiala)

19. Plant something.

Searching for an inexpensive way to breathe easier while you’re at home? Houseplants can naturally purify the air in your apartment and give you a fun excuse to stay off your smartphone.

20. Go grocery shopping.

Grocery shopping: Can’t stand it, but can’t eat without it. So why not use your offline time to plan your next big grocery-shopping trip, or at least put together a working list of your weekly essentials so you’ll have it handy?

21. Color something.

If you weren’t already hip to the benefits of coloring, now’s the time to try it out. Believed to reduce stress and promote creativity, adult coloring books are pretty much the best way to unwind at the end of the day (and they don’t require any WiFi).

22. Send some snail mail.

Whether you drop a postcard for your mom in the mail or send a care package to your bestie across the country, snail mail is a great way to stay connected with the people you love — no internet necessary.

23. Exercise.

Nothing helps you check out mentally like an intense workout session. Use your time offline to go for a nice long run or partake in a fun in-home fitness routine.

24. Write in a journal.

Whether you’re a fan of bullet journaling or prefer writing out your inner thoughts diary-style, journaling is a great tech-free way to channel your energy and organize your daily to-dos and ideas.

(Image credit: Hayley Kessner)

25. Deep clean and organize your pantry.

If you dislike clearing out and organizing your pantry, join the club. But the truth is, you’re probably sitting on way too much expired foodstuff and, therefore, wasting a lot of precious kitchen space.

26. Watch an old favorite movie.

If you still have your old DVD collection, now’s the time to pull it out. And even if you don’t, downloading or renting your favorite movie (before you sign off) will only take a few seconds. This way you can get lost in The Notebook for a few hours (instead of your overwhelming emails).

27. Cut up old clothes.

Searching for a cheap way to update your wardrobe for the warm-weather season? Cutting up old jeans and T-shirts is surprisingly easy and will turn your outdated clothing into custom summer-ready ensembles in seconds.

28. Dust hard-to-reach spaces.

Just because you’re taking a break from the web for a minute doesn’t mean that you have to deep clean your entire apartment. However, taking a few moments to dust some of your home’s harder-to-reach places — such as ceiling fan blades, light fixtures, and the tops of tall bookcases — will freshen up your whole space (with much less time and effort).

(Image credit: Emma Fiala)

29. Style your bookshelf.

Whether you prefer your bookshelves color-coded or stacked gallery-style, organizing your books is a great way to kill time and freshen up your bookshelf.

30. Volunteer at a local organization.

Sign up to volunteer at your local animal shelter or neighborhood garden for an hour or two every week, and you’ll force yourself to take a break from technology to give back to your community. 

31. Improvise a pantry recipe.

Combine cleaning out your pantry with cooking or baking by challenging yourself to come up with a new pantry recipe. Try out a pasta that uses up that can of tinned fish, or treat yourself to a mini chocolate cake baked in a mug.

32. Go on a photo walk.

Walking around your neighborhood with a camera in hand (ideally, not on your phone!) can give you a totally new perspective. Pay careful attention to all the details and colors that you might run by without noticing on a normal day.

33. Redecorate by shopping your own home.

Giving your home a new look is one of the best ways to pass the time and have a huge payoff. But instead of going out and spending money, shop your own home. Try a throw pillow from the living room in the bedroom or rearrange your art.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

34. Propagate your plants.

Use your downtime to grow your garden without spending money at the nursery. Learn to propagate your plants, and you’ll have a relaxing and productive way to spend an afternoon.

35. Make a coffee syrup.

Do you end up spending too much money at coffee shops because you can’t figure out how to replicate a vanilla latte at home? Use your offline afternoon to learn how to make flavored coffee syrup, and you’ll be reaping the benefits for days.

36. Power-wash your outdoor space.

No one ever wants to take the time to power-wash, but you also know how good your space looks when you do. If the internet isn’t cooperating, it’s a good excuse to finally tackle this warm-weather task.

Credit: Matthew Corley for shutterstock

37. Visit a free little library.

You probably have more than a few books in your home that are ready to be passed along to their next owner. Take an offline afternoon to go through your already-read and “I probably won’t read” books, then drop the castoffs at the closest Free Little Library.

38. Oil your cutting boards.

Did you know you’re supposed to oil your cutting boards? It’s what keeps them splinter-free, and it’s an excellent activity for a slow offline afternoon where you want a mindless yet mindful activity. It doesn’t require precision, but it is something to do with your hands, which is a perfect meeting of being present yet not having to stress.

39. Go through old family photos.

If you’ve inherited shoe boxes full of old family photos, you know the intimidating prospect of actually taking the time to go through them. Your offline day could be the opportunity to finally sort them, decide which duplicates will go to family members, and come up with a long-term strategy for displaying or storing them.

40. Make a home punch list.

Nearly everyone has a mental list of unfinished home projects that they would like to tackle — if they had the time. Putting those tasks down on paper gives you a clear list to follow next time you do have a few extra hours. Go room-by-room creating the home punch list and writing down everything from “patch caulk in bathroom” to “hang plate wall in kitchen.”