40 things you're doing wrong around the house that you'll wish you'd realized sooner

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by Christina X. Wood
Originally Published: 

I love — and also hate — that moment when I discover that something I thought I knew how to do can be done a much smarter way. The first time I used a squeegee instead of paper towels to clean a window, for example, I was embarrassed by how often I had said, “I don’t do windows.” If I’d known cleaning windows was that fast (and fun, actually) I would have happily done windows all along. The same thing happened when I installed a bidet. For weeks afterward, I lamented how barbaric toilet paper is and wondered who had been feeding us anti-bidet misinformation for so long. But it’s not just me. Recently a friend said to me, “I love my husband but was about to move out of the bedroom because of his snoring. Then the friend laughed at me and bought me a sound machine. How did I not know the answer was that simple for all these years?” Here are 40 things you're doing wrong around the house that you'll wish you'd realized sooner.

When it comes to everything from lighting the kitchen to hanging a shower curtain to storing leftovers or making pizza, there is probably a better way. None of these ideas are expensive or difficult to implement, but they will make you facepalm and lament the time you wasted doing it wrong.

Read on and weep.

1. Not using a chore chart so everyone understands who should do what

If you and your housemates — be they adults or children — aren’t working with a chore chart, it’s a sure bet that someone is doing too much and is mad about it, and someone else is doing too little and has no idea. Get everything out in the open, assign tasks to everyone, and stop the misunderstandings and random tantrums by sticking this erasable and magnetic chore chart to the fridge. There is room on the main chart for all chores for a week and a scoreboard to see who is doing their part (and deserves praise or a night off) and who isn’t.

2. Using blinding overheads instead of a sleek set of under-cabinet lights

These battery-operated cabinet lights make it so easy to improve the lighting in your kitchen, closet, shelving, or anywhere. Just stick them where you want them with the included 3M tape (or screws) and turn them on using the included remote. They emit a warm glow right where you want light with no wiring or hassles.

3. Using ratty dish cloths or paper towels instead of restaurant-quality dish towels

If you’ve been relying on paper towels or a ratty, old dish cloth to dry dishes and wipe down counters, you’re doing cleanup wrong. These pure cotton dish towels not only get the job done fast thanks to the ultra-absorbent material, but they also promise to look chic in your kitchen. They’re machine washable, too, which means they’re a much more budget- and eco-friendly option compared to paper towels.

4. Settling for stale prepackaged tea instead of using an easy tea infuser

If you let your loose tea languish because tea bags seem so much easier, this tea infuser will fix that. Just spoon some loose tea into it, set it in your cup, let it steep, and remove it to sit in the lid/straining dish. It’s just as easy at brewing tea with tea bags and leaves only tea leaves for the trash.

5. Pumping up the electricity bill to light your lawn instead of going solar

If you think outdoor lighting is expensive or difficult, meet this six-pack of solar lights. Just stick them in the ground where you want light and let nature do the rest. The sun charges them during the day and they turn on automatically at dusk. When they run out of power, they turn off. Then they do it all again the next day. They come in three colors.

6. Foregoing a shower liner or messing with two sets of rings

When you want to hang a shower curtain and liner from the same curtain rod, this 12-pack of shower curtain rings with two-way hooks are a must-have. The roller balls glide easily along your curtain rod and it’s simple to hang the curtain and the liner because each gets its own hook on each ring. They come in five finishes and got 16,000 five-star reviews.

7. Letting coffee get stale rather than sealing it up securely

If you store your coffee beans — or sugar, cereal, or other volatile dry goods — in the wrong container, they will go stale and lose flavor quickly. This lovely stainless steel container is the perfect place to put it. The locking lid with a silicone gasket seals tight. A dial on the top lets you mark when you filled it so you can monitor freshness. A scoop sits neatly in the metal holster on the side, and it holds 22 ounces and comes in five colors.

8. Having a messy stove or countertop from loose spoons

If all your clever spoon rests end up never on the counter because someone cleans them up, this one announces itself so that you won’t have to worry about that. It’s a big, white, ceramic rest that says “Spoon” in a pretty font. It’s where you put the ladle, tasting spoon, whisk, or other cooking tools when you don’t want to leave grunge on the counter.

