Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
Hobbies are important for a well-rounded life. Not having any hobbies could even be a sign that you’re working too hard, which can eventually lead to stress overload and burnout. If you don’t have any hobbies, we highly recommend finding one or two.
And though it’s imperative that you keep up with certain non-geeky life skills, there’s nothing wrong with indulging your geeky side — especially if you want to get hands-on and technical.
Unfortunately, many DIY hobbies require a lot of room (e.g. huge wooden planks or big metal-cutting equipment), but here are some great options if you don’t have much space to spare.
Programming is the quintessential hobby for modern geeks. The possibilities are endless — ranging from web development to game development to all other kinds of programming careers — and the initial investment costs are negligible.
But best of all, programming requires absolutely no space other than what’s taken up by a computer (and we’re assuming you already have that).
The Raspberry Pi is a tiny little computer that exists on a single circuit board that’s barely bigger than a credit card. It has a processor, memory, ports for peripherals and networking, and graphical output. Read our guide to the Raspberry Pi for a more in-depth introduction.
For the hobbyist, it’s an amazing device because you can tinker with it so freely. Get started with one of many Raspberry Pi project ideas, including using it as a media-streaming home theater, then learn more with these awesome Raspberry Pi resources.
Like the Raspberry Pi, Arduino is a micro-computer that exists on a tiny circuit board. Several different Arduino kits are available for purchase to suit all kinds of projects; we recommend the Uno model which is included in most starter kits.
And when you’re ready, take the plunge with these Arduino project ideas, which includes an awesome LED pixel display that can be used in a whole lot of unique ways.
Despite the fact that technology has blown past the usefulness of ham radio, the amateur radio community is still as enthusiastic as ever. Not only is it a hands-on approach to learning about radio theory, it gives you the opportunity to converse with people all around the world.
Do note that ham radio operation is regulated by the Federal Communications Commission in the United States and you’ll have to get licensed if you want to operate legally. Fortunately, licensing is simple and straightforward.
But if that’s too much of a hassle for you, you can get around it with virtual ham radio.
Lockpicking is a phenomenal hobby to pursue, especially if you love puzzles. Some locks are trivially easy to pick while others are frustratingly difficult, but few sounds are as satisfying as that successful click at the end.
You may look down on lockpicking as a shady activity, but don’t be misled. Someone who engages in lockpicking isn’t necessarily training themselves to break into houses or rob vaults. In fact, many lockpicking communities actively discourage that kind of behavior.
The fun comes from figuring out and bypassing the locking mechanisms themselves, hence why puzzle-lovers tend to enjoy this hobby. And if you ever find yourself in an emergency situation that requires a lock being picked, that’s just icing on the cake.
Reddit’s /r/lockpicking is a great starting point for newbies.
Model rockets are rockets that you build, either from scratch or using a kit. On top of the building aspects, this hobby involves painting and finishing the final rocket and launching them into the sky. Both educational and fun.
Note: Obviously you can’t launch the thing inside a small apartment, but you can do all the building and painting and that’s most of the work anyway.
Most of us outgrew Lego somewhere in our teens, but there are reasons why you may want to revisit the hobby as an adult. For one, you can build Lego virtually using Google’s new Build With Chrome app. It’s also a great way to connect with your kids if you have any.
And while Lego is fun on its own, there are practical benefits too. For example, Lego can be leveraged to improve your time management skills. So what are you waiting for? Rediscover your love of Lego with these Lego websites and resources.
We recently covered a handful of basic woodworking skills that every DIY enthusiast should know, but let’s start even simpler than that: whittling. Whittling is simple to learn, calming for the soul, and highly satisfying.
Eventually you can graduate and take on woodworking projects that are a bit more involved, but the beauty of whittling is that it doesn’t require much space. It can be a bit messy with all the shavings, but that’s a small price to pay.
If you’re a fan of craft beer and you want to delve into a geekier corner of that hobby, consider learning how to brew your own beer. You can start off small — batches that are only a few gallons large — and increase your output if you find that you like it.
Several modern microbrewery owners started off as simple homebrew hobbyists, but you don’t have to take that route if you don’t want to. Half the fun is in experimenting with your own recipes. The other half is getting to drink it all down.
Canning is a catch-all term for hobbies that revolve around food presevation. Cans and jars are used to store homemade items like pickles and jams, but the hobby also includes freezing, dehydration, curing, smoking, distilling, cellaring, and more.
The actual process of canning is pretty simple, but there are a lot of guidelines that you’ll need to follow if you want to make sure that your food doesn’t spoil. Reddit’s /r/canning community is a good place to start.
Gardening is tough for those who don’t have access to a yard or a lawn. Fortunately, there is an alternative in hydroponics, which is a special soil-less method of growing plants using nothing but water and nutrients.
You may have seen hydroponic herbs (e.g. basil) at your local market, and that’s basically what we’re talking. Now you can grow your own indoor garden no matter how small your apartment is.
If you regularly scent your home with store-bought candles, you know how expensive it can be (especially if you’re inclined towards top-shelf brands). Well, why not make your own candles? It’s surprisingly easy and gentler on the wallet.
All you need is a bit of soy wax, some starting equipment, and whatever scents and dye chips you can get your hands on. If you become particularly passionate about candlemaking, you can even sell them on the side for a bit of profit.
Ever wondered how books were made? Why not learn the methods and bind a few books of your own? There are communities out there that are all about handmade books, and you don’t need many materials to get started.
Start with the simplest of techniques (like the saddle stitch above) and move onto more advanced methods when you’re ready (like the coptic stitch). If you learn how to work leather, you can even cut and design your own covers, resulting in an authentic leatherbound book that you can call your own.
Origami is a fantastic way to practice manual dexterity without any kind of initial investment. It’s tough at first, but there are so many great learning resources on the web so you should be able to get off the ground pretty quickly.
Beadspriting is the act of drawing pixel art using Perler beads. Each bead corresponds to one pixel, so you can make one-to-one replications of popular video game sprites as long as you have the right colored beads on hand.
A 1000-count pack of Perler beads is only a few dollars online, so it’s a relatively affordable hobby compared to some of the other ones on this list.
If you have any gaming friends, beadsprites make for some neat gifts for gamers and cute retro accessories. You can take this to the next level by learning how to draw pixel art and turning your creations into custom beadsprites.
Knot systems are rather fascinating once you start digging below the surface. Most of us only know one or two knots (the standard shoelace knot is probably the most common), but there are hundreds of other knots out there, each one useful for specific circumstances.
Certain activities rely heavily on good knots (e.g. boating, climbing, or even hiking and camping) but knots are interesting enough on their own to be their own hobby. There’s a decent amount of puzzle logic involved, which makes it great for logical folks.
Clowns have a social monopoly on balloon animals, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a few of your own for fun. Once you get the gist of the techniques involved, it’s actually a wonderful way to express your creativity — and if there are any toddlers in your life, it’s a great way to gift them with surprises.
If you aren’t ready to take on a full-fledged DIY hobby yet, how about taking on one-off DIY projects like building your own notebook computer? If you’re always on the lookout for DIY project ideas, bookmark these top how-to websites now.
Image Credits: Arduino Day at WeMake via Flickr, Laptop Programming by ronstik via Shutterstock, Amateur Radio by Ekaterina_Minaeva via Shutterstock, Ship In Bottle by Michal Bednarek via Shutterstock, Preserved Vegetables by Flas100 via Shutterstock, Hydroponic Plants by Tim Masters via Shutterstock