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In trying times, why not try something new? Learning fresh skills and undertaking a gentle audit of our lives can be a comfort but it could also lead to bigger shifts over time. That’s the subtle manifesto behind this new-look Inventory section, in which we too have tried something novel. Here you’ll spot comforting recipes and wines to try, plus films, books and shows that we hope you’ll find entertaining. Oh, then there are the design and fashion finds you might have missed. It’s partly escapism but it’s also about offering insights, ideas and suggestions at a time when more people have time to mull things over.

Remember, small nudges to the way we behave and think can make us happier, healthier and calmer too. No news – you might decide – is good news, especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed by anxiety-inducing headlines. Perhaps a little literary excursion could do the trick? Likewise, being a better cook doesn’t mean enrolling on a course at Le Cordon Bleu; it could be mastering a simple new dish. Fluffy pancakes, anyone? Oh, and so we’re clear, you’re not a bad person for owning things (pity the fervent minimalists stuck at home staring at empty white walls). Instead, we should all think about cutting down on fast fashion and single-use packaging and instead buying things that will last and which we will cherish. What about repairing or reinstating things we already have? The future is – and always has been – about surrounding ourselves with fewer but better things.

For some, the pandemic will be remembered as a blur; a moment when they worked harder, just from home. For others it could be a turning point; the time they discovered a passion or an author, learnt to bake or became a better gardener. Think of those who suffered after the 2008 financial crash. Many took the time to consider a more fulfilling life and livelihood doing something that they care about. So this Inventory section isn’t about tinkering with the pendants from the Titanic; it’s reflecting on the vessel’s course and, perhaps, changing direction entirely.

So here we are. It’s time to slow down, reconnect, make good things happen, do something that you care about – and use this time wisely to read, make and repair. The future, after all, is what we make of it.

Some ideas to consider:

1.
Look up (put down your phone)
It’s easier said than done. While working at home has cut down on the commute, we still need to find ways to stay dry in the relentless digital deluge.

2.
Buy things once – but well
Sustainability can mean lots of things. The pandemic has proved that some things (masks or gloves) are single-use for a good reason. But unless you’re a healthcare professional, we should think about getting more use out of what we own and surrounding ourselves with things that bring us joy.

3.
Be careful with the news you consume
One quiet casualty of coronavirus has been journalism. Although many newsrooms and magazines have stepped up with excellent coverage, the advertising market has fallen. We need to start paying for the news we value.

4.
Spend time in nature
The lockdown has exposed some inequalities: people with and without gardens or balconies – but also those inside and outside of cities. Green space and parks have become more important than ever – so use them.

5.
Keep learning: a language, a skill, a discipline
You don’t need to master Russian but a few phrases could be good. Take on a project, anything from framing a picture or painting the walls to fixing the furniture. A little discipline goes a long way and that new skill will be with you for life.

6.
Grow something
It’s fulfilling to watch something grow and a well-tended garden shows that you care about your patch. Also, with little trial and error, you’ll have that balcony thriving and feel all the more grounded for it.

7.
Forgive people
It’s a finger-jabby moment in history: anyone from anonymous social-media users to people on the street seem rather quick to condemn. Maybe hold off on that biting comment and let people disagree with you now and again, particularly if the conversation has stopped being constructive. Everyone will feel much better for it.

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  • The Foreign Desk