While the term ‘life hack‘ generally makes me switch straight off, I can see no other way to describe this collection. Rest assured, these are useful life hacks – not bleeding obvious things that you’ve probably already tried (no, internet, a complicated way to fold fitted sheets is not a good life hack when balling them up works just fine).
See, I’m on a mission to fix all the niggling little things that annoy me each and every day. You know the ones: jars that won’t open, endless rummaging for keys, everything falling out of the freezer when I open it due to overload, massive irritation when ironing around buttons (or ironing in general)… all. the. things.
Let’s face it, trying to parent older kids sux balls enough without adding extra stress to our life. Here are my fixes (aka useful life hacks) for all the niggles.
Actually very useful life hacks
Find your keys
I reckon I have lost hours of my life trying to find my house keys in the bottom of my handbag. Hours. So this is one of my most useful life hacks: change your front door to a keyless lock. This is winning, my friends. Three reasons why I love it:
1. No more rummaging.
2. Perhaps more importantly, the kids can gain entry to our house any time (provided they remember the code, of course…). It’s the end of ‘forgot my key I’m locked out’ calls.
3. I can change the code if, for any reason, I don’t want the kids to gain entry to our house. Very reassuring.
I went with a non-digital option (digital technology just lets me down far too often for me to risk going digi). Note also that we should have filled the hole from the old lock before we installed the new one. I keep meaning to get around to filing it, but haven’t yet. A spider is living in there now… eek!
Don’t you hate it when all you want to do is throw a jar of passata into your pasta sauce but you can’t get the darn thing open? I’ve heard of many hacks for gaining entry – run it under hot water, bash the edge of the lid on the bench, etc – but none work quite as well as this: grab a knife, insert under lid, twist, pop goes the lid, you’re in.
Bottles at the ready
The kids’ plastic drink bottles are a b*stard to store. I’ve never had a spare drawer to just throw them into (the ideal scenario). Instead, I found an old vintage drinks crate which we keep on a shelf by the front door. It’s a super solution. If you can’t source a crate like this, you could try storing your drink bottles in a couple of plastic magazine files on a shelf like Kat from The Organised Housewife.
I try to buy bulk to save money, but there is never enough room in the freezer. My local butcher (shout out to Craig Cook, love your work!) offers fantastic specials on buying 2kg mince at a time. That’s a lot of mince to pack into the freezer, right? Here’s how you do it: put the mince into reusable large ziploc bags in 500gm lots. Grab a rolling pin and roll the mince flat and then seal. The mince will stack neatly on top of each other in the freezer, saving heaps of room.
Buttons be gone
I hate ironing and rarely stoop to do it, however business and school shirts usually need a press. I can do cuffs and collars (always first), sleeves (second), shoulders (next) and the rest of the shirt… except buttons. Doing that thing where you slot the iron around the buttons is fiddly and annoying. So here’s the thing: turn the shirt over and iron down along the buttons with the shirt inside out. Do this before you iron the front and back of the shirt. Yay!
All taped up
Losing the end of the masking tape is @#%$&! I hate all the around-and-around turning you do, running your nail along, trying to find the end. The end proves elusive. To fix this little irritation was very simple: stick a bread tag to the end of the tape. Too easy!
Wrapping paper is tricky to store. First, you’ve got to find somewhere out of the way to keep large tubes (bonus tip: I lay mine under the shelves in my office – see below). Then you’ve got the unravelling situation to deal with. Guaranteed that the ends of the paper are going to come undone and get crushed, so when you wrap your friend’s present it looks like you’re recycling your own wrap (important note: recycling your wrap is a very good idea). To solve this issue: save some of your empty toilet rolls, cut down the side and slip it over the wrap. Neat!
You know when you go to pull the full garbage bag out of the bin and it’s stuck? So darn annoying! There’s a super-simple fix for it, though. Just drill a couple of small holes down towards the bottom of your plastic bin. This stops air from getting trapped and lets a full garbage bag slip out easily every time. You’re welcome!
Quick one: the ends of our charger cords used to bend and break really easily, making them unsafe to use. Now we wrap the ends in washy tape as soon as we get them and they last for ages.
I lend out a lot of books, but I’m hopeless at remember to who and when. Now I just take a photo of my friend holding the books she’s borrowing and I’ve got the date, titles and friend in one. Naturally, this works for anything anyone borrows ever.
This one comes from my daughter (and, later, Marie Kondo – I’m calling it!). Instead of stacking your clothes in drawers in a horizontal heaps, then wrecking the lot when you want the shirt on the bottom, stack them vertically. You can always see what you’ve got and grab what you want without disrupting your very neat drawer. Note: this is a ‘real life’ snap – this is how my daughter keeps her room. OMG, my own drawers are not this neat!!
I’ve got many cords leading to my computer and it used to do my head in trying to work out which cord was what. Now I label them using bread tags and it’s a cinch. Bonus hack: if your cords are too long, wrap them and secure with a twisty tie (also available from your bread loaves). Bread for the win!
Halve the soap
Nobody really needs a full pump of soap to wash their hands and kids have a tendency to double pump and pour most of it down the drain anyway. I twist rubber bands around the top of the pump to halve the amount distributed. Another tip: use the same bottle for hand soap over and over by buying large packs of refill soap. Don’t fill to the top, but rather use two parts soap to one part water. I do the same with hair shampoo and conditioner.
I’m such a clumsy person that it’s guaranteed I’ll pull the plug out of a new pair of thongs in just a few wears. Hate that! To extend the life of my thongs (aka flip flops – I’m not talking about my underpants here!), I just put an old breadtag around the top of the plug. Gives a nice little tap as you walk, too. If you put tags on both thongs, it’s almost like a round of applause…
Clean rooms at last
I’ve tried everything over the years to help the kids keep their rooms clean. The only thing that really works is either (a) shutting the door and ignoring it or (b) this very useful hack: allocate five minutes in the morning before leaving for school and five minutes at night before going to bed as “the tidy five”.
Yep, those five minute slots are for giving their room a quick spruce. Anyone can do five minutes of tidying – even a tween! Give it a go and let me know if it works at your place like it seems to be working at mine.
What are your most useful life hacks?
Feature image by Joel Muniz; all other images by the author.