9. Letting your sponge sit in the sink & never dry out

Stop digging around in the sink for your sponge only to find it wet and dirty. Set this cute, ceramic sponge holder on the counter and put your sponge in it where it will dry quickly and look decorative when you aren’t using it. “So cute,” said one reviewer. “It makes the kitchen look so much more put together!”

10. Fumbling around on the rack to get a crispy-crust pizza

Getting a crisp pizza crust at home can be a challenge, but this quick-heating ceramic pizza stone makes it easier. Cast from black ceramic and coated in a non-stick glaze, it heats up quickly, is grease and burn resistant, and withstands very high temperatures without smoking. “This cooks the most perfect, crispy pizza that I have ever made,” said one reviewer. “Preheat the stone as instructed. I will never go back to cooking my pizza on a pan!”

11. Storing or warming leftovers in containers that aren’t leakproof

Store all your leftovers in this 3-pack of borosilicate glass containers with lids that snap on firmly and seal tight. You can put them in the microwave, oven, dishwasher, and freezer, and they’re even leakproof. They are also a pleasure to eat out of when you pack them into your lunch.

12. Having a ramshackle assortment of hangers

Don’t let a shortage of hangers or space keep you from tidily hanging all your clothes in the closet. These slender velvet hangers let you hang more clothes in less space, have texture and a notch to keep clothes from dropping off the hanger to the ground, and boast a tie bar slot on each hanger for small items like a belt, tie, or scarf. “I like the flat, lightweight design of these,” said one reviewer. “I can fit nine to 10 shirts in about three to four inches. With bulkier hangers, the same shirts take seven or eight inches.” They come in seven colors.

13. Keeping utensils jumbled loose in the drawer

When you’re cooking, you want to focus on the flame and food, not on digging around in a drawer for the right tool. Set this white ceramic utensil holder down on the counter next to the stove and keep the tools you reach for most often in it. It’s large enough to hold a big selection of tools, looks charming, and has a decorative metal band around the middle — available in copper or stainless steel.

14. Using a towel-style bathmat that gets icky quick

Set this water-resistant bamboo bath mat down next to the tub or outside the shower for a clean, dry place to step when you are wet. Water drips through the slats and away from your feet, and it keeps your toes and the floor clean. There is no need to launder it, it won’t hold moisture and create mold, and it looks Zen and fresh.

15. Letting pet fur take over the house

Reviewers love this pet hair remover because it picks up all the fur without vacuum suction, tape, or hassles. You just roll it back and forth over the bed, chairs, or your lap and it grabs the fur and stashes it in the chamber in the handle. Empty that chamber and you can keep right on going. “It makes fabrics look so fresh, works perfectly on my suede couches, and does what it's supposed to do perfectly,” said one reviewer.

16. Not having a dedicated place to store & take off shoes

Set this bamboo bench in the entryway, at the back door, or in your closet, and let it wrangle the shoes into one place so it’s simple to find the pair you want. There are three tiers of slatted bamboo you can use to store shoes, and the top tier is the perfect height to sit on, drop a bag on, or keep keys at the ready. It’s easy to assemble, comes with all the necessary hardware, comes in three colors, and gets over 9,000 five-star reviews.

17. Having disorganized, jumbled messes in the drawer

Why let a product tell you how to organize your drawers? This set of four adjustable drawer dividers lets you decide how much space you need and what direction you want the dividers to go. They adjust in length from 17.5” to 22” and are spring-loaded — with have a rubberized foot on each end — to keep them in place. You can even stack them for deep drawers.

18. Using way too much oil when cooking or air frying

Instead of using off-the-shelf aerosol oil spray with who knows what extra ingredients, fill this reusable glass spray bottle jar with your favorite olive, sesame, or other fine oil and spray your pans, air fryer creations, and salads with something healthy and delicious. A big button on the lid makes it easy to spray the amount of oil you want, and it comes with a funnel for filling.

