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Awesome life hacks you need to know about

Updated May 01, 2018

Living is hard. We may have made our day to day existence simpler with all manner of gadgets and useful time-saving tools, but each improvement comes with its own unique drawbacks. Countless minor irritations dog us at every turn, turning our world of modern convenience into a continuous lesson that things never work how we’d like them to. That’s why life hacks exist; they fix the minor problems that niggle away at us every day. Perhaps they only save us a few seconds, but the deep sense of satisfaction that comes from doing things a better way makes you feel like you’ve taken modern life on in a battle of wits and come out victorious. Here are some awesome life hacks you need to know about...

\#1 – Use nail polish to identify different keys

Chances are your key-ring is attached to a mess of keys that look like clones of each other, leaving you to differentiate between them based on the precise arrangement of teeth or the arbitrary markings they bear. To tell your keys apart at a glance, raid your own (or somebody else’s) nail polish collection and find as many different colours as you have keys. Paint the circular, upper section of each key a different colour for easy identification; for example, your front door key could be red-topped whilst the back door key has a blue top.

\#2 – Take pictures of friends with DVDs, CDs or games they’ve borrowed

We all lend DVDs, CDs and games to friends with a reckless abandon, as if we have an infallible mental inventory of everything we own and will instantly be able to recall who has what. After some time has passed, you’ll realise you really want to watch that film again, but when you search your collection you’re surprised to find it missing. So, who borrowed it? Ordinarily, you have to go around canvassing all of your friends until you happen to stumble across the right person. Solve this problem for good by taking a picture of your friend with the DVD, CD or game when they borrow it – then you’ll actually have an infallible record of where all your stuff is.

If you keep your clothes in a drawer, when you open it each day you’ll be faced with the few items sitting on the top of the pile and will have to burrow through them in order to find what you’re looking for. Rather than stacking them horizontally, arrange them vertically so the folded edge of each t-shirt sticks up like a file in a well-organised cabinet. That way, you can spot your desired piece of clothing easily and remove it without leaving the drawer an unholy mess.

\#4 – Use a plastic bottle to separate egg yolks

When faced with a recipe that requires either egg white or yolk, we all set about performing our hands-on egg separation methods; passing the yolk from one half of the egg-shell to the other or letting the white dribble through the cracks between our fingers to leave the yolk. If you have an empty plastic bottle, you can do this without even getting your hands dirty. Crack the egg into a suitable container and remove the bottle’s lid. Squeeze a bit of air out of the bottle and hold the mouth directly over the yolk. Release your grip and the yolk will suck straight up into the bottle; just squeeze it again to put the yolk wherever you want it to go.

\#5 – Use trouser hangers to hold cookbooks

If you’re following a recipe to the letter, you’ll undoubtedly spend some time working out how to hold the cookbook open and ensure the recipe is visible while you go through the process. Solve this problem using trouser hangers; the type with two clips on either end that grip the waistband. Open the book to your desired page and clip it onto the hanger, before hooking the top on the handle of a wall-mounted cupboard. Your cookbook will be held open at the right page, hover around your eye-line and remain free from stains.

\#6 – Search your email for “unsubscribe” to find marketing messages

Your email inbox is probably around 80 percent spam which hasn’t been gathered by the automated detector and 20 percent things you actually want to read. These annoying marketing messages always have a link for you to unsubscribe (clearly aware that everybody receiving the email is only on the list because they forgot to uncheck a box), so you can use that to your advantage. Search “unsubscribe” in your email inbox to effectively sort the clutter from the stuff you want. You can go through and unsubscribe or just delete the lot.

\#7 – Use a keyring to stop yourself from flying low

The genital-covering zipper – the “fly” that allows you not to pee with your trousers around your ankles like a toddler – often has a way of coming undone at inopportune moments. Ordinarily, people will politely tell you that you’re “flying low” or some other initially-confusing code-phrase, and you’ll pull it back up only to have it fall back down an hour later. Fix this problem by threading a keyring through the hole in the top of the zipper and looping the ring over your button. It’s like a suspender for your zipper.

