DIY projects

10 Life Hacks I Learned the Hard Way


If you are unfamiliar with the term “life hack”, Merriam Webster defines it as “a usually simple and clever tip or technique for accomplishing some familiar task more easily and efficiently.” In other words, they are the cheat codes for our every day lives provided to us by our innovative peers.

Now, over the course of my 25 years of human-ing, I’ve picked up a wide variety of life hacks, some on purpose, some on accident (most on accident) and I’d like to share some of those with you today.




1) Keep your eyes open

As it turns out, closing your eyes after you drop something does not prevent it from breaking. I’ve learned that if you keep your eyes open, not only can you see where said item is falling, you also greatly increase your chances of catching it, thus saving it from the break all together.


2) Always re-cap your nail polish remover.

I don’t care who you are, or how many times you’ve given yourself a mani/pedi, this stuff WILL spill and it WILL ruin something important. #JustLidIt


3) Don’t assume driving directions are wrong

I get it, Siri and her ever present “recalculating” is completely obnoxious, especially when you already had a general idea of where you were going and so you were basically ignoring her anyways. But trust me on this, you are not always right. Sometimes your gut feeling to go north is going to go south (HA, direction pun) and you will end up driving 20 miles in the wrong direction, making Siri even more obnoxious as she starts chanting, “PROCEED TO THE ROUTE, BITCH” Or, you know, something like that.


4) Don’t assume assembly instructions are wrong

Yes, we’ve all had those manuals that ask you to insert peg A into peg B, never once mentioning that it has to be at a precise 45.2 degree angle, and is best put together next to a sequoia tree in the middle of March while you are wearing leather pants and singing Bohemian Rhapsody. BUT this doesn’t declare all guides void. In my experience, the assembly of even the simplest of gadgets can benefit from an old scroll down Instruction Avenue. That way, instead of completely disassembling you’re cousin’s new Christmas gift to find the battery slot, you’ll learn that it’s charged on a stand that plugs into the wall.


5) Move your clothes out of the dryer

As it turns out, in the process of doing laundry, putting clothes in the dryer is not the final step. In fact, it is extremely helpful to remove said clothes from the dryer, fold them and put them in their corresponding drawers, as this allows you to a) know where they are, and b) not have to tip toe down the hall to the laundry room, sans chonies, in search of some clean underwear.


6) Remove pasta from strainer before adding toppings, sauces, etc.

This seems obvious, you say, but it wasn’t, at least not to me who—unlike with driving and assembly instructions—is an avid recipe follower. I never stray. And so in junior high, in my first ever attempt at making macaroni and cheese, I had no idea that the strainer would pose a huge problem when I added the milk, stirred in the cheese sauce, etc. because I was never told to return the pasta to its original bowl.  You can call this ignorance, but I like to call it naivety, the doorway into common sense. Plus, if the milk spilling all over the counter wasn’t sign enough that I was doing something wrong, the first bite gave it away. Never have I ever had a bite of macaroni so mushy and disgusting.


7) Allow hot glue to dry on your skin before attempting to wipe it off

Working with hot glue is like spending your summer at the beach, you just have to accept that you are constantly going to get burned, the key is to know how to react when this happens. When I was in college we were given an assignment to create a durable structure using only cardboard and hot glue. We were also told that our teacher was unable to provide us with any medical assistance should we need it. So when I got distracted by a friend and a huge glob of hot glue landed on my finger, and in trying to quickly wipe it off I removed three layers of my skin, my teacher offered little more than a sympathy frown and excused me from class. I then spent 30 minutes looking for the nurse’s station, 15 of which were spent lost in one of the school’s botanical gardens.


8) Don’t staple your finger

Just don’t. It will hurt, you will bleed, and you will be considerably judged, especially if you’re an aid in the health office and you have to explain to the head nurse that you are in fact an idiot, and you need gauze.


9) Stop weighing yourself

Honestly, this is the greatest decision that I ever made. But while I know that weighing yourself plays a large part in noting the progress being made in anyone’s given weight loss journey, I also know that focusing on a number and living for its decline does little in the way of helping you ever truly feel good about yourself.


10) Love Yourself

Similar to “don’t staple your finger,” this one might seem obvious but it is much harder to truly understand why until you’ve done exactly the opposite. So in the interest of saving time and making this a true “life hack”, just take my word on this one. Because loving yourself is way better than stapling your finger and is way easier than straining your pasta while trying to add powdered cheese sauce.

The Perfect Christmas Gift

Every Christmas, those in my family who are 18 and over draw names from a hat for the annual gift exchange. Or at least that’s how it’s supposed to work. The truth is we all cheat based on ideas we’ve formulated throughout the year so that the gift giving process will be smooth and fun. This year, I drew/completely chose my Aunt Tracy, because I had an idea that was sure to wow.

Flashback to 2 months earlier.

I’m on Pinterest at 2 a.m. browsing craft ideas, going through my usual process of saving and skipping. DIY bookshelf? Save. DIY leather pants? Definitely SKIP. Suddenly I see it. A craft that is not only “doable” but perfect for a fun, personal gift. I look at the calendar: 11/28, I’m way ahead of the game.

Over the next couple weeks I shopped around looking for supplies, very conscious of the impending due date, yet lacking a stitch of worry for its steady approach. As with every December, this one was chock-full of events with family and friends and I found myself without a lot of time or energy to take on my “wow factor” project. At times I wondered if I should pursue a new idea, however these thoughts were always immediately squelched by daydreams of her unmatched adoration for the final product.

