When I was a little kiddo, I’d spend the afternoons after school watching syndicated episodes of Murder She Wrote with my grandmother. She’d ask me about my day while studiously peering through a hands-free magnifying lens, weaving bright strings of cotton or wool or silk through patterned mesh. After a few weeks or month’s time, she’d produce another astonishing needle-pointed work of art.
I was gobsmacked, still am gobsmacked at the way she could manipulate silk floss, creating movement and kinetic energy on a throw pillow or tufted footstool. She was known throughout the family, the neighborhood, and gated community as a virtuoso with thread.
With a talent and reputation like that, I sometimes wonder, had she been born 50 years later, would Grams have launched an Etsy store? She could’ve made thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars doing needlepoint commissions. Of course, she would document her process on Instagram and TikTok with content like “GRWM to shop at Stitches!” #OOTD #ThreadLife. Once she reached blue-check notoriety as a textile influencer, maybe she’d launch her own branded line of DIY needle-pointing starter kits. Maybe.
But would Hustle and Grind Granny have been happier?
What a difference two generations make, because while Grams was content to enjoy her hobby with a side of Matlock, my mind immediately went to maximizing productivity, exposure, and profits. By the end of that mental cost vs. benefit analysis, I would’ve considered it too risky, too labor intensive, the market too crowded, and lost interest.
Sometimes a hobby can, and should, just be a hobby and not another side-hustle on the road to burnout.
“[While] making money is essential to sustaining ourselves, it’s important to develop hobbies outside of our economy, those with no financial motives attached…When we start to commodify our hobbies, it brings deadlines, demands, and accommodation.” – Hope Reese, Vox
The pressure to be productive at all costs compounded with messaging from Grind Culture Gurus has convinced us that there’s money to be made everywhere, starting with your hobbies. After all, if you’re going to invest 5 to 15+ hours a week doing something you love AND you can make cash-money, why wouldn’t you?
“In the Hustle Era, it’s impossible to just enjoy something like a hobby without a thought toward how it could eventually become the career you love—because merely working a “boring job” is tantamount to a failure of the imagination and leisure time is wasted time.” – Rachel Hampton, Slate
Because it sucks. Turning your hobby into a side hustle creates a ton of expectations and stress around the thing you used to do to escape from your main hustle. Now you're grinding so hard, you’ve ground your joy into dust.
You have now entered a Side Hustle & Grind Free Zone. No Gurus allowed.
That’s right. We’re reclaiming our time, our leisure time, and we’re filling it with activities that make us happy even if we’re not great at them. Even if we can’t make money or garner digital clout.
We’re confidently entering our Mid-era and it feels awesome. Enjoying a hobby has whole-body benefits. It can help engage different parts of your brain, stimulate dormant or different creative vibes, and take your mind off work. Hobbies can also help create community among fellow enthusiasts which, according to the world’s longest scientific study of happiness, is the biggest contributing factor to living a great life.
Put the phone down
Idle hands are the devil’s playground and that playground, at least for me, is Twitter. To keep from doomscrolling, I prefer hobbies that involve creating with my hands. It’s impossible to glue a thousand tiny mirror tiles, one at a time, while catching up on the latest chisme on TikTok.
If knitting or needle-pointing aren’t your thing, or you’re looking for some out-of-the-ordinary ideas, here’s a few other hobby thought-starters:
Transform your collection of paperbacks into a library of customized hardbacks you crafted yourself. Starter kits are available for around $40 and there are plenty of tutorials, like the one above, on YouTube and online.
Jumping Spider Habitats
Cure your arachnophobia by getting to know these little leapers who are often compared to happy puppies. They live in tiny vivariums you can spend hours designing and cultivating. Start by doing extensive research online or head to your local library or bookseller for guides on building your own vivarium.
Paint by Numbers
These are not the paint-by-number kits you remember as a kid. With beautiful designs and more mature motifs, you’ll want to hang these up in a place of pride. Check Etsy for original designs or create a custom kit from your own photo.
Dollhouses, Miniatures, & Models
If elaborate dollhouses, toy trains, and model cars captured your imagination when you were younger, use your adult money to indulge your inner child’s delight. According to science, we’re hardwired to love adorable teeny things. Start small with a one-room diorama and go HAM.
We already know that listening to birdsong is an instant hit of serotonin. This is a great hobby you can start from your breakfast nook window with a battered field guide to birds and a pair of binoculars. If you want to keep up with your feathery neighbors while you're on the go, smart feeders outfitted with a camera can record and stream their visits directly on your phone.