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12 Cool Life Hacks

12 Genuinely Cool Household Hacks and Products

by Ben Kirst

How ubiquitous are household hacks?

Good Housekeeping — that dignified source of hints for your home since 1885 — is firmly onboard with the trend, sharing do-it-yourself innovations on everything from  binder clips (clip open bags to the bars in your freezer!) to cake mix (the banana bread / cake mix hybrid looks amazing).

In the mid- to late-2000s, DIY, lifehacking and meme subcultures thrived in online communities where members could share their ingenious cleaning, organizing and decluttering tips. Hacks exploded in popularity when sites like Buzzfeed, Tumblr and Pinterest made finding and reposting these simple images, lists and videos incredibly easy, even for casual web users.

Drill and Post-It note

In a media environment where digital publishers large and small are always on the lookout for new content, these household hacks — the little tricks we discover to make life easier — provide an almost endless source of material. The editors at major publications, the nation’s most popular bloggers and people like you and me are now part of this massive club of lifehackers.

What’s the point of hacking, you may ask? This comment from the post “In Defense of Life Hacking” at Lifehacker.com sums it up nicely:

People who know how to do things are the most useful, but it’s almost as useful to have people *who know that they can get things done*, given a little time for research and experimentation.

Most of the world’s population doesn’t even try doing stuff, because they’re paralyzed by not knowing where to start, or because they’re scared they might fail. Knocking that attitude out of yourself is one of the best changes you can possibly make in your life.

 

Not all hacks are created equal

Still, some hacks are better than others. Personally, I’m turned off by the popular CD rack in the bathroom, the detergent-filled drink dispenser for the laundry room, the use of recycled ketchup bottles for squeezing out pancake batter and repurposing coffee creamer containers for storing goldfish crackers. These hacks may offer utility, but they lack aesthetic value. I like my hacks to look nice, too!

A good hack should:

  1. Offer an affordable, clever and unique way to repurpose an object or solve a common problem.
  2. Be realistic. The hack should not require a soldering gun, a degree in engineering or several years’ as a carpenter’s apprentice.
  3. Help your home look great.

So, without further ado, here are 12 genuinely cool household hacks and space-saving products that fit our criteria. Enjoy.

Kitchen hacks

1. Use a vertical bakeware organizer for pots and pans

Vertical bakeware

Removing pans from the cupboard can unleash a cacophony of crashing ceramic that terrifies every child and cat in a five-block radius. Nesting your bakeware can make individual pots and pans difficult to find, remove and store. What a pain.

There’s a better way, according to MarthaStewart.com.

Stacking pans as opposed to nesting them means you can remove one without having to remove them all. Turn a vertical bakeware organizer on its end and secure it to the cabinet wall with cable clips to prevent toppling.

Four-sort dividers can be as inexpensive as $4 apiece.

2. Avoid tech calamities with a fridgepad for your tablet

Fridgepad for an iPad or tablet

Making dinner doesn’t have to interrupt a good Netflix marathon. I bring my iPad into the kitchen constantly to use Spotify, Netflix or Hulu while I cook, iron (yes, I iron in the kitchen), put away dishes or dig for a snack. I’ve had some close calls with spills — and as you can imagine, liquid is not great for a tablet.

The fridgepad keeps your tablet away from spills, splashes and the occasional dollop of peanut butter. It also allows you to watch the screen at eye level, which is classier than balancing your device against a nearby bowl of fruit.

It’s not cheap — the fridgepad cost about $56 on Amazon — but it’s less expensive than replacing technology ruined by a spaghetti mishap.

Bonus tip: iMore.com reports that submerging soaked digital devices in dry rice is actually a terrible idea.

no_rice1

3. Save storage space with a compact prep set

Food prep set

While nesting bakeware can create a hassle, nesting your food preparation set solves a real problem: you have a limited amount of space in your cupboard, and you want your prep tools to be easily accessible.

“One of the biggest causes of clutter in our homes is our tendency to put too much stuff in too little of a space,” popular minimalism blogger Joshua Becker notes. “When we do, it becomes difficult to store things, find things and access them. As a result, we dread putting things away and it becomes convenient to leave things on the counter.”

Throw away all of the excess. Keep only the tools you need. Make kitchen life a lot easier. The set pictured here costs about $40.

Bathroom Hacks

4. Get the musty smell out of towels

Bathroom towels

For a long time, I was perplexed — why did my bathroom towels smell funky after I showered? I thought I was clean! The problem, I learned, was not a personal hygiene issue — it was mold.

Cleaning expert Jolie Kerr discussed the issue with The Huffington Post:

The problem, says Kerr, is that you’re using too much detergent when washing your linens, and the preset rinse cycle on your washing machine is not long enough to get all the soap out. So while your towel may smell fresh after it’s washed and dried, once it gets wet again (after a shower, say) and is left in the dark bathroom, mold begins to grow. (It turns out mold likes soap.)

