Home improvement

Life hacks. But, you know, good ones…

If there is one thing the internet is good at, it’s spreading ill-informed information at light speed. And one area we as a society have gotten really proficient at sending out bad information is in the form of “life hacks,” those tips that are designed to make your life better with some simple twist on a common problem that makes your life changed forever.

Only problem, most of these “life hacks” are often unnecessarily complicated or just don’t plain don’t work. For example, I once saw one that solved the non-problem of putting pancake batter into a pan. It suggested you put the pancake batter into an empty ketchup bottle, and you then could easily squirt the batter into a pan. There are a couple of flaws with this. First off, putting pancake batter into a pan isn’t really something that needs improving. If you’re having trouble with it, you probably should just go to IHOP and let them handle the pancakes. Second, while I haven’t tried doing it, I am just guessing the task of getting the ketchup bottle clear of ketchup smell is no easy task, and that pouring the batter into said ketchup bottle is WAY more messy than just dropping it into a big ol’ pan.

So I normally don’t even bother reading these things any more when they pop up on my computer. But recently one caught my eye as I saw it several times.

It said that for stubborn stains in a skillet, soak the pan in soapy water, but add a dryer sheet. An hour or so later, no scrubbing or scraping. The funk in the pan would slide right out. So I tried it.

And you know what? It worked. Like a charm. Thanks, internet. I have actually added something useful to my world because of you.

So I started wondering if perhaps I had some actual functional life hacks that didn’t involve old ketchup bottles. And I do. Since the internet so often feeds us misleading information, today I give you these Mike’s Life Hacks that, like the dryer sheet trick, actually make your life dramatically better. OK, not dramatically. But maybe nominally.

  • When you have a gift card for a store, go the store to browse. And leave the gift card in the car. This is especially helpful with kids. That way, you do not buy the first thing you see, and actually go through the store and find something you actually want beyond the first aisle. And when you decide on an item, you may be surprised how much you actually don’t want it on the walk back to your car to retrieve the gift card.
  • When you are going grocery shopping for a big grocery haul, park next to a shopping cart corral. I have been to a lot of parking lots in my life. And never have I been to one where even the farthest parking spot is that far of a walk. Load your groceries, put the cart up right there, be on your way. So many problems solved.
  • Speaking of shopping, if you are like and me and use cloth grocery bags, you are probably also like me and routinely get into the store and realize you left the bags in your car at best and sitting on your kitchen counter at worst. So, when you get ready to go, thread the handle of one of the bags through your belt loop and sit on it for your drive to the store. Even if you forget over the course of your three-minute drive, you’ll quickly be reminded when you get out of your car.
  • There is very little chance you will drive anywhere without your keys. Need to make sure you bring something with you when you leave? Put your car keys with them. On at least two occasions, co-workers have come to me and said, “Uh, are these your keys in the fridge?” “Yes,” I tell them. “Because I bought milk at the grocery store at lunch and put it in the fridge to make sure it comes home with me. So back to the break room with my keys!”
  • Next time you go through a drive-through for some fast food, there is a good chance they stuff about 20 napkins in your bag. Rather than throw them out with your quarter-pounder wrapper, put the napkins in your glove box. I don’t know when you will need them, but you will.
  • The next time you take out your household garbage, pitch a couple of empty, folded trash bags at the bottom of your now-empty trash cans, and then add the new trash bag on top. That way, for the next few times you take out the trash, your replacement is there. If you are not using trash bags, ewww.

I hope these help make your life so much finer that you are in an eternal state of bliss from this point forward. But, if they are not enough for that, maybe we can figure out someway to include a ketchup bottle.

Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, he now lives in Charleston. You can e-mail him at or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.


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