10 Everyday Tasks You're Doing Wrong

iStock/Planet Flem
iStock/Planet Flem

No one likes to hear that they’re doing something wrong, but … you’re doing it wrong. Making simple tweaks to everyday tasks could lead to an easier life, time saved, and far less frustration.

1. Applying a bandage to your finger

There’s an easy trick that will keep a bandage from slipping off your finger after you’ve applied it: Cut each adhesive strip lengthwise so that instead of two sticky flaps securing the bandage in place, you have four. Then interweave each flap over one another as you apply. Strapped and secure.

2. Opening pistachios

Don’t break a nail when trying to crack open a pistachio. Instead, find one in the bag that’s easily pried apart, split it, and use that shell to pry open the ones that are tough to crack.

3. Threading a needle

There are few things more frustrating than trying repeatedly—and failing repeatedly—to stick a piece of thread through the eye of a needle. Try this instead: Place the string against your palm and lay the eye of the needle on top of the string. Then, rapidly move the needle against the thread. A long loop will be pulled through the needle; now all you need to do is pull one end all the way through.

4. Shredding chicken

Shredding chicken with your fingers for a salad or taco is time consuming and can be tough on your fingers if you’re pulling it apart while the meat is hot. But if you have a stand mixer, there’s a better, faster way: Put the cooked chicken into the mixing bowl, add the paddle attachment, then put the device on the lowest setting and let it work its magic. In about a minute, you’ll have shredded chicken.

5. Getting wrinkles out of clothes

Need to get wrinkles out of fabric fast? Set your iron aside and grab some ice cubes instead. Pop two or three ice cubes and your wrinkly outfit in the dryer. Set it for 10 minutes on the hottest setting and let it roll: The ice will melt, steaming the wrinkles out of your clothes while you tackle something else on your to-do list.

6. Peeling oranges

There’s nothing worse than trying to peel an orange and ending up with bits of citrus peel under your nails. There is a better way, though: If you’ve got a knife around, just cut off the top and the bottom, and then make a slit through the side; the orange should open right up with the slices ready to eat.

7. Using a cheese grater

Most people set a box grater on the table with the open side down to shred or grate cheese. But you know what’s easier? Setting the grater on its side and grating from side to side rather than up and down. If you’re shredding sticky cheese, apply some cooking spray to the top to make the process even easier. When it comes time to clean out that grater, use an old toothbrush—it’ll get into the nooks, holes, and crannies, and save you from accidentally grating your skin.

8. Slicing bread

There are few better accompaniments to a homemade meal than a loaf of fresh bread, but even if you’re using a serrated knife (which is the best tool for the job), you often end up with a squished loaf and crumbs everywhere. Want to avoid that mess? Simply flip the loaf upside down and cut it from the bottom, which, because it’s softer, lends itself to a more even slice—and a much neater workspace.

9. Shoveling snow

Clearing the driveway after a blizzard is already tough on your back; accumulating flakes on a cold shovel makes it even harder. Avoid that scenario by spraying non-stick cooking spray (reapplying as necessary), or applying car wax, on the shovel.

10. Picking up broken glass

So, you’ve picked up all the big pieces and whipped out the vacuum, and you’re still stepping on tiny shards of glass? Time to open up the pantry and grab a slice of bread. Run a trickle of water over the slice so it’s slightly damp, then press it on the floor, where it will grab the tiny shards you can’t see. (Just remember to dispose of the bread promptly to keep it out of the reach of pets, children, and oblivious housemates.)

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Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels.com

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7 Pieces of Reading Advice From History’s Greatest Minds

When it came to books, Albert Einstein subscribed to the "oldie but goodie" mentality. He wasn't the only one.
When it came to books, Albert Einstein subscribed to the "oldie but goodie" mentality. He wasn't the only one.
Lucien Aigner/Three Lions/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

If there’s one thing that unites philosophers, writers, politicians, and scientists across time and distance, it’s the belief that reading can broaden your worldview and strengthen your intellect better than just about any other activity. When it comes to choosing what to read and how to go about it, however, opinions start to diverge. From Virginia Woolf’s affinity for wandering secondhand bookstores to Theodore Roosevelt’s rejection of a definitive “best books” list, here are seven pieces of reading advice to help you build an impressive to-be-read (TBR) pile.

1. Read books from eras past // Albert Einstein

albert einstein at home circa 1925
Albert Einstein poses at home in 1925 with a mix of old and new books.
General Photographic Agency/Getty Images

Keeping up with current events and the latest buzz-worthy book from the bestseller list is no small feat, but Albert Einstein thought it was vital to leave some room for older works, too. Otherwise, you’d be “completely dependent on the prejudices and fashions of [your] times,” he wrote in a 1952 journal article [PDF].

“Somebody who reads only newspapers and at best books of contemporary authors looks to me like an extremely near-sighted person who scorns eyeglasses,” he wrote.

2. Don’t jump too quickly from book to book // Seneca

seneca the younger
Seneca the Younger, ready to turn that unwavering gaze on a new book.
The Print Collector via Getty Images

Seneca the Younger, a first-century Roman Stoic philosopher and trusted advisor of Emperor Nero, believed that reading too wide a variety in too short a time would keep the teachings from leaving a lasting impression on you. “You must linger among a limited number of master thinkers, and digest their works, if you would derive ideas which shall win firm hold in your mind,” he wrote in a letter to Roman writer Lucilius.

If you’re wishing there were a good metaphor to illustrate this concept, take your pick from these gems, courtesy of Seneca himself:

“Food does no good and is not assimilated into the body if it leaves the stomach as soon as it is eaten; nothing hinders a cure so much as frequent change of medicine; no wound will heal when one salve is tried after another; a plant which is often moved can never grow strong. There is nothing so efficacious that it can be helpful while it is being shifted about. And in reading of many books is distraction.”

