Quick Tricks to Make 10 Dreaded Chores Easier

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iStock

Chores are a part of life that most of us just can’t avoid. But come next housecleaning day, don’t get mad—get creative. These tips will help those pesky little items on your “to do” list breeze by a little bit faster.

1. DRYING LOTS OF DISHES? USE AN OVEN RACK. 

Dish racks never seem to have enough space—especially after a big family dinner, when there are always plenty of extra implements that just won’t fit. Here’s a simple solution from the PBS series America’s Test KitchenWhen you’ve finished washing all the dishes, place a clean oven rack over one end of your sink. Put excess cups, plates, etc. on top—all their drippage will go straight down the drain.

2. POKE A HOLE IN YOUR TRASH CAN.

King Arthur might have pulled a sword from a stone, but even he'd probably have a hard time yanking an overstuffed bag out of a royal garbage bin. Why is this so difficult? It's all about suction: The tugging motion produces a stubborn vacuum. However, cutting a hole out of the bottom of your trash can will allow air to escape.

3. MICROWAVE THE STAINS OUT OF TUPPERWARE™ CONTAINERS. 

What do you do with nasty post-meal stains that cling to the plastic? Fill your container with a quarter cup of bleach, a little bit of dish soap, and plenty of water. Put the Tupperware™ into your microwave for about 40 seconds (or until the mixture starts bubbling). Remove the container and let it sit until the water turns lukewarm. Then, clean it out with soap and water or put it in the dishwasher.

If you don't want to use bleach, try the lemon juice method.

4. USE ALKA SELTZER TABLETS TO CLEAN THE TOILET. 

These indigestion-fighting tablets are a secret weapon that belongs in everyone's cabinet: You can use them to clean everything from jewelry to your toilet. Drop four tablets into the toilet bowl; wait about 20 minutes, then give the bowl a quick once-over with a brush followed by a single flushing. Finally, admire your sparkling toilet.

5. FOLD T-SHIRTS IN 2 SECONDS.

Pinch the garment with your right hand halfway between the right sleeve and the neck hole. Now, imagine a straight line extending from this point to the bottom of the shirt. Using the free hand, pinch said line at its halfway point. Without releasing the sleeve area, cross your left hand straight down to the bottom. Grab a piece of it, then lift the shirt and uncross your arms. You’ll find that one sleeve will still be dangling down—utilize a hard surface to fold this underneath the article of clothing. If you're having trouble visualizing, watch the video above.

6. OIL UP YOUR SNOW SHOVEL. 

It’s almost that time of year again. Getting up early to shovel the driveway is always a hassle, but clingy snow makes this chore even worse. Prevent snow from clinging to your shovel by spraying non-stick cooking oil over both sides before going out. Don't have cooking spray handy? You can also use car wax.

7. SQUEEGEE THE PET HAIR OUT OF YOUR CARPET. 

When our four-legged friends start shedding, not even vacuums can get all the fur out of a carpet. Tough rubber squeegees, on the other hand, are great at stripping away hard-to-reach cat or dog hair.

8. SOCK IT TO YOUR BLINDS.

Whoever said “nothing is certain but death and taxes” forgot to mention dust accumulation. When this stuff builds up on your blinds, removing it can take what feels like an eternity. Fortunately, there’s a cheap way to cut down on your dusting time. Slide a clean sock over your hand and dunk it into a 50/50 water-vinegar blend. Now swipe the wet garment over each individual slat. For best results, manipulate the sock like it’s a children’s puppet while grabbing each blind.

9. USE A GRAPEFRUIT TO CLEAN UP A BATHTUB.

Sponges are old hat. Next time you notice some dirt and grime inside your bathtub, chop a grapefruit in two. Liberally smother each half with kosher salt and start scrubbing (ideally, you’ll want to squeeze some of the juice out every so often). This should remove even the toughest of grime.

10. Make Your Bed—Without Getting Out of It!

Straightening sheets every morning can be pretty obnoxious. So is getting out of bed. Here's how to make the bed without even getting up: If you use a throw blanket, lean down and straighten it. If not, grab the corners of the sheet and comforter. Now stretch out your arms as far as they go. While still holding those corners, lean backwards, and pull them taut over your head. Next, sit up at a 90-degree angle and slowly lower the corners, thus creating an attractive fold. Release the corners when you’ve done so. Finally, slip out from under the sheets as gently as you can, taking care to keep the edge of that fold straight and parallel to the headboard.