Flash forward to crunch time.

Suddenly I can count the days until Christmas on one hand and my project sits at only 30% complete. My calm confidence has become panic, and my daydreams have become nightmares. I picture myself handing her a tragic excuse for a gift. I see disappointment in her eyes and my family shaking their heads. I have to finish this, and it has to be perfect.

I reach out to my dad and explain the situation: project not done, Christmas soon, SOS, 911 please.

Thankfully he agreed to help and the next day I brought all of my materials into work, ready for after hour assembly.

“What exactly are we making again?”

“A personalized, Guess Who game board.”


(Remember this guy from your childhood?)

“Cool, let’s do it.”

So, after everyone had left, my dad and I spread out all our materials, took a seat, and dove straight into chaos.

After noticing early on that the materials I bought greatly differed from those displayed in the tutorial, we found ourselves having to get very creative. At one point my dad mcgyvered a hinge with a paper clip and some pliers, at another I almost super glued a wooden dowel to the floor. What started out as a quick assembly turned into a 4 hour long production of innovation and silent whimpers. And after some additional improvements made at home that night, as well as some clutch work put in my dad the next morning, the final product sat on the kitchen table, ready to be wrapped. Like any perfectionist, I could note a handful of improvements to be made but when we arrived at my Grandpa’s house Christmas morning, I knew it was time to let everything go.

Flash forward to the first rip into the shimmering paper.

My aunt cautiously tears away strips, slowly revealing my biggest stress of the holiday season. She flips the board upside down, awakening all the faces of her family members. She coos, laughs, and smiles at me wholeheartedly.

“I absolutely love it!”

That night, as I felt the last minutes of Christmas tick off the clock, I lay thinking about the past few weeks. About all the panic and dread. About when she tore off the paper and I saw nothing but love in her eyes. It was at that moment that I knew that even if the entire thing had fallen apart in her lap she still would have loved it. In that moment I had no worries about whether the gift was perfect or not. All I knew was that I was thankful to have a family I love so much, that inspires me to drive myself crazy in the hopes of making them smile, and I was thankful to have a family that loves me so much, that both embrace my imperfections wholeheartedly, and are there to help when my whole idea falls apart.



(The link for the tutorial I found is:


TBTS (Throwback Thursday Stories): Zoom!

When I was in middle school my family lived in a house behind my grandparents’. Some days my sister and I would walk over to their house after school, to eat marshmallows and watch Kids WB. We’d watch Animaniacs, Captain Planet and Scooby Doo, and then we’d switch it to PBS and watch Wishbone and my favorite, Zoom!

The show started with the jam, “Come on and zoom!” and then at some point over the next half hour, would move into the craft sent in by a “zoomer at home.” Soup can telephones, paper plate tambourines, 2 liter bottle tornadoes, you name it. I was hooked.

At the end of each episode, they would splash the mailing address across the screen and say, “Send us your ideas!” The graphic would flash colors and sounds, evoking a longing and desperation from my 12 year old heart. How badly I wanted to be the featured “zoomer at home.” How frustrated I was for my lack of ideas.

One afternoon I was sitting at the kitchen table eating an Eskimo pie, when I saw my Grammie set a jar of leaves on the table. It was a nice jar, much more decorative than the ones in the refrigerator that held blackberry jam. The leaves were dark, almost dead looking but more purple. Pretty in a way I’d never seen before.

“Potpourri,” she explained and offered the open top for me to smell.

Inexplicably, the jar of dead foliage smelled like heaven. My wheels started turning.

I went home that night and sifted through every cupboard in our creaky tiled kitchen. Mugs and pans and plates and silverware. Pots and baking sheets and bowls and cheese graters. Nothing was good enough.

In the dining room was my mom’s china cabinet. The bottom cupboards were child locked, but I had long mastered the art of the push and click combination. I spotted a vase, not too skinny, not too tall. Jar-ish and decorative. It was perfect. So, being the rebel I remain today, I asked for permission to use the jar.

The next day after school, I sloshed around in the autumn leaves, crunching them in the fingers as I stuffed them into the jar. They weren’t purple, but they were dead, so it counted.

Once the jar was full, I retreated to my Grammie’s bathroom and sat at her vanity mirror to graze over my options. I decided on a square bottle with a hat that looked like an ice cube. The liquid inside looked like a beer my dad drank and the name was familiar from a song.

I then proceeded to squirt 5 doses of my Grammie’s Chanel No. 5 into the jar of damp leaves, seal the lid and write my letter to Zoom.

Hello Zoomers!

My name is Kimberlee with 2 e’s instead of one. I have an idea for a craft and I hope you like it because I would love to be a zoomer at home that you talk about on your show. I watch Zoom every day at my Grammie and Papa’s house and I love it. Here is was you need for my craft: a jar, some leaves, some good smelling stuff. Here is how you do my craft: collect leaves in the jar, the more colorful the better, but they have to be crunchy. Fill your jar to the top and then spray the good smelling stuff on top and put the lid on to keep the smell in. When you want to let the smell out, take off the lid. It’s called Poporry.

Sincerely, Kimberlee the zoomer at home.

Shockingly, the Zoomers never showcased my idea on the show. I waited for weeks, assuming they were saving it for a special episode, or that maybe they were going to fly me out to demonstrate the ground breaking creativity live on air. But for whatever reason, trapping perfume in a confined space with moldy leaves didn’t interest them. Their loss.