3. Shop at secondhand bookstores // Virginia Woolf

virginia woolf
Virginia Woolf wishing she were in a bookstore.
Culture Club/Getty Images

In her essay “Street Haunting,” Virginia Woolf described the merits of shopping in secondhand bookstores, where the works “have come together in vast flocks of variegated feather, and have a charm which the domesticated volumes of the library lack.”

According to Woolf, browsing through used books gives you the chance to stumble upon something that wouldn’t have risen to the attention of librarians and booksellers, who are often much more selective in curating their collections than secondhand bookstore owners. To give us an example, she imagined coming across the shabby, self-published account of “a man who set out on horseback over a hundred years ago to explore the woollen market in the Midlands and Wales; an unknown traveller, who stayed at inns, drank his pint, noted pretty girls and serious customs, wrote it all down stiffly, laboriously for sheer love of it.”

“In this random miscellaneous company,” she wrote, “we may rub against some complete stranger who will, with luck, turn into the best friend we have in the world.”

4. You can skip outdated scientific works, but not old literature // Edward Bulwer-Lytton

edward bulwer-lytton
An 1831 portrait of Edward Bulwer-Lytton, smug at the thought of people reading his novels for centuries to come.
The Print Collector/Getty Images

Though his novels were immensely popular during his lifetime, 19th-century British novelist and Parliamentarian Edward Bulwer-Lytton is now mainly known for coining the phrase It was a dark and stormy night, the opening line of his 1830 novel Paul Clifford. It’s a little ironic that Bulwer-Lytton’s books aren’t very widely read today, because he himself was a firm believer in the value of reading old literature.

“In science, read, by preference, the newest works; in literature, the oldest,” he wrote in his 1863 essay collection, Caxtoniana. “The classic literature is always modern. New books revive and redecorate old ideas; old books suggest and invigorate new ideas.”

To Bulwer-Lytton, fiction couldn't ever be obsolete, because it contained timeless themes about human nature and society that came back around in contemporary works; in other words, you can’t disprove fiction. You can, however, disprove scientific theories, so Bulwer-Lytton thought it best to stick to the latest works in that field. (That said, since scientists use previous studies to inform their work, you can still learn a ton about certain schools of thought by delving into debunked ideas—plus, it’s often really entertaining to see what people used to believe.) 

5. Check out authors’ reading lists for book recommendations // Mortimer J. Adler

mortimer j. adler in 1983
Mortimer J. Adler in 1983, happy to read the favorite works of his favorite authors.
George Rose/Getty Images

In his 1940 guide How to Read a Book, American philosopher Mortimer J. Adler talked about the importance of choosing books that other authors consider worth reading. “The great authors were great readers,” he explained, “and one way to understand them is to read the books they read.”

Adler went on to clarify that this would probably matter most in the philosophy field, “because philosophers are great readers of each other,” and it’s easier to grasp a concept if you also know what inspired it. While you don’t necessarily have to read everything a novelist has read in order to fully understand their own work, it’s still a good way to get quality book recommendations from a trusted source. If your favorite author mentions a certain novel that really made an impression on them, there’s a pretty good chance you’d enjoy it, too.

6. Reading so-called guilty pleasures is better than reading nothing // Mary Wollstonecraft

mary wollstonecraft in 1797
Mary Wollstonecraft in 1797, apparently demonstrating that a book with blank pages is worth even less than a novel.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

To the 18th-century writer, philosopher, and early feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, just about all novels fell into the category of “guilty pleasures” (though she didn’t call them that). In A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, she disparaged the “stupid novelists, who, knowing little of human nature, work up stale tales, and describe meretricious scenes, all retailed in a sentimental jargon, which equally tend to corrupt the taste and draw the heart aside from its daily duties.”

If her judgment seems unnecessarily harsh, it’s probably because it’s taken out of its historical context. Wollstonecraft definitely wasn’t the only one who considered novels to be low-quality reading material compared to works of history and philosophy, and she was also indirectly criticizing society for preventing women from seeking more intellectual pursuits. If 21st-century women were confined to watching unrealistic, highly edited dating shows and frowned upon for trying to see 2019’s Parasite or the latest Ken Burns documentary, we might sound a little bitter, too.

Regardless, Wollstonecraft still admitted that even guilty pleasures can help expand your worldview. “Any kind of reading I think better than leaving a blank still a blank, because the mind must receive a degree of enlargement, and obtain a little strength by a slight exertion of its thinking powers,” she wrote. In other words, go forth and enjoy your beach read.

7. You get to make the final decision on how, what, and when to read // Theodore Roosevelt

theodore roosevelt in office in 1905
Theodore Roosevelt pauses for a quick photo before getting back to his book in 1905.
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division // No Known Restrictions on Publication

Theodore Roosevelt might have lived his own life in an exceptionally regimented fashion, but his outlook on reading was surprisingly free-spirited. Apart from being a staunch proponent of finding at least a few minutes to read every single day—and starting young—he thought that most of the details should be left up to the individual.

“The reader, the booklover, must meet his own needs without paying too much attention to what his neighbors say those needs should be,” he wrote in his autobiography, and rejected the idea that there’s a definitive “best books” list that everyone should abide by. Instead, Roosevelt recommended choosing books on subjects that interest you and letting your mood guide you to your next great read. He also wasn’t one to roll his eyes at a happy ending, explaining that “there are enough horror and grimness and sordid squalor in real life with which an active man has to grapple.”

In short, Roosevelt would probably advise you to see what Seneca, Albert Einstein, Mary Wollstonecraft, and other great minds had to say about reading, and then make your own decisions in the end.