19. Serving party snacks on subpar dinnerware

When you want to turn all your cheeses, fruits, meats, nuts, and other snacks into a beautiful presentation that will elevate ordinary ingredients to a fancy indulgence, pull out this big — 10 by 16 inch — bamboo cutting board. It has elevated trays for nuts and other small items, a big cutting area, cut-outs to make carrying it easy, and is made of clean and appealing bamboo.

20. Letting storage take up too much valuable space

If you store your off-season clothes, spare blankets, and other bulky items in these vacuum storage bags, you can keep it all in a fraction of the space it’s taking up now. Just fill the bags with clothes and blankets and use your vacuum cleaner, or the included pump, to pull out all the air. When you seal them, they stay shrunken and take up a tiny bit of space.

21. Allowing bugs to rule the joint

When there is a fly in the house, don’t chase it around with ineffective rolled magazines and expletives, pull out this bug zapper racket and arm for battle. You can work on your tennis game — or at least have some fun — while the bugs meet an untimely demise on the 3,500-volt grid. “I leveraged it to dispatch roughly 30 flies in less than an hour,” said one reviewer.

22. Fumbling around for a bandage or tweezer instead of having a dedicated First-Aid kit

Why is it that whenever you need a Band-Aid, you can’t find one or the box is out? Similarly, it’s always the exact moment you need the tweezer that it’s not in its normal spot. Solve that frustration for good with a dedicated First-Aid kit, that comes loaded with everything you need in an emergency. This comprehensive 66-piece set includes a pair of scissors, a tweezer, 30 bandages of varying sizes, two pairs of plastic gloves, four antiseptic cleaning wipes and eight alcohol pads, 10 cotton balls, medical tape, safety pins, and a durable, water-resistant bag to house all of it in.

23. Staying analog when it comes to managing lights & appliances

Make it easy to turn on all the lights at once, have your voice-activated AI make the coffee in the morning, or control everything from the humidifier to your fans with these two smart plugs. They connect to your Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, or you can use the Kasa app to control it all. Just plug them in and connect them to your phone.

24. Underutilizing space in cabinets & on counters

Create more space in your cabinets by using the wasted vertical space. This set of two shelves can be used separately or together to create elevated space in the cupboards or on the counters. Push them together or pull them apart to adjust how wide they are, separate them completely, or stack them to create the storage you want. The shelves are bamboo and the metal legs come in black or white.

25. Displaying artwork & photos in ramshackle frames

Turn a collection, photographs from a trip or event, or even pages torn from a book into a beautiful art gallery with this collection of seven frames in an assortment of sizes. The size range is designed to look terrific in a group and you can choose from four frame sizes. “These frames are awesome!” said one reviewer. “The gold color is great, subtle, and not cheap looking.”

26. Living in the midst of scratched-up furniture

When your coffee table has a water ring, there are scratches on the bar stools, and your bedside table is dinged and scarred, you don’t have to rack up credit card debt to make it all better, just pull out this set of markers and crayons, choose the color that matches your wood, and color over the problem. If the scratch is deep, use a crayon to fill it in. If it’s a surface imperfection, use a marker. It’s easy and fun.

27. Waking up to a blaring clock or subpar phone alarm

Maybe waking up in the morning wouldn’t be so bad if it was sunrise and the sounds of birds that did the waking? That’s the idea with this alarm clock that wakes you up with a sunrise simulation that tells your brain it’s daytime. It also plays your choice of nature sounds. You can also use it as a colored nightlight, reading light, or ambient light — there are seven colors — or let it wake you up with the radio. A snooze function lets you sleep in a little longer.

28. Letting cables & cords run willy-nilly

Stick these clear cable clips to your desk, bedside table, counter, or coffee table so you don’t have to chase your charging wires under the bed or couch. They are clear so they blend right in and you just peel and stick them to a non-porous surface. This is a five-pack of various sized clips that will secure 15 wires.

29. Slouching & being sedentary at your desk

Bring this ball chair into your home office and it will supply not only comfortable seating that engages more muscles than a standard desk chair, but also works for a home gym when you need a break. It comes with a base to keep it in place, a set of resistance bands that attach to the base, a poster that coaches you through a workout, and a foot pump to make it easy to inflate.