\#8 – Use accented letters in passwords

We all have more online accounts than we can even remember, each of them password-protected. Websites often have a “helpful” little indicator to tell you how “strong” your password is and simultaneously make you feel as though cyber-criminals can only be thwarted through complex arrangements of capitalized letters and integrated numbers. Smartphones make it pretty easy to use accented letters like “é” in your password – and these make your passwords much harder to crack. You may expect a “1” in place of an “L,” but you’d have to be a special kind of crazy to predict an “ñ” in place of an “n.”

\#9 – Tie a knot in one earphone wire to tell left from right

Earphones only fit in one ear, yet the manufacturers generally make them appear identical from afar so you have to examine one to see the tiny “L” or “R” printed on it. Fix this problem by simply tying a small knot in the wire just below one earphone, so you’ll immediately know which is which. As long as you remember which one you tied the knot in, that is...

\#10 – Use an earphone jack as a silencer for electronics

Cut the 3.5 mm stereo jack off your old pair of earphones before you throw them onto the electronic scrap-heap. You can use it as a handy silencer for electronic devices – simply insert it into a headphone socket and the audio from your device will be routed away into nothingness. Yes, you could adjust the volume manually, but the silencer trick makes muting something much quicker and easier.

\#11 – Use frozen grapes to chill white wine

White wine is supposed to be chilled, but we can’t always wait for the fridge to work its magic before popping the cap and having a glass. If you often find yourself in this situation, you might add ice cubes, only to find that your wine becomes more watered down as you work through the glass. Freeze some grapes for all the benefit of the ice cube approach without the downside of watered down wine. Plus, wine glasses look classy with frozen grapes in the bottom. For some reason.

\#12 – Amplify your alarm with an empty glass or cup

Now that virtually everybody uses a smartphone for an alarm, we’re dependent on comparatively small speakers to rouse us from our slumber. And it often fails. If you’re the sort of person who’s switched your alarm off or hammered the snooze button before your brain has really switched on, try sticking your smartphone in an empty cup or glass for the night. The speaker will be amplified, and it will also be more of a task to remove and stop – giving the incessant beeping more of a chance to actually wake you up.

\#13 – Use hair straighteners to iron your shirt collar

Ironing the collar of a shirt ordinarily requires some dexterous iron-work, and you’ll still frequently forge a solid crease into part of it. If you have a set of hair straighteners to hand, however, you can use a much more effective tool for the job. Simply clamp the hot pads of the straightener around the collar and you can remove the creases with ease.

If you’re reheating some leftover take away from the previous night, after microwaving for a couple of minutes you’ll be left with molten hot outsides but a patch of almost icy cold remaining in the centre. To solve this problem, simply burrow a hole in the centre of the meal (arranging it like a ring doughnut or bagel) and it will heat evenly and more quickly.

\#15 – Use the glued edge of a sticky note to clean between keyboard keys

The crevices in your keyboard probably play host to crumbs from meals you ate weeks ago and all manner of accumulated dust and debris from your fingers. Cleaning this out is a pain, unless you happen to have a sticky note (like a “Post-It” note) spare. Use the gummed edge to slide between the keys and pick up any dust and dirt along the way.

\#16 – Fill large containers from a small sink using a clean dust-pan

We’ve all tried to fill a bucket or large container from a sink that’s just too small. You angle the container so the water from the tap goes into it, but find that it simply pours back out long before the container is full. To fix this problem, set the large container on the floor in front of the sink and use a clean dust-pan to guide the water into the container. It works like a funnel, the wide end collecting the water, causing it to flow down the handle and cascade out in a thin stream into the container.

Chopping boards and your kitchen side literally don’t mix. When you want to get a little more support as you cut up some meat or vegetables, you’ll put weight on the chopping board only to find that it slides around as if it was mounted on wheels. Rectify this by simply placing a damp paper towel or a tea-towel between the chopping board and the kitchen sideboard.

\#18 – Squeeze the air out of pop bottles to stop them from going flat

Flat soft drinks are lifeless, dead and outright unappealing; with only the unusually masochistic or militantly frugal even being willing to drink them. To keep your soft drinks bubbly for longer, squeeze the excess air out of any open bottles. It might look weird in your fridge (and leave the bottle oddly malleable and floppy), but you’ll keep the carbonated element of your drink alive and kicking for longer.

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About the Author

Lee Johnson has written for various publications and websites since 2005, covering science, music and a wide range of topics. He studies physics at the Open University, with a particular interest in quantum physics and cosmology. He's based in the UK and drinks too much tea.