The fix: Wash the towels with no detergent and a cup or 2 of white vinegar; this will get the soap out (and have the added bonus of cleaning your washing machine). Then, going forward, use less detergent on your towels.

So apparently I was actually TOO clean. That’s a relief.

5. Use lemons to scrub out water stains

First of all, kudos to Lowe’s for their excellent Fix in Six household hack series. Lowe’s gets additional props for sharing a fresh solution to a common problem. Water stains on bathroom fixtures are kind of gross.

6. Repurpose a ladder as a towel rack

Ladder storage for the bathroom

Vertical storage is a common solution in small spaces. What do you do, though, if the room itself is actually too small or too specialized to practically incorporate additional shelving or a shelving unit? A vintage or unique ladder in such a bathroom can take care of your towels — and it adds a touch of class when done properly.

“The height of the ladder will break up the monotony of the room and provide more storage,” explains Jan Soults Walker of Better Homes and Gardens.

Children’s room hacks

7. Convert a baby crib into a toddler desk

Crib desk

Parents — cribs are not cheap. When your youngsters graduate to big-boy and big-girl beds, it seems like a shame to simply put that crib — that beautiful, memorable, expensive crib — into a storage unit. Converting the crib into a desk is a simple way to give the investment greater utility.

Plus, this project is endorsed by Tori Spelling herself! Nice.

8. Ice, ice, baby bedroom: Remove carpet dents with ice cubes

Ice cubes

This actually works for any carpet in your home, but a child’s room has a tendency to see a lot of furniture moved in and out during the formative years, a process that creates and then exposes unsightly dents.

“All you really have to do is put an ice cube on the divot and wait,” writes Arvin Dang of Lifehacker. “If you’re fixing a rug, consider placing a cloth below to absorb any extra moisture. If you’re getting mixed results, you can also try ironing the spot with just steam, which is another way to correct the problem.”

Dang makes another solid, if not a bit obvious, point: “It’s worth noting that removing a divot/dent in the carpet is really only helpful if you’re going to move the furniture. If you put the furniture back on the spot, it’s just going to make another divot.” Fair enough.

Garage / Outdoors

9. Store a chair, create a shelf

Chair storage

This may be my favorite hack on the list. Why, you ask?

  1. It’s functional. A good hack has to solve a problem. This particular idea a.) gets the chairs out of the way, and b.) puts them to use.
  2. it’s elegant. There is an element of savoir faire at play here — intelligent, creative and just a little cheeky.
  3. It’s something anyone can do. How many of us end up with a few metal folding chairs propped against the wall of our garage? I know I do, and I don’t even know where those things came from. Did some forgotten party guest raid a high school gymnasium? These metal chairs aren’t especially comfortable, but throwing them out seemed like a waste. Problem solved.

11. An empty Coke bottle can keep your plants alive

Coke bottle plant watering system

No one buys an outdoor plant with the intention of  committing herbicide. Unfortunately, circumstances — a busy schedule, a vacation, unforgivable neglect — can cause us to forget about watering our flowery buddies for a while. Nature, sadly, does indeed take its course.

Good news: an empty soda bottle filled with water and shoved gently into the soil can serve as your plant’s watering system.

Yes, it’s that easy! Megan Andersen-Read confirms this method in her blog, Radmegan:

To make your own recycled bottle watering “globe,” take an empty glass bottle, fill it with water, and slam it down into moist soil! If you see bubbles rapidly forming, or the water level changing at ALL, the bottle-mouth may not have sealed against the soil, so pull the bottle out, re-fill it, and try it again.

11. The old hidden key trick

Key hidden with a pinecone

If you have ever locked yourself out of your home and had to wait for your spouse, roommate or landlord to show up, you know how frustrating and inconvenient it can be. Never consider breaking your own windows again!

Simply place a spare key in a medicine bottle, super-glue a pinecone to the end and bury that sucker in your yard. Not only will you always have a spare key available, you will also feel like a secret agent.

12. Make an old couch part of your backyard. Literally.

grass_couch

This is a little more elaborate than, say, nesting the stirring bowls in your kitchen. It’s also too cool not to include.

The heart of hacking and life simplification, after all, boils down to the simple pleasures inherent in a more efficient, decluttered life — a life with more time for joy.

Instead of living in a state of “flight or fight” we can actively pursue those activities that get us in touch with the seasonal rhythm of relaxation and renewal.  And we do that through the power of whimsy, recreation and pleasure.

Instructions for the sprout couch are available at the Better Home and Gardens website.

Happy hacking, everyone!

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