30. Wasting counter or drawer space on kitchen tools

Mount this magnetic knife bar to the wall to keep your most-used kitchen tools — or any kind of metal tool — within easy reach. It comes with all the mounting hardware you need, or you can just stick it to the fridge without any installation at all. Inside the stainless steel bar are high-powered magnets that hold any metal tool firmly. Just stick your knives or tools to the bar to put them away.

31. Not using an odor-eliminating spray for lingering bathroom or pet smells

If you don’t freshen up your bathroom, weird smells can linger. That’s no fun for you or your house guests. Enter: this industrial-strength odor-eliminating spray. According to the brand, it’s two times more concentrated than other brands, so you get a lot of bang for your buck with this 6-ounce spray bottle. Reviewers also attest to its effectiveness on pet odor and stinky car smells.

32. Storing food & condiments in the fridge without any order

When the contents of your pantry and fridge are a jumble, it’s easy to lose track of perishables and spend too long searching for ingredients. This set of six organizer bins lets you bring some order. Just put like categories in an appropriate bin — all the fruit in one, say, and the cheese in another — and making a meal is so much easier. With a dedicated bin for eggs, a drink holder that’s perfect for nine standard soda cans, and four more clear plastic bins in two widths, this set will organize everything.

33. Not utilizing corner space effectively

That corner that seems like dead space can be easily turned into a display or storage area with this clever corner shelf unit. All you need is a corner and a screwdriver and these five shelves will transform that dead space into a cute display of toiletries, photos, collectables, or herb and spices, depending on what room you put it in. It comes in six colors.

34. Living with dirty windows in your home or car

If you are using paper towels to clean your windows — in your house or car — this squeegee system will be a revelation. The detachable microfiber pads hold lots of water and cleaning solution so you can scrub the glass clean. Just flip it around to the squeegee side to remove the water — with no streaks or wiping. The bendable head slides right over curved glass and the telescoping arm brings all the windows within reach.

35. Keeping & tossing an endless supply of batteries

Instead of recycling all those expensive batteries, invest in this battery charger kit and use them over and over again. Plug it into any available outlet, load it up with batteries, and you will always have a fresh one handy. It shuts off when batteries are full to prevent overcharging, and an indicator light tells you which batteries are ready. It comes with four rechargeable AAs to get you started.

36. Needing to keep track of a bunch of disposable lighters

This all-electric lighter won’t blow out or fail to light, and the gooseneck makes it easy to reach all the candles so it’s absolutely a tool you want to add to your kit. You can recharge it with any USB plug so there is no need to stock butane, and you’ll know when it’s ready because the five blue dot-lights tell you how much charge it has. It comes in five colors.

37. Not keeping an eye on your space

Put eyes on your porch, garage, pets, baby, or whatever you worry about with this little night vision camera that mounts easily anywhere and connects to your phone, Amazon Echo, Google Assistant, and more, and gives you two-way audio so you can talk to whoever is on the other end. It has excellent night vision and is weather resistant.

38. Having a bum that’s not as clean as it should be

Once you try this simple and inexpensive bidet, you will probably wonder what you’re going to do with all that “barbaric” toilet paper you hoarded. Just connect it to your toilet’s clean water intake valve and add a thorough butt shower to your toilet seat in just a few minutes. It’s a huge bathroom upgrade that lets you dial in the water pressure you like and has an adjustable nozzle and a self cleaning feature.

39. Using chemical-y, disposable dryer sheets for soft laundry

Ditch the wasteful and strong-smelling dryer sheets and toss a few of these wool dryer balls in with your laundry instead. They fluff the fabrics as they tumble to aerate them so they dry faster and have less static and wrinkles. And they do it without weird chemicals. If you want to scent your laundry, just add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to the ball. Almost 44,000 people gave these five stars.

40. Letting cookware (or anything) get & stay grungy

Give your cleanup efforts some extra power by keeping this cleaning powder and polish on hand. It gets tough-to-clean pans, shower stalls, sinks, and baking dishes clean and shiny. It can be used on porcelain, copper, stainless steel, glass, and ceramic and cuts through baked-on food, rust, mineral deposits, and more.

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