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How to make the weekend stand out

When every day feels the same, this matters a lot.

“It's like we're living a week of Sundays,” my son's music teacher said during a Zoom lesson last week. He's got a point. Every day feels more or less the same, without the usual external factors to shape it. Sometimes I even forget what day of the week it is. I'm not the only one; this is a common complaint right now, whether people are suddenly unemployed and living in enforced “retirement,” or working from home while fending off a pack of rowdy children.

One thing I've realized over the past two months, however, is that it is crucial to demarcate the weekends. Even if the gestures are small, they help to make lockdown life feel less oppressive. They give me something to look forward to during the workweek, and something to look back on when I sit down at my desk on Monday morning.

So I put the question to my friends and coworkers and asked if they, too, do anything to set the weekends apart from the weekdays. The answer was a resounding “yes!” Most people do have little routines that are reserved for weekends, and these are helping them to get by.

These routines, I think, can also be a valuable lesson for the future – evidence that we don't need elaborate outings and fancy purchases to find meaning in our daily lives. We are capable of being entertained with so much less. That's not to say I don't want this lockdown to end, but I expect many to keep close these memories of slower and quieter times and to be influenced by them.

Here are some of the weekend rituals that I heard about and some that I've adopted.

1. Board game night

This has become the highlight of my week. Every Friday night my husband and I face off in a Scrabble match. We share a bottle of wine and a bag of our favorite chips and take turns playing our favorite songs. Despite the high spirits, it's a high stakes game that's being tracked publicly on our family chalkboard. (Yes, I'm currently in the lead…)

Scrabble game© K Martinko – A serious Scrabble tournament underway

2. Better, slower food

A common theme I heard was making the weekend meals stand out. One friend said she has “a dinner that's fancier than what we'd having during the week” and makes a bigger, more hands-on breakfast. Another eats meat only on weekends, which makes it a special meal. Treehugger's editorial director Melissa said she cooks a meal on Sundays that's usually “more involved,” and she's been baking a fancy cake every weekend. Most recently it was a gateau basque with almonds and armagnac-poached cherries. (I think we should all go to her house.) If I order takeout from a local restaurant, it's usually on a Friday night, to make it feel like the start of a mini holiday.

two kinds of cake© Citrus poppyseed bundt / Gâteau Basque with orange and poached cherry syrup (Photos: Melissa Breyer)

3. Get active

While many people said they're active during the week, the weekends are when they aim to do something extra-physical. Melissa goes for a 10-mile walk on one of the days. Treehugger writer Lloyd went for two runs this past weekend (snow notwithstanding) and another writer, Lindsey, goes for longer walks with her dogs. One of my friends gardens or goes for a long bike ride; another gets up early to do a workout. I like to clean the house first thing on Saturday morning, then take the kids out for a long hike.

walking the dog© Lindsey Reynolds – Out for a walk with the dog, who's curious about the deer

4. Enjoy a home spa

I've heard several people describe at-home spa treatments, such as taking long bubble baths, hanging out in an infrared sauna, soaking in an outdoor hot tub, and doing home manicures and pedicures. Lindsey says she does face masks and washes her hair on weekends. I agree with the hair washing; it's a tedious chore that I'm happy I can put off for a full seven days, considering there are few people around to see how greasy it gets.

5. Unplug from devices

Someone told me she turns off her laptop for the entire weekend. “If I need to go online, I use my phone or iPad to make it not feel like work.” I have a similar approach, avoiding the laptop unless I'm using it for a Netflix show. Because I spend so much time on my computer during the week, I look for non-screen-based forms of entertainment on the weekends, such as reading, playing music, and cooking. Lloyd said he spent all of last Sunday rereading a book he read 40 years ago – although, in typical Lloyd fashion, it was “relevant for work, of course.”

Lloyd's architecture book© Lloyd Alter – Lloyd's light weekend reading

6. Socialize in a physically distant way

Video chats were mentioned by several people as being crucial to feeling connected to others. One friend said her weekend video chats often involve costumed dance parties in different time zones. (She had parties in L.A. and Australia recently.) I've participated in several virtual cocktail parties, as well as “physically distant” drinks this past weekend, where a group of girlfriends sat in a wide circle, two meters apart, in someone's garage with the door open. (The legal limit in the province of Ontario is no gatherings greater than five people and everyone must stay far apart.) It was 3°C (37°F) and, despite my down jacket, hat, gloves, blanket, and electric heating pad, I froze.

While I'm eager for in-person gatherings to resume so that I can have backyard gatherings and dinner parties, there are new weekend traditions I am determined to retain, such as the quiet hours of reading time, soaking in the tub, and, of course, playing Scrabble with my husband. Feel free to share your weekend survival tips in the comments below.

When every day feels the same, this matters a lot.