Congrats! You’re now ready to face a brand new day. This calls for some coffee.

You Can Now Order—and Donate—Girl Scout Cookies Online

It's OK if you decide to ignore the recommended serving size on a box of these beauties.
It's OK if you decide to ignore the recommended serving size on a box of these beauties.
Girl Scouts

Girl Scouts may have temporarily suspended both cookie booths and door-to-door sales to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be deprived of your annual supply of everyone’s favorite boxed baked goods. Instead, you can now order Thin Mints, Tagalongs, and all the other classic cookies online—or donate them to local charities.

When you enter your ZIP code on the “Girl Scouts Cookie Care” page, it’ll take you to a digital order form for the nearest Girl Scouts organization in your area. Then, simply choose your cookies—which cost $5 or $6 per box—and check out with your payment and shipping information. There’s a minimum of four boxes for each order, and shipping fees vary based on quantity.

Below the list of cookies is a “Donate Cookies” option, which doesn’t count toward your own order total and doesn’t cost any extra to ship. You get to choose how many boxes to donate, but the Girl Scouts decide which kinds of cookies to send and where exactly to send them (the charity, organization, or group of people benefiting from your donation is listed on the order form). There’s a pretty wide range of recipients, and some are specific to healthcare workers—especially in regions with particularly large coronavirus outbreaks. The Girl Scouts of Greater New York, for example, are sending donations to NYC Health + Hospitals, while the Girl Scouts of Western Washington have simply listed “COVID-19 Responders” as their recipients.

Taking their cookie business online isn’t the only way the Girl Scouts are adapting to the ‘stay home’ mandates happening across the country. They’ve also launched “Girl Scouts at Home,” a digital platform filled with self-guided activities so Girl Scouts can continue to learn skills and earn badges without venturing farther than their own backyard. Resources are categorized by grade level and include everything from mastering the basics of coding to building a life vest for a Corgi (though the video instructions for that haven’t been posted yet).

“For 108 years, Girl Scouts has been there in times of crisis and turmoil,” Girl Scouts of the USA CEO Sylvia Acevedo said in a press release. “And today we are stepping forward with new initiatives to help girls, their families, and consumers connect, explore, find comfort, and take action.”

You can order cookies here, and explore “Girl Scouts at Home” here.

Can't Find Yeast? Grow Your Own at Home With a Sourdough Starter

Dutodom, iStock via Getty Images
Dutodom, iStock via Getty Images

Baking bread can relieve stress and it requires long stretches of time at home that many of us now have. But shoppers have been panic-buying some surprising items since the start of the COVID-19 crisis. In addition to pantry staples like rice and beans, yeast packets are suddenly hard to find in grocery stores. If you got the idea to make homemade bread at the same time as everyone on your Instagram feed, don't let the yeast shortage stop you. As long as you have flour, water, and time, you can grow your own yeast at home.

While many bread recipes call for either instant yeast or dry active yeast, sourdough bread can be made with ingredients you hopefully already have on hand. The key to sourdough's unique, tangy taste lies in its "wild" yeast. Yeast is a single-celled type of fungus that's abundant in nature—it's so abundant, it's floating around your home right now.

To cultivate wild yeast, you need to make a sourdough starter. This can be done by combining one cup of flour (like whole grain, all-purpose, or a mixture of the two) with a half cup of cool water in a bowl made of nonreactive material (such as glass, stainless steel, or food-grade plastic). Cover it with plastic wrap or a clean towel and let it sit in a fairly warm place (70°F to 75°F) for 24 hours.

Your starter must be fed with one cup of flour and a half cup of water every day for five days before it can be used in baking. Sourdough starter is a living thing, so you should notice is start to bubble and grow in size over time (it also makes a great low-maintenance pet if you're looking for company in quarantine). On the fifth day, you can use your starter to make dough for sourdough bread. Here's a recipe from King Arthur Flour that only calls for starter, flour, salt, and water.

If you just want to get the urge to bake out of your system, you can toss your starter once you're done with it. If you plan on making sourdough again, you can use the same starter indefinitely. Starters have been known to live in people's kitchens for decades. But to avoid using up all your flour, you can store yours in the fridge after the first five days and reduce feedings to once a week.

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